Petroglyphs, Pictographs, and a Geoglyph: Rock Art of the American Southwest
Posted by Laurie Frost on September 23, 2010
Here’s something different. Petroglyphs are carved into rock; pictographs are painted on the surface, and “rock art” is an all-purpose general term that you can use should the first two fail. Sources for today’s post include The National Archives’ DocuAmerica, National Park Service (NPS), and the Naval Air Weapons Station– China Lake.
First, several pictographs photographed by David Hiser for the EPA’s DocuAmerica project posted at The National Archives website.
Moab, Utah: Newspaper Rock, Indian Creek Historic State Park. 05/1972. . ARC Identifier 545679, ARC Identifier 545671 [close-up]
Canyonlands National Park, Utah. 05/1972 ARC Identifier 545675
Horse Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Utah. 05/1972 ARC Identifier 545687
The next three should be credited to the National Park Service (NPS):
The following is from the National Park Service’s Mesa Verde website and describes the small image to the right:
According to one Hopi elder, this petroglyph, found on Mesa Verde’s Petroglyph Point Trail, may tell the story of two clans (the Mountain Sheep Clan and the Eagle Clan) separating from other people and returning to their place of origin. Notice the boxy spiral shape? This likely represents a sipapu, the place where Pueblo people believe they emerged from the earth (believed to be near the Grand Canyon). You can also see the head and arms of a figure, and on the bottom right, a possible Katsina clan symbol.
Now here’s something new to me: one of the largest collections of petroglyphs in the US is on a military installation in California, and only one site, Little Petroglyph Canyon, is open to the public — and that is on a very limited basis:
Concentrated in secluded canyons of the volcanic Coso Range on the test ranges of the Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake, Calif., are thousands of visual reminders of people who, thousands of years ago, hunted and gathered their food in this high desert. The Coso Range Canyons contain the highest concentration of rock art in the Western Hemisphere. More than 6,000 images have been pecked, engraved, or abraded into the desert varnish or patina that forms on basalt rocks with time and weathering.
No one knows for sure how old these petroglyphs are. A broad range of dates can be inferred from archaeological sites in the area and some artifact forms depicted on the rocks. Some of them may be as old as 16,000 years, some as recent as the 1800s. Designs range from animals to abstract to anthropomorphic figures. . . .
After the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, security concerns resulted in the cancellation of all petroglyph tours. While security is still a number one priority, NAWS houses one of the largest concentrations of petroglyphs in North America. Therefore, with security in mind, the Commanding Officer of NAWS has adopted a new policy to allow limited tours to the public.
All tours will be conducted with a minimum of two Command-approved escorts. These escorts are volunteers contributing their time to the tour groups so that you may see and enjoy the rock art of Little Petroglyph Canyon. …
One image in the media gallery at the installation’s website is of a geoglyph, which I suppose means the image was carved onto the ground rather than on a rock face:
” This starburst-shaped geoglyph was located on one of the pre-historic sites.”
Here are some deer-shaped and sheep petroglyphs:
And one of geometric shapes and another that “differs from the other petroglyph designs in the canyons at NAWCWD, China Lake”:
To learn more about petroglyphs and pictographs, visit:
The Three Rivers Petroglyph Site: More than 21,000 glyphs of humans, animals, plants, geometric and abstract designs in the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico.
Coso Rock Art District, China Lake, California. This site has an interesting essay on connection between shamanism and petroglyphs; unfortunately, its images are not in the the public domain.
Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Southeast Alaska, Tongass National Forest
Rock Images, NPS Archaeology page. List of locations of petroglyphs, but with many broken links.
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