Sunday, November 9, 2008


Got a chance to take a short hike in South Mountain Park the other day. It was late afternoon, so the light wasn't perfect, but certainly not harsh which tends to make for bad shots. South Mountain is riddled with petroglyphs, but even so we tend to be pretty protective of where they all are. These were technically off City property on Boy Scout camp land.
First off, petro = rock and glyph = drawing or writing Petroglyph = rock 'art' or rock drawing or rock writing. Take your pick!
There are literally hundreds of petroglyphs in this canyon, and they probably range in age from 1500 + years ago to about 5 - 600 years ago. Here is an example of recent vs old. The older a glyph is the darker it tends to be: a patina forms over the rocks in a slow, relentless pace. Some glyphs have been re-pecked for emphasis - often associated with Equinox or Solstice shadows or sun spots across the rock at certain times of day. This one also shows the brighter (newer) could be an abstract form. At least more abstract than many/most glyphs which have some discernible shapes.

Here are a wide assortment of figures. It is generally believed that the collection tells a story. There is no linear plot line to follow, but some features are integral to the story. Note the many sizes and even shapes of the humanized figures and some appear to be holding things. All significant to the story (most likely). I wouldn't even be able to begin to attempt to interpret this for you. I'll leave that to more creative minds... I do think the placement of some figures may have something to do with marking solstices or equinoxes. The more you look at this the more interesting things you begin to see... Here is a pipette, or rather two pipettes, with some scratched out markings to the sides. Popular interpretations of these are as symbols of kachinas or cloud gods. This ram has some interesting things going on. The legs begin at one crack and the body ends at another. The head is cut off sticking above the second crack. Their also appears to be a line extending from where the head would be attached, almost as if to emphasize the detachment. Then there's the little figure beside it. A man? without a head? with a spear? and something like a whip or lasso? Probably not human. Possibly associated with water. Could even be some kind of stellar or lunar or solar event. Could simply be a hunting ritual.

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