Peggy and I had just been through one of those checkpoints that make Arizona so endearing to visitors: armed men with guns and dogs and x-ray machines had slowed us to a crawl as men stared, dogs sniffed and x-rays probed. It was for our own good. Yeah, right.
Having survived yet another checkpoint on our way to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, I stepped on the gas and almost missed it. A small brown BLM sign on Interstate 8 announced we were passing the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site. At 70 plus miles per hour all that registered in my mind was petroglyph. “Whoa Quivera,” I said to our van who has little humor about stopping quickly at 20, much less 70.
Peggy and I are big petroglyph fans, having visited and blogged about several sites in the Southwestern US. This one was new to us– and now it was fading into the distance. America’s freeway system has little forgiveness for missed turns. Should we go on? No, the answer came easily. We decided that Organ Pipe could wait.
We soon found a place to turn around. After driving a few miles off the freeway, we arrived at the site. And were greeted by a large pile of rocks, flat ground, and a lonely saguaro. So much for this detour I thought– until Peggy pointed out that the rocks were covered from top to bottom with petroglyphs. A command decision was made. We would spend the night at the BLM campground.
A sign nearby informed us that Native Americans had occupied the region for over 9000 years. (How much more native can you get?) Hunting and gathering peoples had lived in the area from approximately 7500 BC up until around 1 AD. A group, known as the Hohokam, had come afterwards and occupied the region up until the 1400s. Both cultures were represented by petroglyphs found at the site. We could almost hear their voices from the ancient past whispering to us.
In my next blog I’ll feature individual petroglyphs and discuss what we (assume) to know about their meanings. Meanwhile, I’ll finish today’s post off with photos of the saguaro cactus that dominated the site.