Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site of Southern Arizona… Nice Doggy

Petroglyph at Painted Rock Petroglyph Site in Southern Arizona. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

My sister had a Jack Terrier named Jack  that looked a lot like this petroglyph, except for floppy ears. And this is how I was greeted when I visited. Bounce, bounce, bounce. I like to speculate that ancient Native American artists created petroglyphs  just for fun on occasion. This might be a candidate.

Anyone who wanders the Southwest and comes across petroglyphs wonders about their origins and what they mean. Some seem so clear: a mountain sheep, a man on a horse, a rattlesnake, a coyote, a hand. While others are more remote: wiggly lines, alien looking figures, concentric circles, and galaxy-like spirals for example.

Petroglyph of a hand found at Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site in southern Arizona.

No question about this petroglyph of a hand.

Scorpion petroglyph found at Painted Rock Petroglyph Site in southern Arizona.

Or this scorpion with its stinger, a common bane of the Southwest.

Chain petroglyph from Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site in southern Arizona.

But what does this chain represent? My first thought: it was the path of a beetle that had sipped too much tequila. The information plaque told me that the more abstract designs represented the archaic cultures which would make this petroglyph over 2000 years old! (This certainly impressed me but one of my followers from Australia reminded me that Australian aboriginal rock art dates back 50,000 years.)

The grid on this rock is another example of archaic petroglyphs. There is some suggestion that the grid represents a rough map and the dots represent where people lived.

The grid on this rock is another example of archaic petroglyphs. There is some suggestion that the grid represents a rough map and the dots represent where people lived.

Experts say we can’t be sure about the meaning of petroglyphs. Some were created thousands of years ago and even the more recent can be several hundred years old. Since there were no written languages among the southwestern cultures of the time, we are left to speculate. Descendants of the ancient peoples provide our best clues. The Hopi, Navajo and other natives of the Southwest look backwards in time from their unique cultural perspectives and provide insights.

Certainly some petroglyphs have spiritual significance. Shamans would take drug-enhanced journeys into other worlds to learn the secrets of nature and gain control over natural elements. Some petroglyphs reflect these journeys and show the beings encountered along the way. (Either that or little green men were frequent visitors.) Shamans of the Huichol culture in western Mexico follow a similar path today.

Huichol work of art representing the journey to gather Peyote. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Peggy and I bought this Huichol yarn art painting several years ago in Mexico. The Huichol are a native people who live in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico and practice a lifestyle similar to that of their ancestors. Their art represents visions their Shamans have on their mystical, peyote induced journeys. This piece represents the tribes annual journey to gather more peyote for more visions.

This sheet, conveniently provided by the Huichol man who sold us art, provides interpretations for some of the figures. The deer, for example, are messengers of the gods. People of the Huichol culture immediately recognize them as such whenever they are included in a painting. Early  Christian artists provided similar types of symbolism for their non-reading flocks. A head on a platter meant St. John the Baptist, for example. We can assume that the rock art of the Southwest also incorporated commonly recognized symbols.

This sheet, conveniently provided by the Huichol man who sold us art, provides interpretations for some of the figures. The deer, for example, are messengers of the gods. People of the Huichol culture immediately recognize them as such whenever they are included in a painting. Early Christian artists provided similar types of symbolism for their non-reading flocks. We can assume that the rock art of the Southwest was also highly symbolic.

Peggy and I photographed this petroglyph I call carrot top in Dinosaur National Monument. It is very likely it represents a shamanistic vision.

Peggy and I photographed this petroglyph I call Carrot Top and his dog in Dinosaur National Monument. It is very likely it represents a shamanistic vision. It would also make a great alien, however. Note the little legs.

Clan names, common animals, and important food sources like corn are common. Some may have even served as maps showing the layout of a village or where to find a spring.   And maybe some were created for the sheer joy of creation, pounded out by an early Michelangelo of the desert carving in stone. I am hitting a 9.99 on the speculation meter here, but I like to think the artist that created the dog/coyote (or possibly horse) featured at the beginning of the post was having fun.

Man on horse petroglyph from Painted Rock Petroglyph Site in Southern Arizona.

Petroglyphs are difficult to date but one thing is for sure: if you find a man riding a horse, it had to take place after Spaniards first introduced modern horses to North America in the 1500s.

Petroglyph of mountain sheep found at Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site in southern Arizona.

Big Horn sheep were common in the early Southwest, so it isn’t surprising that petroglyphs representing Big Horns are found at Painted Rock Petroglyph Site and at most other sites we have visited.

Big Horn Sheep photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I caught this family of wild Big Horn Sheep grazing in a public park near Hoover Dam. I considered the Jack Rabbit a bonus. Obviously, I was not their major concern.

Petroglyph of Mountain Sheep found at Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site in Southern Arizona.

The belly on this Big Horn Sheep suggests to me that this was one pregnant lady.

Elk petroglyphs in Painted Rock Petroglyph Site in Southern Arizona.

I thought these were deer at first but their large horns may suggest they are elk.

Petroglyph of a lizard found at Painted Rock Petroglyph Site in Southern Arizona.

Another common petroglyph found throughout the Southwest is that of the lizard.

Tortoise petroglyph at Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site.

I am going with tortoise on this one. It’s another petroglyph that makes me smile.

This petroglyph of a dog looks even more like Jack. He has floppy ears and is barking. (grin) So I'll end the post here.

This petroglyph of a dog/coyote/horse looks even more like Jack. He has floppy ears and is barking. (grin) So I’ll end the post here.

NEXT BLOGS: Peggy and I are heading out tomorrow for the remote corners of Nevada where there may or may not be Internet service. I’ll be gathering material for some fun blogs plus I want to finish up the last details on my book. So, I’ve decided to put my blog activities on hold for three weeks. See you all at the beginning of May with stories on the ET Highway, Area 51, Ghost Towns, and more! Plus I’ll be back checking in on your fun and interesting posts. –Curt

 

 

 

 

23 comments on “Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site of Southern Arizona… Nice Doggy

  1. Curt, these are just great. I dig your colorful yarn art. Many of these share a common theme of critters of nature. Maybe some were even beloved pets. Think how we take pictures or paint or draw our pets. And perhaps some are abstract art as artists throughout the centuries painted with creative abandon and that led to some fantastic abstract paintings. But carrot top — most likely peyote had something to do with that. But I really liked it! Fascinating– thanks for sharing.

    I hope you and Peggy have safe and wonderful travels. Look forward to reading about them.

    • Thanks Brigitte. I know it is close to impossible to know for sure, but having lived in other cultures, much of what being human is about seems to transcend both time and place. Should be some fun adventures to share. –Curt

    • Helps inspire me to write since it hangs right next to my favorite writing chair. This is a multi-purpose room that includes our non-fiction library and place to hang our art from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This will be the first break I have taken from blogging in three years… 🙂 –Curt

  2. Loved this one, Curt. Thank you for sharing it with us. My late husband and I were trying to buy a house on the Snake River between ID & WA, before he got sick. There are some very cool ancient drawings up and down the Snake. There is just no way to explain how it feels to stand and look at those…especially since there are no real answers to their mystery. Great post and we’ll miss you while you and Peggy travel. Happy travels!
    P

    • Thanks, Patti. And you are right. The mystery of what the artists were thinking about or trying to accomplish always captures the imagination. See you in three weeks 🙂 –Curt

  3. Clearly, that abstract you say might be a juiced beetle is a caterpillar! As soon as I wrote that, of course, I had to wonder — are there caterpillars in the desert? The answer’s yes, and some of them, (like this one) aren’t much nicer than the scorpions.

    The only animal I ever knew my mother to speak of with real fondness was her grandfather’s terrier, also named Jack. 😉

  4. SO interesting. And what a great shot of the sheep and that jack rabbit. I want to say you seem to be at the right place at the right time, but I know it’s really a sharp eye and the nose that sniff a post a mile away at work. =)

  5. I agree with Linda. When I saw that one, I thought caterpillar. A wolly bear, I think. They may not have them there, but that’s a small problem for the shaman.

  6. Yep…same as Carrie and Six Degrees Photography, Carrot top takes the cake! Curt your blog has the most interesting pics of any other blog in the blogosphere our friend!!! Phenomenal post and extraordinary pics! Sharing this now for others to enjoy!! 😉 ❤

  7. Did someone mention aliens? 🙂

    I hope you and Peggy are enjoying your trip. But Carrot Top is intriguing indeed. While I can’t even draw stick figures, the artist of Carrot Top may have been the Michelangelo of the tribes. Very artistic – much more so than the others. But instead of the “legs”, I see them as ionic exhaust particles from a cloaked Klingon Bird of Prey. If it would only decloak…

    • You win the prize for imagination on that one Koji! Carrot top was indeed fascinating. We can only wonder what motivated the artists. I am pretty sure it was drugs or aliens. lol –Curt

  8. Curt, these petroglyphs never cease to amaze me – and I love the jack rabbit photobomb. Your Huichol yarn art painting is a stunner! Hope you and Peggy have a fabulous road trip. We’re doing the same thing, but in the southeast. Can’t wait till you return with all your stories. ~Terri

    • Thanks Terri. We are back and had a great time– much beauty and much fun. Now I have a lot of catching up to do before Peggy and I head out backpacking next week. –Curt

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