This is an example of individual symbols becoming as one symbol.

Traveling the Pathways of Time

Sep 19, 2012
Petroglyphs prove that the beauty and thoughts of the human mind can travel immense distances in time and that the beauty can still be recognized and the thoughts still valued. Having a basic understanding of these petroglyphs will give us a pathway to travel back in time to the environment in which they were made and give us some understanding of it. Then we can take this pathway and travel back to our own time and understand some of environmental attributes that have survived through the ages.
The first thing we must understand about these petroglyphs is that they were part of a living culture, so these symbols lived and operated on other mediums besides stone. Often these symbols would have been found on pieces of hide and wood and we can see the influence of this on the petroglyphs themselves. They are rarely smaller than about 2 inches, a size that would fit well on a rabbit skin - and then on the other end of the scale we rarely find them more than about 2 feet across. Of course this would fit well on a deer or elk hide. Then there is the natural scale that is derived from the hand and the arm of a person. So when we look at a petroglyphs site, we may be missing some of the most important glyphs that an ancient human would've seen, because they were carved on the trees that are no longer there.
And then we must consider that certain symbols would have been appropriate for trees, some for stone, and still others for hide. In knowing this we can get a sense of what is missing from the full array of symbols that this society would have had. Then we can take this knowledge and make certain parallels to modern glyphs sites. For this purpose we will use a gravesite and the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. So let's start with the gravesite: we know that the glyphs written on these stones relate directly to this site; that is to say, they describe or tell us something about the person buried there, and this is true of petroglyphs sites as well.
Sometimes the glyphs will mark a water source or a game trail and thus, they have an obvious connection to one another. Then there are others that will have a more ceremonial position in the environment much like the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. As we know, the war was not fought right there but rather far away in Vietnam. But this site derives most of its significance from the names or, perhaps one could say, the glyphs that represent the people who died there and we will often see the same pattern at various glyphs sites. One of the most common glyphs is the atlatl which shows up symbolically as a circle with a line through it. We see this at some glyphs sites written over and over again.
So, one could theorize that these repeating symbols represent individuals, relating themselves to a collective identity. Thereby we could understand that the placement of this glyphs sight may have more to do with an abstract or spiritual idea than a resource. However, we must temper this concept with the understanding that people in a hunter-gatherer society rarely stray too far from the resources they needed.
So, as you travel through the desert and discover one of these ancient glyphs sites, I hope you'll see it as a pathway to the past that the ancient people of the desert has left to us, and those yet to wander this beautiful desert.