What do you see here?

The ways of the past etched in stone

Sep 16, 2013
Not all petroglyphs lend themselves to be interpreted or understood. Those that do can give us tremendous insight to the ways of the past. In this picture we have three different petroglyphs from a panel in the east Mojave preserve. Each had meaning and value at the time that were created.
The oldest “lower left” appears reddish due to the patina growing over it. This takes hundreds or even thousands of years depending on the type of rock and its exposure to the weather. If one looks closely the artist that made this oldest glyph chose to incorporate a small hole or bubble in this piece of lava rock as part of his glyphs. In this glyph it seems as though he incorporated this small hole deliberately therefore we can postulate that it had some meaning to him. At this glyph site and many others these holes or bubbles are highlighted over and over again. So it’s reasonable to suspect that they had some symbolic meaning to this culture or played a part in their folklore.
The next glyph that we want to examine in this panel is the newer abstract glyphs “upper left”. We know it’s newer due to its lighter color. I call this glyph abstract because I cannot associate it with any object or particular thought or idea. However a person from that time and culture may have understood it with clarity and precision. With this in mind it’s worth noting that this artist carefully included the older glyph and the hole or bubble in the lava rock, deliberately and artistically. From this small detail we can see that the newer artist was literally embracing the past and no doubt this was his past, and he knew it. So this message may be from him going back in time to his ancestors, as well as forward in time, a message to generations yet to come. From these two glyphs we can see that these people understood very well the longevity of these glyphs etched in stone. This gives us some understanding as to the time span that this culture understood and utilized. To us this small detail in this glyph tells of a tribe, a family that camped here on and off for hundreds of years, perhaps thousands or more.
Now let’s look at this Bighorn sheep glyph. To start let’s inventory the various attributes that are exhibited in this glyph. Obviously we are looking down on a desert Bighorn sheep ram, and judging from its horns it is 4 to 5 years old. The posture that is shown here is impossible for a living Bighorn sheep to get into. What we have here is a Bighorn sheep that has been skinned or "caped out" with the head still attached. Most hunters or taxidermists that have caped out an animal would recognize this. Then I believe the artist that made this glyph attempted to indicate the white rump patch that all desert Bighorn sheep have on their rear end. Next we have a series of dots pecked into the rock that seems to be coming from the rams rear end. I imagine that this is representing either droplets of blood or sheep pellets. Either way this glyph would indicate that this ram was recently killed and skinned out. Most likely this happened in the immediate vicinity and perhaps it commemorates something that happened on this very spot.
This cape and headdress shown in this glyph would've been easily recognized by any hunter gatherer anywhere in the world. They were valuable objects, often used ceremonially to appease various animal deities. Then the hunter would don this cape and headdress as a disguise to get closer to these prey animals in order to make a kill. This is manipulating one’s presence and awareness in the environment to a level where it becomes the art of perception and deception. I think you’ll find that this art of a deliberate deception in order to “make a killing” runs deep in the human psyche, such that it’s etched in stone.
and that’s just the way of things.