Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Native American Rock Art

While camped at Burro Creek Campground we were surrounded by many black colored rocks, which are fairly common here in the desert Southwest.

Desert rocks are often coated with a black or reddish brown substance called “desert varnish” or “patina.” 

Often thinner than a coat of paint, patina slowly becomes thicker and darker with age.  Early people cut into the patina, exposing the actual lighter rock below.  Older engravings, or petroglyphs, are darker, as the patina has slowly built up again,  and relative dating can be done based on this. 
We found the rock above and the two below near a remote, indigenous jungle village in Mexico.  The objects in the above photo are ritual offerings left as part of centuries-old religious beliefs still observed in many rural areas of Mexico today.

                                  We found the petroglyphs below in Wrangel, Alaska.

Pictographs are similar to petroglyphs, but are painted on the rock surfaces, often with red dye.  We have seen these along the shore of Lake Superior, in the desert Southwest, and in Mexico.  The pictograph below is found in Seminole Canyon near Langtry, Texas.

A third form of art we have seen is the Intaglio(In-tal-yo).  These are created by scraping away layers of dark rocks or pebbles on the ground to reveal the lighter layer of soil below.  These giant figures are found throughout the Southwest California desert, but human ones are only found along the Colorado River. They are very difficult to find and are almost always found by pilots flying low.

We found this figure near Blythe, Ca.  It is 172 feet long and may be over 10,000 years old, as any mark made on the desert floor will be visible for centuries.

This is the Bouse Fisherman Intaglio,  found in the desert north of Quartzsite, Arizona.
 There are several hundred of these known in the Southwest with many more likely to be found.

What is an Inukshuk?  It is a form of Native American Art we have not seen in our travels, so we have no picture of ours to show you.  It is a stone landmark built and used in various ways by the people in the arctic region of North America.  This circumpolar tundra above the Arctic Circle has vast areas with few natural landmarks.  There were no inuksuit  to be seen as we crossed the Brooks Range above the Arctic Circle on our way to Prudhoe Bay, but future plans may lead us to see them.   The following site is a brief introduction to inuksuit:  

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