Jan 4th, 2012 | By James E Becker | Category: Senior Travel

Seniors Search Out Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs have been around for eons of time.  Petro meaning Rock and Glyph meaning Message have been etched into various kinds of stone by many different ancient peoples. Petroglyphs are an art form literally embedded in context, each image placed in a particular location for specific reasons that we modern senior viewers may or may not recognize. Petroglyphs are the oldest type of rock art, with designs made by carving or scratching away the dark layer of rock varnish on a rock’s surface to reveal the lighter rock underneath.

I am somewhat acquainted with petroglyphs as a tour guide at Taliesin West in Scottsdale where Frank Lloyd Wright and his apprentices discovered literally dozens of them along the edge of McDowell Mountains while preparing the site for the winter campus of school of architecture in 1937.  As they were constructing  the Taliesin West compound, they incorporated boulders from the site that were covered with ancient Native American petroglyphs. Frank Lloyd Wright insisted that all the petroglyphs be carefully placed in their original compass orientations as they were spread around the campus.

One symbol in particular caught his eye.  It looked like a pair of hands entwined and it became the symbol of the school of architecture. That particular petroglyph then became Taliesin’s logo (see Taliesin Petroglyphs photo).  Wright’s interpretation, clasping hands, to him meant “fellowship“, the name he and his wife Ogivanna gave to the apprentice following that was founded back in 1932.  This symbol when spun became a Whirling Arrow design, the name of the schools monthly Newsletter. Each petroglyph found on the property was moved before it became illegal to do so. Nowadays it would be considered disrespectful, if not illegal, to remove rock art from original locations.

Seniors Search the Globe for Petroglyphs

Some symbols were more mysterious than others but all were early forms of communication, carved some say about 400 to 700 years ago, and some even dating back 3,000 years by the ancestors of New Mexico’s native people. A communicator cannot help but draw parallels between what these ancient symbols represented and the many marks and logos of corporate culture today. Much of what we communicate today is so instantaneous and ever changing that it’s reassuring to find something so permanent and protected as these beautiful petroglyphs that are actually set in stone. In researching for this blog I discovered that seniors can travel to all corners of the globe to find petroglyphs and they are as varied as their own history.

The Deer Valley Rock Art Center has the largest concentration of Native American petroglyphs in the Phoenix Valley. Visitors hike a quarter-mile trail to view over 1,500 petroglyphs made between 500 and 7,000 years ago. The museum aims to promote preservation, connection and respect for the site and is a destination for families to learn about archaeology in their own backyard. The Center is managed by one of the top archaeology programs in the country – the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University.

At Chaco Canyon, New Mexico hundreds of petroglyphs were used to convey messages and ideas. They aren’t read like words, or even like ancient hieroglyphics. They are symbols that can represent anything from a simple object to a complex idea. Our modern cultures also use symbols in similar ways. Glyphs, symbols, and pictures had a purpose for the Chacoan people, as they do for most other cultures. While they may be beautiful, the intent behind them was to communicate a message. Today the Canyon is a National Park.

One would not expect to find any of these ancient stones in Pennsylvania, however there are less than 40 Native American petroglyph sites recorded in the Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Survey files (PASS). The majority of these are found in prominent locations, near water, especially larger rivers.  The images can be found in clusters of a few to groups of hundreds.  Rarely are petroglyphs found in upland settings and petroglyphs can be very difficult to date. In Africa and Europe they can be tens of thousands of years old.  However, in Pennsylvania, petroglyphs are said to be less than 1000 years old.

Rock Art Ranch and Big Island Petroglyphs Attract Seniors

Researchers note that a private ranch located near Winslow, AZ is an awsome place to see some fascinating petroglyphs. Rock Art  Ranch is a private ranch with a museum collection and access to a canyon filled with amazing examples.  Rock Art Canyon is a deep canyon with a stream running through it. On the rock walls are impressive ancestral petroglyphs.

In Hawaii on the Big Island seniors will find some very interesting petroglyphs, or kii pohaku, that are lava rock carvings etched into stone centuries ago by native hawaiians.  Although the true meanings of the petroglyphs are unknown, it is generally thought these carvings are records of births and other significant events in the lives of the people who lived there long ago. You can see the carvings of human forms, canoes, turtles and others in the many captivating petroglyphs fields throughout Hawaii Island.

You will find these fascinating drawings all over the US, created by the Anasazi, Shoshone, Sinagua, Yuman, Kumeyaay, Hohokam, Ute, Fremont, Mohave, Paiute and Desert Culture people who lived in the prehistoric Southwest and Great Basin. Do enjoy the hunt and do bring along your camera.  jeb

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