Artistic inspiration can strike anywhere. The unusual trio above is a compilation of Coso Range style petroglyphs which date from 17,000 B.C.E. to A.D.500 and may be found throughout the American Southwest. They seem to invite a story about three good friends all dolled up in their new summer dresses and ready for a picnic adventure. Note that the figure on the right has kindling to start the barbecue while the character on the left is accompanied by the requisite cloud burst that will ultimately send them all running for cover to save their hair styles and hamburger buns.)
In truth, rock art scholars and experts on Native American cultures agree that the meaning and purpose of ancient petroglyphs has not yet been discovered. The images were incised and pecked into rocks and cliff faces using various primitive tools like a pointed deer antler struck with a hammerstone. The resultant small depressions called “dints” made the design by removing centuries of dark rock varnish to expose the lighter-colored stone surface beneath. Petroglyphs are the predominant form of rock-art found from California to Colorado. However, rock-art exists on every continent.
Classifying petroglyphs began in the 1920s to help make sense of the range of territory and design diversity. Styles are linked to cultural traditions associated with specific sites. Distinctive patterns are assumed to be the result of established cultural boundaries within which people shared the same traditions during the same time.
Native American tribal specialists are increasingly involved in collaboration between anthropologists and historians to understand how traditions may have impacted particular rock-art sites. Renewed interest in ethnographic literature of the late 19th and 20th century resurrected oral histories. Thus rock-art’s role in contemporary Native American life is rejuvenated through consultations with living tribal experts.
Learn more about rock art in WINGIN’ IT, Volume 4, Issue Numbers 4 and 5. This boxed set titled ON THE ROCKS is my 2-part treatise on a fascinating subject.
Meantime, have fun making up your own stories and creating articulated Paper Dolls by downloading my free template.