Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Prehistoric Rock Art of Baca County

One of the aspects of Baca County that drew me in were the mentions I read of Rock Art to be found on the sandstone of the canyon walls in the area. Those who know me would confirm that of my more refined interests - history flows into travel, photography flows into wildlife, and geology and 4wheeling have a practical link as well. In short I am curious about how people do, and have, carved out a life for themselves in the environment they call home.

My first experience with pre-historic rock art was as a young Boy Scout on a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. One of the leaders 'encouraged' jaded young teens to paddle extra miles to see art. Well, when I contemplated something that had endured on a rock face above the water for untold years I was hooked. Since then I have been amazed at the sights I have seen at Bandelier National Monument, Mesa Verde and absolutely blown away by the Chaco Canyon World Heritage Site.

The images I found in the Comanche were not those. Don't get me wrong, for me at least they still had the same link...not necessarily spiritual - but infused with such base humanity. The canyon that was home to life giving springs out on the otherwise unbroken plains had to be significant for those who visited and relied on their waters. Images placed on rock, and the pink baked stone of an overhang where countless fires had burned. Those are the testaments of people who must have returned to this place with joy in season.

Birders may relate to my frustration with rock images though. I have bought books and searched online, and still I feel that there should be more information on the themes and recurring images. Mostly, I fail to find anything that satisfies me or relates to my own impressions. That's okay though, a large part is the thrill of realizing that a stone surface I had been looking past for minutes has just revealed a hidden secret. See the one below?

Then there are others that make me wonder in a more cynical way. This last image was found in the canyon below the empty Two-Buttes Reservoir. It was much larger than those I had located at Carrizo Canyon, more reminiscent of those farther southwest. It was also in the midst of some sadly modern tags. So I was once again left to wonder - were the ancients leaving their own message to their world - or were some kids of the seventies and eighties telling future generations of the wonders of Pac-Man?

Most of the fun is in the wondering, so hopefully these will keep readers' eyes on the rocks as well as the skies.


  1. It is amazing, all these different artists at work. I, too, have been interested in rock art; pictographs and others left behind by the long-time ago inhabitants. That makes me wonder about the Railroad car art?

  2. Those are amazing pictures. I love Jeffers petroglyphs in southern MN - it's difficult to find the carvings scraped into the rock but once you do, it's magical!