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Amazing Ancient Ruins of the Pueblo People

Ancient Pueblo people were an ancient Native American culture centered on the present-day Four Corners area of the United States, comprising southern Utah, northeastern Arizona, northern New Mexico, and southwestern Colorado. Archaeologists still debate when this distinct culture emerged but the current consensus is around 12th century BC.

They lived in a range of structures, including pit houses, pueblos, and cliff dwellings designed so that they could lift entry ladders during enemy attacks, which provided security. The pictures above feature some of the amazing pueblos and cliff dwellings of these people. The most photographed ruin is the “House on Fire” (picture 1). This ruin, when captured at certain times of the day, resembles a dwelling on fire and is a favorite among photographers.

  • "House on Fire" ruin in Mule Canyon, South Fork, Utah
  • Petroglyph with the prehistoric symbol, flute player Kokopelli
  • Multistory dwellings at Bandelier. Rock wall foundations and beam holes and “cavates” carved into volcanic tuff remain from upper floors
  • Laguna Pueblo dwellers posing for a picture
  • Doorways, Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico
  • Casa Rinconada, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico
  • Ancestral Pueblo ruins in Dark Canyon Wilderness, Utah
  • Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park

sources 1, 2, 3

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The petroglyphs in the landscape of Tamgaly, Kazakhstan, dating from approximately 1400 BCE to the 20th century.

Offering us unique insight into the rituals and social organization of the pastoral peoples who inhabited this site through time, the archaeological landscape of Tamgaly contains about 5,000 petroglyphs (rock carvings), which are distributed throughout 48 complexes largely associated with burial grounds and settlements.

The central canyon has the densest concentration of petroglyphs, contains ‘alters,’ and has been interpreted to have had ritual significance. The central canyon is devoid of dwellings, and is thought to have been a place for sacrificial offerings.

During the Middle Bronze Age we see Tamgaly-type petroglyphs, which include zoomorphic beings, people, a huge variety of animals, and ‘solar deities (sun-heads).’ During the Late Bronze Age the petroglyphs become smaller in size, and display less variety in what is depicted. Here scenes of pastoral life are popular, reflecting the prominence of nomadic cattle breeding activities during the time. During the Early Iron Age, scenes showing the hunting of wild animals remain present, but we also see camels starting to appear in the art.

If you are interested in reading more about the ‘solar-headed’ petroglyphs I would recommend The Archaeology of Shamanism (2001, Routledge), specifically chapter 5. This publication is edited by Neil Price, professor of archaeology at the University of Aberdeen, who is a specialist on shamanism in archaeology.

The petroglyphs within the archaeological landscape of Tamgaly are listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site -their article on the landscape was of great use to me while writing up this post. Photos courtesy of & taken by Ken and Nyetta.

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This Wilderness Wednesday We Feature Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in New Mexico

The 41,170-acre Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a remote desolate area of steeply eroded badlands which offers some of the most unusual scenery found in the Four Corners region. Time and natural elements have etched a fantasy world of strange rock formations and fossils. It is an ever-changing environment that offers the visitor a remote wilderness experience. Translated from the Navajo language, Bisti means “a large area of shale hills” and is commonly pronounced (Bis-tie). De-Na-Zin (Deh-nah-zin) takes its name from the Navajo words for “cranes.” Petroglyphs of cranes have been found south of the wilderness area.

The two major geological formations found in the wilderness are the Fruitland Formation and the Kirtland Shale. The Fruitland Formation makes up most of what you can see while in the badlands and contains interbedded sandstone, shale, mudstone, coal, and silt. The weathering of the sandstone forms the many spires and hoodoos (sculpted rock) found throughout the area. The Kirtland Shale contains rock of various colors and dominates the eastern part of the wilderness.

The BLM manages the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness to protect the area’s naturalness, special features, and opportunities for solitude and primitive types of recreation, such as hiking, backpacking, camping, wildlife viewing, photography, and horseback riding. Learn more: on.doi.gov/1r37qgJ

Photos by Bob Wick, BLM Wilderness Specialist

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The focus of today shall be: the Mouse Tank Petroglyphs of the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, USA.

Mouse Tank falls within a region which was occupied by Puebloan farmers from about AD 1 to 1200, and contains many Puebloan-style petroglyphs, as attested to by the photographs shown above. At about 1200 Southwestern farming cultures experienced significant drought, which ultimately resulted in the abandonment of the site.

Interpreting Puebloan rock art, to date, remains problematic. However, a few lines of thought can be given to aid us in our understanding. Here I will be summarizing a few key points from the work of Dr. David S. Whitley, who is generally regarded as one of the world’s leading experts on rock art.

Whitley suggests that some aspects of the rock art are likely shamanistic in intend and origin -elements of shamanism have continued through to Puebloan religions today. “Furthermore, we know that one of the characteristics of these archaic shamanistic practices was the making of rock art.” It is also thought that much of the art references the neuropsychological model of motif forms, which derived from altered states of consciousness. Whitley notes that much of the petroglyphs at Mouse Tank display entoptic patterns which are “common percepts in the first stage of a trance.” This includes spirals, parallel lines, zigzags, and other more complicated geometric forms. In essence, Whitley concludes that the Mouse Tank petroglyphs reflect “an expression of what are presumably formal religious cults and rites such as those still practiced by Pueblo groups today.” The figurative images, such as displayed in the 5th photo, likely represent ritual participants, deities, and the like.

Photos taken by & courtesy of George Lamson. Recommended reading: essentially anything from David S. Whitley, in particular: Discovering North American Rock Art (University of Arizona Press 2006) & Introduction to Rock Art Research (Left Coast Press 2011).

Monster Surf Exposes Rare Petroglyphs in Hawaii

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Epic winter swells just off of Oahu, Hawaii, have churned up monster waves more than 7 meters high, sent seawater surging around the foundations of beachfront homes, and gnawed away at sandy cliffs along the island’s North Shore.

They’ve also exposed rare petroglyphs that have not been seen in years.

The unusually strong seasonal surf has washed away layers of sand all along Pupukea Beach, just east of the big-surf mecca of Waimea, to reveal dozens of large glyphs carved into the bench of lava rock.

More than 70 carvings have been exposed, mostly depicting human-like figures and dogs, according to the Historic Hawaii Foundation, whose workers are documenting the images. Read more.

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