Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Arizona Indian Pictographs


Few pictographs were found in the immediate neighborhood of the cavate dwellings; indeed the rock in their vicinity is too soft to preserve for any considerable time any great number of these rock etchings. Examples of ancient paleography were, however, discovered a short distance higher up the river on malpais rock, which is harder and less rapidly eroded. A half-buried bowlder (plate xciii) near Wood's ranch was found to be covered with the well-known spirals with zigzag attachments, horned animals resembling antelopes, growing corn, rain clouds, and similar figures. These pictographs occur on a black, superficial layer of lava rock, or upon lighter stone with a malpais layer, which had been pecked through, showing a lighter color beneath. There is little doubt that many examples of aboriginal pictography exist in this neighborhood, which would reward exploration with interesting data. The Verde pictographs can not be distinguished, so far as designs are concerned, from many found elsewhere in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona.
An instructive pictograph, different from any which I have elsewhere seen, was discovered on the upturned side of a bowlder not far from Hance's ranch, near the road from Camp Verde to the cavate dwellings. The bowlder upon which they occur lies on top of a low hill, to the left of the road, near the river. It consists of a rectangular network of lines, with attached key extensions, crooks, and triangles, all pecked in the surface. This d├Ždalus of lines arises from grooves, which originate in two small, rounded depressions in the rock, near which is depicted the figure of a mountain lion. The whole pictograph is 3-1/2 feet square, and legible in all its parts.
The intent of the ancient scribe is not wholly clear, but it has been suggested that he sought to represent the nexus of irrigating ditches in the plain below. It might have been intended as a chart of the neighboring fields of corn, and it is highly suggestive, if we adopt either of these explanations or interpretations, that a figure of the mountain lion is found near the depressions, which may provisionally be regarded as representing ancient reservoirs. Among the Tusayan Indians the mountain lion is looked on as a guardian of cultivated fields, which he is said to protect, and his stone image is sometimes placed there for the same purpose.
In the vicinity of the pictograph last described other bowlders, of which there are many, were found to be covered with smaller rock etchings in no respect characteristic, and there is a remnant of an ancient shrine a few yards away from the bowlder upon which they occur.