Western history Western Travel

Archeology and History

Macaw at Petroglyph National Monument

Why was I riveted to an old Indiana Jones movie last evening? Besides Spielberg’s magic and a young Harrison Ford, it had a lot to do with the archealogical tale of unfolding mysteries through material evidence of past human life. The story also touched lightly on the issue of truth as opposed to myth, one of my favorite speech topics regarding our more modern western history. How cool is that!

Recently, I visited Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Located close to town, we hiked and scrambled through rocks containing messages from the ancients. A brochure contains a quotation by Pueblo Elder, William F. Weahkee: “Each of these rocks is alive, keeper of a message left by the ancestors … There are spirits, guardians; there is medicine …”

Deciphering the messages requires much study and imagination. The macaw, used as a symbol for the site, is probably indicative of trade and prosperity for the value of its feathers. Nothing is certain in this science. These beautiful images and symbols can also be appreciated for their artistic value. After this visit, and a past jaunt to the Talking Rocks north of Thermopolis, Wyoming, I am hooked. Next time, I encounter a petroglyph site, I will make sure I have my cowboy hat, boots, and water jug, and plan better for the hike and scramble over the rocks. Also, I agree with Indy … I can do without the snakes.

Joyce Lohse, 3/6/11