The Anasazi Petroglyphs of the Red Rock Canyon

Today, I'm in Nevada, USA, and have decided to hit an extremely interesting site called the Red Rock Canyon. I've been reading up on the Anasazi Indians and I expect to find remnants of their civilization chiseled into the magnificent red stone of this area. These markers are called petroglyphs and they going to be as close as I've come to seeing the equivalent of  hieroglyphics in Egypt.

It's a beautiful day and the red sandstone is glistening in this stretch through the Oak Creek Canyon. This is a rich riparian zone with diverse wildlife and habitat. I see beautiful trees including Fremont cottonwood and Arizona sycamores in addition to numerous birds such as the common black hawk and wood duck. Large mammals are also within sight such as cougars and coyotes.

The first thing that catches my eye as I look around is the Schnebly Hill sandstone that is the same as I've seen in Sedona. The deep red color is a result of hematite, or the iron oxide of rust.  The terrain is steep owing to the fact that the top layers of the strata are composed of basalt and limestone which are harder than the underlying sandstone. Over millennia, water has run off the precipitous cliff-like ridge of land creating shear cliffs and unusual rock formations.

As I try to become oriented to this area I realize that I am not alone. A group of bikers have just ridden up and I hope will leave soon. This area is pristine and the noise of their motorcycles adulterates this peaceful environment.

They take off with great fanfare and now my attention shifts to the reason I came here in the first place: to see remnants of the Anasazi Indians in the state of Nevada.

The Anasazi antedated the modern Pueblo People whom today occupy about 20 communities in New Mexico and Arizona. These were native Americans that archaeologists believe date back to 1500 BC based on artifacts that have been found including basketry, art, tools and architecture. By 1300 AD their population center had drifted south to the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico and the Mogollon Rim in Central Arizona. By the 16th century the Spanish had arrived and renamed these people the Pueblo.

I come across my first series of petroglyphs, or rock art. These are images that the Anasazi pecked or painted into the sandstone cliffs of this and neighboring areas in the 4 corners of the United States. Petroglyphs are images or designs that are cut into rock surfaces without the use of pigment or coloring. The tools used to produce these figures were made of agate, chert or jasper.

These images are felt by archaeologists to be symbols of the way of life of this Native American people. For example, spirals are felt to signify the sun's movement or the passage of time. Some are symbols that are felt to denote maps showing the locations of springs and villages. Others show animal figures that are felt to have had meaning in promoting successful hunting.

After having seen this rock art for the first time, I become aware through my research of other fascinating examples of petroglyphs seen throughout the four corners of the United States. I become acquainted with the anthropomorphic and zoomorphic (animal) figures produced by the Fremont Indians in addition to the Anasazi in Utah's Calf Creek Canyon, Chaco Canyon and Monument Valley. While my travel interests have been primarily focused on international venues up until now, I realize that there are amazing examples of ancient Native American culture in the USA that need to be included in my 1000 places to see before I die.