Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Petroglyphs at Signal Hill

Signal Hill, located in the western part of the Saguaro National Park, is noted for the petroglyphs shown above. After just over six months of living within a twenty-minute drive to the park, we finally went to visit them. To be fair, the weather is now perfect for this kind of trek; and it was during this recent excursion we learned that one of the roads which leads to the petroglyphs is the same one we were on back in May. Back when it was 109 degrees and we had no water and had no idea where we were going. This time, we had a map, water, and it was only about 75 degrees. Much better exploring weather!

I've mentioned before that I enjoy archaeology, and that it's one of those things I wish I'd pursued as a career. Seeing petroglyphs like this only reinforces those thoughts. No written language for people to butcher, just pictures. Draw a spiral, people know what you mean. Draw a circle with lines on it, and that's the sun. Draw a thing with four legs and antlers, and people know that's lunch. Draw a long, squiggly line and that's a river. Put it all together and it means that it takes a day walking along the river to catch your lunch. Simple, elegant, and very cool.

To be honest, I have no idea what the dotted ring next to the sun means.

But then, I have absolutely no frame of reference for it. I don't have to go out and kill my lunch, find my own water, or build my own home. I would have been dead long ago if that were the case, and quite frankly most of the people reading this would be in the same boat. (Or complete and utter lack of a boat, as the case may be.)

The petroglyphs are inaccessible. Well, they're supposed to be. There's a small metal railing keeping honest folk at bay, but it wouldn't take much to just go around the railing and clamber all over the rocks and petroglyphs and carve your own symbols on there to mess with the next visitor's head. But that's one of the interesting things about being here in Arizona as opposed to New York... there's a level of respect for things like this that's lacking in NY. Specifically, I mean graffiti. These rocks would be buried under spray paint six inches thick by now if they were in NY. Or they'd be encased in bulletproof plexiglass with armed guards. Here, they're out in the open as they were meant to be. Funny thing, though... the railing had graffiti on it. Names carved into it, things like that. (Hey, I didn't say AZ was perfect.)

It does have some magnificent sunsets, though. I'm quite happy with them.

You'd think that an afternoon spent looking at petroglyphs, exploring the desert, and taking a whole bunch of pictures of the setting sun would qualify as an eventful day. Normally, it would. But the evening had one more special event in store for us, and we saw it as we were heading out of the park.

Two coyotes, walking up the road towards our car. Sunset is the time that the desert really comes alive with animals, and these two were out in search of lunch. (And they didn't need any petroglyphs to find it!) Deb took this shot, and I think it came out pretty well considering it was dark, we were inside the car, and the flash went off. Actually, I think the flash is the only thing that kept them from walking right past the car. They had no fear of it.

That is what I call an awesome end to an awesome day!


sam said...

That is what I'd call scary! The coyote photo, that is. It looks way to much like a glow-eyed, horror-movie wolf-critter. Which, of course, just makes the shot that much cooler.

The petroglyphs are fascinating. Thanks for sharing them. My vote for the Sun's dotted-ring neighbor is a zodiac sort of thing. But I always see spirals as cell death. Maybe it's a good thing we've got words to fall back on. ;)

Wontar said...

Sam - The eyes weren't glowing like that when we saw them, but yes it does look pretty cool. Just a great experience. Despite the fact that it was readily apparent they had absolutely no fear of us!

Hmm. Zodiac for the dotted circle is a good idea. And cell death? I was thinking more "journey" or "finality". But if Steve Perry came to an end because of cell death, I guess that'd work too.