Sunday, March 29, 2009

Interpreting Petroglyphs: "Goats"

I have a friend who keeps telling me that "I ain't no stinkin' botanist" right before he gives me the answer to a botanical question.

So, keeping in mind that "I ain't no petroglyph expert" here are some things that I've learned about "goats," using a glyph from the outside face of the cliffs at Falling Man as an example (see photo); and, relying heavily on information from Native American LaVan Martineau in The Rocks Begin to Speak

[The book is still in print, new or used at Amazon. If you are going to purchase it, please consider doing so using the above link at no extra cost to you. A "thank you" to help keep this site going and the trails coming.]

Again, it's difficult to keep repeating information in print, so see previous posts for background. Specifically like: Logandale - Hungry Man.

The use of "goats" as substitutes for groups of people, began very early in the evolution of sign language and glyph writing, in order to depict the lateral motion which can't be shown well using human stick figures. These are actually nondescript body shapes using "signs" as appendages which make them "look" like various animals such as deer, goats, sheep, dogs etc..


Location: This glyph cluster is on a prominent, east facing, obvious, rock face which is observable by all and suggests it being a "trail marker" of sorts.

Natural Features: Prominent are the natural rock cracks and ledges which surround the three figures in a fairly flattened circle, with two "pointy" ends. The two top edges are formed by "ledges" in the rock. The right-bottom is formed by the cliff edge and the left-bottom, although now broken away, was also clearly a crack. Such a flattened, pointy (football-like) circle is the sign for "objectionable place," or "bad area" and may have caught the original author's eye as he climbed through the tunnel. This gives the "theme" of what the author was going to write.

Another crack is clear, running across the "circle" and pointing nearly northeastward. It makes a rock incorporation which points directly at the Bunkerville mountain range.


Technique: There are numbers of other glyphs on the rock face, with different amounts of patinization indicating different authors at different times. These, in this cluster, are pecked quite deeply and seem "newer" than others.

Symbols: The top goat is obviously facing in the direction of the natural crack (the gap toward Mesquite). Its body has the pointy-oblong shape of "objectionable area" and its tail is an upward, cup-shaped swoop. A shape which means fast, swift or with haste. The nose is elongated into a "pointing finger," indicating movement in the pointed to direction which is a little to the right of the mountain line, or through the Parashant area. It is the same size as the other "goats" (equal sized groups) and above, possibly meaning "superior, ahead, first or past tense." The two horns are foreshortened and in the position of "empty, nothing here, gone" but not arched over the back like they would be after a long completed journey. There is, however, another "boomerang-like" line touching the back meaning "distant, or far to go."

The middle goat also has the "objectionable area" body and is facing toward Arizona and Utah. It's "pointing" nose is directed toward the third goat and its tail has a sharply bent, "crochet hook," shape which means "near or close." Probably indicating at least a desire, if not intent, to stay near the other group. Amplifying this is the way it's front legs are upward making the body appear in the up-tilted, "forward-slash" angle meaning "halt or stopped." Its horns are however, also in the "gone" shape which may mean they stayed with the other group for awhile but had to leave. One of them also shows the "distant" wide angle bend.

The right goat has had, or is having, a struggle. Its body is pointed on one end as "objectionable place" but chopped off on the other as "cut short, stopped or end." Its "pointing" nose is directed back (toward Lost City), most likely from the direction they have already come. If its top horn had been in a true right-angle it would have meant "turning NOT aside or determined." The rounded corner negates the meaning into "turned aside or abandoning the attempt." Its second horn is the shape of "distance, or long," its tail is either the curve of "missed" or the right-angle of "determined or made up my mind." Incredibly, even one of the hind legs is perpendicular under the body meaning "blocked" and is half-way up the body probably meaning "already begun."

Putting it Together

I have been one acquainted with the night.”
Robert Frost

Other glyphs: There are numerous other glyphs in the area as if the group stayed in the area for a long time, or returned often. There is, of course, Falling Man and all the glyphs relating to that unfortunate incident.

Possible Story: The migrating group had come a fair distance to arrive at this spot (where they knew there was water). The incident with the "bad" man left at least a portion of the group so debilitated that they couldn't go on, even though it meant they had to endure life-threatening summer heat, privation and possible death. Even their intent to go back was prevented or halted. A second portion attempted to stay near to the unfortunate group until it was either impossible or unnecessary and they finally "were gone." A third group went on ahead, possibly to get crops planted, obtain help or find sustenance.

This small cluster of glyphs contains a lot of information and is consistent with the story as a whole contained on other glyphs in the area. It tells of choices required during a terrible dilemma which would probably haunt them twice a year as they passed this way going back and forth.

Why Not Learn More

The book "The Rocks Begin To Speak" is probably the landmark text which opened this field of study to large numbers of people, and it is still in print, new or used at Amazon. Why not make your trips to the "Glyphs of Gold Butte" more meaningful by learning a few of the "meanings" of the glyphs you see? If you are going to purchase it, please consider doing so using the links on this page. There will be no extra cost to you, but a portion will go to keeping this site going and the trails coming.


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