Monday, March 2, 2009

Interpreting Petroglyphs: Logandale "Hungry Man"

All blog posts need a title, but this one seems a bit pretentious. That is to say: it is what I'm writing about, but pretty much only to say that "no one can do it!"

I've had several requests to describe what I've learned from reading books on the subject. That's what it is, nothing more - except, unless you count the hundred's of hours I've spent riding around with dad looking at them.

I mentioned the "Hungry Man" petroglyph on the Logandale Trail System in a previous post, after having had an extended time to just sit and look at it during a ride. That same glyph does have some more aspects to it that could be mentioned.

Just remember that the authors of rock art are pretty much "gone" so a definitive answer will probably never be known. What is "known," is pretty much educated guesses from using cryptographic methodology and analysis of lots and lots of material. The first rule, if you will, is to: "get a good book."

LaVan Martineau, part Indian, spent 40 years of his life using his knowledge of Indian language, sign language, and the cryptology he learned in the war, to begin unraveling some of the mystery. His book, The Rocks Begin to Speak was recommended to me as a great "starting place." And it has been, so I can recommend it to you.

[It still is in print, available new or used and available on-line at Amazon. If you are going to purchase it, please consider doing so through the above link at no extra cost to you, as a "thank you" to help keep this site going and the trails coming.]

The second rule is that: "there's no substitute for actually being there." You can photograph or draw or describe them; but, there is way too many interrelated aspects needed to do it accurately. The best might be a "rubbing" but that's almost never possible, practical or legal.

Other rules are: How deep they are carved, how they are placed in relation to other glyphs, how they are placed relating to the entire area, the natural features of the rock they are on and even the past social history of the tribe -they all matter. Not just how they are shaped.

A good first understanding of this glyph would, at least, consider the following:

Location: It was located on the end rock, very visible to a traveler, along a major trail through the red rock desert area near the Virgin River, a day or two's journey from "lost city" and other indian settlements, and in a clearly unique and identifiable area which probably was associated with myths and legends.

Associated Symbols: The "6-7 toed foot" is a clan symbol which I know I've seen at the lost city museum but which I can't now remember. I'll need to check next time I'm there. It either marks the territory or identifies the author or characters in the story. They are directly under some other glyphs showing groups on a difficult travel line.   [I did check, it's NOT there, so I still don't know which clan. A "barefoot" sign means "unprotected, vulnerable, or dangerous," but this is clearly NOT a normal barefoot.]

Carving: There are two persons, one slightly larger and more deeply stippled. (Stippling often means water or wet - I'm not sure how it is used here). He is holding an implement, possibly an axe, tomahawk or atlatle, and has a unique head point. That is often used to represent an elder or shaman or a person of some importance. Other actions don't show agression so he is probably hunting.

The smaller person is less deeply carved, does not have the head point, is facing the same direction as the other (so they were probably companions) and is also holding a weapon. Do you see it?

Natural Features: His right hand is drawn to include the natural indentation in the rock which for all intents and purposes looks like a spear. Native writing often uses a rock's natural features to save the fairly difficult labor of chipping the rock. The placement of the hand exactly leaves no doubt that it was intended to end at the indentation. One can even see a small chip at the point of the spear.

Other items: The other items are a bit less distinct which may be so for a reason or because they were placed at another sitting. The smaller animal(?) to the lower left could possibly be the quary, a rabbit(?).

On the other hand, what looks like a rabbit may be a map of the area. Compare it with the Google Earth map of our trail and you see the lower right line going left (like the trail) down to a dead end (like it does at petroglyph 3) and intersecting a broad canyon area runing North (like it does). At the top another trail running down to the left and behind the mountain ridge. Of course, it is attached to the large clan symbol which may indicate the location of the tribes hunting grounds.

Social Situation: It was, however, a common practice for an elder to take a young male into the desert to teach him the skills of a hunter and the lessons of life. It is also common for a boy comming of age to embark on a "vision quest" at the beginning of manhood. The "Atlatle Rock" story in the Valley of Fire visitors center is such a story. This site is just over the ridge from Valley of Fire.

There are two kinds of teachers: the kind that fill you with so much quail shot that you can't move, and the kind that just gives you a little prod behind and you jump to the skies.”
Robert Frost

Possible Story: 1. The tribe referenced earlier had come from a distant place, on a difficult journey which left them hungry. At least a portion of the group was determined (either through decision or physical limitation) to split apart. Capable men and boys of the (?) clan, hunted the area to supply sustenance; or,

2. An elder (or shaman) accompanied a young man into the area to teach him the skills of a hunter. They hunted game (possibly rabbits), made "journal entries" (glyphs) and probably split apart for some time so the young man could demonstrate his "mettle" and recieve his "vision quest."

On the left side of the rock from the "Hungry Man" glyph is this one, placed here so as to be cartographically correct. Notice the spiral going in a counterclockwise direction (meaning downward) and attached to a trail line. If you consider the lower right end of the line to be where the glyph is, it travels upward (the direction of the trail) winding a bit and coming to an empty area (where the fence is today) before turning a bit leftward then continuing into the spiral.

The "going down" symbol is usually merely a spiral but in this case it ends in an enclosed circle with a dot in it (the symbol for water hole). In actuality, from here to the water hole is NOT downward; but, with the water symbol in the middle of the spiral it suggests that it's the water which is actually doing the "going down" (ie a waterfall). To the present day there is a water seep at the back of the canyon flowing down from the rock (petroglyphs 3), which may otherwise be overlooked.

Well, you get the idea. I hope that you get the opportunity, sometime in your life, to visit some of these glyphs and see first hand how you might interpret the story.

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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