Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Interpreting Petroglyphs: Toquop Wash II

Toquop Wash is a place that I've only been to a couple of times; but, for some reason, I seem to keep thinking of things that I've seen there.

Gordon and I took the trip on our ATV's first, then Dad wanted to see it so we went back. At the "top" of the trail, we had just crossed the wash and were turning toward home when dad spotted one of those BLM "don't waste your heritage" signs. [For a free Google Earth file of the route we took see: Ride 21 - Toquop Wash]

To me this seemed like one of those times where "if the BLM doesn't want you to stomp around, there must be something around here worth seeing," so I went back.

At the crossing there is a very large rock jutting into the wash, and just "upstream," around back, are the glyphs I described in an earlier post.

Going behind the rock and looking left, up toward the top, there is a depression or channel which you can climb. Undoubtedly, during rainstorms, this becomes full of water emptying into the wash.

In the photo above, you can see that the channel is partially blocked in three places by natural rock dams. Behind each of these dams there are holding "cisterns" which hold the water long after the rains have stopped and are currently filled with vegetation.

Noted Native American author and cryptologist LaVan Martineau in his book The Rocks Begin to Speak describes the connection between geology and rock-writing to the early American "authors." This is true especially where water is concerned, or trails. And this site has both.


Location: On a southeast rock cliff below and to the right of the mentioned channel is one glyph pecked in the hard rock just above eye level.

Natural Features: The glyph is in the left upper corner of a raised rectangle whose corner acts as a "pointer" to the waterfall and cisterns. There is an edge, which is parallelled by the curved edge of the glyph, a natural indentation running horizontal across the rock at the bottom of the glyph and another linear indentation at the base of the glyph running vertically downward. The edge runs like the ridge of the cliff in front of the channel, the horizontal line like the trail down to the river and the vertical line runs in the direction of the main wash.


Technique: The glyphs are heavily pecked (ground or smooshed) using the change in rock texture from impact (rather than removal of desert varnish) to make them show up against the light colored rock.

Symbols: There is only one in this cluster, basically a representation of the channel or [in rain] waterfall. The overall shape, a tapering, oblong area, rounded at the top and tapering to a point at the bottom, has the meaning "canyon." It is a bit blunt on the tapered end which adds the meaning of "chopped off," or "end" and it is in outline form which often adds the meaning "nothing there" or "empty" [it would have been impossible to draw the "blockages" it if had been filled in.]

The more you explain it, the more I don't understand it.”
Mark Twain

It is slightly bent in the middle, just like the actual channel, and tapers to a single line, or path, which touches the linear indentation (rock incorporation) perpendicular to its base representing the wash.

Running across the glyph are three lines which are more loosely pecked in the manner of "scattered," "something on it," or "wet." They are clearly represented as being within the canyon; but run across and in front so that it represents "stop" or a "barrier" to the canyon.

Finally, there are two short parallel lines extending from the top right side which have the meaning "nothing there" or, by extension "off of," or "empty."

Putting it Together

Other glyphs: There are two other glyph clusters in the area which, except for location, don't seem to add to the interpretation.

Possible Story: This is clearly a representation, or drawing, of the "canyon" or channel for an intermittent waterfall with three nearly hidden cisterns which may provide water in time of need to a parched traveler. The water runs down from (off of) the top, follows the canyon, over the blockages (wet falls) and into the wash.

Learn A Little 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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