Mesa Verde’s 1,000 Year Old Petroglyphs [Slideshow]
For decades I’ve hiked and photographed extensively on ancient lands in America’s West and Southwest. In those travels I occasionally happen upon rock art created by early Native American people. And each time, I stand in awe at their ability to create these works by hand, at the complex symbolism woven into the designs, and for the honor of witnessing firsthand, artwork created over a thousand or more years ago.
Mesa Verde National Park contains many examples of Ancestral Puebloan rock art. Rock art is divided into two categories; pictographs which are images painted onto rock and petroglyphs that are images carved into rock. The most elaborate rock art in Mesa Verde is a large panel of petroglyph images found at Pictograph Point. (Note: When the panel was first discovered in the late 1800′s little was known about rock art and it was mistakenly labelled with the incorrect term.)
(Click for an Enlarged View)
The petroglyph panel is found along a 3 mile trail leading from the park’s museum area. The individuals who created these petroglyphs carved each symbol through a thin dark layer of surface rock into the lighter color sandstone layer beneath. These symbols documented their history, identified family groups and told stories. Each symbol had a specific meaning, only a few of which are still known today. The animal-shape on the far left side of the panel for example represents animal spirits who protected the people while the spiral-shape symbol near the top center represents the place where the Pueblo people first emerged from the earth.
The images below include 8 sepia toned photographs containing close-ups of selected petroglyphs. I’ve placed them into a slideshow so you can view them more easily and in a larger size. Click on the image above to begin the slideshow. Once it starts, you can either click on a specific photo to view it in a larger size, or navigate from one photo to the next.
The Petroglyphs of Pictograph Point
(Click Any Image Below to Start the Slideshow)
CREATING SEPIA TONED PHOTOGRAPHS
To convey the most historic look in these petroglyph photographs I used a process called sepia toning. A sepia toned image is a brown or reddish brown color photograph most commonly associated with 19th and early 20th century photos. The process of sepia toning was originally developed to make photographs longer lasting.
Sepia prints can be made from film negatives, in a darkroom, or with digital color images using photo editing software. In a darkroom, the black and white print is first soaked in bleach to lighten its gray/black details, then soaked in a sepia color toner and allowed to dry. For digital color images, most photo editing programs like Photoshop, PhotoShop Elements, Lightroom or Aperture offer a feature (usually a single command or ‘filter’) for converting color images to sepia.