Monday, June 15, 2009


Red painted symbols on the roof of a rock shelter
near Douglas, Wyoming. Photo: Peter Faris.

On a ranch near Douglas, Wyoming, a rock art panel on the ceiling of a modest sized rock shelter is composed of a number of symbols that seem to be sabers with a normal hand grip on one end and a flintlock mechanism on the other. I photographed and sketched this panel in May of 2001 at the invitation of the landowner. The images on the panel include three red painted sabers, linear symbols with what appears to be the handle and hand guard of the saber at one end. There is also one simple flintlock with one long line and two short crossing lines representing the trigger and hammer with a surrounding trigger guard. There are also three combination symbols consisting of a line with the saber handle on one end and the flintlock mechanism on the other end.

Field sketch of symbols on the roof of
the rockshelter near Douglas, Wyoming.
Drawn by Peter Faris. (the sketch is
accurate, the difference in appearance from
the photo is caused by camera angle).

These symbols, and a few others that accompany them, are painted with a strong red paint on the ceiling of a small rock shelter overlooking a small valley. The small size of the shelter and its placement suggest that it may have served as a vision quest site.
I know of no artifact that would have served as a model for these symbols. I have showed pictures of these symbols to Jim Keyser who is perhaps the foremost expert on the portrayals of weapons in rock art, and he had also never seen this particular symbol anywhere else, but he also confirmed that they appeared to combine the traits of a cavalry saber with the lock and trigger mechanism of a flintlock firearm.
What we have in these symbols appears so far to be a mystery. I will appreciate any suggestions as to what they might represent. Further, if you know of any artifacts that might have served as a model for these symbols I will be happy to entertain your suggestion. In the end, we are all in this together.

1 comment:

  1. have turned you onto a colleague--I think he knows what the are--he has one!
    You might hear from him.

    best, C.