Tuesday, July 21, 2009


About twenty years ago I was approached by the official of the Colorado Historical Society who oversaw the roadside historic marker program here in Colorado. He was interested in placing a new roadside marker in southeast Colorado along a road near the town of Springfield in Baca County to commemorate the large quantity of rock art in the area and wanted to borrow a number of pictures of rock art in the area to choose from. Since the nearest large concentration of rock art there is in Picture Canyon many of the images I submitted came from there. A number of others were generally from around southeastern Colorado.

In due course the pictures were returned to me and I was told that the project was in a planning stage and that I would learn more later. A short time later this employee left the Colorado Historical Society and I subsequently heard nothing else about the project.

Roadside historic marker rock art panel.

In 2008 the Colorado Historical Society hired a new State Historian, Mr. William Convery. I had since been elected to the board of directors of the Colorado Historical Society and I was in a Programs Committee meeting with Mr. Convery when he brought up the Roadside Marker program. I mentioned my experience and he generously offered to check the files and see what he could find out. Shortly thereafter I received the attached picture from him showing two of my photos and the text of the rock art historic marker that had, in fact, been created and emplaced.

The text about rock art that had been written for the marker reads:

“Judging from the sheer volume of rock art in this area, prehistoric Baca County was well traveled. Ancient inhabitants chalked and chiseled thousands of images on cliffs and boulders, leaving a fascinating record of the past. The petroglyphs (carved figures) and pictographs (painted ones) depict everything from humans and animals to abstract constellations of swirls, lines and dots. Rock art may have been left for any number of reasons: to mark trails, to record legends or events, to delineate hunting grounds or territorial boundaries, or to keep track of seasons. Ranging from a few thousand to a few hundred years old, the symbols are at once foreign and familiar; though their specific meaning is lost their humanity is timeless.

By sorting rock art images according to age and style, archaeologists can speculate about migration patterns, religious beliefs, and lifeways of ancient Coloradoans. The oldest etchings, dating to about 2,500 B.C., are nearly unreadable patterns of dots and dashes. Later glyphs contain more recognizable forms, though their meanings remain uncertain. According to local legend, some figures (including one in Picture Canyon) were used to mark the equinoxes. Unfortunately, Colorado’s rock art has degraded over time because of weathering and vandalism. Even well-intentioned visitors often damage images by touching them or taking rubbings. Though various measures have been explored to protect this fragile heritage, much of the rock art in southern Colorado has seriously deteriorated, not only greatly decreasing the odds of conclusive interpretation, but also of their survival”.
. . . . Text by Larry Borosky.

The dust bowl panel.

A second panel on the marker was devoted to the area’s history during the dust bowl and was illustrated with Colorado Historical Society file photographs.

I now think of this as my own personal monument to rock art. I have yet to actually see it in person, but it is highly satisfying to know it is there.

1 comment:

  1. That is an amazing story about the roadside marker after 20 years.
    Congratulations! It seems to me like such a rare and unique contribution.
    Hopefully one day soon you can see it in person.