Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Front view, sculptured stone knob,
southeastern Colorado.
Photo: Peter Faris.

On a private ranch in Baca county in southeast Colorado there is a remarkable sculptured stone knob protruding from the cliff face. The oval stone knob is narrower at the bottom than at the top and it shows signs of being worked around the neck. Its location is pretty much directly below a small cave-like opening in the cliff. There are some visible striations in the worked area at the upper part of this knob which could have been caused by abrasion of pulling a rope back and forth or may have resulted from the process of reducing the size of the neck. Some lines engraved into the cliff to the left of this knob may be intended to indicate a body for the head-shaped knob. This is in an area where there is a large quantity of prehistoric rock art as well as historic inscriptions and the remains of homesteads so its age cannot be estimated by association. To the best of my knowledge there have been no archaeological excavations at this site to shed light on the question.

View of the stone knob from 45° to the side,
southeastern Colorado. Photo: Peter Faris.

Although I have absolutely no factual data to support this, my immediate reaction upon seeing this was to visualize it as a taxidermy form, picturing it with a deer head stretched over it, antlers projecting upward. It would probably also be sized properly for an antelope head and a desert bighorn as well, but it appears too small to be used with a bison head. In this imagined scenario I picture it in the flidkering light of a bonfire at some sort of nocturnal ceremony with the deer’s head mounted over it, appearing as if the animal were somehow emerging from the cave-like opening immediately behind it. This scenario is obviously influenced by Lakota mythology in which the animals are introduced to the world from underground by a divine being.

It would be fascinating to take a sample from the rock surface to submit to protein residue analysis for traces of contact with such animal hides. It would also be of great interest to see the results of archaeological investigation of the ground around it. While imagination is certainly no substitute for factual scientific knowledge, imagination is a very large part of what makes rock art so fascinating. Let’s remember to leave a little room for it.

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