Tuesday, September 28, 2010


On September 28, 2010, I posted a column on portrayals of coup counts in rock art of the northern Great Plains. In this I showed examples of lines of rifles that researchers assume represent weapons captured from some enemy group, and also mentioned examples which illustrate a row of bows or tomahawks that are assumed to represent the same thing. Another example that might be postulated is a row or column of arcs assumed to represent horse hoof prints and have been suggested to represent the coups of a group of horses stolen in a horse raid.

Field sketch, 5BN7, Hicklin Springs, Colorado,
by Peter Faris, 25 September 1993.

One example of this type of portrayal can be found at Hicklin Springs (5BN7) in southeastern Colorado. Toward the bottom of this panel twenty four curved arcs resembling horse hoof prints can be seen aligned in four vertical columns. This has been interpreted as representing a record of a successful horse raid in which the raiding party returned with two dozen captured horses and the bottom portion of this panel represents a record of this.

One problem with this interpretation is the style of pecking itself. These are fairly deeply pecked with no abrading and in this area that type of petroglyph usually predates the early historic period during which the horse became available to people on the southern Great Plains. Deeply pecked petroglyphs in this area are generally prehistoric; historical era imagery in this area is usually incised. This could mean that the panel of “U” shaped symbols does not represent horse hoof prints at all, but then if that is the case, what do they represent? The deep pecking could, of course, represent an anomalous technique that was created later, but in the earlier style.

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