Saturday, October 6, 2012


Crosses, Freezeout Canyon, Baca County,
CO, Photo: Peter Faris, 1996.

The cross is a very common symbol in the rock art of the American Southwest. When it is just a simple set of crossed lines, one vertical and one horizontal, it is often assumed to represent the most commonly portrayed version of the Native American four-pointed star, as long as context does not contraindicate that.

FB Delgado signature, Signature Rock, Boise City,
OK. Photo: Peter Faris, June 12, 2006.

Crosses, Picketwire  Canyon, Las Animas 
County, CO. Photo: Dell Crandall.

Many other examples, however, embellish that basic crucifix with elaboration on the ends of the four arms. These are usually assumed to be variations of the Maltese cross and were probably created by Hispanic artists after the arrival of the conquistadores. The introduction of the Maltese cross to the American southwest by the Spanish entrada would have occurred after the 1540 expedition of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado into what is now New Mexico.
Maltese Cross, Wikipedia.

The Maltese cross, also known as the Amalfi cross, is identified as the symbol of an order of Christian warriors known as the Knights Hospitaller or Knights of Malta, and through them came to be identified with the Mediterranean island of Malta, of which it is a national symbol. . . The cross also forms the basic form for some Spanish orders such as the Order of Charles III or the Order of Isabella the Catholic. . . . The Royal and Distinguished Spanish Order of Charles III (Spanish: Real y Distinguida Orden Española de Carlos III) was established by the King of Spain Carlos III by means of the Royal Decree of 19 September 1771, with the motto Virtuti et mérito. Its objective is to reward people for their actions in benefit to Spain and the Crown. Since its creation, it has been the most distinguished civil award that can be granted in Spain, despite its categorization as a military order. (Wikipedia: 2012)

Thus, and not surprisingly, the form of a cross in rock art of the American Southwest can provide possible clues to not only the culture that created it, but also it possible date of creation. Not bad for two simple crossed lines.


1 comment:

  1. In Colorado there is a place where someone tried to chisel an Entrada (enterence) where could this be