Saturday, June 1, 2013


F.B. Delgado, Signature Rock, Boise City, OK. 
Photo: Peter Faris, June 12,2006.

As we might expect in an area inhabited by a people as religiously devout as the Hispanic residents of the early Southwest, we find many crosses in rock art throughout the region. We must question, however, if they are actually Hispanic crosses or if they might be stars or some other symbols left by Native Americans.
This is definitely pertinent when the example in question is found in the American southwest where Native American and Hispanic cultures coexisted for quite some time. One clue to identifying some of the crosses as Hispanic can be found in the treatment of the ends of the arms of the cross.


Many of the crosses of Hispanic origin display the form known as the cross pattée (also known as the cross formée), which has arms that are narrow at the center and broader at the ends, an early medieval symbol dating back to at least the 7th century AD. This form was sometimes used by the Teutonic knights, a crusader military order. (Wikipedia)

The examples pictured are found in the southeast Colorado and western Oklahoma area. The Oklahoma examples are from Signature Rock near Boise City and are with the date 1859 suggesting association with the Santa Fe Trail.

Hispanic crosses, Picketwire Canyon, Colorado.
Photo: Dell Crandall.

The example from Picketwire Canyon in Colorado is from later and was probably created by pastoralists in the area. Indeed, there is still a reputed Penitente morada in that general area.


Another possible inspiration would be the Maltese cross although I personally have no examples of this in rock art from this area. The Maltese cross originated in the mid-16th century (it has been traced back to AD 1567 on coins from the island of Malta) with the Knights Hospitaller, also known as the Knights of Malta.

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

I have also included a panel of possibly Native American crosses from southeastern Colorado which seem to considerably predate the Hispanic examples and do not exhibit the enlargement of the ends of the arms seen in the European inspired crosse(s) pattée. These may represent the traditional presentation of four-armed stars and some viewers have interpreted this panel as a Native American representation of a constellation in the night sky.



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