Friday, June 13, 2014


Chirotherium Track, Joseph City, NM. 
Printed in Mayor and Sarjeant, 2001.

On February 9, 2011, I posted a column entitled Dinosaur Footprints and the Giant Lizard Petroglyphs at CubCreek, Dinosaur National Monument (see the RockArtBlog archive). In this I discussed the possibility that the presence of the giant lizard petroglyphs was influenced by the nearby Cub Creek dinosaur track site. In other words large lizard tracks suggesting large lizards.

In this regard it is of interest that Adrienne Mayor has related that the Aztec Indians of Mexico identified fossil footprints in the rock as the “hand prints” of the great feathered God Quetzalcoatl (Mayor and Sarjeant 2001:156). Quetzalcoatl is usually portrayed as a giant feathered serpent. This may cast some light on the question of prehistoric meso-American influence on the peoples of the American southwest. The Hopi Snake Dance is held to bring rain, a primary consideration of the agricultural people of the arid southwest. Snakes, who live underground, are believed to take their message of supplication underground to the Horned Water Serpent named Palulukong (Tyler 1964:245), who is portrayed as a giant serpent wearing feathers, or horns, or sometimes both. Perhaps a meso-American influence provided the Hopi with the idea that fossil dinosaur footprints are handprints of the Great Horned Water Serpent Palulukong leading to their portrayal on the kilts worn by the Snake Dancers whose ceremonial efforts are believed to culminate in a supplication to Palulukong to provide the rain.

Pictograph above Chirotherium Track, Joseph City,
New Mexico. Printed in Mayor and Sargeant, 2001.

Near Joseph City, Arizona, a petroglyph was inscribed 800 to 1500 years ago above a slab of the Moenkopi formation exhibiting footprints. The petroglyph appears to be a schematic depiction of the Triassic Chirotherium tracks visible on that slab. (Mayor and Serjeant 2001:151)

We know that Native American hunters were consummate trackers, their lives sometimes depended upon following and finding the game animals that they and their families depended upon. They must have been fascinated by the sometimes very large tracks that they would see in solid rock. This would not only have attracted their attention, I believe that it would have had an effect upon their mythology and belief systems. In this case we have an example of a human made copy of a dinosaur footprint in the rock. In future postings I will revisit the subject of dinosaur tracks and rock art.


Faris, Peter
2011   Dinosaur Footprints and the Giant Lizard Petroglyphs at Cub Creek, Dinosaur National Monument, February 9, 2011,

Mayor, Adrienne and William A. S. Serjeant
2001    The Folklore of Footprints in Stone: From Classical Antiquity to the Present, Ichnos, Vol. 8, No. 2, 143-163.

Tyler, Hamilton A.
1964    Pueblo Gods and Myths, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

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