Saturday, January 24, 2015


War or Hero twins with sky themes and other
petroglyphs. Galisteo Dike, New Mexico.

Among the Ancestral Puebloan peoples two mythical beings that were of importance in their creation cycle, and early mythology were the Hero Twins. These beings were involved in ridding the earth of the monsters and giants that threatened humans after the emergence. They were not, however, kachinas (katcinas) but instead are semi-divine cultural heroes.

Possible War or Hero Twins portrayal.
Galisteo Dike, New Mexico.

“In Zuni narratives that describe the time of the beginning, the Twin War Gods are culture heroes who bring the ancestors of the contemporary Zuni out of the fourth underworld to the surface of this earth; they contribute to making these people into “finished beings”; they shape the features of the earth’s surface (the Fifth World); they destroy or petrify the monsters that populate this world’ and they create constellations, stars, and other astronomical objects by throwing the body parts of various monsters into the sky.” (Williamson and Farrer 1992:76)

“In addition to depicting them as culture heroes or War Gods, some Zuni narratives also describe these twins as sons of the Sun Father – the Morning and Evening Stars, who serve as heralds for various ceremonial and agricultural activities.” (Williamson and Farrer 1992:76)

Homes of the Hopi Hero or Warrior Twins.
Chimney Rock National Monument, Colorado.
Photograph Peter Faris, 15 September 2002.

On September 23, 2009, I posted the column Chimney Rock and the Twin War Gods  in which I related the story of a delegation of Hopi elders who visited Chimney Rock National Monument after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to awake the heroes - which live in the two rock spires at Chimney Rock - to assist the United States during World War Two.

Possible Hero or War Twins from
McConkey Ranch, Vernal, Utah. Fremont
culture. Photograph Peter Faris.

Many instances of paired figures in rock art as well as other forms of Native American art and craft show are assumed to be representations of the Hero Twins. Examples I present here include a pair of panels from Galisteo Dike in New Mexico and a Fremont panel from McConkey Ranch near Vernal, Utah. The Fremont example appears to me to be an unfinished pair of shield figures from their resemblance to so many other shield figures at that locale. Also both figures were obviously created by the same artist on stylistic and technical reasons so they can be assumed to have been intended to represent warrior twins.

 “Drinking Vessel Depicting Hero Twins,
Mexico, Maya, Central Campeche,
c. A.D. 593-830 (Cat. No. 39)”
(Fields and Zamudio-Taylor, 2001:43)

From farther south I illustrate a depiction of the Mayan version of the Hero Twins on a drinking vessel. (Fields and Zamudio-Taylor 2001:43)

The Hero Twins can thus be seen as a very real (and continuing) influence on Native American culture in the Southwest and Mesoamerica. These, and many other portrayals, provide a fascinating insight into the beliefs and influences of the peoples and cultures and are a very interesting theme in the rock art and other arts of the native peoples of the region.


Fields, Virginia M., and Victor Zamudio-Taylor,
2001    Aztlan: Destination and Point of Departure, pages 38 – 77, Fig. 15, p. 43, The Road To Aztlan: Art From A Mythic Homeland, edited by Fields, Virginia M., and Victor Zamudio-Taylor,  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles.

Williamson, Ray A. and Claire R. Farrer
1992    Earth and Sky, Visions of the Cosmos in Native American Folklore, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

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