Saturday, April 23, 2016


Cover, Ancient Ruins and Rock Art of
the Southwest: An Archaeological
Guide, 4th Edition. David Grant Noble.

NOTE: This book review was previously published in Southwestern Lore: Journal of Colorado Archaeology, official publication of the Colorado Archaeological Society. Vol. 81, No. 4, Winter 2015, p. 25.

David Grant Noble.

I recently ran into an old friend again after about 35 years in the fourth edition of David Grant Noble's book Ancient Ruins an Rock Art of the Southwest. I call it an old friend because the first edition was published in 1980, which was shortly after the time when I became interested in rock art, and when there were not that many books available with information about rock art sites. Noble's first edition was a breath of fresh air and a valuable go-to guide, and his fourth edition is even better. 

This is most certainly not a text book, yet it has a wealth of good information about not only specific sites, but also about the cultures to which they are attributed. Organized by cultures and cultural regions in the American Southwest, each entry also concludes with a "suggested reading" entry pointing the reader to sources of more and deeper detail.  In this sense it makes an excellent introduction to the cultures of the American Southwest and their study.

Navajo, Crow Canyon,
Dinetah, p. 250.

It is a sort of a guide book, but it is much, much more. Some of my favorite facts are that the tiny settlement of Thompson, Utah, on the way to the great Sego Canyon rock art site has an old, closed diner that served as a location in the popular 1991 movie Thelma and Louise (p. 17), and that squabbles over whether or not a road was going to be built that would impact the Mule Canyon archaeological ruins in Utah served as the inspiration for Edward Abbey's novel The Monkey Wrench Gang (p. 110).

Noble moved  to New Mexico in 1971, where he was the photographer on the School for Advanced Research's (SAR) archaeological excavations at Arroyo Hondo Pueblo, a 14th-century site near Santa Fe. He remained on the SAR staff until 1989. He has long studied the Southwest's deep history and archaeology and traveled widely to photograph ruins, rock art, and landscape.

Navajo pueblito, Largo-
Gobernador region, p. 251.

As an accomplished photographer he has provided most of the beautiful photos that illustrate this volume, and he has successfully conveyed his love of the subject in both the pictures and the text.

Five stars, a wonderful read.

With detailed information about over 100 sites, and with a 15 page index, this volume is certainly reader friendly. Beginners will find it a great introduction to the ruins and rock art of the American Southwest. Even professional archaeologists will find it enjoyable reading for its comprehensive background and for the human level in which it expresses this subject. The rest of us will enjoy it as a entertaining read. It is always a pleasure to run in to an old friend again, and an even more pleasant surprise to discover how much they have improved with age. Such is the case with Ancient Ruins and Rock Art of the Southwest, by David Grant Williams, and I look forward to seeing more from him in the future.

Ancient Ruins and Rock Art of the Southwest: An Archaeological Guide, Fourth Edition. David Grant Noble. Taylor Trade Publishing an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland, 2015. xxi + 296 pp., figures, references, index. ISBN 978-1-58979-937-0 $19.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-58979-7 $9.99 (eBook).

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