Monday, May 4, 2009


One perennial question in the study of rock art in North America is the possible presence of images of extinct paleolithic megafauna. Various suggested images of mammoths and mastodons have been publicised but none of these have been accepted by the field. In 2002 a discovery in southeastern Colorado added another potential contender to the field.
Possible mastodon petroglyph,
southeast Colorado, Photo:
Mike Maselli.

In March, 2002, a previously unknown petroglyph was discovered by Mike Maselli and a companion while visiting a large petroglyph site in southeast Colorado. Located on a detached boulder about ten feet from the cliff face that holds all of the other known images at the site, it is obscured by vegetation growing around it.

Possible mastodon petroglyph,
southeast Colorado.
Photo by the author.

In a visit to the site in May, 2002, the author rephotographed the image which he located with the help of directions from Mike Maselli. On this visit later in the spring the vegetation had come out and shaded and partially obscured the image. The image itself measures a few inches wide and appears to be completely repatinated suggesting considerable age.

Possible mastodon petroglyph,
southeast Colorado, rotated
90° clockwise, and enhanced on photo.

This image is not portrayed on the cliff like the others at this site, but sits on a separate block of stone, out away from, but facing the cliff. It is pretty much surrounded by a tree which has grown in close around it. As it is oriented now the image would be described as looking upward at the sky. It is, however, quite easy to imagine a scenario in which erosion and/or the pressure of growth from a small tree could have turned it the 90° counter-clockwise out of proper orientation.

If it is an elephantid portrayal, it shows the beast's head from a large ear forward. The facial details are somewhat problematical suggesting that if there is a trunk, then the beast has no tusks. Paleolithic elephantid expert Larry Agenbroad could find no traits in this image that would convince him that it was a mastodon or mammoth. At the same time it is almost harder for many to see it as something else. The question must be considered open for now.

No comments:

Post a Comment