Friday, March 19, 2010


B1-B flying over the Purgatoire River,
southeastern Colorado.
Photo: 1998, Peter Faris.

Periodically in the study of rock art an amazing or inexplicable occurrence will happen that reminds us of the mystery in our field. Twice in my three decades (so far) of rock art study I have been presented with an amazing contrast of the old imagery in a futuristic context. In 1998 I was in front of a petroglyph panel on a large boulder in the bottom of the Picketwire (Purgatoire) Canyon in southeastern Colorado when a B-1B came roaring over the canyon at a relatively low altitude. In spite of its speed I managed to get a picture that shows it with only a minimum amount of blurring. Upon reflection it was not that unlikely that it happened because the U.S. Air Force maintained at that time an electronic bombing range over southeastern Colorado where no bombs were actually dropped, but airplane crews could realistically practice aerial countermeasures and electronic detection of targets and threats.

Rock art site along Purgatoire river,
southeastern Colorado.
Photo: 1998, Peter Faris.

Earlier that same year I had been at the Three Rivers petroglyph site west of Ruidoso in New Mexico when an even more remarkable contrast had been presented to me. At that time the U.S. Air Force 49th Fighter Wing which flew the remarkable F-117A Nighthawk, the so-called “Stealth” fighter, was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, literally next door to Three Rivers. While absorbed in the remarkable rock art which can be viewed at Three Rivers on three different occasions my attention was attracted upward to see the fabled “stealth” fighter fly over at a fairly low altitude. Three Rivers is apparently pretty much under the landing patter for Holloman. Disappointingly, because of lighting conditions, I was unable to personally take a successful photograph of one.

F-117 Nighthawk "stealth fighter".

In both of these instances the weird feeling came from the contrast of being there concentrating on petroglyphs dating from some hundreds to some thousands of years in age, and being distracted by a surprising and unexpected view of something on the modern cutting edge of futuristic-appearing aerial technology. The remarkable contrast gave me a feeling that I can only describe as the feeling of being within a time warp, the ancient past and the SciFi future within the same view.

Now I have personally never been able to accept the reality of so-called UFOs although I know at least one rock art researcher who claims to have seen them. I also know of people who claim to be serious rock art researchers who believe they see evidence of outer space aliens in rock art. And, although I am a science fiction fan I never felt the need to complicate my world with aliens and UFOs. Not only rock art has been appropriated by UFO believers, the F-117 Nighthawk is one of the advanced aircraft that cultists have claimed was made possible by our government’s unacknowledged possession of UFOs and alien artifacts.

I do believe that both the study of ancient rock art, and modern cutting-edge technology, are exciting enough as they are without trying to read in imagined aliens. People, let’s give the credit where credit is due. We did it all, and we should be proud.

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