Monday, September 13, 2010


On June 30, 2009, I posted a column entitled AN OBELISK IN PURGATOIRE CANYON, SOUTHEASTERN COLORADO. In this I presented a picture of a tall rock column with petroglyphs carved into the surface which had been erected vertically by someone in the past. In the text I mentioned that although my photo showed it with the top broken off, the broken portion of it was found at its base when I first visited the site.

Southeast Colorado obelisk. Photo: Jim Whitall.

I recently ran across an earlier photo of the obelisk that had been published by Bill McGlone, Phil Leonard, and Ted Barker in their 1999 book Archaeoastronomy of Southeast Colorado and the Oklahoma Panhandle. This earlier photo had been taken by Jim Whitall, and shows the obelisk with the petroglyphs enhanced on the surface of the stone. At that period McGlone and Leonard were in the practice of enhancing petroglyphs by painting the markings with a solution of powdered aluminum in distilled water, a practice that was thought to be harmless to the petroglyph. They abandoned that practice soon thereafter when the dating petroglyphs by analysis of their patina began to look possible.

In this early photo the largest broken portion of the obelisk had been placed back on top of it and the petroglyphs were enhanced with this aluminum powder mixture for increased visibility. A smaller fragment has also been replaced on the top but this fragment does not appear to have any portion of the petroglyphs on it. With the broken pieces back in place this early photo of the southeast Colorado obelisk does give a much better appreciation of the appearance of the original and the enhanced petroglyphs are more clearly visible This interesting phenomenon is essentially unique, at least I know of no other examples in this area.

Although, in this photo it looks as if it might be leaning against the rock behind it they are actually separated by a few feet and the column is truly free standing. I will be very interested to see any other examples of similar carved and erected stones from other locations. If you know of one please contact me. Thank you.

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