Saturday, April 26, 2014


Waterflow procession panel, LA8970,
Wilshusen et al, Fig. 11.6, p. 213.

To continue with my review of Chapter 11 (pages 198 – 218) of Crucible of Pueblos: The Early Pueblo Period in the Northern Southwest by Richard H. Wilshusen, Gregson Schachner, and James R. Allison editors, (Monograph 71, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, UCLA, Los Angeles, 2012). On April 18, 2014 I presented the portion of chapter 11 that focused on the Procession panel from southeastern Utah. The authors continued by stating that ”there are no known Procession panels in the central Mesa Verde region that date to the peak period of early Pueblo villages” but that “depictions of tenth century community organization do occur in at least some of these areas.”(Wilshusen and Ortman 2010:4-5)

Their example of a depiction of tenth century community organization is found at LA8970, the Waterflow site in New Mexico.

“There is a later procession panel at the Waterflow site in northwestern New Mexico (Holmes 1878:Plate XLIII, no. 1) that likely dates to the tenth century and portrays a similar ritual procession to a central place. This panel shows three parallel lines of animals and one line of ritual leaders or supernatural beings approaching from the left to the right, where there is a square we interpret to be a gathering place or community structure. In comparison with the earlier procession panel discussed above, this composition presents some notable differences, but also many similar thematic elements. The focus of the gathering is shown as a square instead of a circle; and in place of having two lobed circles associated with the community center, the square is divided into halves with two pendant shaped parallelograms in each half. In place of the almost 200 anthropomorphic figures with a handful of animal forms (elk, mountain lion, bighorn sheep) in the Comb Ridge panel there are slightly more than 40 zoomorphic figures (elk, deer, mountain lion, bird, dog) with a dozen anthropomorphic figures. Instead of four lines converging from different directions, with salutes from line to line and a variety of individuals portrayed, the later panel has a more abstract quality with little sense of individuality or event structure.
The Waterflow Panel, with its lines of different animals and divided square central place, is also suggestive of a dual division, segmentary society. The two halves of the square in the Waterflow Panel and the mirror images of double pendants within the halves encode this dualism. The central square figure may be an abstract expression of this concept, but two details lead us to suspect these square figures represent actual communities of the time. First, there are more than 40 additional squares with different interior designs at other spots along the cliffs at the Waterflow site. In at least nine cases there are groupings of pairs or multiples of squares, as though geographic or conceptual relationships between social groups or identities were being mapped. Second, in seven cases at the site these squares form the heads of anthropomorphic bodies, as though the symbol represented the group, their central structure, and their “head man” all at once. These figures with anthropomorphic bodies on emblematic bilateral squares occur in other locales in direct association with later Pueblo I-early Pueblo II communities focused on oversized pit structures or great kivas (Cole 1990; Wilshusen 1995).” (Wilshusen and Ortman 2010:4-5)

This concept of dualism is represented in the Waterflow Panel by the divided square representing the central or meeting place, the paired mirror-image designs within the halves of the divided square, and the two mountain lions guarding this central/meeting place. (Note: see my posting of January 24, 2010 about the Stone Lion Shrine in Bandelier National Monument.)

“We believe comparisons of the Waterflow Panel with the earlier Procession Panel illustrates the fundamental transformations in ritual practice, community organization, and leadership that took place between A.D. 700 and 1000. First, we propose that the balanced dualism evident in many aspects of the Procession Panel was institutionalized by the tenth century. As noted in the regional summary for the central Mesa Verde region (Wilshusen et al., Chapter 2), many early Pueblo villages appear to have been organized around dual divisions that potentially had roots in the actual pattern of group assembly during the Basketmaker III period. We suggest that the Waterflow Panel, with its divided-square central place, reflects the institutionalization of a dual division, segmentary society. This dualism is encoded primarily in the paired lions and the halved square with the mirror-image double-pendants. The central square figure may be an abstract representation of the concept of community, but several details lead us to interpret these square figures as symbols of actual communities.” (Wilshusen at al. 2012:213-4)

Cedar Hill area, Site LA79511, northeastern New Mexico,
ca. AD 900, Wilshusen et al., , Fig. 11.7, p. 214.

“First, there are a number of additional squares with different interior designs at various spots along the cliffs at the Waterflow site. Also, in at least three cases, decorated squares are presented in pairs, with distinct designs in each, as though geographic or conceptual relationships between social groups were being mapped out (see Schaafsma 1992: fig. 16, for an illustration of a group of four of these squares). Finally, in at least six cases, these squares form the heads of anthropomorphic figures with emblematic bilateral square heads (Figure 11.7) occur in other locales in direct association with tenth-century communities focused on great kivas or oversized pit structures. We therefore propose that these elaborated-square figures represent actual tenth-century communities of the area in symbolic form.” (Wilshusen et al. 2012:214)

Waterflow, Schaafsma, 1992, fig. 16, p.17.

Waterflow Site, LA8970, northwestern New Mexico, 
ca. AD 900-1000, Wilshusen et al.,  Fig. 11.7, p. 214.

All good arguments for their premise that it is a procession panel, but there are also a few points that seem to argue otherwise. There is a row of human figures above, and another one below the two central lines of animals. The lines all lead to some sort of structure or enclosure, a possible impoundment or corral, and at least three human figures have bows and arrows pointed at the animals. At first glance this could also suggest that the panel is a hunting scene and represents an animal drive toward the enclosure on the right. The presence of the pair of mountain lions could also reinforce the drive theme as they are the animal deities of the north in Pueblo belief and confer powerful hunting magic. However, the fact that these distinctive square patterned designs also occur at Waterflow and elsewhere without the possible drive context suggests otherwise. Finally the fact that they are even personalized as the heads of anthropomorphs at Waterflow and elsewhere strongly mitigates against their identification as a drive impoundment. If the authors are correct and the patterned squares represent villages/communities (or at least central ceremonial places like great kivas or dance plazas) then the anthropomorphic figures with patterned squares for heads can be seen as persons most representative of those places, possibly village chiefs or clan leaders. The example that they show from LA79511 shows a pair of the figures with a different pattern in each square, thus repeating and reinforcing the duality discussed above. This might indicate that they are the heads of the Summer and Winter clans in a Pueblo village.

The clans of the Pueblo peoples are organized into paired complementary moieties, known respectively as the Summer people and the Winter people ( In many pueblos each clan is responsible for pueblo affairs for half the year. These paired figures could be the symbolic representation of the dual clans, and thus a visual representation of the governing and religious responsibilities for their division.

I wish to applaud this piece of work by Richard H. Wilshusen, Gregson Schachner, and James R. Allison as a commendable piece of analysis and an important contribution to the field of rock art. Good work gentlemen.


Cole, Sally J.
1990    Legacy on Stone, Johnson Books, Boulder, Colorado.

Schaafsma, Polly
1992    Rock Art in New Mexico, Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe.

Wilshusen, Richard H., Scott G. Ortman, and Ann Phillips
2012    Processions, Leaders, and Gathering Places, in Crucible of Pueblos: The Early Pueblo Period in the Northern Southwest, by Wilshusen, Richard H., Gregson Schachner, and James R. Allison, editors, Monograph 71, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, UCLA, p. 198-218.

Wilshusen, Richard H.
1995    The Cedar Hill Special Treatment Project: Late Pueblo I, Early Navajo, and Historic Occupation in Northwestern New Mexico, Research Paper No. 1, La Plata Archaeological Consultants, Dolores, Colorado.

Wilshusen, Richard H., and Scott G. Ortman
 2010   Big Gatherings to Big Pueblos: Using Architecture, Rock Art, and Linguistics
to Study Organizational Change in the Early Pueblo World, handout from  
2010 SAA Meetings. St. Louis.

Wilshusen, Richard H., Gregson Schachner, and James R. Allison, editors
2012   Crucible of Pueblos: The Early Pueblo Period in the Northern Southwest, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, Monograph 71, UCLA, Los Angeles.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Procession panel, 42Sa24318, Wilshusen et al., Fig. 11.5.

This posting began as a review of an interesting book by Richard H. Wilshusen, Gregson Schachner, and James R. Allison editors, titled Crucible of Pueblos: The Early Pueblo Period in the Northern Southwest (Monograph 71, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, UCLA, Los Angeles, 2012). More specifically, it was going to focus on one chapter in that book; chapter eleven entitled Processions, Leaders, and Gathering Places: Changes in early Pueblo Community Organization as Seen in Architecture, Rock Art, and Language (pages 198 – 218), by Richard H. Wilshusen, Scott G. Ortman, and Ann Phillips. The book itself is an excellent summation of much new information and new conclusions about the development of the early Pueblo cultures in the 4-Corners area and the Colorado Plateau. However, I find that instead of merely reviewing this excellent volume I also want to make some comments on the rock art illustrated. This has considerably lengthened what would have been a simple review and has led me to divide it up into two postings. This, the first one presents the authors (Wilshusen, Ortman, and Phillips) conclusions on the so-called Procession panel from southeastern Utah.

First things first, however. This book is an up-to-date survey of new knowledge of the 4-corners and Colorado Plateau civilizations we know as Basketmaker and Early Pueblo. Written by a new generation of archaeologists it discards some of the old assumptions and fills them in with new data that provides a clearer picture of what was actually happening at that time. It traces the development of that civilization from Basketmaker to Early Pueblo. I certainly give it a five-star rating. Anyone interested in the archaeology of the 4-corners and Colorado Plateau areas should read this book carefully. For the purposes of RockArtBlog, however, I was personally most interested in their Chapter 11, titled Processions, Leaders, and Gathering Places, and which looks closely at two rock art procession panels to illustrate some of the social evolution.

“The late Basketmaker-early Pueblo procession panels appear to reflect these changes in social life. Nowhere are these changes more clearly depicted than in the well-known Procession Panel, a 7-meter long composition in southeastern Utah (Figure 11.5). This panel illustrates a ritual gathering of at least two large groups coming from opposite directions to a great kiva or dance circle. The composition dates no earlier than A.D. 650 and no later than A.D. 800, based on the style of the rock art, the presence of a bow and arrows in the image, and construction dates for early great kivas and dance circles. The panel is located on the crest of a prominent ridge from which one can view much of the surrounding landscape. Robins and Hays-Gilpin (2000:fig. 12.7) discuss this panel with a primary focus on gender relations and the shifting division of labor and power during late Basketmaker III period. Our discussion here focuses on the creation and transformation of group identity reflected in this panel. The organization of the assembling groups and the identities of their members are partly revealed in the elements, organization, and design of the panel, along with its subject matter, narrative, and setting.” (Wilshusen et al 2012:210) 

Procession Panel, right side, from Wilshusen et al, Fig. 11.5.

“It is a narrative, a visual “telling” of at least two social groups coming together from different directions. Of course, it also may be a composite story of several repeated gatherings at the same place involving the same groups of people. The panel appears to have objectified and sanctified this event by showing the involvement of supernatural beings and powerful images. Numerous elements of the panel and its design reflect aspects of archetypical Pueblo gatherings as they occur today. Although the visual focus is clearly on the two lines of anthropomorphic figures approaching from opposite directions, two smaller and less conspicuous lines also approach the center. The number four is typical in Pueblo emergence accounts, directional symbolism, and ceremonial performances.” (Wilshusen and Ortman 2012:210-11)

Procession Panel, left side, from Wilshusen et al, Fig. 11.5.

“Closer inspection of the panel reveals details about the organization of these groups and the identities of some of the individuals. The majority of the anthropomorphic figures in the four procession lines are nondescript, but about one in five have notable hairstyles or headdresses (ponytails, top knots, feathers, or birds), badges of office or instruments of power (crook neck staffs, bags on their backs, lobed circles, and so forth), or are gesturing with their hands or carrying unique items in their hands (lobed circles, bow and arrows, a flute?). The sheer variety of items and the distribution of items throughout the lines suggest that some, or all, of these figures may represent specific individuals known to the artist. The fact that symbols of authority are distributed somewhat evenly throughout the procession lines suggests that leaders of distinct household groups from both directions may have orchestrated the gathering. Although the right-side procession line has four times the number of figures in the left-side line, it is remarkable that the same number of figures with notable characteristics such as hairstyles, headdresses, gestures, or authority symbols occur in each line (24). This panel provides a livelier and more detailed picture of late Basketmaker-early Pueblo society than is possible using the excavation record alone.” (Wilshusen and Ortman 2012:212)

Notice that the authors mention identifiable personal characteristics in the panel. I have written elsewhere that for a culture in which personal possessions are all hand-made, and are thus usually unique, the presence of such items as recognizable costumes, adornment, headdresses, etc., make those characters recognizable to anyone who knew them. In this way they approach our concept of portrait; a recognizable portrayal of someone’s unique possessions representing the owner of the items. This means that we can speculate that this procession panel may represent either a symbolic gathering or meeting of specific groups of people, or the actual occasion of such a gathering.

The panel also represents a narrative, and not only a narrative on what is happening right at that time, but also what has happened previously. Note that there is a line of dots on the left side coming down from above about half way down the length of the procession, probably representing tracks joining the left row of figures indicating that people from farther in the distance in that direction walked over and joined the procession. This gives every indication of being a narrative of actual events. Not that every detail is meant to be accurate. For instance I doubt that whatever processions actually occurred had been accompanied by gigantic deer. There seem to be many symbols in the composition, possibly mythological references that would have conveyed meaning to the intended audience at that time. This remarkable artistic composition brings social and cultural events of that time to life in a way that no scientific examination of data possibly can.

The article Processions, Leaders, and Gathering Places: Changes in early Pueblo Community Organization as Seen in Architecture, Rock Art, and Language goes on with an examination of another procession panel, the Waterflow panel (LA79511) in New Mexico, and I will address that in a future posting.


Robins, Michael R., and Kelly A. Hays-Gilpin
2000    The Bird in the Basket: Gender and Social Change in Basketmaker Iconography. In Foundations of Anasazi Culture: The Basketmaker-Pueblo Transition, edited by P. F. Reed, pp. 231-247. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

Wilshusen, Richard H., Scott G. Ortman, and Ann Phillips
2012    Processions, Leaders, and Gathering Places, in Crucible of Pueblos: The Early Pueblo Period in the Northern Southwest, by Wilshusen, Richard H., Gregson Schachner, and James R. Allison, editors, Monograph 71, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, UCLA, p. 198-218.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Petroglyph boulder along Rio Chama, Rio Arriba County,
New Mexico. Photograph Peter Faris, April 5, 2014.

We just returned last Sunday from a weekend trip down to the “Land of Enchantment,” New Mexico. In this case we were visiting friends in our favorite part of the state, northern New Mexico. We stayed in Española for a couple of nights to see our friends Bill and Jeannie from Los Alamos, and then popped down to Santa Fe for some museum crawling with Jim and Pat.

Petroglyph boulder along Rio Chama, Rio Arriba County,
New Mexico. Photograph Peter Faris, April 5, 2014.

Hammerstone at base of the petroglyph boulder along Rio
Chama, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. Photograph
Peter Faris, April 5, 2014.

Bill and Jeannie took us out to see some marvelous petroglyphs on a boulder along the Rio Chama. The story is that this is only yards from a spot where Georgia O’Keeffe did some of her beautiful landscape paintings of the Chama River north of Abiquiu. I have included a couple of these paintings in this posting, “Over the Cliff” and “Blue River.” I am personally drawn to “Over the Cliff” which is a beautiful impressionist landscape. There is also a photograph of an easel and pastels set up in that location which I found in the Internet but could not retrieve the citation for the correct source (my apologies to the photographer).

Over the Cliff, by Georgia O'Keeffe. From Internet photo files.

Apparently there is no sign of the petroglyphs in any of Georgia's art which brings to mind a couple of possibilities. First is the possibility that she just did not notice them because they are on the side of the boulder facing away from where she supposedly painted. Second is the intriguing possibility that she saw them but just was not interested. In the first case there is little more to be said, but in the second possibility resides some real human interest. It is quite possible that Georgia just wasn’t interested in “native art” because she was somewhat of an imperialist.

Easel set up at Georgia O'Keeffe Overlook, Internet photo files.

I have not read Georgia’s biography (sorry about that) but I imagine that it stresses how much the locals must have loved the beautiful and important lady from back east who moved out and lived with them. In reality I have personally talked to some locals who remember her and did not love her at all. They relate stories about a cold and somewhat chauvinistic person who treated them like second-class citizens. Are these stories any truer?  I do not know, I only know what I was told and like all hearsay may not be completely true, but it is not usually completely false either.

Blue River by Georgia O'Keeffe, Internet Photo Files.

In any case I can find no Georgia O’Keeffe imagery that seems to include or to have been influenced by this wonderful petroglyph boulder that was literally right in front of her. How would it have changed her art, and the art of the twentieth century, if Georgia had seen these petroglyphs and been susceptible to the lure of rock art that we share?

NOTE: One quick aside from rock art at this point. While I am certainly not a food blogger, and have no intention of becoming one, there is a wonderful northern New Mexico dish that I had at two different meals. Possibly my favorite food in the world - Carne Adovada (northern New Mexico style marinated pork). I had the opportunity to again partake of two versions with Bill and Jeannie on this trip. One was at Socorro’s Restaurant at 19507 Highway 84, Hernandez, New Mexico, and the other at El Paragua, just off the Taos Highway on State Road 76, in Espanola, New Mexico. I have had carne adovada at both restaurants before and have often said it would be worth the drive down there just for the carne adovada. The flavor of the dish is different at the two restaurants, but wonderful at both. Socorro’s has the added advantage of being able to meet Socorro, a warm and wonderful hostess who is happy to share her wonderful food with us. Rock art and all this too – is this heaven, or what?

Monday, April 7, 2014


Possible total solar eclipse with Coronal Mass Ejection.
City of Albuquerque, Parks and Recreation Department.

I have maintained in the past my conviction that many of our conventional signs for sun symbols necessarily represent the sun as seen during a total eclipse.  On February 9, 2013, I published “A Possible Total Eclipse of the Sun in Rock Art?” and then on February 23, 2013, I published “Another Possible Solar Eclipse Symbol in Rock Art?” Now a remarkable paper by Dr. Paul Rodriguez in Archaeoastronomy has brought to light an example of a possible solar eclipse portrayal in rock art which may include a coronal mass ejection.

Dr. Rodriguez is a physicist recently retired from the US Naval Research Laboratory, where his fields of study were in space and plasma physics. He conducted experiments with satellites, rockets, and high power radio wave transmitters. In recent years, his research is in low frequency radio wave astronomy, conducting experiments with lunar and solar radar echoes. Dr. Rodriguez is continuing these research investigations in addition to his studies of archaeoastronomy in the American Southwest.” (Rodriguez 2010:132)

Possible total solar eclipse with Coronal Mass Ejection,
Albuquerque, NM. Phtotgraph Dr. Paul Rodriguez.

In Rodriguez’s words “Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are a large-scale disruption of the corona that results in a significant amount of the mass (electrons and ions) being ejected and often leaving behind a void or depletion in the corona. The apparent size of a CME is comparable to or larger than the angular diameter of the Sun (about .5° as seen from Earth). On a time scale of hours, a CME can move a distance of several times the diameter of the Sun. As the CME moves radially outward, it expands and develops a distinct elongated structure. CMEs, like the corona itself, cannot be seen by the casual daytime observer because the light of the Sun is too intense to permit visual observation. Only during a total solar eclipse is it possible to see directly the faint light scattered from the solar corona structures. However, total solar eclipses are sufficiently infrequent and of short duration that natural solar eclipses do not permit a sustained program of scientific observations of the corona.”  (Rodriguez 2010:133) Today such scientific observations are carried out using the coronagraph which allows observation of the sun’s corona with the solar disc blocked out so long-term and continuous study of the solar corona can be maintained. Before the development of such instruments the observation of a CME would have been possible only on an accidental basis during a total eclipse.

Guglielmo Tempel drawing of AD 1860 solar eclipse 
including CME. High Altitude Observatory.

Rodriguez also points to a report by J. A. Eddy (1974) that points out that a drawing was produced during a solar eclipse in AD 1860 by Guglielmo Tempel which appears to illustrate a CME, “now often referred to as the first observation of a coronal mass ejection.” (Rodriguez 2010:134)

The petroglyph illustrated in this report is near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Petroglyphs in this area date to no earlier than AD 1300 for the most part. “The petroglyph shows what may be a variant of the Sun symbol. – This part of the petroglyph has some resemblance to the Zia sun symbol.” (Rodriguez 2010:134)  In my February 9, 2013, column I suggested that the Zia sun symbol represented the sun seen during a total solar eclipse.

Rodriguez listed four prehistoric solar eclipses that postdated AD 1300 and that would have been seen from the location of the petroglyph in question near Albuquerque (in other words the path of totality would have passed over the location of the petroglyph). These occurred in AD 1379, AD 1397, AD 1557, and in AD 1806. He concluded “that any one of these eclipses could have been the event recorded in the petroglyph. If so, then this petroglyph may also be one of the first historical records of a coronal mass ejection.” (Rodriguez 2010:139)

How exciting that a petroglyph in New Mexico might illustrate an observation of a phenomenon by a Native American sun-watcher that predates any record of this phenomenon by Western science. Maybe we should think twice before discounting “primitive” knowledge and beliefs. In any case thank you to Dr. Paul Rodriguez for passing this discovery on.


Eddy, J. A.
1974    A Nineteenth-Century Coronal Transient, Astronomy and Astrophysics, (34:235-240). Great Moments in Solar Physics. High Altitude Observatory (HAO) website on historical material,

Rodriguez, Paul
2010    Petroglyph Record of a Solar Eclipse?, in Archaeoastronomy, Volume XXIII, University of Texas Press, Austin, p. 132-140.