Saturday, November 1, 2014


Back in the 1980s, Jim Keyser pointed out the value of sources of Plains Biographic Style art such as robe painting and ledger book art as a lexicon for understanding Plains Biographic Style imagery in rock art. Since then he has used these insights as the basis for his tremendous contributions in interpreting so much of the rock art of the northern Great Plains.

Hopi Clan Symbols, Willow Springs, Arizona.
Illustration from Campbell Grant, p. 39.

On Saturday, October 4, 2014, I posted a column entitled Clan Symbol Rosters – Tallies or Not? In this I looked at the question of whether the Hopi Clan Registers at Willow Springs, Arizona, where some 40 boulders contain 2,178 images of Hopi Clan symbols can be considered tallies, or have another implication. Since the specific meaning of most of these can be designated by modern residents of the Hopi villages these should serve as much the same sort of lexicon for rock art of the American Southwest as Keyser’s Plains Biographic Art serves as a lexicon for interpreting rock art of the Great Plains. 

1894 Hopi Petition, Page 12 signatures.
Source: U. S. National Archives.

Another wonderful reference into many of these symbols is found in a 1894 document from Hopi clan chiefs to U.S. government officials in Washington D.C. urging them to cease the reallocation of Hopi lands into individual holdings, and also to designate official Hopi reservation boundaries.

Squash Blossom Clan signature, #98, 1894 Hopi
Petition, page 12. Source: U. S. National Archives.

Squash blossom.

This document “was signed in clan symbols by 123 principals of kiva societies, clan chiefs, and village chiefs of Walpi, Tewa Village, Sichomovi, Mishongnovi, Shongopovi, Shipaulovi and Oraibi.” (Yava 1978:167) In his book Big Falling Snow (1978), Albert Yava illustrated two pages of these signatures with their interpretations. These identified symbols surely provide a useful lexicon for rock art imagery in the Southwest. Other symbols from the clan symbol signatures can also be identified for inclusion in this lexicon.  

In order for this to work, of course, I would have to be able to find symbols in rock art that match symbols drawn in the registers of clan markings. One obvious example is the symbol for the Squash Blossom Clan (#98, page 12). Examples of this can be found in rock art throughout the southwest.

Squash blossom, West Mesa, Albuquerque, NM,
Photograph: Peter Faris, 1988.

Signal Hill, Tucson, AZ, Photograph:
John and Esther Faris, 1990.

Other examples of this can be identified and I will present more in future postings.


Grant, Campbell
1981    Rock Art of the American Indian, Outbooks, Golden, Colorado.

Yava, Albert
1978    Big Falling Snow: A Tewa-Hopi Indian’s Life and Times and the History and Traditions of His People, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

1 comment:

  1. Spectacular research here. I've been looking for that boli clan symbol (anthropomorphised butterfly) for months as it appears in Olsen 1985 and attributed to Fewkes 1897. I wonder if Fewkes knew of the petition, or if there exists any rock art imagery for that figure. Great work!