Saturday, August 29, 2015


Bowdin Trail marker, 1911,
Purgatory Canyon, Colorado.

Back in the 1980s I heard talk about a remarkable gallery of painted animals in the upper Purgatory region of southeastern Colorado. At that time Bill McGlone even showed me a couple of photographs that he had been given. Then, in June of 1983, an article in The Denver Post by Bob Leasure, showed a few of the pictures and gave more information about these remarkable paintings.  I had almost forgotten about these in the intervening years until I recently received a shipment of pictures and books from Daphne Rudolph, for donation to the Colorado Rock Art Archive at the Pueblo Regional Library in Pueblo, Colorado. In sorting through the material I was thrilled to find a number of those pictures of animals painted by Martin Bowden in the Purgatory. The photographs seem to have been taken by one Eldon Brown, but I know no more about him. As Daphne and John Rudolph used to live in La Junta, Colorado, and were deeply involved in recording area rock art I assume that he gave the photos to them.

Bear and Fox, Bowden Trail.
Purgatory Canyon, Colorado.

Silver Fox, Bowden Trail.
Purgatory Canyon, Colorado.

Bear, Bowden Trail.
Purgatory Canyon, Colorado.

"Bowden was born near Lyons, France, of Italian parents. His mother wanted to be a singer - her voice had an operatic quality - but she ended up in Trinidad, Colorado, as the wife of a coal miner. Martin was only a child when he crossed the ocean and changed worlds." (Leasure 1983:24)

Burro, Bowden Trail.
Purgatory Canyon, Colorado.

"Before he even started to shave - he followed his father into the mines. In the mines he always carried a pocketful of colored chalk and amused himself at lunch time sketching on metal. When the dingy coal cars came rolling into sunlight, they displayed an eye-catching variety of pictures: a dragon snorting fire, a brilliant rooster crowing, a war-bonneted Indian, a morose depiction of Christ on the cross." (Leasure 1983:24)

Tiger with Eldon Brown's girls, Bowden
Trail. Purgatory Canyon, Colorado.

"The family name had been Baudino, but there was a stigma about Italian names at that time, and he changed his name to Bowden." (Leasure 1983:24)


Saturday, August 22, 2015


Painted cave, Bandeliere National
Monument, New Mexico. Zia sun
symbol in center. Photograph 
Russ Finley.

Zia sun symbol, public domain.

On the night of the 4th of July, 2015, while watching the bursting fireworks in town, I realized that the bright points of light falling from exploding mortar shells and rockets were picked up visually as small four-pointed crosses. Whether from the smoke in the atmosphere, or humidity, or other atmospheric optical phenomenon, they all were showing visually as small, bright, colorful crosses. It occurred to me that the reason the so-called "Zia Sun Symbol' only presents solar rays on the four quadrants may indeed be based upon such an atmospheric optical phenomenon.

Petroglyph Park, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photograph by Julia Grundmeyer.

Petroglyph Park, Albuquerque, NM.
Photograph Peter Faris, Sept. 1988.

Equally likely is that this may be the origin of the four pointed star use by Native Americans, and the outlined cross (also 4 arms) which is often interpreted to represent the planet Venus. 

Outlined cross symbol. Johnson Canyon,
Ute Mountain Ute Reservation, Colorado.
Photograph Peter Faris 1993.

The viewing of heavenly and/or atmospheric phenomena under conditions that distorted the image to that of a four-armed cross might well have been picked up and applied across the whole spectrum as we see it today. Can I prove any of this? No, I cannot, but it is worth thinking about.

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.
Photograph Peter Faris, August 1984.

Double Scroll from Fajada Butte, Chaco
Canyon, New Mexico. Sofaer, Anna P.,
and Rolf M. Sinclair, 2008, Astronomical
Markings at Three Sites on Fajada Butte,
pp. 669 – 692, in Foundations of New
World Cultural Astronomy.

On Saturday, December 6, 2014, I posted a column entitled Speech Scrolls in Rock Art? In this posting I drew  a parallel between the Mesoamerican symbol for a speech scroll with a rock art panel in Chaco Canyon. This is really only part of the possibility however. In the same way as I postulated the possibility of Mesoamerican speech scrolls in the rock art of North America, I would now like to point out the similarity to Mesoamerican wind symbols.

“Cloud scroll with raindrops (detail of
recently discovered monument at
Chalcatzingo).”  Taube, Fig. 75, p. 107.

The fact is that Mesoamerican peoples saw a similarity between the breath coming out of the mouth in speech, and wind, and they symbolically related these by using similar signs to indicate wind and breath, and the symbols in Chaco Canyon thus can be viewed as possible speech symbols, or possibly as the wind. Just look at the remarkable similarities between the symbols in Chaco Canyon and the examples of wind symbols from Karl Taube's chapter "The Breath of Life, in The Road to Aztlan," by Fields and Zamudio-Taylor.

Wind from a cave, Chalcatzingo,
Mexico, ca. 1000 B.C. Pasztory,
Pre-Columbian Art, 1998.

In this instance, as in previous examples of such similarities I point out that we have long known of and accepted influences from the Mesoamerican civilizations in early peoples of the American southwest. This influence is assumed to have been asserted by pochteca. "Pochteca (singular pochtecatl) were professional, long-distance traveling merchants in the Aztec Empire. They were a small, but important class as they not only facilitated commerce, but also communicated vital information across the empire and beyond its borders." (Wikipedia)

Evidence of this is seen in Mesoamerican goods and products in southwestern America as well as in the supposed Mesoamerican ideas found among cultures here. Images interpreted as Mesoamerican deities such as Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc have long been accepted on southwestern American rock art, and physical objects such as macaws and cast metal bells have been found in archaeological excavations in the American southwest, including Chaco Canyon.

Duck-billed wind god. Taube,
The Road To Aztlan, Fig. 97, p. 112.

Pawik kachina, Hopi Pawik or
Duck Kachina doll by artist Woody

The Aztec wind got was a duck-billed deity named Ehecatl. It is perhaps no coincidence that Pawik kachina of the Hopi is the duck kachina who is prayed to for wind and rain. Additionally, the kachinas travel to and from their homes in the San Francisco peaks in the form of ducks.

Early rock art researcher Campbell Grant went so far as to associate the duck-headed figures found in ancestral Puebloan rock art with Ehecatl and Pawik. While I am not in a position to refute that, I am not willing to go that far in this discussion. I do, however, find an intriguing similarity between the figures from Chaco Canyon and the wind symbols of Mesoamerican cultures, and believe that a case might be made for such an influence.


Pasztory, Esther
1998    Pre-Columbian Art, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 

Sofaer, Anna P., and Rolf M. Sinclair
2008    Astronomical Markings at Three Sites on Fajada Butte, pp. 669 – 692, in Foundations of New World Cultural Astronomy, edited by Anthony Aveni, University Press of Colorado, Boulder.

Taube, Karl,
2001    The Breath of Life: the Symbolism of Wind in Mesoamerica and the American Southwest, pages 102 – 123, The Road To Aztlan: Art From A Mythic Homeland, edited by Fields, Virginia M., and Victor Zamudio-Taylor, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles.


Saturday, August 8, 2015


Ubirr, Kakadu, Australia. Aug. 22, 2011,
public domain,

On July 28, 2015, PBS aired a documentary titled "Uranium - Twisting the Dragon's Tail." This documentary, dated 2015, presented Dr. Derek Muller as the very accomplished narrator discussing the discovery and original uses of uranium.

“We are who we are because of uranium,” Muller says. “It unlocks the secrets of the universe and reveals the nature of reality. It’s both a dream of clean limitless power and a nightmare of a silent, poisoned Earth.”  (

During the latter part of the program, while discussing radiation poisoning, Muller showed the accompanying Australian pictograph with the astonishing claim that it represents a human suffering from radiation poisoning. Supposedly this person is showing joint swelling, and possibly tumors, caused by radiation poisoning.  He stated that this image from the Ubirr rock art site in Kakadu, Australia, was painted as warning for people not to disturb the rocks in that area which he identified as naturally rich in uranium ores. Now this is an absolutely astonishing claim, and one that has absolutely no evidence to back it up. The discovery and diagnosis of radiation poisoning by modern medicine was a process that came at the end of a chain of events beginning with Marie Curie's remarkable discoveries, and ending with the public health disasters of tens of thousands of Japanese citizens suffering from mysterious symptoms following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ending World War Two. In lieu of evidence suggesting that ancient aboriginal Australians had gone through some similar developmental process and chain of events leading to a similar diagnosis, I must remain skeptical.

"URANIUM – TWISTING THE DRAGON’S TAIL is written and directed by Wain Fimeri and developed and produced with support from SBS Australia, Film Victoria and Screen Australia. A Genepool production for PBS. Bill Gardner, Vice President, Programming & Development, oversees the project for PBS." (

All-in-all, an interesting program with an entertaining host who really should stick to nuclear science and stay away from analyzing the meaning of rock art panels.


Saturday, August 1, 2015


Rabbit Valley, McDonald Creek, Mesa County,
Colorado. Photograph Peter Faris, 1981.

The painted bird in this panel is found in Rabbit Valley, the McDonald Creek drainage, in western Colorado, and is attributed to the Fremont Culture. I first visited it and took photographs in 1981. From the size and confirmation of the beak I have always thought of this bird as a great blue heron, although there are other possible identifications of it as well.

Great blue heron, public domain.

In his book, Odyssey of the Pueblo Indians, William M. Eaton, designated it a Puebloan calendar, based upon the numbers and patterns of dots on the chest of the bird as seen below.

Eaton, William M., 1999, Odyssey of
the Pueblo Indians, Turner Publishing
Co., Paducah, KY., p. 150.

"It is a calendar that utilizes dot patterns for a year (of 12 or 13 months) and is based upon a 28 day lunar month. The total of days (13 x 28) produces a year of 364 days. The 28 dots in the lower box represent days and were entered by working downward and to the right. The last row of dots shows the artist in the process of rechecking his dot count. Then a new and final dot was entered in the right edge of the box which indicated 12 vs. the desired 13 calendar months. But why not show 13 months. the answer is that this would have violated ceremonial rules of "duality," and would be" bad luck"." (Eaton 1999: 150)

Well, Mr. Eaton does have the correct count of the numbers of dots. I cannot, however, follow the reasoning that says it has to have 13 dots for months, but stopped with 12 because 13 would be bad luck. It seems to me that fear of 13 (triskadekaphobia) is pretty much a European/Christian.

According to Wikipedia:
"Triskadekaphobia (from Greek tris meaning "3", kai meaning "and", deka meaning "10" and phobos meaning "fear" or "morbid fear") is fear of the number 13 and avoidance to use it; it is a superstition and related to the specific fear of the 13th person at the Last Supper being Judas, who betrayed Jesus Christ and ultimately hanged himself." (Wikipedia)

Now, I admit that there is still a lot to learn about the Fremont Indian culture, but I am willing to predict that they were not Christians of European descent. The Fremont culture was a pre-Columbian culture found in eastern Utah and northwestern Colorado from roughly AD 1 to AD 1300, and not Puebloan. "It was adjacent to, roughly contemporaneous with, but distinctly different from the Anasazi culture." (Wikipedia) 

Note, the real panel has a great deal of other imagery on it that Eaton had to ignore. One other interpretation that he wrongly made is his portrayal of the star chart over the left shoulder (our left, not the bird's) of the heron. In the photograph of the panel this can be seen as a feathered plume which is actually attached to the bird.

So here is my argument with Eaton, he includes the Fremont Culture as a Puebloan group which they were not according to all references. And then he bases his analysis and interpretation upon a European Christian superstition which the Fremont people most assuredly did not share. So while I have no doubt that Mr. Eaton was sincere in his studies, and he certainly had a great deal of fun in the belief that he was making important contributions to the subject of rock art studies, his efforts have mainly contributed to the kind of sloppy interpretation that makes serious students of rock art cringe. Sorry Mr.  Eaton, nice try but no cigar.


Eaton, William M.
1999    Odyssey of the Pueblo Indians, Turner Publishing Co., Paducah, KY.