Petroglyphs of the Eastern Sierra

There is something about looking at a petroglyph that feels familiar to me. Nobody seems to know much about the people that carved the rock art, when they did it, or what it means. Everyone seems to have his or her own interpretation. It is really wild stuff though and seems to leave an impression on most people who see it.  There are already glyphs that we will never see, because they have disappeared through erosion into eternity like the people who carved them.

It is easy to recognize in rock art pictures of lizards, snakes, mountain sheep, moons, rainbows and a lot of other realistic representations. It is the abstract designs that are mysterious.

Recently, scientists have concluded that geometry has been programmed into the human brain from the beginning. That is interesting because I notice that when I am doodling and talking on the phone, I draw geometric designs similar to those seen on petroglyph panels. Not only are there realism, symbolism, hunting ritual, puberty rites, mythology, shaman art and peyotism, but maybe some doodling just for the heck of it-sort of an ancient graffiti or petro-graffiti.

A lot of times petroglyph sites are associated with hunting areas, rock shelters, trail junctions, camps, food and seed gathering spots. Others are isolated. One thing is for sure-they were left there for a purpose. Many still try to figure out what they mean today, but apparently there is no “Rosetta Stone.” No written record was left. There must be a relationship with language, storytelling, as well as song and dance among the cultures that created rock art. It is found all over the world.

I have heard stories from Native Americans that the tribal elders know what the petroglyphs mean but aren’t willing to talk about it. It is the one thing that they can keep sacred as a part of their own culture. If it is true, I hope that the meaning of the petroglyphs will be retained by the shamans of those cultures still in existence.

The Eastern Sierra has more rock art than most places in the world. For 200 miles along the range there is an abundance of petroglyphs and pictographs.   It is a real treasure and an important cultural resource that we value today as a part of our American heritage.


Silent Petroglyphs


Far below the hawk underneath volcanic ledges. ancient men who sculpture stone points, grow restless, as the great darkness approaches.

In time their mortars filled with sagebrush and blowing dust, and nothing was left that could turn to rust.

Nearby on walls of varnished rock they carved the story of their kind, Of a child-like people with a super-natural mind.

Impressed upon my heart is a vision and now I know that the true meaning of the petroglyphs expand out as far as my mind can grow.

As the sun sets red, orange, and purple out over the ancient Indian sites, and the clouds become a cerebral heaven, nighttime comes forth all powerful and of an ethereal nature.

The colors deepen, so do the hues, and the world goes on to become our future.

2 Responses to “Petroglyphs of the Eastern Sierra”

  1. Cheryl Ann Says:

    We did the Fish Slough petroglyph motor tour today. It took us 4 hours. Very interesting! We would love to do it again in the fall when the temps are a little cooler! I really like the Chalfont road area. We saw 4 eagles or hawks up in 2 nests in a cottonwood tree as well as a snake which crossed the road right in front of us. There were LOTS of lizards out today, and jackrabbits, as well.

  2. Ken F. Says:

    We have been back to all 4 sites in this area every year. Each year it gets damaged more, very sad… is still beautiful, sure glad we got pix years ago, because some of the glyphs are damaged now, or just plain gone.

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