• View of Square Tower House, seen along the Mesa Top Loop

    Mesa Verde

    National Park Colorado

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Artifact Gallery -- Petroglyph

Petroglyph
Petroglyph
 

A petroglyph is an image pecked or engraved on a rock surface. According to one Hopi elder, this petroglyph, found on Mesa Verde’s Petroglyph Point Trail, may tell the story of two clans (the Mountain Sheep Clan and the Eagle Clan) separating from other people and returning to their place of origin. Notice the boxy spiral shape? This likely represents a sipapu, the place where Pueblo people believe they emerged from the earth (believed to be near the Grand Canyon). You can also see the head and arms of a figure, and on the bottom right, a possible Katsina clan symbol.

Like many petroglyphs, this panel seems intended to communicate the oral stories that keep Native American cultures alive. Sadly, some ancient petroglyphs at Mesa Verde have been destroyed by recent fires. On the other hand, many tribes believe that human creations such as these were meant to fall back to the earth rather than to be preserved beyond their natural life. The stories and interpretations of them change over time, much as stories do that are passed down in your own family and culture. How are stories told in your family? What do they teach you about the past? Do they give you a vision for the future?

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Did You Know?

The north courtyard of Balcony House

Contrary to popular belief, the Ancestral Puebloan people of Mesa Verde did not disappear. They migrated south to New Mexico and Arizona, and became today’s modern pueblo people.