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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Reconstructing Hohokam: Petroglyph Art Imitates Life... Or So We Think

The sign emphatically stated that it would cost "violators" a cool quarter of a million dollars if caught doing anything beyond observing. It's a Look and Leave policy that's meant to intimidate would be looters into being honorable. A Lone Ranger can't be everywhere at once in a vast 130,000 acre natural and cultural preserve. So that's what we did. The only thing we left Ironwood Forest National Monument with was the dust on our boots, photographs, and more questions than when we hiked in.

One must do more than observe scratch-art on rocks if they want to understand a previous culture. Doing so has the possibility of misleading Louis B. Leakey types (anthropologists). Imagine future "Leakeys" basing our culture on, oh, say, Andy Warhol. "Seems as though Campbell's Tomato Soup played some sort of spiritual or ritual role in their lives." Mr Warhol himself once admitted, "I'd prefer to remain a mystery. I never give my background, and, anyway, I make it all up different every time I'm asked." So we must dig deeper to figure out who came before us, literally and figureitivly. Wouldn't it be amusing if indians deliberately threw us a few "curveballs?" 

What do you think the petroglyphs below are trying to say? Is the "story" as simple as it appears? Did the Hohokam precede "complexities" of life? I am not schooled in Anthropology beyond two college courses... which arms me with just about enough information to be "dangerous." However... my dear departed parents, Everett and Hilda, were missionaries on the Pima Indian Reservation near Phoenix during my formative years in the early 1950's. The Pima are thought to be direct descendants of Hohokam. 

I recall how primitive the Pima people seemed to me at the time... still using outhouses and cooking on open fires built under cut-out lids of 55 gallon drums. I remember the aroma of handmade tortillas cooking on those lids... and beans, simmering in cast iron pots amongst hot coals. Water had to be hauled... again, using 55 gallon drums tied into the beds of old pickup trucks. There was a dipper, and a single cup was used by everyone.

After Dad finished up a Sunday service of song and the standard message of how Jesus died for our sins, we'd gather out of the intense sun under a brush arbor, eat and fellowship. An old guitar strummed in the background. It was a dirty environment... a dust bowl when the wind blew, which was often. Our "church" was built from mesquite logs and mud... pews made from a few boards. After church all us kids would run around playing tag, and such. I could barely understand the others, speaking a mix of half english, half native. But children don't need language to communicate when playing. Kids lead simpler lives... at least back then we did. 

Thanks to Susan of the Wiseones for researching and leading us to this fabulous new place.


  1. Another excellent photo tour , thanks again.

  2. You guys find some fabulous places to hike. Sounds like an interesting childhood. When I read about the places I visit, I wonder how we really know what is written about these places. Are you getting snowed in?

  3. Great petroglyphs! Glad you included so many photos.

    Beautiful photos of the area!

  4. I especially liked the black & white photo of the two people with the tree, the photo immediately following it with the guy hiking into the desert and the cactus with yellow blooms. Special place.

  5. Be honest...how many hours did you guys clamber around on that pile of rocks checking out those petroglyphs? ;)

  6. Beautiful photos. My favorite is the one of the petroglyph in the foreground and the dead tree in the back. Great juxtaposition.

    Interesting childhood! My Dad and Mom were not missionaries, but held "revivals" for the Piute Indians at the mission in Bishop, Ca. every summer when I was a kid (in the early 50s as well.) We held services outside, complete with TONS of bugs attracted by the string of lights. I remember the common dipper. One night the song leader paused to take a dipper of water and got a mouthful of moth! Ah, good times.


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