Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
Petroglyph National Monument can be a very dusty place. It is also a place of great and compelling art.
From 300 to 700 years ago, this was the homeland of the Ancestral Pueblo Indians. Their everyday life probably consisted of tending to crops, hunting small game, and taking care of their children.
They were busy people. But at least a few of them found the time during their workaday lives to create images in stone. Long after the Ancestral Pueblo dispersed, their petroglyphs remained.
Petroglyph National Monument preserves more than 20,000 examples of rock art. Most were pecked into the dark surface of basalt boulders with another stone or a rudimentary chisel. The pecking chipped away the black outer layers of rock, revealing lighter stone beneath.
The images range from geometric shapes to obvious representations of birds, animals, and people. This collection includes petroglyphs drawn by Ancestral Pueblo, Apache, and Navajo Indians, as well as Spanish explorers and settlers 200 to 300 years ago. There are even a few more modern examples.
Petroglyph National Monument includes two main canyon trails lined with rock art. Three fissure volcanoes define the horizon. The terrain is rocky with low shrubs and flowering plants. Stand still and you may see a roadrunner dart across the valley floor.