Sep 112014


This week I want to share with you some of the more curious petroglyphs at the Shavano Valley Petroglyph site near Montrose, Colorado.

FLet’s start with this “butterfly next to a plant” glyph.  The “plant” is actually a tree motif.  The cosmic tree, according to Ute cosmology, has three roots that penetrate the Underworld and the fork at the top penetrates the Sky World.   This motif is recreated on the “butterfly” to the right and looks like its body.  The “wings” of the butterfly are actually the five levels of the Ute cosmos–the sky world, upper world, center world, lower world, and  under world.  The levels are curved just as the horizon appears to the viewer.

D[quoting from the site Trail Guide]  The Ute describe the Cosmos in arcs with a five-level construct:

1) “tipu-paya=pi/ The Sky; color white, domain of the eagle

2) /ka?a=pi/ The Upper Earth, color yellow, domain of Mt. Lion

3) the Center Earth (unmarked) color blue/green; domain of the wolf

4) /yua=pi/ The Lower Earth; color red, domain of Weasel

5) /tipu-tina=pi/ The Underworld; color black, domain of Snake

[Goss 1972]

These levels and colors match the shamanistic clans and each clan “boss” is the “boss” of its level of the Cosmos.  The Eagle clan rules over the white Sky World, the Mountain Lion clan rules over the yellow, Upper World, etc.

IMG_4449In more recent times, each group had its own motif, like a brand, and the odd symbols on the glyph to the left shows some of these “brands”.

Atlatl glhph001This next glyph shows a hunter using an “atlatl” to launch a spear.  This was invented before the bow and arrow appeared around A.D. 500 and enabled the user to add velocity to the spear.  In the glyph, the hunter’s arm is cocked to “throw” the spear with the atlatl.

The spear point depicted in the glyph is from the archaic era circa 1000 BC or older.

IMG_4436The next panel has a couple of sacred tree motifs and then chiseled beside one is the shocking symbol we recognize today as a swastika.  But, since this glyph shows the reverse of the German symbol and probably predated Nazi Germany, it was most likely added when it was a “good luck” symbol by western culture.  Or, since it is a common practice for Hindus to draw Swastika symbols on the doors and entrances to their houses during festivals, it may have been placed here for that reason, representing an invitation to the goddess Lakshmi.  At any rate, it is was not likely placed on the rock by a Nazi or a Ute.

The last item I want to mention is actually not a glyph at all.  It predates all of the glyphs by millions of years.  It is a dinosaur track made when the rock was mud.IMG_4443   Its three toes mashed into the mud and the claws on its toes left deep holes in the edge of the rock.

There is more to see at Shavano Valley Petroglyph site and I recommend visiting it if you are interested in petroglyphs and their interpretation.  The site is not open to the general public but you can request a tour through the Ute Indian Museum in Montrose, Colorado.

My thanks to Carol Patterson for all her help with these articles.

Books by Carol Patterson

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