OCTOBER: Harvest Moon Duninudi Time of traditional “Harvest Festival” Nowatequa when the people give thanks to all the living things of the fields and earth that helped them live, and to the “Apportioner” Unethlana. Cheno i-equa or “Great Moon” Festival is customarily held at this time.
Up until his death in 2000, LaVan Martineau devoted over forty years to unlocking the secrets behind the petroglyph (and pictograph) symbols left by the Native American. Part Indian himself, adept in sign language, fluent in native languages, and expert in cryptanalytical methods, he brought a unique perspective to the challenge and opened the door to a new understanding of the meanings behind the symbols. Carol Patterson, in Montrose, Colorado, carries on his legacy in her studies of the symbols using his methods to expand our knowledge of rock art and symbology.
This week I want to share with you some of the more curious petroglyphs at the Shavano Valley Petroglyph site near Montrose, Colorado.
Let’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.
The Bear panel at Shavano Valley Petroglyph site near Montrose, Colorado, is an intriguing example of Ute symbolism. The panel incorporates glyphs from recent times overlaid on very ancient ones. Look closely and you can see a faint line coming out of the crevice in the rock face (bottom right). The line goes up and then branches. Part way up on the line is a woman or man carrying a back pack and a planting stick. The line and the figure were pecked into the patina of the rock face. It is a classic case of using rock incorporation of cracks and crevices in the story being depicted. Here the person has emerged from the underworld, represented by the crevice, and is travelling along the trail provided by Sinauf, the creator, with a basket of seeds and a planting stick. Also, part of this era are more branching trails and animal tracks. This story is the oldest depicted on the panel.
Have you used Google Maps lately? How about AAA Triptiks. Remember Rand-McNally? Maps have been an essential part of the traveler’s gear for thousands of years. We’ve all seen pictures of ancient maps used by mariners, but did you know that Native Americans also used maps?
Many of the hunter-gatherer cultures, like the Ute and their predecessors, were highly mobile, constantly moving to keep pace with plant and animal food sources. They depended upon their knowledge of game trails, hunting strategies, and locations for seasonal plants. Carol Patterson wrote, “Powell, one of the first anthropologists to describe Ute life ways, went so far as to remark that: