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2003-07-27 - 10:20 a.m.


We got up early and drove to Petroglyph National park. I don't know what we were expecting. A few years ago we went to an awesome petroglyph site in south-central New Mexico (near the Very Large Array), and I didn't know if it would be like that or different.

When we got to the park we discovered that there are actually two main sites. We only had time for one, so we picked Riconado Canyon which is a small canyon lines with lots of black volcanic rock. The trail follows the inner walls of the canyon in a big oblong. It was very peaceful and quiet there, although it was very close to the city. We saw bright red spiders, lots of centipedes, some rabbits and a lot of lizards. We also saw hummingbirds and other birds.

There were so many petroglyphs, although often they were so eroded that you had to look very carefully to see them. There were also examples of vandalism, some of it going back to 1918 - people had scratched their names, dates, and Christian crosses into the rock. I don't know why people feel obligated to do that. I've seen it at other petroglyph sites. Are they that threatened by this ancient writing?

Petroglyphs to me are amazing because they are writing, a code if we could only read it. It's as if you could speak to those people across the ages if only you knew their language. And I think it puts paid to the arrogant idea of human progress - that they were primitive and we are civilized. Anyone who looks at those beautiful and abstract symbols has got to know that those people are us ... and we are still them. It's the same feeling I got later on in the trip when I saw the cliff dwellings. I can imagine living there. It's a house, like my house. I know this seems obvious, but popular culture and textbooks put ancient peoples at a remove from us --- stressing the differences. But we are all the same.

And with that I will quit for now.



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