V – Bar – V Petroglyph Site, Coconino National Forest, Arizona
The V – Bar – V Heritage Site contains a series of panels incised with more than a thousand petroglyphs that were carved between approximately 1150 and 1400 AD by the Southern Sinaguans. Although there were a few pithouses a half mile away the panels were not associated with that particular settlement, but rather served as a ceremonial destination; it is believed that people both gathered here for ceremonies and stopped when traveling the major trade route which passes within a couple hundred feet of the petroglyphs.
Archaeologists, working with modern descendants of the Sinaguans, continue to decipher the uses and meanings of the markings but most of their conclusions remain under debate. However, many of the symbols have been interpreted unanimously and these types of markings include such common glyphs as clan signs, astrological events, markers of territory, initiation rites, and historical events or myths. A few examples of these types of petroglyphs at V – Bar – V include clan symbols such as the turtle and crane/heron (the latter of which is also depicted in a rare frontal pose), a depiction of initiation into adulthood through illustration of hairstyle that denotes marriageable age, records of traditional planting times, and extensive maps of the rivers and canyons.
The site used more than just petroglyphs to help record information however: Equinoxes are marked by shadows that align between certain symbols, and a fairly recent discovery was that a rock wedged in a joint in the cliffs was carved so that a shadow was cast matching the silhouette of the seven sacred peaks of the San Francisco Mountains. The sheer number of petroglyphs at V – Bar – V, the state of preservation, and the fascinating additional carved elements and astrological alignments make it one of the most important rock art and ceremonial sites of the Sinaguan people.