Petroglyph National Monument
Petroglyph National Monument protects an area containing over 20,000 petroglyphs etched into the basalt boulders that have broken off the 17-mile-long volcanic escarpment on the western outskirts of Albuquerque. Although most of these images are believed to have been made by peoples 400 to 700 years ago, there are many that date back to 2,000 years ago. Interestingly, there are also many historical-era carvings made by Spanish settlers who arrived in New Mexico via the Attrisco Land Grant beginning at the end of the 17th century. These shepherders primarily carved images of crosses, sheep, and livestock brands.
I began my exploration at Boca Negra Canyon which contains 3 short loop trails, one of which, the Mesa Point Trail, climbs a cinder cone. I’ve seen quite a bit of Ancestral Puebloan, Sinaguan, and Fremont rock images, but as many of the carvings here date to just after the disintegration of the Puebloan cultural centers, there were many types of images here that were new to me. Etchings of anthropomorphs with lines extending from the top of their heads, varieties of star patterns, animals, and geometric designs, were common. In general, the images here were more elaborate and detailed than many I had seen previously and whereas many people have interpreted Puebloan carvings as such things as clan symbols and geological features, I believe the possible meanings of these Rio Grande Style images are less clear to contemporary archaeologists. I finished my visit of Boca Negra Canyon just before sunset and so it wasn’t until the next morning that I continued my exploration of the monument at Rinconada Canyon. There I walked the 2.2 mile loop trail around the perimeter of the clusters of volcanic rock that had tumbled down the canyon walls, observing hundreds more etchings of animals, patterns, and anthropomorphs.