Petroglyphs

This page displays images of the Petroglyph Trail along the northern canyon wall between
Chetro Ketl and Pueblo Bonito and images of the Una Vida petroglyphs high on the cliff face.
The petroglyphs depict anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures, spirit figures and symbols,
some of which are easily interpreted and some which remain mysterious. While many of the
petroglyphs left by the Anasazi tell stories, describe astronomical events or maps of travels,
or act as signs, warnings, art or hunting magic, some meanings have not been interpreted.

Some of the petroglyphs are Anasazi, some are Navajo, and a few are graffiti.

Because of the light color of the sandstone and desert varnish in many parts of
Chaco Canyon, the petroglyphs are difficult to photograph and extremely difficult
to process effectively. Channel balanced grayscale inversions of the large-panel
areas have been provided, which allow examination of the low contrast detail.

Click an image to open a larger version.
Use your back button to return to this page.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Indian Lands & Anasazi Sites Collection where a Gallery can be selected.

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There are 14 Sections in the Photoshelter Indian Lands & Anasazi Sites Collection

Direct Links:

The Chaco Culture Anasazi Complex Collection
(8 Galleries):

Chetro Ketl                           Hungo Pavi
Miscellaneous                     Petroglyphs
Pueblo del Arroyo           Pueblo Bonito
Rinconada                               Una Vida

Indian Lands Select
(150 Selected images)

Anasazi and Fremont Petroglyphs

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Una_Vida_Petroglyphs_5061


Una Vida Petroglyphs 5061
(948 KB)

High on the cliff above Una Vida Great House at Chaco Canyon is this panel of
mixed Zoomorphs, Symbols, and an Anthropomorph identified by a Hopi expert
as a symbol of the Two-Horn Society (next to the spiral). In the upper left is another
Two-Horned Anthropomorph with a raised hand, which is easier to discern in the
channel-balanced grayscale conversion and level-adjusted inversion (below).

Una_Vida_Petroglyphs_Inversion_5061


Una Vida Petroglyphs Inversion 5061
(951 KB)

When shooting this petroglyph group in the sunlight, the contrast is quite low, and getting
detail in the shot can be quite difficult. Processing this sort of image is extremely challenging,
and with even the best results it can still be difficult to discern detail. This channel-balanced
grayscale conversion and level-adjusted inversion allows examination of fine detail. Note
for instance, the second anthropomorph in the upper left, and the dog (or zoomorph) to
our right and below the anthropomorph. These are difficult to see in the color image.

Una_Vida_Petroglyphs_Inversion_5061c


Una Vida Petroglyphs Inversion 5061c
(724 KB)

Detail of the left side of the Una Vida panel (inverted grayscale).

Una_Vida_Petroglyphs_X9591


Una Vida Petroglyphs X9591
(641 KB)

Detail of the right central section of the Una Vida Petroglyph Panel taken the following winter.
This shot was taken when the petroglyphs were shaded... an easier shot with far more detail.

Una_Vida_Petroglyphs_Inversion_X9589c


Una Vida Petroglyphs Inversion X9589c
(609 KB)

A channel-balanced grayscale conversion and level-adjusted inversion
of the central right section of the Una Vida Petroglyph Panel, showing the
various Zoomorphs and Symbols, a Bird with huge feet, and the Two-Horn
Anthropomorph who can easily be seen to be holding the spiral in his left hand.
Note that a footprint was pecked into the lower right body of the Anthropomorph.

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Chaco_North_Wall_Petroglyphs_5158M


Chaco North Wall Petroglyphs 5158 M
1778 x 1092 (704 KB)

This section of the North Canyon Wall contains a number of spirals, both separate and interconnected,
several snake glyphs and lizards, and various symbols. Spirals are a common symbol at Chaco Canyon.
This page displays two images of this section of the North Canyon Wall Petroglyphs taken one year apart.

The Petroglyphs span 1500 years. The earliest are from about 400 AD, the latest are from the 1700s.

Chaco_NorthWall_Petroglyphs_Inversion_5158


Chaco North Wall Petroglyphs Inversion 5158
(427 KB)

A channel-balanced grayscale conversion and level-adjusted inversion of the image above.
This image was taken in the mid-afternoon, and the strong light on the cliff made it difficult to
see (or shoot) the petroglyphs. Some people walking by actually asked what I was shooting.
It required significant effort in processing to extract detail in the petroglyphs, and additional
detail is rendered in the inverted grayscale version. Descriptions of the petroglyphs below.

Chaco_North_Wall_Petroglyphs_X9619M


Chaco North Wall Petroglyphs X9619 M
1692 x 1000 (666 KB)

This image was taken a year later at about noon, closer and from a slightly more oblique angle.
While it still required considerable effort to extract detail from the image in processing, the angle
of the sun and the more oblique angle the image was shot from yielded additional detail. Shooting
petroglyphs can be difficult at times. The light color of the desert varnish at Chaco adds challenges.

Chaco_NorthWall_Petroglyphs_Inversion_X9619


Chaco North Wall Petroglyphs Inversion X9619
(465 KB)

A channel-balanced grayscale conversion and level-adjusted inversion of the image above.
At the far right is a snake glyph slithering up the wall towards a triangle glyph. Just left of these
and below (above the horizontal crack) is another snake glyph. Look above this and left and you
will see a set of spirals, above the largest of which is yet another snake glyph. Below this spiral
is a lizard glyph and a large symbol which may depict a cactus. Left of the central crack are
another lizard glyph, more spirals, fields of dots and several other weathered symbols.

Chaco_North_Wall_Petroglyphs_5177


Chaco North Wall Petroglyphs 5177
(588 KB)

The central feature of this section of the wall is a set of connected ovals which may be a
Centipede glyph. To the right of this is a definite Centipede in a field of dots. Below the large
central “Centipede” are two tripartite glyphs which resemble bird tracks (there is a larger glyph
of this type at the far right of the image). Right of the smaller Centipede are snake glyphs and
two lizard glyphs within the field of dots, then a larger bird track and another large tripartite
glyph. Below these glyphs and the long horizontal crack, on the entire right wall is a long
horizontal serpentine glyph which is bisected by a vertical one, which in this case
may represent a creek system. Left of the central “Centipede” are a number
of symbols, including more bird tracks and several zoomorphs. Note on
the upper left what looks to be a Road Runner with tripartite feet that
greatly resemble the tripartite glyphs. There are other zoomorphs
including a Scorpion at the far upper left of the image and an
unidentifiable zoomorph below and between these two.

Chaco_NorthWall_Petroglyphs_Inversion_5176


Chaco North Wall Petroglyphs Inversion 5176
(518 KB)

A channel-balanced grayscale conversion and level-adjusted inversion of the image above.
Many of the fainter petroglyphs will be far more easily examined in this inverted grayscale image.

Chaco_North_Wall_Petroglyphs_X9628


Chaco North Wall Petroglyphs X9628
(588 KB)

This image, taken a year after the previous image from a more oblique angle
and from a closer distance, shows the detail right of the central “Centipede”.
It includes more of the cliff and petroglyphs to the right of the section in the
previous image, including several symbols which may be clan markings.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Indian Lands & Anasazi Sites Collection where a Gallery can be selected.

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There are 14 Sections in the Photoshelter Indian Lands & Anasazi Sites Collection

Direct Links:

The Chaco Culture Anasazi Complex Collection
(8 Galleries):

Chetro Ketl                           Hungo Pavi
Miscellaneous                     Petroglyphs
Pueblo del Arroyo           Pueblo Bonito
Rinconada                               Una Vida

Indian Lands Select
(150 Selected images)

Anasazi and Fremont Petroglyphs

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Chaco_NorthWall_Petroglyphs_5176c


Chaco North Wall Petroglyphs 5176c
(613 KB)

Details of the two central “Centipedes” and bird tracks, the field of dots, the lizard and snake petroglyphs, and below the horizontal crack: the bisected alluvial (?) serpentine glyph.

Chaco_North_Wall_Petroglyph_X9616


Chaco North Wall Petroglyph X9616
(584 KB)

Identified as a “possible supernatural figure” by the National Park Service, this petroglyph was shot even though its hands were up in obvious surrender.

Chaco_North_Wall_Petroglyphs_5167


Chaco North Wall Petroglyphs 5167
(517 KB)

Road Runner and Mountain Lion petroglyphs on the North Wall of Chaco Canyon.

Chaco_Road_Runner_Petroglyph_5161


Chaco Road Runner Petroglyph 5161
(808 KB)

Both Road Runners and Mountain Lions were revered as protectors for war and hunting, and as guardians of medicine societies. The animals and their tracks are often represented together in petroglyphs, and both were significant religious symbols in prehistoric Southwest cultures.

Road Runners have been a part of the Puebloan religious expression for well over 800 years, and were as important to the Anasazi as they are to modern Puebloans. Road Runners and their tracks are common in Anasazi petroglyphs.

Road Runners symbolized speed and mental/physical agility.

Chaco_Road_Runner_Petroglyph_X9622


Chaco Road Runner Petroglyph X9622
(682 KB)

Chaco_Mountain_Lion_Petroglyph_X9623


Chaco Mountain Lion Petroglyph X9623
(767 KB)

The Mountain Lion, besides being a guardian and protector for war and hunting, was a
symbol of wisdom and balance in leadership, stealth and agility and a powerful totem animal.

Chaco_North_Wall_Petroglyphs_5171


Chaco North Wall Petroglyph 5171
(688 KB)

These petroglyphs are of the style most commonly interpreted as Cactus and Cholla glyphs. These symbols could of course have other meanings, including clan symbols. A detail shot of the more unusual central symbol is shown at right.

The cactus was (and is) the symbol of the desert. Cacti were used for food, drink, medicine and other purposes and were important in the life of the people. Cholla buds are extremely high in Calcium, and numerous other cacti offered valuable sustenance. Many cacti were used as a source of water. The spines were used as toothpicks, needles and fishhooks.

Chaco_North_Wall_Petroglyph_5173


Chaco North Wall Petroglyph 5173
(660 KB)

Chaco_Navajo_Petroglyph_5166


Chaco Navajo Petroglyph 5166
(775 KB)

A fairly recent Navajo Horse and Rider petroglyph.

Chaco_Fish_Petroglyph_X9630


Chaco Fish Petroglyph X9630
(853 KB)

This Fish is a combination petroglyph and pictograph.

Chaco_North_Wall_Pictograph_5164


Chaco North Wall Pictograph 5164
(594 KB)

A zoomorphic pictograph (painted rock art).

Chaco_North_Wall_Petroglyphs_5175


Chaco North Wall Petroglyphs 5175
(823 KB)

A deeply incised but indescipherable stylistic petroglyph.

Chaco_North_Wall_Petroglyphs_5169


Chaco North Wall Petroglyphs 5169
(574 KB)

This section of the North Canyon Wall contains the Rattlesnake petroglyph, a “bird track”,
a wandering trail at the right which may be a map of some kind, and a series of central
“graffiti” figures which were inscribed in more modern times (see detail shots below).

Chaco_North_Wall_Petroglyphs_X9625


Chaco North Wall Petroglyphs X9625
(788 KB)

These figures were pecked in modern times, possibly by the Navajo or shepherds in the canyon after Anasazi times.

Chaco_Rattlesnake_Petroglyph_X9626


Chaco Rattlesnake Petroglyph X9626
(749 KB)

A detail shot of the coiled Rattlesnake petroglyph in the lower left section of the wall (also possibly a more modern glyph).

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Indian Lands & Anasazi Sites Collection where a Gallery can be selected.

PhotoshelterGallerySection


There are 14 Sections in the Photoshelter Indian Lands & Anasazi Sites Collection

Direct Links:

The Chaco Culture Anasazi Complex Collection
(8 Galleries):

Chetro Ketl                           Hungo Pavi
Miscellaneous                     Petroglyphs
Pueblo del Arroyo           Pueblo Bonito
Rinconada                               Una Vida

Indian Lands Select
(150 Selected images)

Anasazi and Fremont Petroglyphs

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Fajada_Butte_North_Face_5027


Fajada Butte North Face 5027
(402 KB)

The North Face of Fajada Butte. Standing in the Fajada Gap near Una Vida,
Fajada Butte (Banded Butte) has ruins of small cliff dwellings which were used in
the 10th through 13th centuries. It also is the site of the Sun Dagger petroglyphs,
two spirals on the cliff wall near three large stone slabs. Light is funneled through
the stone slabs, creating dagger-shaped beams of light or shadows which
strike the spirals in specific places depending upon time of day or year.

At mid-day on the Summer Solstice, a dagger pierces the center of
the larger spiral glyph. At mid-day on the Winter Solstice, a dagger is
on either side of the large spiral, framing it. At the Equinox, a smaller
dagger pierces the center of the smaller spiral and a large dagger
contacts the edge of the centermost section of the larger spiral.

At Sunrise on the Equinox, a shadow lines up with the right edge
of the larger spiral. Moonrise at one end of the 19-year Lunar Cycle
(the major standstill) causes a shadow to strike the left edge of the
larger spiral, and 9.5 years later at the minor standstill, at moonrise
there is a shadow piercing the exact center of the larger spiral. The
moon shadows align with a pecked groove on each of the spirals.

Fajada_Butte_North_Face_5029


Fajada Butte North Face 5029
(443 KB)

The NPS closed Fajada Butte in the 1980s to preserve the site from erosion caused by tourism. The erosion caused the slabs to shift, and they are no longer aligned with the spirals.

Fajada_Butte_North_Face_5032


Fajada Butte North Face 5032
(558 KB)

A 230 meter long ramp is on the Southwestern face.

Fajada_Butte_West_Face_5260


Fajada Butte West Face 5260
(403 KB)

The West Face of Fajada Butte (East Chaco Mesa and Wijiji at right).
Una Vida is behind the butte. The 380 foot tall butte is an eroded remnant
of a large mesa that stood between East Chaco Mesa and Chacra Mesa.

Fajada_Butte_West_Face_5261


Fajada Butte West Face 5261
(634 KB)

In the left center of the image is an ancient 230 meter long ramp which was built to provide easier access to the butte.

Fajada_Butte_West_Face_5266


Fajada Butte West Face 5266
(645 KB)

Detail of Fajada Butte showing the ramp. The amount of work it required to build indicates the importance of Fajada Butte.

Chaco_Canyon_Una_Vida_5055


Chaco Canyon Una Vida 5055
(771 KB)

The view west down Chaco Canyon from the cliff face containing the Una Vida Petroglyphs.

Stone_Hogan_and_Wood_Stack_5019


Stone Hogan and Wood Stack 5019
(499 KB)

A modern round stone Navajo Hogan and a traditional forked high-desert wood stack
off CR7950, one of the two bone-rattling washboard dirt roads leading to Chaco Canyon.

Stone_Hogan_5025


Stone Hogan 5025
(569 KB)

In the same area is this small sandstone masonry Hogan.

Stone_Hogan_5026


Stone Hogan 5026
(627 KB)

This is possibly used as a sweat lodge or for storage.

Stone_Hogan_5023


Stone Hogan 5023
(585 KB)

The stone hogan is quite small, and considering the lack of an obvious method of
closing off the entrance (unless a large stone is moved over it), it is more likely to
be a sweat lodge than a storage structure. I have not found any information on it.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Indian Lands & Anasazi Sites Collection where a Gallery can be selected.

PhotoshelterGallerySection


There are 14 Sections in the Photoshelter Indian Lands & Anasazi Sites Collection

Direct Links:

The Chaco Culture Anasazi Complex Collection
(8 Galleries):

Chetro Ketl                           Hungo Pavi
Miscellaneous                     Petroglyphs
Pueblo del Arroyo           Pueblo Bonito
Rinconada                               Una Vida

Indian Lands Select
(150 Selected images)

Anasazi and Fremont Petroglyphs

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ChetroKetl


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Chetro Ketl page.

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Click the Display Composite above to visit the Rinconada/Una Vida page.

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