Petroglyph near Cave Creek, Arizona

May 31, 2005


Provided by: Thomas McGuire
Summary author: Thomas McGuire

Petroglyphs are in essence artistic renderings etched into rock surfaces in many parts of the world. Most of those found in the Phoenix, Arizona area were created by a native American culture that disappeared about 700 years ago. The Apaches knew these people as the Hohokam (the accent is on the first syllable). The word means simply "those who came before." It's not known what caused the demise of native cultures throughout the southwest, but their extensive cliff dwellings were abandoned about the same time.

Dozens of these rock art panels are found within the new three square mile Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area in Cave Creek. The ones above are carved on a basalt boulder. Rocks that have a petina of desert varnish were popular surfaces for petroglyphs, especially in high locations with views of the surrounding landscape. Desert varnish is a combination of biological activity and weathering. Depictions of large animals and hunting, as well as geometric figures were popular designs.

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