Dean M. Chriss
Holy Ghost and Attendants

Holy Ghost and Attendants

(Click image to enlarge)

Shown here is a distinct panel on the far end of the most significant rock art site in North America. It is comprised of multiple figures drawn with a three dimensional perspective, making it among the most artistically advanced from the archaic period. The largest figure on this panel is approximately eight feet tall.

Approximately eighty larger than life figures stretch roughly 300 feet along the wall of a remote desert canyon. The effort required to create such a large and prominent display was tremendous so the figures must have had great meaning. The creators of this work and their culture vanished thousands of years ago, and with them went our ability to understand any message they were trying to convey. These ancient figures have become time travelers from a different age, carrying a message through the millennia that can no longer be understood.

Archeologists think these pictographs were created during the later part of America's Archaic period, which lasted from around 8000 to 1000 BCE. They are typically five or six feet tall, with the tallest being about twelve feet in height. Small figures, only a few inches high are interspersed among them. The figures were created with several different colors, the most fade resistant and durable being red ocher, made from a form of iron oxide. The paints were applied in various ways, including spraying from the mouth, applying with fingers, and carving lines through previously painted areas. Colors like as green and white are still visible, but they have deteriorated more than the red. Although somewhat sheltered, this artwork is exposed to direct sunlight and temperature extremes, in addition to wind blown rain and sand. The fact that they still exist is a testament to the abilities of the artists.

The ancient rock art art present here and in other areas is irreplaceable, priceless, and extremely fragile. The lightest touch causes eventual staining from oils that are present in human skin. Worse, it can cause immediate flaking of paint. Many people walking too near the art can sometimes erode and undercut the rock on which the art is displayed, perhaps causing it to break and fall sometime in the distant future. Small things have huge impacts over time that spans thousands of years.