Grand Canyon Area Rock Art. Cohonina Rock Art. Ancestral Puebloan Rock Art. A visit by San Diego Rock Art Association Members.

Joining forces with Rick and Sunny, I was able to find my way to a typically spartan evergreen forest cut by a shallow canyon near the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  I had just gone up in elevation from Sedona at around 4500′ to the South Rim at nearly 7000′.  Thankfully, there was no snow on the ground here in early May, although the North Rim of the Grand Canyon at 8500′ elevation would have several feet, in fact the road was not yet open.  There would be miles of snowdrifts to clear.  Still, even with the sun brightly shining, the chill of the blowing wind reminded me that it was not easy to live here, or even briefly visit here without solid equipment from REI–a luxury that the Native Americans did not have.  Even in May the night time temperatures were in the upper 20s [Fahrenheit].

Currently, while there was only moderate protection accorded by the crumbling limestone walls, perhaps, at best 20 feet tall, there was ample water in large pools that would probably make it through the summer or provide for farming even in today’s climate.  Apart from that, there were scattered Pinyon Pines, frequent Juniper stands, widespread Indian Ricegrass and no doubt many other edible plants doing well in the drainage.  Perhaps the Archaic and Ancestral Puebloan cultures that lived here up to about 1250 A.D. used the area seasonally.  The Ancestral Puebloan cultures that lived in the area of the Grand Canyon have been classified by general geography, weapon points, shelter design and ceramic/rock art expression.  Such divisions may be somewhat artificial in that they do not necessarily correspond to significant cultural differences.  In any case the three groups are the Cohonina, the Virgin Ancestral Puebloan, and the Kayenta Ancestral Puebloan.

According to Christensen, Dickey and Freers, the Cohonina and Kayenta groups coexisted in the Southern Rim area.  The small canyon that I am in contains an abundance of Cohonina pictographs.  As you can observe in the slideshow below, common themes to Cohonina pictographs include solid body anthropomorphs [some digitate and others not], snakes, footprints, hand prints and ungulates [basically, hoofed animals].  Dark red, orange and yellow seem to be the prevalent colors.  Most of the elements are quite small. In this particular canyon, there are not many deep rock shelters so the quantity of elements is limited.  In the one large rock shelter I located, the quantity of art was much higher.

My brief discussion is largely a condensation of a highly recommended, beautifully photographed and written, recent text by Don Christensen, Jerry Dickey and Steven Freers: Rock Art of the Grand Canyon Region; Sunbelt Publications: 2013.  This nearly coffee table sized book is very reasonable and one of the most readable publications to be printed in the arena of rock art.

Please enjoy the slide show below.  I have used DStretch on several of the photographs and those photographs that are enhanced follow the “regular” photograph.  Thank you to Jon Harman for use of the DStretch program.

See you on the trail,
Don

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