More than 5,000 years ago, the urge to tell a story that would be remembered drove human beings to invent writing. The first writing were not letters and words, but groups of symbols that told a story.
In the American Southwest, symbols are found on the sides of canyons or in caves. They are called petroglyphs. They were scrateched, etched with cactus juice, or chiseled into stone and give a message or tell a story. Because most of the cultures that used petroglyphs died out, reading them involves conjecture.
Unlike hieroglyphics, petroglyphs are not words or sounds, they are symbols. The entire picture records an event, travel, migragraionor clan mark. Some are related to spiritual life and vision quests.
Some petroglyphs are easier to understand than others. Animal figures most likely symbolized a successful hunt or the location of a herd. Vision quests were symbolized with human and god figures, surrounded by dots, which may have indicated stars or the vision quest itself.
Abstract concepts were also used. A spiral represented a migration or spiritual journey.
Linked figures, like those seen on the left side of the picture on the left are not a spiral and may represent mutual responsibility or a treaty.
Both of these photographs were taken at Taliesen West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s summer camp and studio.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach. She values everyone’s story and the secret meaning behind them. She teaches ideaglyphs, a journal writing technique that uses personal symbols and doesn’t require knowing how to draw. (c) 2008 All rights reserved.