Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 30 comments

After the recent posts with nature photographs from Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, a couple of people asked to see pictures of petroglyphs, so here goes. The first photograph is from September 23rd; the flowers at the base of the rock are broom snakeweed.

Petroglyph with Broom Snakeweed 0273

This second picture is also from the Boca Negra Canyon section of Petroglyph National Monument on September 23rd. This time the plant at the lower right is a four-wing saltbush, Atriplex canescens.

Petroglyphs with Four-Wing Saltbush 0283

And here are some petroglyphs from September 30th at the Deer Valley Rock Art Center in northwest Phoenix. Note in the lower right what appear to be two male deer.

Deer Valley Petroglyphs 2152

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 9, 2014 at 5:29 AM

30 Responses

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  1. It was a member of the supporting cast that caught my attention. From what I read about the four-wing saltbush, it’s one heck of a plant: useful for food, medicine, and so on. A drink made from the seeds is called pinole, and that reminded me of Pinole, California. Since the plant grows in California, too, there may be a connection.

    The petroglyphs are so interesting. Have you ever been to see the pictographs in Paint Rock, Texas? They’re on private land and prior arrangements have to be made to see them now, but it’s well worth it. It’s pretty clear that the creative urge isn’t a modern phenomenon.


    November 9, 2014 at 7:42 AM

    • Thanks for the informative link about four-wing saltbush, a plant that was common around Albuquerque but that I’d never heard of till I read the identifying sign at the visitor center for Petroglyph National Monument. From my time in Honduras I was familiar with pinole, though not with the version that includes four-wing saltbush seeds. My intuition was that you were right about the Pinole that’s the name of a town in California being the same word, and the Wikipedia article about the Bay-area town confirms that.

      I have been to Paint Rock, but that was at least a dozen years ago. I passed within 20 miles of there while outbound on the first day of my recent trip but didn’t stop because a visit would have taken several hours and the focus of that journey was the Southwest. Painted Rock is less than three hours from Austin, so I’ll try to plan another visit there, even as a day trip.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2014 at 8:10 AM

  2. Always fascinating … a window into the not-so-distant past. Thanks. D

    Pairodox Farm

    November 9, 2014 at 8:01 AM

    • You’re welcome, D. The past has fascinated me for a long time, and I’ve often thought in recent years that if I had it to do over, I’d go into history as a career.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2014 at 8:13 AM

      • When I see petroglyphs such as these and, especially, the cave paintings discovered in places such as Lascaux I think to myself that these were people, just like you and me. I am reminded of a line from the movie, Stranger Than Fiction, in which Dustin Hoffman plays a college professor of Literature, Jules Hilbert … he is an expert in the implications of the literary phrase, ‘Little did he know.’ [It’s a good movie. Silly. But good.] Anyway I think, when viewing evidences of all of these ancient people … little did they know, what was to come. Although their contributions to iPhones and iPads would not have seemed significant at the time … they were indeed. Small acts (such as communicating through art, in this way) had huge influences and implications. D

        Pairodox Farm

        November 9, 2014 at 8:43 AM

        • All too little do we know what the people who made the ancient petroglyphs and pictographs were thinking. People in the future who look back at us will have so much more information: books (and knowledge of our languages), sound recordings, photographs, films, etc.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 9, 2014 at 9:30 AM

  3. I can only imagine the awe of standing near those petroglyphs. But tickled that we are still treated to botany 🙂


    November 9, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    • “If you can’t beat them, join them.” I’d have preferred the first two sets of petroglyphs in isolation (like the third), but that was impossible in the first and difficult in the second. Including the native plants also gives me a pretext (do I need one?) for focusing on a cultural rather than natural subject.

      I’ve long noticed in petroglyphs and pictographs the lack of what we today might call “personal space,” with new images often at least partly overlapping older ones.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2014 at 10:04 AM

      • I’ve noticed that, too, and wondered about it. But then, artists must be thrifty and I have painted over any number of canvases over the years.
        In any event, I thoroughly enjoy your cultural photos. We plant lovers are not one-dimensional, are we?


        November 11, 2014 at 9:33 AM

        • Certainly not, and math people get to add even more dimensions.

          I think you’re right, at least in some cases, that ancient peoples reused the handiest real estate available.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 11, 2014 at 1:18 PM

  4. Thanks! Love the flowers together with the glyphs. Nature’s art along side ancient man’s.


    November 9, 2014 at 5:33 PM

  5. I think there is an impulse to look at the drawings that are the petroglyphs and think of them as crude compared to the more realistic images we see today. But, as David mentions above regarding communications, these are the bedrock of art and expression in our times. (Yes, I was using a bit of irony in that term.) I also wonder about the state of human vision in those days and if these drawing are, to a degree or two, what things looked like to people at that period in history.

    Steve Gingold

    November 9, 2014 at 6:42 PM

    • I know you were ironic about “the bedrock of art and expression in our times,” yet it’s something I’ve often thought about. It bothers me that almost all graffiti looks the way it does: incoherent scrawls. The ancient Indians didn’t have writing, so pictures were a natural form of expression for them, but it’s pitiful to see that so many people in our society are functionally illiterate.

      As far as I’ve been able to determine, human vision has been the same for thousands of years (and so, apparently, have the other senses and emotions and intellectual ability). True, the ancient Indians didn’t have glasses to correct aberrant vision, but many (maybe most) of them didn’t live long enough to need glasses, so I’m assuming that the the majority of people who made these petroglyphs saw as well as we do.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2014 at 7:41 PM

      • That was just wondering on my part but, and I am not doubting your reasoning, evolution could change us over time. I believe we have grown a little taller and, unfortunately, sometimes wider. I would not know about the need for glasses at a time beyond the ancients’ life expectancy as I have been bespectacled since the age of four.

        Steve Gingold

        November 10, 2014 at 3:26 AM

        • You raise a good point. Until fairly recently, people who were born with an eye problem or developed one at a young age had to go through the rest of their lives with imperfect vision. At the same time, shouldn’t we expect at least some makers of pictographs or petroglyphs to have had excellent vision? And what about the art of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Mayans, Egyptians, etc., where we find paintings and sculptures of people in realistic detail?

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 10, 2014 at 7:25 AM

          • All good points, Steve. If only the opticians of ancient times saved their records. 🙂

            Steve Gingold

            November 10, 2014 at 7:33 AM

  6. Wow, what a trip. Thanks for sharing these. The plants add nice pops of color too!


    November 9, 2014 at 8:15 PM

    • It was an excellent trip and there are still plenty of pictures to come from it, so stay tuned.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2014 at 8:37 PM

  7. Petroglyphs! And I have just been on holiday in an area renowned for its rock art and I didn’t have time to see any of it. http://www.teana.co.nz/about-us/49-story-of-the-rock-art


    November 11, 2014 at 3:42 AM

    • The information you linked to is new to me, so thanks. Let’s hope I get to visit “your” rock art and you “mine” one of these days.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 11, 2014 at 7:28 AM

  8. petroglyphs and drawings always make me ponder what those people were like, was the creator chatty or brooding? sometimes a work is filled with whimsy, and other times as if recording a moment in history. i always wish to be a voyeur so that i can watch and learn from those who lived before our ancestors came along and shattered their world.

    it was worth the wait to view these! thanks for sharing!

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    November 11, 2014 at 8:03 AM

    • I’m glad you felt it was worth the wait, Lisa.

      When I was a teenager and not yet much aware of petroglyphs, I had a similar reaction to yours, but about signatures and inscriptions that I would find on the flyleaf of many old books. Who were those people, I wondered, and what had become of them?

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 11, 2014 at 1:14 PM

  9. that’s very cool! I went to the Virgin Islands and they also had petroglyphs along the reef bay trail


    November 14, 2014 at 12:21 PM

  10. […] a November 9th post that showed petroglyphs in New Mexico and Arizona, the second photograph also let a four-wing saltbush plant creep in at the lower right. Melissablue […]

  11. […] June 13th we visited Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque for the second time, our previous visit having been in the fall of 2014. This time we walked a trail we hadn’t on that first visit, […]

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