Scattered throughout the length and breadth of Arizona are thousands of “pages” from the history of a people who roamed the area now within the borders of this state in a dim and almost forgotten Yesterday.
But none can read them.
They are the ever-fascinating hieroglyphics or pictographs, found in varying numbers in every county.
In any given area they range in number from a scattered few to an almost limitless many. They vary from the crudest of symbols, many wholly beyond interpretation, to seemingly long and involved stories almost possible of translation because of the vivid realism of the characters portrayed
The widely-known sites of hieroglyphics are far too numerous to catalog, but there are several areas in which they are found in such great numbers that they are worthy of mention because of their accessibility.
In South Mountain park, Phoenix’ 14,000-acre municipal playground, south of the city, pictographs are found in unusually large number in Hieroglyphic canyon, an easily reached site.
These are of the relatively primitive type, but prove an endless fascination for the visitors who see them annually by the thousands.
On thousands of rocks in Petrified Forest national monument in the northeastern part of the state are elaborate hieroglyphics or petroglyphs, many of which are adjacent to or in juxtaposition with the ruins of the prehistoric people’s dwellings.
More than 100 miles north of the forests, in Canyon de Chelly, the pictographs become much more elaborate since they represent a period relatively recent in the state’s history.
Indeed, some of these must have been painted no more than a few centuries ago, since they unmistakably portray the invasion of the men on horseback, the Spanish Conquistadores.
Throughout all the pictographs in the state may be found recurring certain symbols which are in use today in the arts and crafts of the modern Indians.
Among these are the swastika, a figure composed of half a dozen concentric circles, the figure of the Gila monster—desert-dwelling reptile peculiar to Arizona—and others as readily distinguishable.
When Artistry Stirred
In some cases these are figures and nothing more, elaborately chiseled into everlasting stone merely at the whim of a prehistoric resident in whom stirred the first urge of artistry.
Others are quite patently designed to tell a story to others who might pass by the same place. Some seem to be maps. But all today remain without translation, simply because the “dark ages” of Arizona’s pre-history left a gap in the continuity of the people and no Rosetta stone has been found to link Yesterday with Today.
A marvel of scientists is the patience exercised by the forgotten people in inscribing their pictures. Without metal of any kind, they cut their figures deeply into rock which is so hard that carving it today with highly-tempered steel chisels represents a real problem.
The consensus of scientists is that Arizona’s pictographs probably will never be deciphered. But as they stand they offer material for endless hours of fascinating study and interesting observation.