The Petroglyph National Monument, located in Albuquerque, protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America, featuring designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago.
At the visitor center, a couple was recreating the etched clay native pottery of the area.
From the visitor center, you drive to one of 4 trail areas. We chose the Boca Negro Canyon. Boca Negra Canyon is a 70 acre section of the 7,236 acres within the monument boundaries. Approximately 200 petroglyphs can be viewed here. The three trails offer a diverse view of the cultural and natural landscape within the monument.
As you ascend the Mesa Point Trail up the rock covered hillside,
your eyes dart from one petroglyph to another.
The images here are an example of those made by the Ancestral Pueblo people. They used sandstone hammerstones and chisels to remove the thin layer of desert varnish to expose the lighter basalt below. There is no way of knowing their original meanings, or why someone took the time to carve them.
The depression in this rock indicates a grinding area.
There are several figures of elaborate crosses scattered on the stones. Historians believe these to have possibly been made by Spanish shepherds in the 1700s or 1800s. They closely resemble Latin crosses done in the patriarchal style, with two horizontals both ending in crosslets.
I particularly liked this etching of the “lovebirds”…suppose the creator was on his honeymoon?
Some symbols you see repeated over and over, making you wonder what they signified.
There are a couple of little side trails around the base.
This one had several petroglyphs of human figures.
There are more than 23,000 petroglyphs found in the monument, some believed to have been carved in the desert varnish as early as 1000BC and some as late as 1700AD. They certainly some of the most interesting ones we have viewed.
The landscape would be fascinating even without the presence of petroglyphs. In this photo, what appears to be ridges in the stone are tubes of bubbles, created by natural gases in the basalt trapped by the cooling lava.
No one will ever know why petroglyphs were left behind, whether as signals, news for those coming after, or simply graffiti of the time, but it’s obvious that many footprints crossed over these rocks long before we did.