Rock Images of New
©Susan A. Short 2005
This page presents a collection of
photographs taken as part of my dissertation research. Two petroglyph sites are
represented here: Three Rivers National Petroglyph Monument and Pony Hills.
The indigenous people of the Americas
created images on stone for thousands of years before European conquest and colonization.
The images pictured here were created by pecking and carving the stone, and are called
"petroglyphs." Images were also created by painting the stone, and those are
called "pictographs." Sometimes, images were both carved and painted. The
general term "rock art" has been used for all of these rock images. Some
scholars embrace this term because it acknowledges that there is an aesthetic component to
the rock images. Other scholars (and some indigenous people) vigorously object to the term
"art" because they think it implies that the images were created for aesthetic
enjoyment only, and does not encompass the likely role of the images as modes of symbolic
communication. The term "rock images" is used here, not to diminish the
aesthetic elements of the material, but to acknowledge the many possibilities in purpose
These petroglyphs are part of what eminent
rock image researcher Polly Schaafsma has called the Jornada Style. My research documented
strong connections between the animal images used in this style and the animals used on
pottery bowls created by the people of the Mimbres culture, in the Mimbres River Valley,
New Mexico, between about A.D. 1000 and 1150.
Mimbres people were farmers and lived in pueblo communities along and near the
Mimbres River. The animal images may have served many purposes in their culture;
my research supports the hypothesis that these animal images were part of
Mimbres religion and represented intermediaries between the people and the
spirit world. Most of the animal images created in Mimbres pottery and in
Jornada rock images are members of what modern Pueblo people consider the
"water-bringers" group, whose purpose is to intercede with the spirit world for
rain. For these ancient farmers in New Mexico, such intercession in prayers for
rain in the proper amounts and at the proper times would have been considered
Animal with baby and 6-toed foot, Three
Fish with frame resembling pottery rim, Three
Fish with human inside, Three Rivers
Rodent holding a pole with a cloud terrace, Three
Person with tablita, Three Rivers
Rattlesnake and turtle, Pony Hills
For more information, consult the following
Anyon, R. and S.A. LeBlanc, 1984. The
Galaz Ruin: A Prehistoric Mimbres Village in Southwestern New Mexico. University of
New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
Brody, J.J., 1977. Mimbres Painted
Pottery. The School of American Research, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Schaafsma, P., 1992. Rock Art in New
Mexico. Museum of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque
Short, S., 1998. When the Animals Still
Danced: Animal Images in Mimbres Pottery and Petroglyphs. (Ph.D. Thesis, University
of Minnesota, UMI Dissertation Services, Ann Arbor, MI).
Back to top
About the author
of this site
To the site index
Comments about this site?
Contact Sue Short.
10 June 2005 16:49)