Rock art is a unique cultural legacy in our region that deserves attention as we lose sites rapidly to vandalism. Unfortunately, the article "Ancient Conversations" misses this very important point (HCN, 2/01/10). It also left me with many questions about the seemingly Eurocentric interpretations of symbols.
Meaningful collaboration with Native Americans is past due, and I was excited to see this aspect of Carol Patterson's work. The Ute tree mythology reference was fascinating, thanks to Clifford Duncan's expertise. But I have many questions about Dr. Patterson's interpretation of symbols, which feels extremely Eurocentric, i.e., reading rock art like the pictures are words in a sentence giving directions. Why would people go to the trouble of pecking directions in stone? Many are pecked very deeply with much effort, and then re-pecked. If one were to give directions, why not write on the ground, or on hides, or use the sign language referred to? This interpretation feels very limiting -- it seems like these symbols are more complex than the simple directional interpretations given in this article.
The rock art I have seen feels like a response. All visual art can be viewed as a response, like music. Generally, it's not an instruction, or direction, but rather a response to the sacred, the unseen, the elusive fiber of spirit that keeps us grounded in this temporary mortal existence.