Inferences from location of rock art — Southwest
So what inferences can be made from rock art being concentrated in some areas, none at easily accessible sites, none near larger populations, and protected sites? Were these sites used by a select few who chose them for special occasions and for regular use?
What of petroglyphs that surrounded a specific location? Were these indicative of territorial claims or clan-related activity?
What of petroglyphs near special use areas such as game trails, water routes, dwellings? Did the inhabitants create rock art indicative of what surrounded their daily lives? Were the petroglyphs there as a form of “talisman” of luck for the upcoming hunt?
Were they proximity indicators for water or good hunting grounds for others? Natives living in such arid and harsh conditions would probably be quite knowledgeable of their land and might not require these symbols.
What of rock panels located far from dwelling sites even when the inhabitants resided there for long periods of time? Were these sites dedicated for ceremonial purposes and their import indicated by the amount of time dedicated for time, travel and energy? Perhaps there was a “cultural taboo” for anyone but a shaman to create these designs? Perhaps it never occurred to them to do so?*
What of rock art made close to the ground? Was the rock art made by children? (this is usually forbidden by the Hopi). Was the access that much easier?
What of the lack of rock art in regions that held many cultural populations over many thousands of years? Does this signify a lack of interest in relation to other activities?
Can we assume that just because one culture made use of an area for a time that that particular culture used and created that style of rock art?
So many inferences can be made simply by location and “non location” of petroglyphs but we think with a 21st century mentality and we can only speculate from circumstantial evidence. It seems that the study of rock art is fraught with much intangible conjectures.
*Prehistoric Rock Art – Canyon Country by F.A. BarnesBack