Petroglyph National Monument Through the Lens

New Mexico offers many hidden treasures in its culture-ridden state.  Petroglyph National Monument is one of those gems.

The monument is an art gallery carved in volcanic rock that overlooks clusters of cookie cutter homes.

Within the monuments boundaries sits Boco Negra Canyon, a 70 acre section of the 7,236 acre park.

The canyon provides quick and easy access to three self-guided trails, Mesa Point, Macaw and Cliff Base where you can view 200 incredible petroglyphs. Combined walking time is approximately 1 hour.

Archeologists believe that many petroglyphs at Canyon Trail area at Boca Negra date back at least 3000 years.

Images  include human figures such as flute players or dancers; masks and masked figures; human hands and feet; animals including mountain lions, birds, serpents, reptiles, insects, and animal tracks; spirals, four-pointed stars, and geometric designs.

While a pamphlet offers interpretation of some of the ancient drawings, no one can say for sure what many portray. Native peoples hold complex and widely varying interpretations of many images, depending upon context.

Boca Negra Canyon is part of the West Mesa escarpment, a 17-mile long cliff of dark basalt boulders created by six volcanic eruptions occurring roughly 200,000 years ago. When the volcanoes erupted, liquid lava flowed down old arroyo channels, forming peninsulas. The lava flowed around hills that have since eroded away to form canyons.

The unusual geological landscape is called reverse topography.

Weather and microbial action have oxidized minerals in the basalt, producing a thin patina of dark desert varnish. When the ancient people chipped into the dark surface of the rock to create images, they exposed the lighter-colored rock beneath. This is why various older petroglyphs have begun to darken over the centuries.

Open 8:00 am – 5:00 pm daily. Cost is $1 on weekdays and $2 on the weekend.



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