Why PetroglyphWatch?

Published: 11/21/2017

There were a couple of motivations when I set out to create this site: 1) We had visited the Chaco Cultural Natural Historic Park just before the fall equinox, and had learned about the large petroglyph spiral on Fajada Butte; and 2) We love the outdoors and want to share it with others.

sun dagger petroglpyh
The Sun Dagger petroglyph spiral at Fajada Butte, Chaco Canyon, NM

I immediately thought of a couple of spirals that I had seen locally in my youth and went in search of them to see if there was any correlation to shadows (or lack of shadow) with the spiral on the morning of the equinox. To my dismay, I found that the site had been vandalized and generally worn down a fair amount over the 45 years since I had first seen it.

babylon mills petroglyphs
Petroglyph Panel near Babylon Mills, Utah. The spiral is located on a slanted rock at the foot of the panel.

My next thought was that surely there would be a repository of similar spirals on the interwebs - but I was unable to find what I was looking for. Maybe there  are repositories in the private intranets of some universities, but that was not a help for me.

I found lots of blogs with two or three petroglyph images, but they lacked the detail and completeness that I was looking for. There are some great sites and videos out there documenting our local region, but none that include every panel and glyph.

Hence, my project: To make a repository of the rock art sites around the Desert Southwest that is open to the public and is interactive for the user, and to be able to use the expertise of the site users to catalog and add to this repository.

In the coming months, especially as early sunsets are limiting the hiking time after work, expect to see more features to this site, such as locating a particular glyph to a panel, tagging what type of glyph is shown: anthropomorph (human-like) or zoomorph (animal-like), symbol classification, carving or painting method, etc.

Also, if you are looking for an interesting citizen-science project you can participate in, check out the Image Detective tool at ComsoQuest.org - they have over 1.5 million photos taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station that they are trying to identify and locate on the earth. It's a challenging process, but it's rewarding to find the spot on Google Maps that matches the photo from the ISS.

Cheers, Steve