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The Petroglyph

November 23, 2022

For the last 40 years I have had a photo in my possession that I long to understand.

In my youth, during the 1950’s and 1960’s, I spent most all of my summers in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, specifically fishing the waters of the Owens River. It was a marvelous place back then, devoid of today’s crowds and city folks. I am pretty sure that my feet touched every mile of that stream’s banks from its headwaters in Deadman’s Creek to its slow running water below Lone Pine.

In 1980, I revisited the area of the Lower Owens River, north of Bishop, California to visit a friend who had been in a wheel chair since a skiing accident 25 years earlier. Five years had passed since the movie of her experience was released. As part of my visit, of course I fished the Owens River extensively but I also found time to explore some of the surrounding landscape. I remembered from my youth a series of petroglyphs and I set off to find them. Petroglyphs are pictures that are carved into the surface of rocks as opposed to being painted on their surfaces. They were left there by the ancestors of the Paiute Indians hundreds of years ago; some say even much earlier.

I found one particular petroglyph and snapped a photo of it in the morning light. However, not being an expert in these things, I have always wondered what exactly this petroglyph portrayed. Yes, it’s a deer or elk; that much is obvious. But what does the whole scene mean, including the concentric circles below it and the signs above it? I’ve read that the circles could be a portrayal of the sun. But why is it below the animal? Is it a hunting calendar?

Recently, I read that many of the petroglyphs in this area have been vandalized and defaced. To say that this is a pity is an understatement of the highest order. These are prized pieces of history and they should be protected. For that reason, I am not disclosing the exact location of the above photo.

I would really like to answer the four decade question as to what exactly is meant by this scene. If you have any expertise in this area or knowledge of this particular petroglyph, please get in touch and share what you know. I would be pleased to hear from anyone who might have some clues.

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  1. I’m certainly no expert on petroglyphs, Allen. But if the concentric circles represent the sun, it looks to me like the cervid is leaping over the sun. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Debbie Pond permalink

    Jill Kinmont, that’s who you visited.
    My best friend and I saw the movie when it came out. We cried and cried, but she was amazing. She became a role model for me. If she could do her hard thing, well, so could I. It’s now a our family motto, Pond’s do hard things.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cathy O permalink

    Don’t know much about petroglyphs,
    but read articles when learning about our local Chumash pictographs. It is theorized that some are symbols of their cosmology and other cultural stories. Some look like animals, people, natural objects. Was told by local expert, “meanings were probably secret and /or have been lost over time.” Also read:

    Petroglyphs as maps, time and distance markers to water source, for travelers, is another theory.


    Liked by 1 person

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