Petroglyph Symbols and ART – Three Rivers, New Mexico

Indigenous Culture

Petroglyph: pet-ro-glyph (pe-truh-glif): noun: a drawing or carving on rock, made by a member of a prehistoric people. [C1870: via French from Greek petra  stone + gluphē  carving]

Prehistoric: pre-his-tor-ic (prē-(h)is-ˈtȯr-ik): adjective: of, relating to, or belonging to the era before recorded history. [C1830: via French from ante’historique].


In December of 2004 my son, his wife and I were on adventure, exploring the unique geologic features of the Tularosa Basin, Otero County. One day, traveling north from Tularosa, New Mexico on highway 54 towards Carrizozo we discovered a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) protected archeological site that was open to the public. A trail winds through the rocks for about one mile of the fifty acre site. There are 21,000 documented  petroglyphs.

Archaeologists refer to the prehistoric inhabitants of southwest New Mexico as the Mogollon. Those who lived in the mountains are referred to as the Mimbres Mogollon while the Jornada Mogollon are the desert dwellers..The Mogollon lived in pithouse and adobe structures similar to their agricultural cousins the Anasazi, with whom they traded. And like other prehistoric agiculturalists of the Southwest, by the time the Spanish entered New Mexico in the 1500s, the Mogollon had already mysteriously abandoned their pueblos……such as those who lived here on the banks of Three Rivers Creek .

The petroglyphs at Three Rivers, dating back to between about 900 and 1400 AD, were created by Jornada Mogollon. The number and concentration of petroglyphs here make it one of the most interesting petroglyphs sites in the Southwest. There are more than 21,000 geometric glyphs, abstract designs, as well as birds, humans, animals, fish, insects and plants,

Jornada Mogollon people made pictures with stone tools by chipping away the dark oxidized patina on the exterior of  the desert rocks. Some of the petroglyphs were made expediently, by simply scratching through the patina to the light inner layer of the rock. Other were painstakingly created by pecking through the patina. This was done with two rocks used like a hammer and chisel.

This 1:48 minute slide show is a sample of the ante’historique petra gluphē  symbols and art seen at Three Rivers that day in December.

The Three Rivers Petroglyph Site is one of the few locations in the Southwest set aside solely because of its rock art. It is also one of the few sites giving visitors such direct access to petroglyphs.

Petroglyphs created by  prehistoric people can be found in nearly every country, many with a commonality of design. This wikiimedia link will let you explore numerous pictures of petroglyphs from around the world.

The petroglyphs at Three Rivers were recorded during a 6 year project by the Archaeological Society of New Mexico’s Rock Art Recording Field Schools. Photographs and records are on file at the Bureau of Land Management‘s District Office in Las Cruces , New Mexico.

????????????????Happy Trails, Dohn

About earthstonestation

promoting environmental education, protecting all species and preserving the wild places with art, music and storytelling.
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7 Responses to Petroglyph Symbols and ART – Three Rivers, New Mexico

  1. Great presentation and resources. Thank You

  2. Fascinating post as usual Dohn… thank you

  3. What an amazing place! I hope to visit some day. Thanks for visiting my blog – I often write about nature, so your posts really resonate with me and I am following you.

  4. Happy for the opportunity to share

  5. Beautiful. Thank you.

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