Sunday, July 02, 2017

Lost and Found

This kachina cult figure, possibly representing a bear shaman, is located in the Piedras Marcadas section of the Petroglyph National Monument on Albuquerque's west side..  Its creation likely dates back about three hundred years.

About six months ago, the bear shaman was lost, not to the world, but to me personally.  I had visited the the image several times since we first moved to Albuquerque in 2008 and photographed it with a couple of my old cameras.  Then, when I decided to revisit the rock art image and photograph  again about six months ago, I was unable to locate it.  I went back a half dozen times, but no luck; the image and its thousand-pound boulder seemed to have evaporated.  Something similar happened to me a couple times in the past twenty years that I have pursued an interest in ancient Southwest rock art.  I'm not sure exactly what goes on in my brain on these occasions; I'm usually pretty good at finding my way, even in unfamiliar or difficult terrain.  I knew the approximate location to within about a half-mile square around the site, but I just could not pin down the precise location.  How I finally relocated the rock art image seems as unlikely now as the image's strange disappearance.

The development of my interest in rock art more or less coincided with the beginning of collecting, restoring and using old film cameras.  One important resource in helping to get my old cameras working was a web site maintained by Rick Oleson who is extraordinarily talented at fixing old film cameras, as well as in illustrating his restorations with photos and drawings.  In addition to consulting Rick's site as needed, I also followed his photographic work on the Flickr photo sharing site.  One day recently, I noted that Rick's photo stream included some familiar looking rock art images.  It turned out that he had made a cross-country trip from his home in Kentucky that included a stop in Albuquerque and a visit to the Petroglyph National Monument.  And there among his images was a picture of the lost bear shaman.  It seemed an extraordinary coincidence.

Photo by Rick Oleson
Fortunately for me Rick's photograph included some important details of the terrain surrounding the rock art figure.  I made a sketch of his image paying particular attention to the profile of the escarpment behind the shaman figure, as well as some other rock art images which could just barely be made out among the jumble of rocks.  I returned to the Piedras Marcadas site with the sketch in my pocket and pretty confident of success, but it actually took me about an hour walking in and out of the several small canyons there to finally locate the shaman.  Perhaps I would have found the figure eventually on my own, but I certainly would never have imagined that I would locate it with the help of Rick Oleson.


astrobeck said...

That's a really nice one!
The lighting is perfect and shows the figure in great detail.
Now I have a hankering to go out there and find it too...

I would like to see more of this kind of work from you.
I also wonder what the peoples that made these drawings would think of photos of them, and how they might make photos of their own work if given a chance.

Again, this is quite nice Mike.

Mike said...

I see that I neglected to tag the post with the appropriate "rock art" label, so I have corrected that. If you click the "rock art" label at the bottom of the post now, you will be able to view all the posts about the subject on the blog.
In the years we lived in southern New Mexico I developed and maintained a web site about rock art in that area. I spent a lot of time wandering about the desert looking for sites, and managed to locate and document quite a few.
Rock art is obviously the most enduring art form; much of it will remain long after all the rest has turned to dust, and there is a lot to be learned from its study. The Petroglyph National Monument on Albuquerque's west side is one of the city's main attractions for me.