Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Earliest Depiction of An Imperial Woodpecker

As long as I can remember, I've always been fascinated by petroglyphs. They're so beautiful and interesting. I always wonder about the people who made them. What were their lives like? What were they trying to express? And what eventually happened to the artists who created them and to their culture? There's a canyon near Casas Grandes in the Mexican state of Chihuahua that I particularly like—not just for the quality of its petroglyphs but for the fact that it has the earliest known illustration of an Imperial Woodpecker, which was etched into the stone wall of the arroyo centuries ago. The petroglyph is so well done that you can even tell the gender of the bird: a female because its crest is curved so much farther forward than the crest of a male Imperial Woodpecker. 

                             (Photo by Tim Gallagher)

I've visited this canyon twice in the past few years, and it's always been a moving experience. It is a place of solemn silence, with nothing but the sound of wind blowing across the surrounding desert. I can't help thinking about the artist who created this wonderful image in stone. I feel such a strong connection. Here was someone so touched by the beauty of this spectacular bird that he or she had to record it for others to see—which is truly, I think, the basis of all art and literature.

    (Photo by Tim Gallagher)

There are many other petroglyphs at the site, and they are wonderful, too. Many of them depict people, wildlife, or sometimes abstract patterns, but the Imperial Woodpecker petroglyph is still my favorite.

1 comment:

  1. It always makes me wonder who carved these and what they were thinking when they did.