Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Petroglyph Point

Graffiti, New and Old...

Petroglyph: A drawing made by carving into a rock face or other hard surface.
A drawing made with inks, dyes, or other painterly methods.

Yesterday took me to Lava Beds National Monument in Lassen National Park to view the remains of ancient drawings carved into the rock over 4000 years ago.

The location is called Petroglyph Point, and is, essentially, a huge sandstone outcropping in the Tule Lake basin about two hours North East of Redding, CA. During the time of the Modoc Indians, the entire basin was covered by the lake. And, periodically, the Modoc would paddle canoes out to the island for sacred rituals, carving details of their lives into the soft sandstone.

As the years went by, the water level of the lake would rise and fall, requiring carvings to be made at different levels on the rock face. Over several thousand years, the water level would alternately cover and expose the carvings
. As a result, the older carvings that were protected by the water are in much better condition than the carvings that had to face the harsh sun and wind.

As the Modoc tribes disappeared, and white men came into the area, the water level was
low enough to expose hundreds of acres around the rock outcrop, giving anyone who wished easy walking access to the carvings. Unfortunately, because of this easy access, there is quite a bit of modern graffiti mixed in among the ancient petroglyphs. Today the rock face is fenced off to help protect the ancient artwork, but the sandstone is fragile, and time and weather will eventually erase the writings and images from the stone forever.

But, until that day comes, one can still see the ancient carvings and even hike to the top of the "island" for a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding volcanic plains and Tule Lake.


Anonymous said...

I was recently here as well and was glad to see this posting.

The water levels have dropped because water authorities have siphoned water out of the basin for intensive agricultural purposes. I am unsure as to whether the water continues to be drained from the basin.


Holt Webb said...

Someone recently tried to post a rude comment correcting the location of Petroglyph Point. I moderate the comments on this blog, so I chose not to post it. Had the author of the comment written me the correction without the animosity and personal attack, I would have been happy to make the change (if it were indeed accurate).

Unfortunately, the person who made the comment was more interested in picking a fight than actually sharing the truth, for there was no name or contact info attached to the comment. They apparently wished to remain anonymous so they could make their abusive statement without any responsibility for their actions.

But, that's the internet. It allows the cowardly to hurl insults at will while safely hiding behind their computer screens, protected from retaliation by the "off" button.

Knowledge is Power. Anger is ignorance.

Rhonda Meis said...

Hi Holt, Thank you for being so cute!!! I visited Tule Lake and Lava Beds National Park in the sixties, with my family when I was a kid. We took a boat ride out to Petroglyph point, which created in me a lifelong interest in the subject. Where can I read more about this region, such as about the archaeology, what the petroglyphs mean, how long the lake has been there, how long it has been inhabited by people, etc.? Thank you for your very interesting article. Rhonda