Graffiti, New and Old...
Petroglyph: A drawing made by carving into a rock face or other hard surface.
Pictograph: 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.