Lava Beds National Monument
For some visitors, Petroglyph Point will be the highlight of a visit to Lava Beds National Monument. It contains one of the largest collections of Native American rock art to be found in all of California. As is the case with all rock art, we do not know much about it, but it is the source of endless speculation and numerous scientific studies. None of the scientific studies claim to be authoritative, but the studies themselves are fascinating. They involve attempts to determine when the lake levels covered the petroglyphs, when boulders broke off from the cliff face, when cultural variations such as extended trade routes and the introduction of new technology such as the bow and arrow occurred and might have been reflected in the glyphs.
It is a fascinating open-ended detective story full of exotic forensic techniques such as Bristlecone Pine Tree core sampling and the study of wave action on volcanic rock. A human tooth and a bit of bone are part of the story and a recently discovered human mandible with ground down molars may or may not be relevant. Even nineteenth century genealogy comes into play when early graffiti is analyzed for the time taken for erosion to obliterate a glyph. Who was Kib Green? Was he one of the military officers involved in the attack on Captain Jack or perhaps a government surveyor working on the Klamath Reclamation Project? Whoever he was and whenever he carved his name in the rock, it would be important to know what he used as a tool and how deeply he inscribed his name.
Although no study is definitive, it is clear that these thousands of glyphs were important to the people that carved them thousands of years ago. By writing on stone, they were clearly attempting to communicate with those who came after them and that includes you and me. Although we can not read their specific meaning, it just might be that we have unknowingly already grasped their fundamental significance. The glyphs are a powerful indication that human beings are not just interested in the here and now. We are also interested in those that come along after we leave the scene. That is another characteristic that differentiates us from the rest of the animals that inhabit the earth.
Lava Beds National Monument
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