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Tucson's Signal Hill Petroglyphs - 1,000 Year Old Graffiti

Ancient petroglyphs at Signal Hill, Saguaro National Park West

Tucson's Signal Hill Petroglyphs are thought to be as old as 1,000 years or more.  Signal Hill is located in Saguaro National Park West, on the western flank of the Tucson Mountains.  It's immediately south of the community of Picture Rocks, so named because of the ancient rock art you see here.

Petroglyphs depict the sun, snakes, game animals and humansI spent my Sunday afternoon hiking in the Park with the intent of photographing some of the petroglyphs to share with you.  They're beautiful, aren't they?

Abstract designs outnumber life formsNo one knows just what they mean.  Created by ancient Amerindians known today as Hohokam, the images of the sun, snakes, lizards, game animals and humans may have had religious or ceremonial significance.  They may have been clan markers.  There's even the possibility that they are just 1,000 year old graffiti!

Abstract designs outnumber life forms (human figures, lizards, game animals, etc.) in Tucson, and petroglyphs like these are found all over the southwest.

This one looks like a snake to me, but who knows?In the world of modern art, I'm a fan of Robert Motherwell, so the idea of ancient abstract art just around the mountain from my home gives me a certain sense of joy.  Then again, if it's outdoors and involves hiking and photography, I'm all for it.

Creating the finished petroglyph took the Hohokam artist quite a while.  Do you want to know how they did it?

The basalt boulders you see here are covered with a substance called "desert varnish," a hard dark coating that hides the lighter basalt rock beneath.

Hohokam artists would "peck" at the surface, striking one rock tool against the surface Anderson was an idiot!with another rock repeatedly until the varnish gave way, creating the outline of the petroglyph.  If you had the time and inclination, you could do it yourself.  (Not in the Park, though.)

Next time you visit Tucson, you can watch modern artists creating petroglyphs in exactly the same manner.  You'll find them working periodically at the Tohono Chul Park.

One such artist is Desert Little Bear.  His website is www.rockartcreations.com  Check him out. 

And come visit Tucson soon, but not without calling me first!

___________________

I'm Mike in Tucson, your preferred Tucson, AZ Mortgage lender.
Mike Jones (Tucson Mortgage Company, LLC): Loan Officer in Tucson, Pima County, Arizona
SUNSTREET MORTGAGE
Call me
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Comment balloon 54 commentsMike Jones • September 14 2009 02:45AM

Comments

Ok Mike, I'm running out of adjectives when commenting on your fabulous photos, again stunning and serene! Love the abstract designs in the rocks, pretty cool.

I had to look up Robert Motherwell as I wasn't familiar with his work. Thanks for the petroglyph & art education. I've recently picked up the paints and brush again and I'm loving it.

Posted by Cynthia Bartch, Redesigned Spaces; All Round Nice Gal (Home Stager/Property Stylist & more! Granville, Ohio) almost 10 years ago

Mike, Neat!. Very interesting petroglyphs. We don't see anything like that in our area. You are so lucky to live in such a unique area...

Helping you live your American dream..

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) almost 10 years ago

I am fascinated by petroglyphs. 

In fact, one of my favorite paintings, done years ago is "Cave Beast".

Cave Beast

No, you cannot have it.

 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 10 years ago

You say: "They're beautiful, aren't they?"  That's like saying the ocean is a little wet. So happy that you like to hike and know how to use that camera! We all benefit!

Posted by Margaret Rome, Baltimore Maryland, Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome ( HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400) almost 10 years ago

We have some unique petroglyphs in Hawaii too and I always wonder how ... and what their world looked like 'back then.'

Posted by Susie Blackmon, Ocala, Horses, Western Wear, Horse Farms, Marketing almost 10 years ago

Mike, thanks for the post.  Of course when the art is old, it's no longer graffiti.  When it's new it can be either modern art or graffiti.

Posted by Gabe Sanders, Stuart Florida Real Estate (Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales) almost 10 years ago

Mike,

You were right!

I'm blown away.

Do you think that in 3010 our graffiti will hold such fascination?

Bill

Posted by William J. Archambault, Jr. (The Real Estate Investment Institute ) almost 10 years ago

Very interesting Mike. Call me crazy but I think I see a space ship on that mountain:)

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) almost 10 years ago

Mike,

Your combination of pictures and education is fabulous. Wish I could've gone hiking with you!

Posted by Irene Kennedy Realtor® in Northwestern NJ (Weichert) almost 10 years ago

ToulaRosebrock,com

Hi Mike:

Just beautiful...

You're so fortunate to live out there now...

Look at that scenery!!!

Posted by Toula Rosebrock, Broker/Sales Associate, Realtor, Lacey Township, (Diane Turton, Realtors, Forked River, NJ) almost 10 years ago

Mike...

Stunning photos .... what a place! I have always been fascinated with this kind of primitive art ... probably the result of just killing time but remarkable in that it has survived for so long!

Posted by Richard Weisser, Richard Weisser Retired Real Estate Professional (Richard Weisser Realty) almost 10 years ago

It would certainly be interesting to know what the symbols stand for.  What message they were meant to convey.  Perhaps with the markings they were tracking the path of the sun?  Thanks for more incentive to add to the pot for my Arizona trip!  You're keeping me on budget with these photos!  :)

Posted by Carol Smith (Casmi Photography) almost 10 years ago

Wow Mike, creative minds think alike and I was just at Valley of Fire 45 minutes out of Vegas taking photographs of the same type of stuff.

VB ;o)

Posted by Robert Vegas Bob Swetz, Las Vegas Henderson Homes for Sale (Realty ONE Group) almost 10 years ago

 

 

 

Nicely done, both the petroglyphs and the post.

 

 

 

 

Posted by 1~Judi Barrett, BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK (Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745) almost 10 years ago

Mike - THe people who lived during that time and doing the same thing we are. Communicating to the masses. We just do it a little faster. Freat pictures again.

Posted by Larry Brewer - Benchmark Realty llc (Benchmark Realty LLc) almost 10 years ago

Mike, awesome pics!  I'll bet you had a blast hiking in that beautiful area.  Great post.

PS - you got a spammer commenting on this blog...look at the comment above mine

Posted by Bob Haywood, BobHaywood.com (McGraw Realtors) almost 10 years ago

Yup!  Spammer above BOb's comment for sure!

Hey I really enjoyed this post and the pics. Looks like a place I'd love to visit someday.

Patricia Aulson/portsmouth nh homes

Posted by Patricia Aulson, Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes (BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOME SERVICES Verani Realty NH Real Estate ) almost 10 years ago

Hi Mike

I enjoy going back into history and see what people did in the past, amazing.

Good luck and success.

Lou Ludwig

Posted by Lou Ludwig, Designations Earned CRB, CRS, CIPS, GRI, SRES, TRC (Ludwig & Associates) almost 10 years ago

Amazing! It makes the imagination wander, doesn't it?

Posted by Pat Mullikin - KW Milwaukee (Keller Williams Milwaukee) almost 10 years ago

Mike,
Wow, looks like there would be someone who could interpret these, doesn't it?

Posted by Cynthia Tilghman, Realtor® Onslow County NC Home Specialist (Kingsbridge Realty, Inc) almost 10 years ago

Cynthia,

The Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum has books on these petroglyphs.  Check out their website at www.desertmuseum.org

Pat,

It certainly does.  I'd like to be a time traveler.

Lou,

Me too!  Thanks for stopping by.

Patricia,

Put it on your bucket list.  (and I X'd the spammer.)

Bob,

It made for a great afternoon and evening.

Larry,

I like your take on this:  Ancient Bloggers!

Judi,

Thank you, my dear!

Vegas Bob,

I'll be over to check it out.

Carol,

I know you're filling up that "vacation penny pot" faster now that I'm tempting you with my photos!

Richard,

Check out the linked website for Desert Little Bear.  You might have to purchase one of his modern works.

Toula,

...but we do miss the ocean.  My Darlin's back at the Jersey Shore right now, breathing that salt air.

Irene,

I would have liked that.  I remember that you wrote a localism post about a particular gneiss rock formation in your area, didn't you?

Bill,

You're crazy, man!  LOL

Bill,

Nope!  LOL

Gabe,

You're absolutely right, and I understand that.  While I was hiking, one of the National Park markers mentioned "ancient graffiti," and it stuck with me.  :)

Susie,

I didn't know that until I came across Hawaiian petroglyph images in my research for this post.  It turns out that nearly every country in the world has (or had) petroglyphs!

Margaret,

We have a radio advertisement out here that encourages people to walk.  It says that for every hour of vigorous exercise, we can extend our life by two hours.  Whether that's true or not, I sure enjoy being outdoors and capturing images.

Lenn,

(snapping my fingers) Dang!

Michael,

Come on out and visit.  I'll take you to see 'em.

Cynthia,

Thanks for being the first to comment.  I want to see some of your work on your blog or in a comment.  (Lenn Harley commented after you, and included a photo of one of her paintings.)

Mike in Tucson

Posted by Mike Jones, Mike Jones NMLS 223495 (SUNSTREET MORTGAGE, LLC (BK-0907366, NMLS 145171) ) almost 10 years ago

Mike,

I seem to recall the same sort of ancient graffiti near Saguaro Park East. Cool stuff, huh?

Patrick

Posted by Patrick Randles (Nova Home Loans) almost 10 years ago

Patrick,

Do I hear "Dueling Blog Posts" in the making?  LOL

We should go hike that together!  I've never seen them.

Mike in Tucson

Posted by Mike Jones, Mike Jones NMLS 223495 (SUNSTREET MORTGAGE, LLC (BK-0907366, NMLS 145171) ) almost 10 years ago

Another awesome, stunning post Mike.  Again, you are my hero!

Posted by Jane Penttinen, NMLS #222178 (V.I.P. Mortgage ) almost 10 years ago

Hey Mike!

I didn't even know about this and I only live a little while away.  I would love to see them!  I'm fascinated by stuff like this.

I can't honestly say when-- since I'm kind of working alone right now-- but the next time I come to Tucson, I'll give you a ring.  We can go to one of my favorite restaurants (Mi Poco Cosa), which I am sure you already know about.

Great post.

Posted by SEO Expert: Michael George, Real Estate and Law Firm SEO almost 10 years ago

Michael,

I look forward to meeting you at La Poco Cosa, or Mi Nidito, whichever you prefer.  Let's do it.

Jane,

Thanks for the kind words.  See you at the office.

Mike in Tucson

Posted by Mike Jones, Mike Jones NMLS 223495 (SUNSTREET MORTGAGE, LLC (BK-0907366, NMLS 145171) ) almost 10 years ago

Mike-

I've been to Tucson many times, but I've never seen this. This is a destination I will certainly visit upon my next trip to Tucson. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by DriveBuy Technologies (DriveBuy Technologies) almost 10 years ago

Ian,

Give me a call.  I'd be happy to show it to you.

Mike in Tucson

Posted by Mike Jones, Mike Jones NMLS 223495 (SUNSTREET MORTGAGE, LLC (BK-0907366, NMLS 145171) ) almost 10 years ago

Mike,

Always interested in good hiking spots around Tucson. Great photos, thanks for sharing.

Simon

Posted by Simon Smart (Sunstreet Mortgage, Arizona) almost 10 years ago

What a way to spend a Sunday!  Just really beautiful shots and a great post... we really want to come to Tuscan this winter... spend some warm days in the sun... if so we have 2 places to visit! thanks

Posted by Debra Leisek ( Bay Realty,Inc Homer Alaska) almost 10 years ago
That is so neat. I have also heard that they could communicate with others on these rocks. I would love to come out there for a visit and take a look!
Posted by Emily Lowe, Nashville TN Realtor (The Lipman Group | Sotheby's International Realty) almost 10 years ago

Mike,

What fabulous photos! You really inspire us to check these areas out in Tucson! Thanks for sharing a very interesting post!

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899) almost 10 years ago

Boy Mike...

That was a quite a challenge you threw at me. Really hard to find music for this post. I did come up with one that's nice listening to. Desert Rose by Sting. It just so happens that I love this song :)

It's very difficult to come up with MP3 music. Much of it comes with copyright guidelines. In step 4 of my tutorial you'll find a link to a site that allows the music to be posted, however it can't be used for Commercial purposes. So in the case of this post, using it on the blog post itself, would be considered commercial use. My posting it in a comment is not the same. Google does not index comments on AR. So, in effect, I think I'm singing along the musical gray area :)

TLW...ROAR!

Posted by "The Lovely Wife" (Broker Bryantnulls Wife) The One And Only TLW. (President-Tutas Towne Realty, Inc.) almost 10 years ago

You really have a wealth of subjects to photograph and you do it so well.

Posted by Jane Peters, Los Angeles real estate concierge services (Home Jane Realty) almost 10 years ago

Hi Mike:  I used to spend hours a week looking for artifacts like this!  I will have to go and check this out too!  Thanks

Posted by Lynn Kline, CRS, GRI, ABR, SFR Tucson, AZ Realtor (Owner/Broker of Lynn Kline Realty, Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Mike,

This is a very interesting local history post loaded with information.  Thank you sir for sharing.

Posted by Don Rogers, Realtor, Broker, CDPE, GRI, OnullFallon MO & St Charles County MO homes (Keller Williams Realty Chesterfield) almost 10 years ago

Mike,

I am out on "dueling blogs". You have an unfair advantage: You are good at this. I would take you up on that hike on the East side of town, however.

Patrick

Posted by Patrick Randles (Nova Home Loans) almost 10 years ago

I love the photos . I think it would be funny if a 1000 years ago a young man wanted to profess his love for his sweet heart and chipped the story on the rock and now we are still trying to figure out what he wanted to say.

Posted by Terry & Bonnie Westbrook, Westbrook Realty - Grand Rapids Forest Hills MI Re (Westbrook Realty Broker-Owner) almost 10 years ago

Terry,

That's him in the photo up on the left.  LOL

Patrick,

I'd love to do that!  Let's plan it.

Don,

You're welcome!

Lynn,

It's good to see you; thanks for commenting.  It's easy to reach, and there's good parking nearby.

Jane,

When I first moved out here, it all looked like brown dirt to me.  It grows on you.

TLW,

Thank you!  I'm listening to it for the second time as I return comments.  Perfect!

Dorie,

You're welcome!  Plan a visit.

Emily,

All it takes is a little plan.

Debra,

Call me.  I'll give you a list of places.

Simon,

I'll bet you have some great photos and stories from around the world.  Blog on!

Mike in Tucson

Posted by Mike Jones, Mike Jones NMLS 223495 (SUNSTREET MORTGAGE, LLC (BK-0907366, NMLS 145171) ) almost 10 years ago

Beautiful pics! Congratulations on gaining the #1 position in Arizona on Active Rain!

Posted by Ann Heitland, Retired from Flagstaff Real Estate Sales (Retired from RE/MAX Peak Properties) almost 10 years ago

Ann,

Thanks for your readership, thoughtful comments, and encouragement over the last two years.

Mike in Tucson

Posted by Mike Jones, Mike Jones NMLS 223495 (SUNSTREET MORTGAGE, LLC (BK-0907366, NMLS 145171) ) almost 10 years ago

Hi Mike - Yet another good reason to visit Tucson! Looks like a wonderful place to see and explore. You've shared some marvelous photos, once again.

Posted by Karen Cooper, Helping Homeowners w/Home Loans in 27 US States (Karen Cooper | Sr Retail Loan Originator ! NMLS # 223305 | 360 Mortgage Group LLC Austin Texas) almost 10 years ago

UM,

Thanks for continuing the tradition of awesome photos and the story behind them. See you Wednesday Uncle Mike at Sakura!

Posted by Kevin Wood,, Tucson, AZ Realtor (Keller Williams Southern Arizona) almost 10 years ago

Penny pot?  Heck no!  There's green paper being shoved in that thing!  :)  I'm gonna get there - you'll see!  LOL

Posted by Carol Smith (Casmi Photography) almost 10 years ago

Carol,

That's the spirit!

Kevin,

I'm looking forward to it.

Karen,

Tucson certainly is a "wonderful place to see and explore!"  Just do it.  :)

Mike in Tucson

Posted by Mike Jones, Mike Jones NMLS 223495 (SUNSTREET MORTGAGE, LLC (BK-0907366, NMLS 145171) ) almost 10 years ago

Mike - you obviously have a love of clouds - I love the one here and in your saturday night post

Posted by Kathy Clulow, Trusted For Experience - Respected For Results (RE/MAX All-Stars Realty Inc. Brokerage) over 9 years ago

I promise Mike I have several blogs in the works one is how to have fun w/ paint!

Posted by Cynthia Bartch, Redesigned Spaces; All Round Nice Gal (Home Stager/Property Stylist & more! Granville, Ohio) over 9 years ago

Hi Mike,

Thank you for sharing the pictures of the beauty of Arizona with all of us.  Jacque

Posted by Jacque Calkins (Sunstreet Mortgage, LLC) over 9 years ago

Jacque,

Thanks for stopping by to comment!  I'll see you on your blog.

Cynthia,

Cool.  See you on your blog!

Mike in Tucson

Posted by Mike Jones, Mike Jones NMLS 223495 (SUNSTREET MORTGAGE, LLC (BK-0907366, NMLS 145171) ) over 9 years ago

Graffiti is cool and an art form.  Just go to Los Angeles or New York and you will see some pretty creative stuff done with a paint can.  Just wondering if people a 1,000 years ago went to jail or paid fines for painting on rocks? hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Posted by David W. Brown (Thor Design Building & Development, Inc. CL#877779) over 9 years ago

Missed this - pretty darn incredible! And congratulations on the Feature!

Posted by Liz Moras Migic, Chilliwack, British Columbia - Realtor over 9 years ago

Liz,

And to think I've lived here for twelve years before finding it!

David,

The only thing they had to worry about were the mountain lions attracted by the "click, click" of the artist chipping away at the boulder.  LOL

Mike in Tucson

Posted by Mike Jones, Mike Jones NMLS 223495 (SUNSTREET MORTGAGE, LLC (BK-0907366, NMLS 145171) ) over 9 years ago

I visited Signal Hill back in the Summer of 1973. It was part of my high school graduation present to myself to visit all the national parks, national monuments, and national forests west of the Mississippi. Still the best summer I ever had.

Posted by Russel Ray, San Diego Business & Marketing Consultant & Photographer (Russel Ray) over 9 years ago

Russel,

I'll bet it was!  I don't even know the number of national parks, monuments and forests west of the Mississippi.  And in 1973 Saguaro National Park was a Monument.  That means you'll have to return to keep your record intact.

Mike in Tucson

Posted by Mike Jones, Mike Jones NMLS 223495 (SUNSTREET MORTGAGE, LLC (BK-0907366, NMLS 145171) ) over 9 years ago

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