Water Glyphs on the Cliffs
By Lynn Blamires Content Writer for My Local Utah
Number 2 in the series: Stories and Discoveries in the Backcountry
Lost Spring Mesa has been on my bucket list since I first heard about a particular kind of Indian petroglyph called a water glyph. A quick search on the internet increased my interest. More than 270 of these symbols have been found in an area of more than 2,000-square miles in the Arizona Strip. Bordering the states of Arizona, Nevada and Utah, this area covers the entire known land occupied by the Anasazi Indians.
Indians Used Water Glyphs to Communicate Good Camping Spots
Research has shown that water glyphs were used by the Indians to indicate good camping spots with water. John Wesley Powell mentions in his journal that when he was exploring the land in the Arizona Strip, he had employed a “very old Indian” as a guide. The Indian would go up on a butte or mesa. He could be seen searching the ground and scanning the horizon. Later he would indicate the direction they should go for water. Powell quipped that the guide was talking to the rocks when it is most likely that he was studying these glyphs.
Finding One Glyph Leads to Finding Others
Bill Kettler has more information on water glyphs on his website. He describes the variety of glyphs that have been located and documented. Two amateur archeologists – Bob Ford and Dixon Spendlove, have spent a great deal of time locating, documenting, and mapping the direction the glyphs are pointing. Following the direction of the glyph would bring them to a water source, cache, or settlement where they would find other water glyphs that would take them in another direction.
The Glyphs Information Holds True Today
These two were so sure of the meaning of the water glyphs that if they were to follow the directional line of one and didn’t find water or a good place to camp, they would not blame the glyph, but rather that something had changed in the environment. They have found the water glyphs so dependable that they are still finding new sites by simply following these symbols through the desert.
A Description of a Glyph
Unlike most petroglyphs, water glyphs are carved into rock that is horizontal and on the ground. They are about 48 inches long by 24 inches wide and consist of a circle intersected by a directional line that extends beyond the circle. They include a dot inside the circle and sometimes another located on the outside. Carved almost an inch deep into the rock, they are usually found on the edge of a cliff.
Finding a Glyph
We were on the west edge of Lost Spring Mesa and the view was amazing. We could see the Hurricane Sands off in the distance and Little Creek Mesa to the north. I looked down and there it was – a water glyph on the very edge of the cliff.
The experience was very special – a real connection with the past. It has more meaning to me than the other Indian rock art because I understand them. Now that I have seen this one, I would like to find others.