We had been wanting to see the petroglyphs at the V BAR V Ranch Heritage Site in the Coconino National Forest, located not far from Sedona. This is the largest known petroglyph site in the Verde Valley and one of the best preserved. As it happened, we arrived on the 20th – which just happens to be the vernal equinox. We didn’t know this was also a newly re-discovered calendar site. That is, at certain times of the year, the sun will line up with certain of the carvings indicating significant events. The Sinagua, who created the petroglyphs maybe as early as 850 A.D. used this calendar (it is thought) to let them know when to plant their corn, when to harvest, and a number of other events.
So this site has been known to exist for nearly 100 years, but it was only recently that the calendar was re-discovered. As we are a species that uses signs and symbols to communicate with one another as really our only form of communication, I think it really points out what a flawed system we have. In order for things to be recognized as signs or symbols, it requires large groups of people to accept them as such. This works fine as long as there is someone around to pass along the information. It breaks apart when the link is lost and the meanings disappear. Even more, different groups can assign different meanings to the same sign or symbol further complicating matters.
I find it astounding that mankind relies on such a system. We have seen throughout time and history how much is lost when different cultures become extinct. In many cases, we never fully understand how lost cultures worked or what their body of knowledge consisted of. In the case of petroglyphs and pictographs, archaeoastronomers can only theorize as to meaning. They are theories based on educated guesses, but the bottom line is that we still just don’t know for sure. I try to imagine what a system of communication would look like that would not relay on the sign/symbol model, but it is almost inconceivable to me. How would we do it?