Water glyphs

Water glyphs

Water glyphs are a recurring type of petroglyph found across the american southwest, but primarily in southern Utah, northern Arizona, and eastern Nevada. The symbols are thought to be of ancient origin, perhaps created by the Ancient Pueblo Peoples. Classification as a water glyph requires the presence of certain distinctive characteristics including both visual elements and location. Although the glyphs have likely been previously noted by local ranchers and farmers, the recurring pattern was first documented by Robert Ford and Dixon Spendlove of Fredonia, Arizona. By late 2007, over 270 instances of these petroglyphs had been cataloged in an extensive GIS study. [ [http://www.wildernessutah.com/brain/waterglyphs.html Wilderness Utah - Water Trails of the Anasazi] ]

Visual Elements

Water glyphs are usually 48 inches long by 24 inches wide, with grooves carved half and inch to an inch deep.

The symbol consists of a circle or ellipse bisected by a single straight line. The line usually extends beyond the edge of the circle on one side by a distance roughly equal to the diameter of the circle. Sometimes the extending line drops off the edge of the cliff or rock. The petroglyph usually contains a single deep depression, or "dot," within or near the circle.


Many petroglyphs and pictographs are located on cliff faces or under vertical overhangs, where they receive some limited protection from the elements. Water glyphs, however, typically lie along horizontal cliff edges or exposed rock surfaces.


The position of the dot with respect to the glyph varies. It may be found outside or within the circle, to the right or left of the bisecting line or along one of the circular "horizon" lines. The circle may contain additional arcs, or partial arcs, forming a crescent on one side of the ring, or a double ellipse.


In consideration of the orientations of the line and circle motifs within the pictographs, the authors of this research conclude that waterglyphs are directional makers pointing toward sources of water throughout the arid Arizona Strip. [Robert Ford, Dixon & Cody Spendlove, David Maxwell, Gordon Hutchings (Oct 2004), Waterglyphs: Ancient Cartography of the Arizona Strip, "Utah Rock Art", Volume 24, page 29, edited by Carol B. Patterson]

Amateur archaeologists Robert Ford and Dixon Spendlove assert that the symbols were used by the Ancient Pueblo peoples to mark water sources in the desert. They assert that a high percentage of these symbols indicates line-of-sight directions to finding a natural spring, water pocket or pool, or ancient village site. They hypothesize that the symbols could be followed, from one water source to the next, across the entire Arizona Strip. [ [http://www.waterglyphs.org Robert Ford and Dixon Spendlove waterglyph research] ]

Opposing theories include use of these petroglyphs as astronomical/solstice markers, sacrificial altars or writings left by early spanish explorers.

Publications and Presentations

A paper entitled “Waterglyphs: Ancient Cartography of the Arizona Strip” was published in the October 2005 URARA Symposium Journal. The article was co-authored by Ford and Spendlove, along with David Maxwell of Southern Utah University. Maxwell went on to give a presentation entitled “Encoded Cultural Landscape Navigation – Waterglyphs; An Ancient Navigational System” at the October 2004 URURA Symposium held in Price, Utah. [ [http://www.utahrockart.org/vestiges/archives/2004-11.pdf "Vestiges: Monthly newsletter of URARA, the Utah Rock Art Research Association", 2004. Vol 24, No. 11.] ] Maxwell later gave the same presentation at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the NAA in Mesquite Nevada. [ [http://nvarch.org/insitu/In-SituSummer2006.pdf "In Situ: Newsletter of the Nevada Archaeological Association", 2006. Vol 10, No. 2.] ]


External links

[http://www.waterglyphs.org Waterglyphs website]

[http://www.wildernessutah.com/brain/waterglyphs.html Wilderness Utah - Water Trails of the Anasazi]

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