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January 9, 2021: Western Message Petroglyphs: A “Faux Indian” Picture Writing Project in the American West - Leigh Marymor    Register

The term “Western Message Petroglyphs” (WMP) refers to a number of petroglyph sites found scattered among eight western states that are recognized by their shared image content and layout. The imagery is drawn largely from a mash-up of late historic Native American sign-gesture language and picture-writing traditions inter-mixed with pan-cultural imagery from around the world. An increasing number of sites that fit this mold have been identified over the past 67 years, currently numbering 38 in all.

Our ongoing research into these esoteric messages began in 2014 when challenged to take a serious look into these artifacts by our friend, Wyoming archaeologist, John Greer. We share our research findings to date, in which:

  • Unique combinations of images repeated among sites reveal clues to their authorship.
  • Patterned geographic and historic contexts provide a method to propose earliest probable dates.
  • The vocabulary of the multi-cultural imagery can be traced to the historic ethnographic literature of the day. A “smoking gun” is located and reinforces the proposed dates.
  • Definitions for many of WMP images found in the ethnographic literature allow us to begin to transcribe the messages, and to propose translations for some of the panels.
  • Two newly reported sites in northern Arizona “discovered” in 2020 join several other recent finds that fit our predictive model for where WMP sites should be found.

Leigh Marymor is the Compiler of Rock Art Studies: A Bibliographic Database which is a searchable bibliographic database of the World's rock art literature that contains more than 42,800 citations. Leigh is a Past President of the American Rock Art Research Association and co-founder of the Bay Area Rock Art Research Association.

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