Sunday, February 13, 2011

White House Ruins Rock Art

The White House Ruins Trail is a 2.5 or 3 mile round trip with 600 feet of elevation change at Canyon de Chelly National Monument in northeast Arizona. There are several examples of pictograph rock art to find while viewing the ruins.

The most obvious images are on the sandstone surface between the upper and lower structures. There is a protective fence that prevents close inspection, so binoculars are helpful to see these details. There is also a group of images at about the same level to the left of the structures.

The human image is the most obvious. This type of image is found at other sites in the Four Corners region, sometimes as a pictograph and sometimes as a petroglyph. There is a very similar pictograph image near Sipapu Bridge in Natural Bridges National Monument in the Cedar Mesa area of Utah and a similar petroglyph along the Penasco Blanco Trail at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. There is a line of white spots to the left of the human figure that might be easily overlooked.

The panel to the left of the structures has at least four images. I noticed on this visit that there are historic inscriptions on the white plaster of the central room of the upper structures. These aren’t very noticeable from casual viewing but show up clearly with binoculars.

The oldest that I could see was J.W. Conway, Santa Fe, September 24, 1873. There are at least two others, one by J.W. Ellison in 1884 and another by Harold Bonnstetter 2/7/1923. I tried a computer search for JW Conway but couldn’t discover who he was or why he was here in 1873. This reminds me of the Inscription Rock at El Moro National Monument south of Gallup, New Mexico where several hundred years of travelers inscriptions, including many in Spanish, are on display.

To the right of the White House Ruins there is a small alcove. I looked into the alcove with binoculars and thought that I could see two flute player pictographs on the back wall. My attempts at getting a picture didn’t show anything so I’m not sure. This alcove is also protected with a fence, so the views are from at least 100 feet away. 

My hike took 1:45 hours on a 36 F degree mid February day. I saw 5 other hikers and 3 Navajo vendors during my hike, and 4 horses grazing near the ruins.

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