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Lower Pecos rock art

1 June 2012

At http://discovermagazine.com/2012/may/11-decoding-ancient-secrets-of-whit… … the Lower Pecos is an arid expanse situated in SW Texasand somewhat remote from the beaten track. Some 4000 years ago it was populated bya people that have left behind a considerable amount of wall to wall rock art in shallow caves and rock shelters. They include human figures, deer, birds, rabbits, snakes, coyote, mountain lion and various desert animals. The anthropologist Carolyn Boyd has been studying the art for most of 20 years or so and she thinks she can interpret the basic meaning behind the art. She says she is able to read it like a book as it is a moving picture of a creation myth. She discovered that an obscure tribe in an even remoter region, the western mountains of Mexico, the Huichol, have myth and ritual that is very similar to what is portrayed in not so far away Texas. Ther same myth, or something akin to it, is known from elsewhere in Mexico and the American SW.

The rock art is impressive. For example, gigantic anthropomorphic figures hang on the wall – some with fabulous head dresses. These are the white shamans. Some hold what look like sceptres. Some figures are half human and half animal – with wings or antlers. The largest figures reach up to 30 feet high and they are laid out like a running mural, telling a story (according to Boyd). They would have required scaffolding in order to produce and they appear, in modern anthropological parlance, to be shamanic in nature, induced by hallucinogens derived from peyote cactus. The rock art is a depiction of the Huichol myth of creation – how they came to be where they are and what was going on in the world around them. The first humans entered the scene through what appears to have been a watery underworld in the west and led by a sacred deer (but what does the deer represent?). Holding torches to light their way through darkness they head east and emerge at Dawn Mountain. At this point the deer sacrificed itself and the humans fed on its body. However, from its body sprouted peyote cactus so that when they consumed the deer they also consumed the peyote. At that point they were transformed into the otherworldly anthropomorphic figures – as a result of the hallucinogen content of the peyote. Obviously, alternative interpretations of the myth might be possible. If the events took place during a super flare from the Sun and then it is possible auroral effects and ionisation of the atmosphere were involved – and the use of peyote was an attempt to reproduce them.

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