Friday, February 26, 2016

Pictographs, Petroglyphs, and now Geoglyphs !

North of Blythe, California
February 13, 2010

Sometimes it is by the wandering spirit and sheer luck that you find something you weren't looking for but glad you did. I've seen my share of Native American pictographs and petroglyphs as I've traveled through the West, but I don't remember if I've come across a geoglyph. I remember reading about geoglyphs as a teen when I went through a phase learning about aliens—the ones out there in space watching us. In 1968 Erich von Daniken wrote "Chariots of the Gods" hypothesizing that aliens visited our ancient cultures and imparted to mankind new technologies and religions worshiping these ancient astronauts. Part of his proof, mostly now debunked, were the giant geoglyphs of Nazca and Pampas de Jumana in South America. These geoglyphs ranged from simple lines and geometric shapes to figures of animals and humans up to 660 feet across. That is how I came to know the definition of a geoglyph: a large-scale drawing on the ground made by the arranging of rocks and other materials on the surface or the scraping away of the surface materials. Since then I have not thought much about geoglyphs.

After leaving Amboy Crater, I was ready to travel to Blythe. Why Blythe? Because I had not been there before and I wanted to explore every corner of California including this outpost on the southeastern fringe of the state. A fast drive on the old Route 66 to  get to Interstate 40, then eastwards to Needles, and then a long southward jaunt on US Highway 95 would take me to Blythe. The day was coming to a close as I got nearer to my goal of Blythe. However, I was distracted by a small directional sign on the highway that pointed to a dirt road and the Blythe Intaglios. Before I knew it, the sign and the dirt road were in my rearview mirror. An intaglio. What's an intaglio? My curiosity and my "can't wait any longer" bladder reversed my car and put me on my way to the Blythe Intaglios.

The human figure intaglio
I soon reached the nearest intaglio, parked the truck, took care of business, and then moseyed up to the chain-link fence surrounding this attraction. The intaglio, a fancier word for a geoglyph, is a human figure measuring 65 feet from head to toe. Another figure said to resemble a mountain lion, but now caged by a chain-link fence, is found nearby. These geoglyphs were formed by the scraping away of the desert pavement gravels which exposed the lighter colored sands underneath.

Being only 5' 5½" vertical, I did not get a good view of the horizontal human figure, one of many situations where my shortness does not come in handy. With a walk around the fence I was able to get a closer view of the parts of this human: skinny arms, long neck, narrow shoulders, a warped left leg, and something between the legs stating "I am a guy". Not the prettiest piece of art I've seen, but a form of Native American art that I was fortunate to see for the first time in person.

BLM Interpretive Sign on Blythe Intaglios

BLM Interpretive Sign on the Human Figure

There is another human figure intaglio located directly to the west

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