Tag Archives: red ochre

Baa, Baa, Fat Sheep

Mt Sheep? pictographUnder the overhang of a rock shelter was a pictograph that reminded me of a marrano, the pudgy gingerbread pig you can buy in every good Mexican bakery. For the (pigless and gingerless) pre-Columbian artist this may have represented a mountain sheep. It had been drawn in white, presumably gypsum, and outlined in red ochre. Each “slash” at the head was framed with yellow ochre.

I roamed off to snoop around a promontory over the creek, a flat expanse of red sandstone. Though there was a fallen, turn-of-the-century Hispanic ruin just west of it, the place felt untouched since earth’s morning. So quiet, so scoured by water and time—only flowers and the bending grass.

Ceremonial Colors

Syncline Hematite 1Into a stiff wind and spits of rain we climbed high on a Triassic ridge. Among the gray mudstone was a spill of red ochre. One chunk was handy as a pencil: I tried it on a rock, thinking about how our Paleolithic ancestors used ochre to paint bodies for dance, delight and death.

Afterward I turned the rock over to hide that a human had left a mark in that remote place. The next good rain will wash it away.

Old Sun

Peralta Canyon, Jemez: pictographs in red ochre. Finger marks, in groups along ridges of rock next to the creek; one faint handprint; stars, turtles, and this pretty sun face.

Unlike those of the classic Zia symbol, all its rays are of equal length. The slanted ones may be feathers. It had been painted with a finger, and seemed to be subtly smiling.

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