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Petroglyph Canyon is located near the center of the Valley of Fire. Petroglyph canyon is about .75 miles long and ends at the "Mouse's Tank". These photos were taken in and around the immediate area of Petroglyph Canyon.

This concentration of petroglyphs is the second major area with petroglyphs that is open to the public in the Valley Of Fire. The hike to the Mouse's Tank is not difficult and does not have any significant grades, and the trail is well marked. 

The only difficulty you will encounter here might be the heat and the sand. You should not find yourself here in the summer months during the middle of the day with out water and proper clothing. It is usually over 100 degrees and even a limited time in the sun can be difficult.

The walk to the Mouse's Tank takes enough time and the occasional deep sand in the path makes it just exerting enough for each person to require at least some water depending on the size of the person. This applies to the months of June, July, August and sometimes late May and early September.

The trek to the Mouse's Tank is not really the object of the hike because the petroglyphs along the sides of this small, twisty canyon are easy to see and sufficiently mystifying even for savvy petroglyph hunters.

What the visitor will find throughout Petroglyph Canyon are isolated images and groups of images that are called panels. In many places the single images and panels seem to be eroded. This is unfortunate but the soft sandstone is more easily eroded than many other types of stone such as granite or basalt. Almost all of the images are pecked or abraded on surfaces that are patinated. The patina on the surfaces of the sandstone generally consists of metal oxides such as manganese.

The only way known to date petroglyphs is relatively. The petroglyphs that are not repatinated or relatively less repatinated should logically be closer in time to the present than the images that have more, or a greater degree of repatination. But this idea comes with a caveat, sometimes the conditions on and surrounding the images may be more susceptible to repatination. This generalizing about this process and concept tricky. However, this does not really impact the notion of relative age if the surface in question, such as the one depicted above, is relatively similar across the area where the images are, and if the images with different levels of repatination are close together.

All that being said, there are quite a few places where different levels of repatination in the petroglyph panels occur. Although some scientists have attempted to measure, there are some many local variables that the rate of repatination is not really known and once the rate is estimated (and that is all that can really be done), that rate maybe different in another area.

Why does this matter? Petroglyphs are among the few artifacts that cannot be accurately or even generally dated. This is problematic for archaeologists who have sometimes tried to date and associate petroglyphs by style instead. Using style as a method to date or associate groups of petroglyphs presents an entirely different set of problems. Although style has long been a topic of discussion and controversy among archaeologists, the bottom line is that style is to at least some degree subjective. Sometimes the discussions on style simply boil down to something like this, "... I can't exactly define it but I know it when I see it." With that in mind petroglyphs do appear to have regional styles where different aspects of the images have a consistency and these consistent features are different than the elements or aspects of petroglyphs in other areas.

Click on any of the links below to see petroglyphs, panels, images and canyon walls. Please note that the photos are large and may take up to seconds to load.

Man and Spirits?


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