Petroglyphs Near Mount Shasta

Rock Art at Lava Beds - Lava Beds National Monument (U.S. National Park  Service)
Petroglyphs at the lava tubes at Lava Beds National Monument

Marking Place Through Petroglyphs at Lava Beds National Monument

Petroglyphs appear at openings in the earth such as caves, or collapsed lava tubes, although they appear in many other places; it is an image created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading, as a form of rock art. The meaning of petroglyphs is poorly understood and contested. Symbolically, it connects to the underworld and the spirits that live there. In the Mt. Shasta region, caves and lava tubes are covered with painted symbols and patterns at Lava Beds National Monument, California. The most popular are Big Painted, Symbol Bridge Caves and Fern Cave.

Lava Beds National Monument rests on the Modoc Plateau, which was formed thousands of years ago by basaltic lava and liquid rocks. Lava tubes are common in areas of active volcanoes and the longest is almost seven-thousand feet long.

The Purpose of Petroglyphs

A symbolic landscape affords several strong sensations that can be transformed and interpreted into an idea of nature. People express their relationship to places, landscapes and geography through rock art, architecture, monolithic sculpture, settlements, names, songs, myths, rituals, boundary markers, maps and written history. Similar to rock art, domestic altars, yard and roadside shrines and chapels also change the landscape on a local scale. Rock art is evidence of the oldest symbolic cultural activity; places of special significance have pre-historical monuments built on or near them.

Marking place indicates a conscious intended message for others and notes a relationship between people and the landscape. In other words, marking the landscape is about control and access, specifically landscapes, economic resources, histories and special knowledge. Thus, the social significance of constructing rock art may be more important than the rock art itself. For early humans, marking landscape gives the land social significance and constructs a place where people create an identity. In addition, petroglyphs and rock art inscriptions facilitate the transmission of ideas.

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