Friday, August 20, 2010

Great American Road Trip: Part II

After we left New Ulm, MN, we headed for the Jeffers Petroglyphs in Comfrey, MN. What a fascinating place!
We drove through flat country, past field after field of corn and soybeans, to get to the site. The prairie lands at the site are being restored to their former grandeur. Grasshoppers hopped everywhere, while butterflies and birds flitted all around. The wind blew steadily, but not uncomfortably. I was definitely beginning to feel far from home, far from the suburbs, closer to the past.

In this part of Minnesota, large outcroppings of red quartzite interrupt the prairie, and ancient peoples carved figures into this stone: bison, thunderbirds, turtles, hands, the atlatl. It's a sacred place, and those who maintain it today are committed to respecting its meaning and history.

The carvings weren't always easy to see. Fortunately for us, an interpreter was out in the field, and she pointed out many of the carvings we would have otherwise missed. I photographed the ones that were most obvious.
An atlatl:

A thunderbird:

The interpreter spoke with us for quite some time. The oldest carvings are calculated to be about 7000 years old. When I asked her how long it may have taken one carving to be made, she said they are trying to gauge that now by making some carvings of their own, in the offices, not out in the field. However, to be absolutely respectful of the images and their meaning to those who carved them, they are not recreating any of the existing images, but instead are carving simple geographical features, such as squares.

Amazing. I was expecting to see some pictures carved into a rock, but instead I was encouraged to consider the lives of ancient peoples, to respect what was sacred to them, to respect those for whom it is sacred today, to appreciate the restoration of the prairie. History, ecology, and spirituality, all in one beautiful place.

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