El Morro National Monument
This page contains a discussion of the rock art found at El Morro National Monument in New Mexico. All photographs are from our our personal collection. If you'd like to see more rock art from this location, or if you'd like to see higher resolution or larger images, send us an e-mail message and we'll see what we can do.
At El Morro we find both ancient examples of primitive rock art, mainly petroglyphs, in association with historic signatures recording the passage of both Spanish and Anglo soldiers and settlers. Most of the images and signatures can be found along a high cliff face composed of soft sandstone. The petroglyphs are few in number, and weathered or obliterated in some area, but are none the less interesting. The historic signatures are in many cases quite elaborate and ornate, while other examples are mere scratches.
For more information on how to preserve and protect these priceless historic treasures:
- Archaeological Resources Protection Act Hotline: 800-227-7286.
- See Archaeological Site Etiquette.
- See American Antiquities Act of 1906.
- See Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979.
- See More Rock Art Sites.
In most cases it was easy to distinguish the historic signatures from the ancient petroglyphs. Though most of the text was written in Spanish with various shortcuts to reduce the number of characters that had to be carve into the stone, it can still be read by those who know the language. At some point over the intervening years someone has traced the characters in some examples with some form of graphite or charcoal.
All of these photos have been resized and manipulated in Photoshop to give the best representation of the image. Some color distortion is inevitable. If you would like to see higher quality versions of these shots, or if you would like to use these images for any purpose, please contact us and we would be glad to help if we can.
Select an image or figure number to see a full sized version.
- Calendars and Astronomical Events
- Geometric Shapes and Designs
- Historic Figures
- Panels and Mixed Groups
EM001: A hand print with five slender fingers. Petroglyph.
|EM003: Two hand prints. Petroglyph.|
|EM004: Possibly a fat hand print, with fingers radiating from the top, or some other graphic figure with rays coming out of the top. If they are fingers there appear to be more than five. Petroglyph.|
|EM005: An stick figure anthropomorph with raised arms and legs bent at the knees giving the impression that this may be a birthing scene. The bulge in the pubic area might represent female sex organs or the head of a child being born. See also EM012, EM013, and EM023 for similar figures. Petroglyph.|
|EM011: This one appears to be the lower half of an anthropomorph, with bent knees similar to the figures in EM005, EM012, and EM013. Petroglyph.|
|EM012: This may be a female anthropomorph in a birthing scene, similar to EM005, EM013, and EM023. Petroglyph.|
|EM013: This may be another of the female anthropomorphs giving birth, similar to EM005, EM012, and EM023. However, with this figure, the arms are bent downward and the head is missing. Petroglyph.|
|EM014: This may be an anthropomorph with a square chest and elongated stick figure torso. However, there appears to be another set of arms on the sides of the lower torso. There also appears to be some faded paint, indicating that this might have been a mixture of pictographs and petroglyphs at one time. Due to the overlying proximity of an historic signature, this figure may have been altered or enhanced years after if was initially created. Petroglyph.|
|EM017: An anthropomorph with a rectangular torso, wide-spread arms with fingers, a ball shaped head on a slender neck, and "club" feet on short legs. Petroglyph.|
|EM019: What appears to be an anthropomorph with a rounded rectangular shaped torso, short neck, and oval shaped head. There are strong lines coming in horizontally from the sides, intersecting the lower torso. It is difficult to tell if there are feet or not. Petroglyph.|
|EM023: This anthropomorph has raised arms with wide-spread fingers, legs spread wide, bent at the knees, and there appears to be something protruding from the groin area, as if the figure were giving birth. So ... perhaps this is another birthing scene similar to those in EM005, EM012, and EM013. Petroglyph.|
|EM024: This, again, could be a birthing scene similar to EM023 or it could be a lizard.|
|EM034: This petroglyph looks a bit like a figure eight, but the "head" appears to be defined, and there may be an arm extending to the right. There may even be legs spread wide.|
|EM042: This stick figure anthropomorph is probably a male, due to the apparent phallus between the legs. The arms and legs are bent or curved downwards, with the large hands showing four fingers each. There are also three toes on each foot. Petroglyph.|
|Calendars and Astronomical Events|
|EM025: A cross-hatched line; possibly some sort of counting device. Petroglyph.|
|EM041: A spiral with a dagger piercing it. This could possibly be some sort of calendar. Petroglyph.|
|Geometric Shapes and Designs|
|EM007: Lightning or vertical water and round face with eyes, nose, and mouth. Petroglyph.|
|EM010: Straight lines and triangles. Petroglyph.|
|EM015: A shield with lightning or water or a snake. There is also a swastika type graphic and other random lines. Petroglyph.|
|EM038: This could represent lightning or water. Perhaps a water fall. Petroglyph.|
|EM020: This appears to be a church steeple with a cross on top. Obviously of historic origin. Petroglyph.|
|EM026: A large "gloved" hand with a cross within a box. These figures are probably historic. Petroglyph.|
|EM032: The piece to the left is quite unusual and may be more historic than ancient. It is hard to determine just what it represents, but it looks a bit like the hand grip of a fancy sword. The sequential spirals are intriguing. Petroglyph.|
|EM035: This could be an historic representation of a spur, or it is an interesting geometric figure. Petroglyph.|
|EM040: This is a Spanish cross, obviously of historic origin. Petroglyph.|
|EM043: An elaborate Spanish cross of obvious historical origin. Petroglyph.|
|Panels and Mixed Groups|
|EM016: A panel with zoomorphs, such as an elk and lizards; an anthropomorph, stars of obvious historical dates, and other random markings. Petroglyph.|
|EM018: A panel of mixed signature, zoomorphs, and other graphic elements. Petroglyph.|
|EM002: This petroglyph appears to show a pair of bear paws along the edge of a lake or other water source, with the water represented by the wavy line. Or the wavy line might represent a snake. Petroglyph.|
|EM008: A bear paw with six curved claws. Petroglyph.|
|EM009: Four desert bighorn in a row. Petroglyph.|
|EM021: This appears to be a zoomorph of some sort. Petroglyph.|
|EM022: This zoomorph appears to be a running lizard. Petroglyph.|
|EM027: Probably a lizard with a raised tail. Petroglyph.|
|EM028: This zoomorph appears to be a quail, with its distinct body shape and little tuft of feather above the head. It is a very simple, straight forward use of lines to depict a common image. Petroglyph.|
|EM029: This zoomorph is probably a long-tailed parrot or some other similar tropical bird. Petroglyph.|
|EM030: This zoomorph probably represents a running lizard. Petroglyph.|
|EM031: This zoomorph is probably a canine of some sort, with long legs and a straight tail. Petroglyph.|
|EM033: A desert bighorn. Petroglyph.|
|EM036: This looks like a front on view of a desert bighorn ram's horn. Petroglyph.|
|EM037: This looks like a zoomorph, possibly a bird flying. Petroglyph.|
|EM039: This might be a zoomorph, perhaps a bird. Petroglyph.|
|The following examples of signatures are identified by a prominent feature or word within the image. My interpretations may not be accurate.|
E. Pen Lang (Large)
E. Pen Lang (Small)