Communication – A Desert Wisdom Card


Petroglyphs © 2011 Bo Mackison

Symbols pecked into boulders over a thousand years ago. What were the ancients saying in these prehistoric communications?

Though nothing is certain, it seems plausible that these rock figures were a means of communication. Whether they were symbolic, astronomical, directional, or ceremonial is not known. What is known is that these petroglyphs were a means of communication or documentation.

Imagine the many ways we communicate. Conversations, the written word, social media, body language, even in symbols and metaphors.

Petroglyphs in Saguaro National Park

Concentric Petroglyph in Sonoran Desert © 2014 Bo Mackison

A trail through the western part of Saguaro National Park leads to Signal Hill.

Here a large mass of boulders featuring dozens of petroglyphs. The  Hohokam chipped or pecked these petroglyphs into the desert varnish, the dark outer layer on rocks.

Petroglyphs in Saguaro National Park

Animal Petroglyphs © 2014 Bo Mackison

Some of the figures seem to tell a story — a hunter following a mountain lion or a deer.

Some are easily identified depictions — figures like humans, deer and wolves, snakes, turtles, and lizards, spirals and circles, mountain peaks and sun. But the meaning behind these simple etchings are mysteries.

Petroglyph Canyon Wall

Petroglyph Canyon Wall © 2014 Bo Mackison

Some are symbols that align at astronomical seasonal beginnings – solstices and equinoxes.

While hiking in a canyon, I met a scientist who had eight cameras triggered to photograph a rock wall of petroglyphs every few seconds.  He kindly showed me a phenomenon he had been studying for several years. A spiral petroglyph splits — half in light/half in shadow — from sunlight shining through a narrow slit in the canyon rocks at the precise hour of the spring equinox.

Petroglyphs in Saguaro National Park

Concentric Petroglyph in Saguaro National Park © 2014 Bo Mackison

While the petroglyphs hold onto many of their secrets, they still offer a glimpse into the world of people who lived over a thousand years ago, people who found a way to communicate with a sharp implement and a varnish covered rock.


The first photograph in this series is the third preview card of the Desert Wisdom Cards Second Series now in the production stage. The words on the new series of cards are letter pressed, the photographs are printed, the cards are cut and trimmed. Currently I am assembling the cards and I’ve completed the design of the portfolio for the second series.

An announcement re: availability will be coming soon on my blog and newsletter.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Fascinating

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