Exhibits > Petroglyphs
Echoes from the Valley Floor:
Wyoming "Dinwoody" Petroglyphs
art consists of petroglyphs and pictographs. Petroglyphs were made
by pecking or incising the design into the rock surface, and pictographs
were made by painting the design on rock. This exhibit is about
petroglyphs that are part of the Dinwoody Tradition. Dinwoody petroglyphs
can be large and complex and are among the most elaborate found
anywhere in the world.
petroglyphs are only found in central Wyoming. They range from sites
in the Wind River Mountains that are 7500 feet in elevation to sites
that are several thousand feet lower in the Thermopolis region.
Some sites are very large, containing hundreds of petroglyphs that
are found over an area of three or four miles, and other sites are
small with just two or three petroglyphs. Some Dinwoody petroglyphs
are only a few hundred years old, but others were made more than
3000 years ago. Archaeologists know this because they have directly
dated some of them and have also radio-carbon-dated soil deposits
that were found covering the petroglyphs.
locations of the petroglyphs are the mirror of the ancient Shoshone
world. The sky people were common in the mountains. The ground people
frequented the middle elevations.
water people were often seen near the hot springs and lower streams.
Water animals and creatures were also significant. One particular
creature, the water ghost, was especially active in hot springs.
These ghosts were both male and female, but one known as the water
ghost woman was an extremely powerful force. These water people
gave power to men to make good warriors.
are closely associated with the Mountain Shoshone and the Plains
Shoshone Indians of Wyoming. Shoshone traditions tell about sky
people with thunderbirds, owls, and hummingbirds that had
special powers. The thunderbirds and hummingbirds could bring the
rains and the owls would help people find things like objects.
Petroglyphs that resemble these birds are found in the mountains.
animals also had power. Bears and bison were important animals that
were part of the ground people to the Shoshone.
the past, young Shoshone men would go to a rock art site to try
to get power from the spirits associated with the petroglyphs. First,
the young man would take a sweat bath and then bathe in a nearby
stream or lake. Then he would sit in front of the images for several
days and nights with no food or water, praying for one of the spirits
to visit and give him power.
Shoshone think that it is important to live in harmony with the
spiritual forces associated with these animals and creatures. They
would never consider damaging or harming petroglyphs because they
know the petroglyphs are part of the natural order. They are part
of the winds and the rains and should remain on the landscape as
they have for thousands of years.