Mimbre Artist and His Art – Pictographs and Cliff Home – Trail to the Past – Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument – Gila National Forest – New Mexico

Author’s Note: Many of these pictographs are subtle and faded. The more you study the pictures, more will appear in the stone. Spend a little time looking for the buried images in the rock.

While visiting the Cliff Dwellings at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, there is another site that is also worth visiting. The “Trail to the Past” is located at the Lower Scorpion Campground and it is right along the road where most visitors drive by and never see. The site explores a Mimbres artist and his home.

There is a parking lot at the Lower Scorpion and towards the east end of the lot a hiking trail labeled “Trail to the Past,” leads to a rock wall that has prehistoric pictographs painted on it.

Only a few feet down the trail and it splits. To the left is a trail to a cliff house, more on that later. To the right is the rock wall where the pictographs are painted. There are quite a few here and many of them have faded though they are still visible. These have been painted over the last thousand years. There were several generations of rock artists living here.

Figures and designs adorn the rocks, most whose meanings have been lost to time. These messages from the past have yet to be understood. Their beauty and symetry are ever apparent.

When I stood here looking at these, I saw more and more images as I looked more intently. These are worth more than a glance and the more I looked, the more I saw. There was something painted on nearly every flat surface, some faded while others could have been created yesterday.

Many of the pictures baffle me as to what they were intended by the artist, while others stand out and are easily identified. The one above is one of those that is difficult to figure out. It appears as if it were several images upon each other.

This is one of those pictograph clusters that the more you look at it, the more you see. There are several different paintings in this picture. See how many you can find.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, the “Trail to the Past” splits in two directions. To the right is the pictographs, to the left is a cliff dwelling and was undoubtably the home of the artist.

This shows a bit of the interior of the dwelling but it also shows a large red patch in the rocks above. This was likely where the painters of the pictographs got their color pigment for the pictographs. The red shade is the same as that of the rock art.

The trail to both the pictographs and the cliff house is quite short. The trail to the pictographs is handicapped accessable and is only about 50 yards from the parking lot. The trail to the cliff house is not handicapped accessable but is only about 100 yards. This place in the lower Scorpion Campground is overlooked by most visitors and it takes very little effort to spend a little time here. I was the only visitor at the time. This is well worth the minimal effort it takes to explore this ancient artist’s home and his art from prehistoric America.

Writing and photography by Mikel B. Classen.

Copyright by Mikel B. Classen 2020

For more information about Mikel B. Classen and his writing and photography visit his website at www.mikelclassen.com

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