Often when we think of holy sites, the mind’s eye conjures up images of Buddhist temples in the Far East or in keeping with the Judeo-Christian tradition, perhaps the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.  In any case, we don’t typically associate such imagery and mysticism with sites located in the Americas.  I recently had the distinct honor of accompanying a Shoshone medicine man to the Legend Rock historic site near Thermopolis, WY.  Before entering the canyon to view the ancient petroglyphs, he asked that I take a moment to meditate or reflect upon my ancestry to try to connect to my forefathers as I was about to enter the temporal communion site of his ancestors.

I have always been very respectful and curious about different religious traditions, but I could tell from the mood and tenor of his voice that this was something entirely different.  As we viewed the various types of “Dinwoody” style peckings on the canyon wall, he elucidated on the manor and method in which they were created.  The majority of the petroglyphs common to the area are either outlined or fully pecked.  The oldest in the canyon date back to over 11,000 years ago.  To put that in perspective, the wheel was presumably invented around 4,000 B.C. as evidenced by the use of chariots in the Hyksos invasion of Egypt.  That was a mere 6,000 years ago. 

The oral tradition of the tribes (Shoshone, Arapahoe, & Crow) that frequented the site indicates that tribal elders and holy men would go into drug induced trance-like states while meditating at the site.  The resulting petroglyphs were presumably made to memorialize what they saw on their “spirit walk.” This assumption is corroborated by some of the stranger petroglyphs that resemble aliens and the periphery of Native American folklore.