0 to 1000 CE
Lewis Canyon is the only large petroglyph site in the Lower Pecos region yet it presents one of the most intriguing archeological puzzles. Long known for the hundreds of abstract geometric glyphs pecked into the flat expanse of bedrock at the confluence of Lewis Canyon and the Pecos River, the site was documented by Forrest Kirkland and A.T. Jackson in the 1930s. Slight differences between Kirkland's drawings and the actual distribution of glyphs prompted the RAF to initiate a redocumentation project that included removing redeposited sediments from some areas to expose buried motifs. Hundreds of glyphs of radically different style and content have been uncovered and the task is far from complete.
The glyphs observed by Kirkland and Jackson are the more recent of two styles that are chronologically, spatially, and stylistically distinct. Called the Discrete Geometric style, these motifs cluster on the upper section of the gently sloping bedrock. Weathering has darkened the limestone and lichen flourishing on the slight moisture trapped by the grooved glyphs accentuates their form. The motifs are angular, abstract, geometric, and enigmatic. Straight lines, arcs, and circles are combined to form apparently unrelated designs that have been likened to astronomical phenomena but that are more likely the product of psychedelic visions. The only representational glyphs in this style are hand, paw, and hoof prints, human stick figures, usually male, and a possible bow-and-arrow although the latter interpretation is highly speculative. One of the semi-human figures is a phallic male with exaggerated four-digit hands and feet, almost identical to the lizard men attributed to the Late Prehistoric Red Monochrome pictographs. Three projectile point glyphs are within the spatial area occupied by the Discrete Geometrics but they were produced by pecking broad flat areas, not by the grooving seen in the nearby abstract motifs. The general impression is that the Discrete Geometric style post-dates the introduction of the bow-and-arrow, thus dating around 1000 CE.
The newly exposed glyphs are more sinuous, graceful, and technically superior. The dominant motifs are nested curved lines, atlatls (spear throwers) with exaggerated weights, circles, and spirals with a complement of human stick figures, animal tracks, and human footprints. Named the Serpentine style for its emphasis on curvilinear elements, these glyphs are clearly Archaic in age, predating the advent of the bow-and-arrow. The accelerated erosion during historic times probably resulted in their burial, certainly by the 1930s when the site was first documented.
The RAF and the landowners have entered a cooperative agreement to institute protective measures to manage visitation and to continue to remove the sediment cover from the buried glyphs. Documentation is ongoing as the map begun in 1990 continues to expand.