The Falling Man Petroglyph is found in only three places in the Southwest as far as far as I can determine. This blog lists the general locations of these three examples of Rock Art. All three of these examples seem to be from the pre-historic period or what archaeologists identify as the Archaic era of human history in North America. I hope to add a photo of this petroglyph as soon as I learn the proper technique.
The falling man Petroglyph is found in three areas of the Southwest that I have found. To the best of my understanding these are the only three similar rock art interpretations and they appear identical. Whether they were created by the same artist is a good question.
This petroglyph seems to be of pre-historic age. It may have been created by an artist form the Archaic period of the American Indians. It clearly depicts a man falling from a height and is dramatic and dynamic in its simplicity. When you see any of the three you can feel the fear and terror of the person represented in the petroglyph. This not always true of rock art in general. I think this represents the work of a real artist from the past. Everyone to whom I spoke related an intense feeling when viewing this example of Rock Art.
Petroglyphs are created by chipping , abrading and chiseling on the sandstone surfaces of Southwestern Region rock. Usually the rock art is found near a village site, near a water source such as a spring or tenaha, or near a ceremonial site. Of course, I do not mean to say that Rock Art is not a world wide phenomena. Rock Art can be found in many types of rock in Japan, Africa, China and many other areas around the world.
Pictographs are Rock Art created by using paint on rock often in sheltered areas such a rockshelters and other areas protected from the elements. The paint for Pictographs was made using mineral colored soils, ground rock, animal fat, plant pigments and other natural occuring materials. Pictographs will not last as well as petroglyphs and must be in covered or protected sites.
In the Southwest Region there are also Earth Art Figures. These are very large images of animals or humans created on the ground but are really only appreciated from a view point in the sky. You can best see Earth Art from a plane or a higher elevation near by using binoculars or a spotting scope. These are called Itaglios or geoglyphs. There are several in the area north of Blythe, California on Bureau of Land Management lands so they are available to the visitors to the area. Ask at a BLM office in Needles for a map to the sites. There is one called the Fisherman and one of a horse and one of a mountain lion.
Now coming back to the Falling Man Petroglyphs, there is one in Whitney Pockets near Valley of Fire State Park and one in the Gold Butte Area both in Nevada. Also, the third known image of the falling man is in the Grand Canyon National Park. The identical images of the three sites seems to suggest the same pre-historic artist created all three images. And they are in reasonable proximity to each other so that possibility is not too farfetched. It is easy to assume that a shaman could have traveled to the three sites within a year or a few years to create all this images on rock.
What is the message that accompanies these permanent (or at least reasonably permanent over several generations) examples of ancient rock art? No one really knows what the creator/artist mean. However, the meaning of the Falling Man is a fertile ground for hypothesis and discussion. In these same thee areas there are images of Rock Art that may be older than Falling Man and some much more recent than Falling Man. We know that the more recent petroglyphs in many areas of the Southwest and other areas (the Pacific Northwest for one) are of a more recent age because for one thing these petroglyphs depict whitemen wearing broad brimmed hats and riding horses and mules. I have seen one of a horseman in Sloan Canyon National Conservation area that is much younger in origin than Anasazi rock art only a few miles away in Red Rock Canyon or the Nelson Hills or Brownstone Canyon Wilderness Area. Petroglyphs can be found along the Old Spanish Trail that depict pack strings of mules and men on horse back carrying rifles. Many of these historic art sites were seen by Indian that moved into the area after the culture that created them are long gone. The traders and mountain men of the fur trade era saw these examples of rock art but may not have recognized there historical value. Later peoples many times “wrote over” earlier petroglyphs and this could even be considered graffiti to some experts on Ancient Rock Art.
So trappers, explorers and miners who traipsed many a mile over the Southwest each in his own time period observed and may have studied the Rock Art of the past as you and I are inclined to do today. Many of the petroglyphs are found near potential mining areas and often near waterholes both the trappers and the miners needed water to survive in this harsh, dry and isolated areas in the Greater Southwest.