West of Yuma, on the otherside of Wellton, we found our way to Antelope Hill.
The jutting hill doesn’t seem too special from a distance, or even from the road, but if you get out of your car and climb a ways up the hillside, you begin to see why this place is unique: petroglyphs. But petroglyphs are actually the “PS” of the story of Antelope Hill.
For years and years, way, way back when, Native peoples came to this spot to “mine” the hill and create stones for milling mesquite beans. Here’s a rock that was used to produce the stones:
Archeologists believe that over a period of about a thousand years, more than 150,000 metates (grinding stones), pestles, and hand stones were manufactured here, but “spillage” (as we’d currently say in a modern factory) was high — only about one-third of the items were successfully completed and taken home.
The general agreement as to the value and quality of the rocks found here among the tribes led to an informal peace: when normally antagonistic tribes found themselves here at the same time, an unspoken but mutual truce was kept.
So who knows what they were communicating to each other or to those who would come later when they took up stones and etched their signs into the rocks scattered around the hill?
Maybe it’s all just very old, sometimes ancient, graffiti. Here’s the mark of a mid-nineteenth-century visitor, which reminds me of the way a lot of people today like to mark that they’ve been someplace:
Nearby, we happened upon this marker, recognizing the trail the Mormon Battalion made through this part of the country on January 4, 1847:
Wait just a minute! Wasn’t that the date someone carved into that rock we saw!?!