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Bates Well Petroglyphs

Photographs of petroglyphs, Sonoran Desert, Arizona.  Click on any photo to enlarge.

Bates Well
is a small petroglyph site in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, near the border with Mexico, in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  The site appears to be on an ancient trading route or trail, and the immediate area has been inhabited for 8000 years or so; the name itself, Bates Well, refers to an old pioneer homestead nearby.  This area contains the dramatic vegetation typical of the Sonoran, including the giant Organ Pipe Cactus, the giant Saguaro, the creosote bush, palo verde trees, and ocotillo.  It is also the home of pronghorn antelope, hundreds of bird species, mountain lion, and rattlesnake.  The climate is typical Sonoran, meaning that summer days are well above 100, and even winter days can be warm and sunny.  The area is remote and there is no lodging nearby.

The petroglyphs are on black basalt boulders along a wash.  Though they stand out dramatically in the right light, the basalt surface, along with the bright sun, makes photography challenging.  The best time to photograph them is probably in late afternoon.  The glyphs are nearly all curvilinear or geometric and not obviously representational, as can be seen in the accompanying photographs.  These photographs were taken in December 2007; at that time there was no evidence of modern vandalism, though there is a lot of weathering on some of the panels.  Several layers of etching can be seen, with later figures overlaying earlier ones.

The cultural affiliation of the rock art is speculative; although some of the images here are similar to images found at Hohokam sites located further to the northeast. Bates Well is located along a likely trade route connecting the Sea of Cortez and Sonora with points north. Influence from the Trincheras Culture, centered directly south in Mexico, is another possibility.

Text and photographs by Carol Georgopoulos

Bates Well, Arizona petroglyphs

Bates Well rock art

An overview of the site, showing various hues of the basalt surface.  The site faces mostly WSW.

A typical assortment of glyphs at Bates Well, showing one of the few representational figures (lizard?) overlaying an older glyph (lower left).

Organ Pipe Cactus petroglyphs

Sonoran Desert petroglyphs

A scalloped figure, possible a net.

Though this image is undulating, it has no obvious head or tail, and seems to be abstract rather than a snake glyph.

Arizona petroglyphs on basalt

Hohokam petroglyphs Sonaran Desert

Horizontal line through vertical lines: there are several panels like this at the site.

Some lovely curvy images, looking almost like neck pendants or breastplates, but most likely abstract.

Hohokam petroglyphs Arizona


More images suggesting nets.


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2008 All rights reserved. Reproduction, distribution or other use of images
without permission from Carol Georgopoulos is prohibited.