Track. Trace. Trait. These words originate from the Latin tractus: drawing, dragging, drafting, pulling. They all speak to marks resulting from an action. A pen on paper, a foot on sand, a hoof on mud. Stone on stone. With petroglyphs a doubling results. The petroglyph itself marking stone. The image resembling an animal or human print or track in real space. Further, the modern photograph digitally traces the reflected light. The traits of the image store as bits subject to recall by the computer, displayed as something recognizable. Traces.
Petroglyph images as tracks and traces, though infrequent among the thousands of mostly abstract glyphs in the northwestern Great Basin, stand out due to their resonance as resemblance. We recognize. We have an idea, a memory, a feeling. We say it looks like. We may ascribe values. Look from placement to place. We will circle back to our own hands. Our feet. Our digital self.
Most of these petroglyphs are thousands years old. Embedded, intentional, and crafted markings, they embody as signs, signals, symbols, icons, or metaphors. Their appearances alter through time. Though powerful markers, for us they now lack social or cultural context, eluding meaning while producing a tension, an ambiguity of presence and absence of th human and the animal we know has been here, gone there.
The thinking and writing of David Summers, Bruno Latour, and Michel Serres has challenged my understanding. Of course they are no way liable for the track I have followed!
Album: Tracks & Traces Petroglyphs