The following definitions primarily apply to the Black Mountain Complex, but may also apply to other locations. These definitions are provided only as a quick reference guide; the succeeding pages provide greater details and explanations of representative images, including complex and compound symbols.
War, Fighting or Violence: The symbol for war, fighting or
violence is two arrowheads with points touching.
Peace: The symbol for peace is a diamond, formed by the
pattern of two arrowheads set base-to-base.
Group: The symbol for a group, in general terms, is a
circle. A circle without the center pecked out (white)
represents a friendly or good group. The circle with the
center pecked out (black) represents the group as dead.
Travel: The symbol for traveling or connecting is a line.
The line can be short, meaning very short travel, as in
one or a few steps. The line can be longer, meaning to
travel for some distance. The lines can be straight or
wavy. Straight lines represent a good path; wavy lines a
wrong path. Lines used to establish a relationship
between two figures are connecting lines, which
translates to 'traveling' back and forth freely.
Population Size: Petroglyph authors used a number of
symbols to indicate the size of the group they were
documenting. The dot, square, circle and squares within
a circle ('fishnet') represent larger groups. However, for
groups made up of several large groups, the Rectangle
or segmented oval was used to signify a unity of all the
'people', as a single entity.
Surrounded: This is not a 'Sun' symbol, it is a group
symbol with short travel lines pointing in all directions. It
means the group was surrounded by enemy forces and
fighting in all directions. A similar symbol, the half-sun,
means the group had its back to the wall or cliff, but
continued fighting in all other directions. A secondary
meaning for the lines is 'Leaving a trail of dead', which
would result as the group lost members and deminished
Calendar: Some petroglyphs calculate time, days are
indicated by vertical lines with another symbol entered
between the lines, forming a compound symbol.
Chevrons: Chevrons are derived from the points
of arrowheads they are used to document the number
of skirmishes (attacks) executed by the attackers
each day. They become part of a compound symbol
when they are used in conjunction with the symbols
Sheep: Within the Complex, the symbol commonly
referred to as a mountain sheep, is not an animal it is
a totum or icon and refers to the Proto-Uto-Aztecan
warriors or people. In the graphic, (1) the legs represent
dead, (2) the large circle represents the whole Proto-
Uto-Aztecan nation, (3) is a connecting line that
establishes a direct relationship between the large and
small groups, (4) the small circle represents those tribal
members who escaped and survived the holocaust and (5) are the horns of a female sheep, they represent a
rebuilding of the tribe by the women. There are two
monuments to women on the exterior walls of
Inscription Canyon. Only male sheep are represented
within the canyon. Male sheep, representing warriors,
are displayed as an uppercase 'M' or a lowercase "m"
because their horns curl and viewed from the snout
back, the curling appears to form an "M".
Concentric Circles: Within the Complex, concentric
circles demonstrate the loss of life each day for six
days, which is a mystery, because the battle lasted
nine days. On day one the group was large, each day
the group got smaller. Descending rectangles and
spirals serve the same purpose, which suggests a
difference in languages or dialects within the larger
More symbols and their meanings may be added later, but for the present, the images presented above provide a reasonable understanding of how some ancient Native Americans documented the events, which they understood to be of 'historical' importance to them and their people.