August 12, 2019 - Robert John Hadfield
Petroglyphs and Perishables
Connecting to the Future with Modern Permanence
Our studio is located in St. George, Utah near the border of Arizona; a truly scenic wonderland. Just a few hours from St. George is the Grand Canyon; one of the most breathtaking views on earth. St. George is also close to Zion’s National Park, Bryce Canyon and Arches National Park. The physical beauty of each of these locations is undeniable.
All of these places have one thing in common…rock.
When you consider the human experience, almost everything in our lives is perishable. A thousand years from now almost nothing in your life will exist. Everything in your home will be gone, your home itself will almost certainly be gone. None of your blankets, sheets, towels, or even your clothes will exist. All of your books will have turned to dust. Most of the metal parts of your car will be absorbed as rust into the soil and most of the plastics and polymers in your life will have broken down into small particles through photodegradation and heat.
But interestingly, the view at the grand canyon will barely change. A thousand years from now the rocks and cliffs in Zion’s National Park will be almost identical to today. A person visiting the hills and rocks around St George a thousand years ago would see almost no change if they were to visit right now.
The clock of disintegration ticks much slower with rock. There is a sense of permanence and stability with rock. And as organic and perishable creatures ourselves, I have to believe we find comfort in the perpetuity of stone.
On Saturday we went for a hike on one of the hundreds of Trails near St. George. We started at the Tukupetsi Trailhead and followed the trail near a small canyon with shear cliffs and the Santa Clara river running below.
We found a few spots where the rock jetted out a bit and you could see down the edge of the cliff. It was unnerving and dizzying standing near the edge. We also found a tight crevasse where someone feeling a bit daring could work their way down to the bottom. We imagined the children of the settlers who arrived in this valley 150 years ago finding these spots and climbing up and down for recreation. And interestingly, in the short amount of time since then, it would have looked almost no different to them.
And then about a mile further down the trail we came across Petroglyphs.
A Petroglyph is basically artwork in stone. They are often very simplistic carvings of animals, humans or basic patterns. They are similar to the cave drawings found in Europe, and they are located in several places around southern Utah. No one is certain but it is believed they were carved over a thousand years ago. They are generally in protected areas with signs asking people not to touch them. As you might imagine, because they were carved by people, many of them are in spots where a person could easily get to them and touch them.
It’s interesting to think that a thousand years ago someone stood in that spot and made that carving on the rock. As I mentioned before, the rocks are probably nearly identical in placement and appearance as they were a thousand years ago when the “artist” scratched the image into the stone. We don’t know if the person was alone, part of a small clan or part of a wandering community, but because the person left a mark in stone, a record of the person's existence is almost permanent. All of the perishable items from that person, including their bones, are long gone. But the carving in stone allowed us to have a brief connection with a living, breathing person from the past.
Naturally I can’t help but think about our Audiomover business when I have experience like that.
In our business we literally help protect the past. Of course video and audio can’t be carved in stone, but we preserve them digitally, which may end up being the next best thing. When you convert an audio or video tape to digital, it becomes data that can’t degrade. You can copy it over and over and over and it will never deteriorate. Arguably, your children, their children and their children, for generations can make digital copies over and over again into new and changing digital formats for hundreds or thousands of years! And as I said in my blog several months about about Angkor Wat, your descendants hundreds of years from now will want to know you.
Take time to gather your audio and video tapes. Put them in a box and send them to our studio. Let us help you take that first step to preserving your heritage and life in the modern form of stone.