WACA 180 – Pai Pictographs

Located in an alcove of the Kaibab Formation, above a narrow ledge that is difficult to access, these red pictographs consist of a few human-shaped figures (anthropomorphs), as well as geometric shapes. Stylistically, they do not appear to be similar to rock images created by the Sinagua cliff dwellers, and there are no artifacts associated with them that could be used to determine the culture that made them. Some have suggested similarities to rock images known to have been created by the Pai or Apache cultures of the area.

Some archaeologists have suggested that sites like these, rock alcoves and openings with anthropomorphs and geometric patterns, are associated with shamanic rituals still practiced today by cultures across the world. The shaman, a religious figure, would put himself into a trance state using drugs, fasting, or repetitive activities like drumming or rock banging. These trance states are often accompanied by the visualization of geometric shapes known as “entoptic patterns”. In this trance state, they would use the rock alcove/opening as a doorway to the “spirit world”, a place of power and knowledge, often accompanied by an animal guide known as a “spirit helper”. They would then return to the real world with the knowledge and power they had collected in the spirit world. The rock image would visualize both the geometric shapes, as well as anthropomorphs traveling into or out of the rock face. Shamanic interpretations of rock imagery are still hotly debated.

One of the figures at this site appears to be a human figure with his upper body (head, torso and arms) visible, but his legs not present. This has been suggested to represent a figure crawling out of the rock face, half in, half out.

For another view of the panel that brings out additional details, go to the “180 – A Closer Look” page (link at right).