WACA 209 – The Double Flute Player Petroglyph

While a small petroglyph site, with only a few elements, WACA 209 contains the most iconic petroglyph image at Walnut Canyon – the Double Flute player. Flute player rock images are found throughout much of the greater Southwest, clearly a figure of great importance to the Puebloan peoples. They are commonly described as “Kokopelli” figures, hunchbacked flute players, but this name and description are not just overly simplistic, but based on basic misunderstandings by Anglo archaeologists of Native culture. For example, as with the figures at this site, not all flute players are hunchbacked. In the panorama below, the flute players can be seen in the niche of the canyon wall, near the center of the starting panorama position.

The site is located at the bottom of Walnut Canyon, below the current Visitor Center. The rock at the bottom of the canyon is Coconino Sandstone, laid down as sand dunes about 260 million years ago during the Permian period; even a brief examination of this sandstone will reveal “cross-bedding,” angular erosional features that show how the dunes were deposited at different angles depending on the wind direction at the time. In the dry Southwest, the occasional dampening of the rock faces combined with dust and bacterial action can create a dark layer on the surface of rocks, a mixture of iron and manganese oxides; this layer is commonly referred to as “desert varnish”. If the rock underneath the varnish is lighter in color, pecking or scraping away the varnish will reveal the lighter surface underneath. The Native Peoples took advantage of this by pecking away the dark varnish to create designs from the light-colored sandstone underneath.

For additional views of these petroglyphs, go to the “209 – A Closer Look” or “209- In A Different Light” pages (links at right).