Apache Annotated Bibliography

By Monica Farmer, December 16, 2002

Apaches arrived in the Southwest about 600 years ago as hunter-gatherers, infilling land that had become too difficult to farm.  They drifted down from Canada and adapted to the new land.  Their rock art can be seen throughout southern New Mexico, Arizona, and west Texas.  In Arizona, the Apaches formed groups located in eastern and southern Arizona, Western and Chiricahua Apache.  Although the two clans were diverse in language and social organization, they both fought vigorously for their livelihood and have left us with few remains of their culture for research.  The sources that follow contain insights into the imprints they left on the surfaces of rocks.

Slifer, D.

1998  Signs of Life: Rock Art of the Rio Grande. Ancient City Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The Apaches acquired ideas about religion and inspiration for their ceremonial art from their Pueblo neighbors.  The rock art is scattered over a large area and according to Polly Schaafsma “the work at these sites represents a rather miscellaneous collection of rock art paintings and petroglyphs obviously relatively recent in origin, but often so limited or undiagnostic in context and style that…one cannot always be certain who made them.”  Common elements of their art include small animals, lizards, snakes, bison, masks, abstract designs, and rider and horse.  An anthropomorph figure with a sunburst headdress and carrying staffs is assumed to be associated with shamanistic practices.  Apache rock art can be found in Texas and New Mexico (Slifer 1998:Figure 49).

Schaafsma, Polly

1992  Rock Art in New Mexico. Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The Apache petroglyphs of red stick dancers are drawn close to the base of the cliffs.  The figures closely resemble the petroglyphs of Lincoln County.  Other Apache rock art found in New Mexico include the hourglass shaped with large buffalo-horned headdresses and carry staffs.  Other images have ceremonial themes and include a sun face painted red and yellow (Schaafsma 1992:79).  The horse is represented frequently.  A large number of abstract elements at Apache rock art sites are found in southern New Mexico including solid triangles and parallel wavy lines.  The elements are believed to contain ceremonial or religious symbolism (Schaafsma 1992:80).

Schaafsma, Polly

1980  Indian Rock Art of the Southwest. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Apache rock art is scattered from southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, northern Chihuahua, and west Texas.  Drawings are commonly done is dry charcoal, usually in black.  White paint is used in Hueco Tanks.  Horses and riders are frequently represented similar to Navajo rock art.  The hourglass design found in Apache rock art “parallels in meaning its counterpart in Navajo iconography, as the symbol of Born-for-Water” (Schaafsma 1980:335).  Apache rock art sites are characterized by “solidly portrayed figures and a liberal use of thick white paint.”  Human figures are depicted with rabbit-eared or feathered headdresses that may be related to victory celebration rites (Schaafsma 1980:336).  The mask representations may be copies of late Pueblo work from the upper Rio Grande.  Black and white shields of southeastern Arizona are said to have ceremonial themes.  A similar theme is said to occur in the San Pedro Valley with small figures scattered at random (Schaafsma 1980:337).  Anthropomorphs are depicted with sunburst headdress or halo motifs are supremely shamanistic in character and meaning.  Shamans receive their power from the sun and the halo is associated visionary experiences (Schaafsma 1980:339).  Apache rock art sites containing symbolism may be a focus for religious activity and sacred to them.  “Men go to pray, in which the sun, moon, stars, and mountain spirits are depicted on the walls” (Schaafsma 1980:341).

Peter, Pilles J. Jr.

1998  Verde Incised: A Possible Apache Rock Art Style in the Verde Valley, Arizona. Coconino National Forest.

With the work of Grenville Goodwin and E. W. Gifford it was discovered that the Verde Valley, where 127 rock art sites have been found, was a site for traditional Apaches.  A style has risen associated with the Western Tonto Apache that consist of geometric, zoomorphic, and anthropomorphic designs visible through “broad, deeply incised, straight lines” (Pilles 1998:abstract).  This new defined style appears in soft stone at sites where other petroglyphs occur but rarely over other rock art (Pilles 1998:Verde Incised).  These petroglyphs resembling awl and axe grooves are comprised of mostly of single lines and curved lines appearing less frequently (Pilles 1998:Element Study).  Drilled holes or dots are seen as well.  “The familiar entoptic element, the basic building blocks of much rock art, as well as visual communication systems, form the dominant elements of the Verde Incised Style” (Pilles 1998:Element Study).  Other elements of the style are unique to a particular site.  The rock art style is localized in the Verde Valley, mostly in the southern portion of the valley (Pilles 1998:Distrubution).  This rock art style is attributed to Apaches or Yavapi due to the pottery discovered at the sites (Pilles 1998:Cultural Affiliation).  Dots, lines, zig-zag, squiggle lines, and crosses of Verde Incised Style share similarities with other Apache rock art and images found on their basketry.  Further evidence supports these findings.

Altschul, Jeffery H., Marie Cottrell, Clement W. Meighem, and Ronald H. Tower

1993  The Garden Project: Studies at Two Rockshelters at Fort Huachuca, Southeastern Arizona. Statistical Research, Tucson, Arizona.

All rock art located in Garden Canyon was painted.  Tabulation of the elements can be seen on Table 1.1 of page 1-11.  Apache Councilman Ernest Victor Jr. identified the crown dancer (Altschul et al. 1993:Discussion of Individual Elements).  Apache informants identified large bird figures at Garden Canyon as being golden eagles because of their barred tails that are over 2 meters long and have a religious significance.  The birds are white and over lay red figures that are interpreted to be small human figures with elaborate head-dresses.  Within Apache rock art, “dry charcoal line drawings and painting are common, and although a range of colors occurs, a heavy black pigment is characteristic” (Altschul et al.1993:Squence of Dating).  Apache rock art is found in regions east of Fort Huachuca to Hueco Tanks in Texas.  The rock art is found throughout the Coronado National Forest.  Common elements of the Apache rock art style include: horses and riders, shields, bison, snakes, lizards, masks, “thunderbirds”, hourglass designs, and small unidentifiable animals.  Kachina masks are common in Apache style as well.  The Garden Canyon Pictograph Site was used as a place of religious importance to the Apaches (Altschul et al. 1993:Conclusion: Uses and Meaning).  There is no proof of residential or domestic usage at the site.

Brown, Roy B.

1998  Cerro Del Diablo, Janos, Chihuahua: A Historic Apache Site?  In Rock Art of the Chihuahuan Desert Borderlands, edited by Sheron Smith-Savage and Robert J. Mallouf, pp. 45-53. Center for Big Bend Studies, Alpine, Texas.

In Cerro del Diablo near Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico rock art findings suggest that the site is Apache in origin.  At the site, there are neither potsherds nor adobe architecture (Brown 1998:46).  At the rock art site scrapers, knives, cores, and stone bivouacs were found.  The rock art is composed are “geometric designs, different types of anthropomorphs and zoomorphic figures and what may well be symbolic images, scratched, pecked, or carved into the faces of the bare rock” (Brown 1998:47).  Panels of rock seemed to be used repeatedly, making details difficult to distinguish (Figure 4 and 5).  Element that can be identified are parallel and wavy lines (Figure 6), circles (Figures 7-11), crosses (Figure 12), and triangles (Figure 13). Humans are represented as a stick figure (Brown 1998:47).  “The cross may be related to Venus or Patoli, a pre-Hispanic game of chance and divination” (Brown 1998:50).  Identifying an Apache rock art site is often done by comparing the petroglyphs with other known Apache artifacts, such as Apache baskets (Brown 1998:52). 

Laumbach, Karl W.

2001  Fire Fight at Hembrillo Basin. Archaeology. November/December:34-39.

In 1987 a crew from Human Systems Research, Inc discovered Apache rock art in Hembrillo Canyon of the White Sands Missile Range.  At the site “painted images of mounted warriors and miniature depictions of cougar, javelina, deer, and dragonflies” can be seen.  The images indicate the site was sacred to Native Americans.