Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Little Bighorn Battlefield, Montana

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument was one of my favorite stops on our recent trip to northern Wyoming and southern Montana.  I had a lot of preconceived ideas about the area where Custer had his famous "last stand" and most proved to be wrong.

The first thing you see when you arrive is Custer National Cemetery, which was for military veterans and their families until 1978.
I liked the way the sprinklers changed the mood of the cemetery.  Bodies of the soldiers who fell during the battle were not buried here, but in a mass grave on last stand hill.  Custer's body was sent to West Point.
The Battlefield is adjacent to the cemetery and is scattered over a much larger area than I expected.  Monuments to fallen soldiers have been placed where they fell, not where they are buried.  Most of the battleground has been left in a natural state so that many monuments rest in tall prairie grass.
These monuments are for Indian scouts who died while working for the American Army.  There are also a few monuments for civilians, and brown monuments for Indians from the opposing forces.  I expected the battlefield to be on one relatively small hill, but notice the vast expanse of high ground in this photo, and the Little Bighorn River in the background.
Lt. Col. Custer fell on Last Stand Hill.  His monument is in the middle of a tight cluster of fallen soldiers.
A modern Indian Memorial is entirely different than all the other monuments and gravestones in the area.  This photo is a fragment of a sculpture of Indians on horseback.  There are several sections commemorating the tribes and family names involved in the battle, and I enjoyed meeting a family who pointed out the name of their ancestors on the wall.  If you enjoy American History, don't miss Little Bighorn Battlefield.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Legend Rock Petroglyphs, Wyoming

The Legend Rock State Archaeological Site is 30 miles northwest of Thermopolis, Wyoming.  Sometimes an on-site caretaker will let you in, but normally you need to get a key to unlock the gate.  We got ours at the State bath house at the Thermopolis hot springs.

Petroglyphs are pictures pecked or scratched in rock.  The Legend Rock site has an easy trail leading to several panels of pictures.  One of my favorites was this Thunderbird in one of the first panels.

Petroglyphs at Legend Rock range from about 200 to 11,000 years old.  These animals are among the oldest at the site, so they are not as distinct as newer ones.

Notice the two styles.  The animals on the left are outlined and the ones on the right have their bodies filled in, which is known as "en toto".

Animal figures, like the ones above, are known as zoomorphs.  Human-like figures, such as those to the right are anthropomorphs.  These fantastic figures have horned headdresses and unrealistic bodies.

What is the meaning of something like this?  Anthropomorphs are intertwined into one complicated figure with hands in strange places.

A panel under this figure was removed by vandals.  This is a common problem at rock art sites so we were glad for the extra security at Legend Rock.

This amazing figure has extra feet, arms in the wrong place, and is missing much of his face.  I think his strange personality jumps at you from the rock.  Notice the writing in the upper right.  When it gets this old, it can be referred to as "historic graffiti" and may even be considered to have historical value.
You can see more rock art at our web site: http://www.hisandhersphoto.com/Heritage/hhheritage.htm

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bighorn Medicine Wheel, Wyoming

The Bighorn Medicine Wheel is a geoglyph in northern Wyoming.  That is, it is a pattern laid out in stones on the ground.  This Medicine Wheel has been used for Native American rituals since its construction anywhere from 500 to 1500 years ago.  Access to the Medicine Wheel is limited to a few summer months because of its remote location and 9642' elevation.

The trail to the Medicine Wheel is about three miles round trip, and nearly every step is uphill or downhill.  At this high elevation it can be a difficult walk for some people, but the high mountain scenery is spectacular.  People who have difficulty walking can drive to the site if they can figure out how to get past the log gate.  I walked, but had to leave Linda back at the parking lot.

The Medicine Wheel is 80' in diameter and has 28 spokes.  The four outer cairns align with the rising and setting sun during the summer solstice.  Perhaps the spokes represent the 28 days of the lunar month.  The Medicine Wheel appears to be part of an enormous network of regional prehistoric sites dating back 7000 years!  Note that this photo was altered in Photoshop to remove a rest room and two cars from behind the back fence.

Prayer offerings are still being left on the rope fence all the way around the Medicine Wheel.  After I hiked back to the parking lot I managed to open the gate and drive Linda to the site so that she was able to see it.  And, I got to see it twice.

Montana State University picked up two of these photos and used them in their magazine, "Confluence".  You can see the article and photos on page 11 here: http://issuu.com/montanastateuniversity/docs/confluence2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Gebo, Wyoming ghost town

Gebo, Wyoming is an isolated ghost town near Worland.  It was a coal mining town from 1906 until 1938.

There are seven ruined stone buildings curving along the top of a ridge.  They might have been nice at one time since they still have remnants of concrete sidewalks, gates, brick windowsills, and other comforts.

The town had 1200 residents in 1929 and buildings were scattered over the desolate countryside.  BLM leveled most of the town in 1971.  So, why did these buildings survive?

Maybe these stone ruins were on private land so BLM had to leave them standing.

Vandalism and the passage of years have not been kind to Gebo.  The town is used for target practice now.