For those who do the invigorating Wijiji hike, a short spur trail runs from the great house pueblo to an ancient pictograph wall that is fascinating to see! Since the total distance of the Wijiji hiking trail round trip is three miles, going a few extra hundred yards to view the rock art is well within order. This venture will consume some extra time, so be sure pack plenty of water for the trek. The cool weather seasons are best for hiking in Chaco Canyon and stormy days can add a dramatic effect. In fact, after a rain storm, many petroglyphs that are barely visible on a dry day will come to life. The angle of the sunlight is another factor that reveals hidden rock art characteristics and the Wijiji Pictographs are a good example of this effect.
The Wijiji Pictographs cover a couple of small areas on the wall of the canyon and their initial appearance is quite subtle. This is especially true in bright sunlight, because many of the hand prints, astronomical symbols and sketches have faded over time. The bold red color paintings are easy to spot and they certainly have a story to tell. It is the faded outline of the painted hands that is the most fascinating to see, because they are not obvious upon first glance.
When doing the Wijiji Pictograph hike in the late afternoon, several hidden painted hands will magically start to appear on the canyon wall. Because of the reflective crystalline content in the paint mixture, the setting sun reveals what was previously invisible to the eye. Native people are keenly aware of raw material qualities when gathering them for decorative purposes and this definitely holds true in ancient times. Many native people have used the same mineral pigment gathering sites for countless generations and the materials are a valuable trade commodity. The reflective qualities of ground quartz or mica certainly is a quality that an artisan seeks, which is evident at Wijiji. All it takes is good eyes and some patience early or late in the day to see the painted hand magic!
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