Polly Schaafsma, a leading expert on Southwestern rock art, has argued that the Shamans’ Gallery (which she named) was painted before 1000 b.c., based on the style of the figures. She feels that it embodies the visionary trances of religious seers—shamans. The rock shelter where the artists recorded their visions, she believes, must have been a sacred site. Had these ancient artists been part of the troupe (or clan) that had climbed into the Redwall caves to hide split-twig figurines? We have no way of knowing and no foreseeable way of finding out.
But no matter. After two hours on the ledge, I stopped filling my notebook and simply stared. I tried to rid my mind of its Western, analytic itch to figure out what the paintings “meant” and surrendered to their eerie glory. In the presence of the Shamans’ Gallery, ignorance led to an unexpected kind of bliss.