Anthropology •  Archaeology •  Southwest •  Women and Biography

$24.95 paperback
978-0-8263-4671-1

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Life on the Rocks: One Woman's Adventures in Petroglyph Preservation


Katherine Wells

Katherine Wells's obsession with petroglyphs (images pecked on stone) began in the 1960s. Three decades later, after careers as a teacher, a businessperson, and an artist in Southern California, Wells and Lloyd Dennis, her partner, purchased almost two hundred acres near Española in northern New Mexico. The large boulders on the property contained many examples of rock art from previous Native inhabitants and the lure was overwhelming.

Wells describes the beginning of her new life and her exploration of the petroglyphs on her new land. Meeting New Mexico archaeologists and local rock art aficionados, and locating previously published information about petroglyphs and the prehistoric inhabitants of the Española area, Wells learned to identify the time periods when the glyphs were made and to understand many of the motifs found among the more than six thousand petroglyphs on the site.

In addition to discovering all she could about her surroundings, Wells worked with Dennis to design and construct three buildings on their property, each constructed of straw bales. Each of their experiences introduced these transplanted New Mexicans to the oft-cited definition of mañana: "not today." However, the beauty of their adopted homeland made the trials and struggles they encountered pale in comparison.


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Katherine Wells is a mixed-media artist and founder of the Vecinos del Rio Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Project. After many years of work to protect the petroglyphs on Mesa Prieta, Wells recently gave the land described in Life on the Rocks to the Archaeological Conservancy. In 2005, she was awarded the Conservation and Preservation Award by the American Rock Art Research Association.

ACCLAIM

" Life on the Rocks is the real life story of a magnificent journey to understand and preserve a great national treasure."

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American Archaeology



"In Life on the Rocks, Katherine Wells passionately tells her own mesa story-essentially, a love story-and in doing so adds a lively, deeply personal volume to the many fine works we have on the beauty and spiritual power of the New Mexico land."

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Southwestern American Literature



"(Katherine Wells's) engrossing book chronicles the joys, frustrations and difficult politics of petroglyph preservation in an area where rock crushers and rock haulers were at work almost around the clock and running roughshod over state regulations."

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Dallas Morning News



"Katherine Wells delivers a lively, intelligent memoir...This book is a pure pleasure to read."

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New Mexico Magazine



"...(a) thoughtful and perceptive memoir..."

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Albuquerque Journal



"Katherine Wells gives this northern New Mexico story 'shape,' 'solidity,' and 'essence,' the very words she uses to describe the rocks and petroglyphs she loves so much. Her book will become part of the historical record of New Mexico, a period when people with differing but intersecting histories worked together to protect a cultural treasure."--Dr. Martha Yates, former District Archaeologist, Santa Fe National Forest, lecturer and writer

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"More than a refreshingly wry and unpretentious memoir, Life on the Rocks is also the tale of an artist's special stewardship of Tewa petroglyphs, a lively chronicle of community organizing (complete with heroes and villains), and a straw-bale building manual. Katherine Wells's devotion to her adopted landscape is inspiring, and her book claims its place in the annals of Northern New Mexican activism."--Lucy R. Lippard, author of a forthcoming book on the Galisteo Basin

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"In Life on the Rocks, Katherine Wells passionately tells her own mesa story--essentially, a love story--and in doing so adds a lively, deeply personal volume to the many fine works we have on the beauty and spiritual power of the New Mexico land."

--

Southwestern American Literature




6 x 9 in. 214 pages 19 drawings, 23 halftones