Hysterical Journey to Historic Places

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February 19th 2015
Published: February 19th 2015
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Mastamho from head to toe. An old timer along the river once told me that those intaglios were the work of cubscouts in 1930. He claimed to have been one of the cubs himself.

No journey through the river country would be complete without a visit to the Blythe Intaglios. They are about 15 miles north of Blythe on the west side of Highway 95 west of the river. An intaglio is a place where the desert varnish has been scraped away as a geoglyph exposing the underlying clay bed which is lighter in color. Petroglyphs are small pictures chipped from rock surfaces. Geoglyphs are much larger and best seen from the air. The Blythe Intaglios were discovered by a pilot flying to Blythe from Las Vegas in 1932. The largest of the geoglyphs measures 171 feet. They occur at three distinct locations featuring human and animal forms. In Mohave/Quechan lore the human figure represents Mastamho, creator of the earth and all life. The animal form is a mountain lion representing Hatakulya, helper in the creation. The intaglio sites are locations where the Indian people celebrated their deity. The river Indians were subsistence farmers and most years they prospered giving thanks each year for a bountiful harvest. Sometimes the river flooded and washed out their crops and livelihood. Larger ceremonies were then called for and the geoglyphs were created. After a particularly destructive flood a larger geoglyph was needed. The intaglio sites were above the floodplain, but the presence of the light colored clay that was exposed by the geoglyphs suggests that flooding was not unheard of above the floodplain. Flood waters at that elevation would have been truly monumental events.


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