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Ancient Road Signs


POCATELLO, Idaho — An ancient highway runs through Pocatello, replete with road signs. It is a path ot traversed by machines and many of the mostly unnoticed signs are still present, having endured through the centuries.

The original travelers of the road were Native Americans, and the signs are their works. These petroglyphs — literally “rock writing” — are present throughout the region, but an especially high concentration exists in this area and through the Portneuf Gap on to McCammon, the basalt cliffs providing a ready canvas.

With the advent of the first white men to the West, the preservation of these markings, along with pictographs — painting on the rocks — have often been compromised, either removed from their intended resting place, or defaced in acts of vanity or vandalism, with names, dates and initials chiseled on them.

The original artisans of the petroglyphs are long dead, but the messages they intended to convey are still present and await interpretation.

A bitter wind buffets Diana Yupe as she stands alongside a boulder next to a basalt cliff in the Portneuf Valley. The rock is covered with symbols. Idaho historian John E. Rees, who spoke Shoshoni and studied the symbols at the beginning of last century, wrote of this particular rock:

“The largest square figure is a Medicine lodge. The crosses represent the four winds which must be appeased. T