In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:
"I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,
"The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
"The wonders of my hand." The City's gone,
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
There is something basic in the human spirit about building, or at least marking the landscape. Making something permanent. Life is fleeting, and making something that will withstand time and the elements better than our poor selves seems to come from deep in the soul.
Albuquerque is built on volcanoes. Long extinct, the horizon is marked with a chain of cones, and the landscape is littered with black volcanic rock. This makes the site unique in the area, and the ancient Anasazi people used it as a landmark.
They also took the opportunity to leave something personal. As the molten lava cooled, a thin black lacquer formed on its surface. Chipping off this layer revealed a lighter rock underneath, making it a natural medium for graffiti.
The origins of these petroglyphs are lost in the mists of time. They certainly pre-date the current Indian inhabitants, who migrated south from Canada in the 15th and 16th centuries - perhaps looking for warmer climes during the depths of the Little Ice Age. Both they and the Anasazi lacked writing, and while they have great epic tales, those tales say nothing of the petroglyphs. The Anasazi certainly had tales like these, but they are gone, and the tales lost with them.
Only the petroglyphs remain. Permanent, they will be here likely millions of years from now, long after we are gone ourselves.
I prefer stone (and brick) for my building, and have developed my poor skills to the point where I can build a wall that is (mostly) straight, plumb, and square. Dry Stone has a particular magic to it; lacking mortar, all that holds it together is gravity and the friction between the stones themselves. Done right, it will last far longer than I, or will take more work to disassemble than most people will care to do. It says that I was here. I made this thing.
We wonder, and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.
- Horace Smith