Saturday, February 17, 2018

Macaw Trail: Macaw Parrots of the American Southwest

Even though macaw parrots are not indigenous to the continental United States, macaws have been a part of Native American culture in the American southwest for at least 2,000 years, according to archaeological evidence.

The best evidence are the actual macaw pictograms carved in rock. A couple of most likely pre-Columbian examples can be found on the aptly named Macaw Trail at Petroglyph National Monument outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. One of the petroglyphs famously shows a macaw parrot holding its foot out:

Another example of macaw pictograms carved in rock, three macaws depicted flying horizontally, can be found at Hovenweep National Monument between Cortez, Colorado and Blanding, Utah on the Cajon Mesa of the Great Sage Plain. This site dates as early as A.D. 1200:

Both scarlet and military macaws were traded into the American southwest from their home range in Mexico more than 500 miles away. Archaeologists believe the parrots, just like today, were kept as pets, displayed as status symbols, and used for ornamentation, feather headdresses being the most obvious example. Archaeologists recently discovered a mummified military macaw head in a cave in a funerary context, buried together with human skeletal remains, outside Chihuahua in northern Mexico. The site is believed to be approximately 2,000 years old.

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