Soul Expression: Speech-Breath in Pecos River Style Rock Art

Author(s): Carolyn Boyd

Year: 2018


Pecos River style rock art was produced in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of southwest Texas and Coahuila, Mexico during the Archaic beginning around 2700 BC. This style is characterized by finely executed anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures arranged in highly-ordered, complex compositions. Pecos River style anthropomorphs are frequently portrayed with a series of dots emanating upwards from an open mouth. Zoomorphic figures of felines and deer are also represented with this pictographic element. "Soul Expression" explores the significance of this recurring motif in Pecos River style rock art and proposes that it is a graphic representation of breath, soul, and speech. In ancient Mexico, breath was believed to be a manifestation of one’s soul. Breath soul, when expressed in ritualized speech or song, was a powerful force engaged in both creation and maintenance of the cosmos. Graphic representations of breath soul and speech first appear in Mesoamerica during the Middle and Late Formative periods (900 to 100 BC) as volutes or scrolls issuing from the mouth of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures. The speech-breath motif in Pecos River style rock art may represent the oldest graphic expression of the vitalizing breath soul.

Cite this Record

Soul Expression: Speech-Breath in Pecos River Style Rock Art. Carolyn Boyd. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444375)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -114.346; min lat: 26.352 ; max long: -98.789; max lat: 38.411 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 20461