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Native American Culture/Native American spiral petroglyph


Dear Mr. Sutton,

I had a question about the spiral petroglyphs that are fairly common in Arizona.  I have been planning on getting a tattoo that represents my life in Arizona, and I figured I should honor the people who lived here long before I did.  When searching online, I found a couple of pictures where the spiral was "squared" off, ie it had right angles instead of a smooth curve.  I really like that look for a tattoo; however, there are only one or two photos I have seen like this.  Do you know if any tribes native to Arizona ever etched a glyph like this?

Mike -- spiral petroglyphs, connected with fertility and growth, were carved all over USA, Canada and Mexico before European contact, however some of the most outstanding spirals were carved in the UK and especially Ireland at New Grange, so it is really an almost universal human symbol. Squared off spirals are not common in the Southwest, but I have seen them in ancient Anasazi pottery designs. If you want something more exclusively connected with Arizona, I would concentrate on the decorative art and the symbols in Pima/Papago basket work and Hopi Pottery. Bother of these are outgrowths of the ancient traditions and native to Arizona. Here are two books for you to search for to get additional inspiration:

Decorative Art of the Southwestern Indians by Dorothy Smith Sides (290 illustrations) ISBN: 0486-201392 Library of Congress No. 62-353 Dover Publications 1961

Designs on Prehistoric Hopi Pottery by Jesse Walter Fewkes (more than 250 illustrations) ISBN: 0486-229599 Dover Publications 1973

There are others as well, but these two contain sharp b/w drawings which would translate best to tattoo design. They may also be available for purchase from Dover Publications 180 Varick Street New York, New York 10014

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Richard Sutton


As a direct reservation trader in all aspects of American Indian arts since 1985, I've answered questions regarding cultural property issues, origins of traditional crafts, materials and techniques, collecting, authenticity, symbols and, of course, repairs! We have operated a retail gallery since that time, bricks and mortar until 2007 and online since 1996. Our online operation closed in 2/2015, to allow me to finally write full-time. My writing site can be found at I'll be adding a book or two from our trader experiences under the pen name of W.T. Durand and the rest of my fiction is under my own name. We are not "New Age" practitioners of adopted American Indian religious ceremonies or combined philosophies. If you are seeking such knowledge for spiritual reasons, we will only provide answers that address factual information on these subjects. Unless one is raised in a traditional, American Indian family with language, culture and religious belief intact, we don't believe that simply applying the trappings or cultural property of a given traditional group will give a non-Indian (Native if you prefer)any insight other than the academic.


My primary focus is on Southwester American Indian Nations and their people, but I also have experience in Plains and Northeastern traditions, having engaged in active trade and retail since 1985 and study for most of my life. I am not claiming any expertise at all in the work, techniques, lifeways or crafts that are made by the Native People of Mexico. They are not the same, either linguistically or culturally but certainly their crafts deserve discussion and appraisal by those who are able to provide real information.

I was a guest on Fox Network "Lifestyles" program, during the 1990s, to discuss how to tell forgeries, and authenticating jewelry as Native American work. I have also written extensively for our website, and our Ebay Store.

UofO, 1970 active in the Authentic American Indian Arts business and direct Trader since 1985. Graphic Designer and published novelist.

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