The Writing On The Wall: A Cultural Landscape Study And Site Management Recommendations For Inscription Trail Loop, El Morro National Monument


Publication: University of Pennsylvania

Author: Taryn Marie D'Ambrogi

Date of Publication: 2009




Located on an ancient east-west trail in western New Mexico, a great sandstone promontory rises from the landscape. A naturally occurring pool at its base served as the only reliable water source for miles in either direction. The rock would have remained otherwise anonymous if not for the records left by those who dwelled and passed time there. Made of soft sandstone, over 2,000 signatures, messages, petroglyphs and pictographs cover the rock. Today it is known as “El Morro,” or the headland, as it was called by Spanish explorers. As the second National Monument in the United States, designated in December 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt, El Morro has over a century of administrative history. Efforts to interpret and preserve the site’s resources, particularly the inscriptions, began almost immediately after its designation. The original protective mandate for El Morro valued the Spanish inscriptions above all other aspects of the site. This translated over the years into a management regime stilted toward Eurocentric values and undermined other significant resources and values of the site. Although policy and programs have evolved and expanded to embrace broader values, an overarching general management strategy has not been instituted at El Morro. Therefore, a holistic appreciation and awareness of the broader context has been slower to appear through interpretation and preservation methods. A cultural landscape approach to El Morro will attempt to recognize the inter-relationship between culture and nature. This thesis addresses a portion of the overall Monument, the primary visitor path of Inscription Trail Loop.