Here’s a large Barrier Canyon Style pictograph panel that I found in the Book Cliffs this spring which unfortunately has been heavily vandalized and chalked over the years. This photo shows an overview of the main panel in the large shallow alcove that it is located in. I liked the way that the desert varnish frames this panel…..the figures almost blend in with the natural colors when viewed from a distance. The largest anthropomorphic figure appears to have a snake in place of one of it’s arms. Around the corner there are a bunch of petroglyphs carved into the sandstone, but the lighting was poor while I was there, so I will have to return another time to try and photograph those.
The Silent Sentinel is a cool and interesting Fremont ‘shield’ figure located alone on a large boulder at the base of Cedar Mountain in the San Rafael Swell. Unfortunately, someone has recently decided to fire a shotgun at this figure, permanently scarring it. (The damage is not in the above photo.)
Before heading home last night, I made one last stop at the Black Dragon pictographs since it has been a while since I was last there. Thanks to recent flash-flooding, the road through the canyon was rougher than I remember it. I wasn’t sure if the pictographs would be in the sun or the shade, but when I arrived I found that the panel was bathed in some nice late evening sunlight. I also found out just how well the alcove traps heat. The temperature outside was in the upper 90’s, and this alcove must have been at least 10-20 degrees hotter! I could really feel the heat coming off of the sandstone as I climbed up to this panel….I ended up not sticking around too long because of it. I’m guessing this would be a great place to warm up in the colder winter months.
These two figures are found to the right of the well known ‘black dragon’ pictograph. There is the interesting anthropomorphic figure on the left and the large creature on the right which looks like it may possibly represent a dog, which is common in the Barrier Canyon Style, but I’m not 100% sure on that so I’ll stick to just calling it a creature. What I like about this scene is the lines in the sandstone that seem to radiate towards these two figures. However, I don’t like that most of the pictographs in this area are outlined in chalk.
While visiting a few rock art sites around Escalante this past weekend, I unfortunately encountered plenty of vandalism to some of the panels. This panel, above the Escalante River, was one of the worst. As you can see, someone decided they wanted these petroglyphs to themselves (or to sell) and tried to remove them, damaging the lower portion of the panel in the process. It’s troubling to me whenever I encounter something like this.
Sego Canyon in the Book Cliffs contains three culturally distinct styles of rock art that are all in close proximity to each other: Fremont, Ute and Barrier Canyon Style. This site is well known and an easy side trip when you are travelling along I-70. Unfortunately, with easy access come vandalism and these panels are no exception to that rule. Thankfully, the main panels located here have been restored as best as could be done. However, some of the other panels in the vicinity have some severe damage.
The above photo is just a small portion of the very large Barrier Canyon Style pictograph panel located here. This is one of the more unique anthropomorphs located here and is surrounded by snakes on each side and many interesting circle figures. I know I’ll eventually be posting a wider view of this panel sometime in the future so you can see the full thing.
Since this site is not too far from home, and I’m usually driving past it almost every weekend, I end up stopping there at least a few times throughout the year…..it never gets old.
The Courthouse Wash pictographs located just inside of Arches National Park near Moab are an amazing display of Barrier Canyon Style pictographs. Unfortunately, in 1980 vandals made an effort to destroy this panel by scrubbing it with stiff brushes and a cleaning abrasive. The National Park Service has attempted to repair some of the damage, leaving the panel in the state you see in my photo above. I have seen some photos of this panel pre-1980 and it was definitely an amazing site. I would have loved to have seen it before it was vandalized. This panel really gets washed out while in direct sunlight, but luckily, while I was there a big cloud blocked the sun for a short time and I was able to get a few good shots where I could bring out some more of the details.
Rock art is thought to represent the spiritual expression of people who lived here long ago. The fremont people who lived here from about AD 500 to AD 1100 left symbols on the rock which had tremendous meaning to them. The Shield site remains an example of what vandalism can do to a once beautiful and interesting archaeological site.
Parties, camping, tree cutting and outright deliberate destruction of the rock art have destroyed this site. No scientific knowlege will ever be gained here. No quiet enjoyment is possible. And, no one can feel anything but sorrow while viewing the remains of symbols left by people over a thousand years ago.
It belongs to you.