Exploring the Southwest! Spring 2009 travel blog

The 1st petroglyph site we visited was near the base of the...

This site contains mostly animal images (vandals have more recently scratched in...

This is a crude anthropomoph depicting a 5 bead necklace on a...

The 2nd site, named "Swelter Shelter", was the site of an archeological...

Most of the art is more recent dating 800 to 1,000 years...

Note that some of the figures have red or blue pigments added....

Humanoid figures: spirits or shaman communing with spirits? Red pigment lines on...

Left figure above crack has decorated torso (?clothing) & headdress with horns;...

In the lower portion is an older set of figures depicting a...

The 3rd site we visited was about 1/2 mile further and was...

This rock has many depictions that suggest sacred events of spiritual significance.

Note (L to R) ethereal vase, swirl, mountain sheep, zigzag with antennae,...

This figure has hair, earbobs, a neclace and phallus. The raised hand...

Swirl pattern (three "comas", one inverted); does not look like a water...

This stunning image appears to be a decorated vase out of which...

A mountain sheep is between the swirl and the male figure.

Interesting symbol below the male figure (a wine glass perhaps... just kidding!).

Humanoid with trapazoid torso, horns and upraised (praying) hands. A zigzag extends...

“Anthropomoprh” with headdress/hair, eyes, mouth, earbobs, necklace, breast plate, decorated/clothed torso and...

L to R humanoid with animal, moon with stars, rain with lightening,...

Humanoid with animal (?sheep or deer). Note rain cloud with lightening coming...

The 4th site, called "the Green River Site", held a spectacular grouping...

This last site took some hiking to get to. The petroglyphs were...

A remarkably clear lizard in center, another with humanoid in upper rt,...

This dandy lizard measured about 5 feet in length and is up...

Lizard and humanoid together... perhaps this indicates that these people were part...

Another lizard associated with a humanoid type figure (this one appears to...

Human figure playing a flute. This nice depiction measured about 3 feet...

Continuing along the cliff face we found a grouping of anthropomorhic figures.

Two anthropomorphs. On left with breast plate and on right with necklace....

Clockwise from upper right: circles, 4 mountian peaks, 2 mountain peaks, spiral...

Anthropomorph with headdress, hair, 3 balled earbobs, breast plate and decorated torso...

Another lizard about 20 ft up. It appears that the artist may...

"How did they do that? Amazing!"


The Uinta Basin is an area of eastern Utah and western Colorado that includes Dinosaur National Monument. There are some features that create a style of the petroglyphs in this region. Particularly a focus on jewelry, both adorning human figures as well as being represented separately. This includes detailed necklaces, ear rings and headdresses. When the jewelry is depicted by separately, it is often with a vague human (refered to as an "anthropomorph"), sort of how a department store might place a necklace on a vague human manikin as a means of emphasizing the jewelry. It shouldn’t be surprising that there is a particular style to the art in this area. Just like today, these ancient artists were probably effected by the ideas of their times.

There are a number of interesting and somewhat ethereal looking figures. We know that the Native American priests and shamans of more modern groups in the past several hundred years use various mind altering herbs as part of their spiritual and sacred rituals. They believe that the transcended stated of consciousness that results puts them in touch with the spirit world. Many of these have hallucinogenic properties. Peyote (from the roots of a cactus) and Datura (Jimson Weed, a member of the potato family) are used in these ceremonies. It is not hard to imagine that ancient priests would perceive the visions that they had while under the effects of these herbs as extremely important and worthy of depiction on rock art. On picture in particular is very fascinating when viewed from this perspective. It is what appears to be a earthenware pot or vase out of which an energized set of vapors are emerging. Emergence symbols have very special meaning and may reflect the emergence of spirits that are being called by the sacred ceremony performed by the shaman. Hopi kivas (underground temples) have a hole in the floor called a Sipapuni (translated as Place of Emergence) to allow the spirits to enter and depart.

This collection of petroglyphs have some very interesting features not seen on the other sites we visited. For one thing, the application of red and blue pigments to the human figures adorning them as with clothes. Most of the images are of humans or humanoids, much more than before. Many of these have one or two horns, which suggest a shaman or spiritual leader. Some look like demon figures with horns and eyes. These may represent spirits or perhaps a god. The more human figures often have detailed clothing and jewelry features. There is even one figure clearly playing the flute.

Also of interest were about 8 very large and very cleanly done images of lizards ranging in size from about 1 foot to 5 feet! The larger ones were located fairly high up on a cliff face. One was about 20 feet off the ground and was next to a crevice suggesting to us that the artist probably climbed up there on that crevice to do the work!

The interpretations offered in the captions (as with those given on the previous diary entries dealing with petroglyphs) are my own after reading two archeologic field guides I have picked up. They are not from a Park brochure, etc. Also, some times the captions seem a bit choppy due to the fact that there is a limit to how many characters I can add to each picture. Anchi got some great photos.



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