Barrier Canyon.

May 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Humans have been leaving images about ever since discovering that it was possible to add graphics to bone, metals, ceramics, and rocks. Some of this art is quite old; hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of years.”

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Petroglyphs near Moab

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The sandstone cliffs of Sego Canyon are an outdoor art gallery and a holy place. Native Americans painted and chipped their religious visions, clan symbols, and records of events onto the cliffs. There are three distinct styles present which represent three separate cultures and time periods. These cultures are known to have been in the area during the past several thousand years.

This impressive site is on the National Register of Historic Places. It undergoing long term conservation and preservation treatment. The Antiquitites Act of 1906 and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act provides for serious penalties to vandals.

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Barrier Canyon Great Gallery

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“Of Utah’s many impressive prehistoric rock art sites, none is more striking than the Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Wayne County, Utah. The Great Gallery is the type-site for the Barrier Canyon style and the largest of the Barrier Canyon style rock art gallery sites. More than 300 feet in width, the Great Gallery contains more than 60 figures, many of which are anthropomorphs of life.

Typically, the billboard-sized galleries are not found near habitation sites but are often in very visible locations near the mouths or junctions of long canyons. These paneled canyons would have afforded the nomadic people, in their annual seasonal rounds, passage through difficult terrain to and from higher ground. Walking in these canyons, it is not difficult to imagine the significance these ancient rock art galleries would have held for the individual viewers representing hundreds of generations of a dynamic people—who lived on the Colorado Plateau for at least six thousand years.

At all the large Barrier Canyon style rock art sites, life-size human-like figures are prominent. It also appears that many of the anthropomorphic images were painted by different individuals—across an extended time-span, most likely millennia. Yet, considering the indicated time-depth, there are surprisingly few occurrences of image-superimposition within the style and this holds true for all Barrier Canyon rock art sites, large and small.” – Dave Susec

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Sego Canyon

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“Utah’s collection of rock art styles rank among the best in the United States—in numbers, in time-depth, and in aesthetic quality. From the thirteen to fifteen apparent styles of Utah rock art, the Barrier Canyon style is generally recognized as the state’s premier prehistoric form. Surprisingly, Barrier Canyon style rock art sites are still being discovered on the Colorado Plateau. When the BCS PROJECT began to document the Barrier Canyon style in 1992, the number of known sites was about 160. By 1998, the number was thought to be about 230. Today, the number of sites is estimated, by some, to be more than 250.

The Barrier Canyon style is unique in Southwest prehistory because its culture was hypothesized entirely from the existence of its rock art—paintings on the canyon walls of the northern Colorado Plateau (southeastern Utah, western Colorado, and northern Arizona). Only recognized, by Southwest archaeologist Polly Schaafsma, as a distinct rock art style some thirty years ago; the Barrier Canyon style has since emerged to be one of the two major Archaic-period painted rock art styles in the United States (perhaps in the entire New World). Even when considered on a global scale, the Barrier Canyon style is a remarkable body of visual images.” – Dave Susec

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Barrier Canyon Rock Art

The Fremont Culture thrived from about A.D. 600 to A.D.1250, and was contemporary with the Anasazi Culture of the Four Corners area. It is distinguished by its remarkable rock art. Like the Anasazi, the Fremont planted corn and lived in pithouses and surface stone structures. They constructed a distinctive basketry and made pottery. They had a complex social structure, as is illustrated in their rock art, and were highly adaptive to the extremes of their environment. At the top of the panel are the oldest figures. These are the line of large, red-painted figures with the rectangular-bodies and small-heads, which are similar to the Anasazi Basket maker style. Superimposed on the older, painted figures is a line of carved (pecked) human figures. Typically, these have trapezoids for the head and body. The most recent Freemont period is also represented by superimposed carvings. They are deeply groved outlines of two life-sized human figures with collars and waistbands, and the associated mountain sheep and abstract elements. This last group is representative of the Classic Fremont Style.

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Utah Barrier Canyon Style Temple Mt Wash

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Petroglyphs: Rock Art or Rock Writing?

Native American tradition combined with scientific decoding methods indicate that “rock art” is really a sophisticated form of writing.

The life-long research into Native American petroglyphs by LaVan Martineau, an orphan adopted into the Paiute tribe of southeastern Nevada and southwestern Utah, has resulted in detailed interpretations of the rock writings. His work, culminating in an interpretation of the famous Hopi Prophecy Rock, demonstrates a much greater information content in these picture-based drawings than was previously recognized. Martineau’s research implies the existence of early ideograph-based writing systems that could convey detailed meanings without including phonetic sound-based components.

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Pecked Barrier Canyon Style panels

Pecked Barrier Canyon Style panels are not common, but they are often exceptional. Here, larger anthropomorphic forms are surrounded by subservient figures. Notable are the arc of dots connecting the dog on the left to the central figures; and on the right, dots reaching out to the wandering anthropomorph.

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