Tuesday, May 18, 2010


There is a marvelous panel of Fremont figures located on Gore Ranch, in Glade Park on the Uncompaghre plateau of Mesa County, Colorado. The three stylized figures have been pecked very carefully in great detail up the cliff.

Gore Ranch, Glade Park, Uncompahgre Plateau,
Mesa County, CO. Photo: Peter Faris, 1980.

The lowest figure is blatantly a warrior with a knife in his left hand next to a spiral-decorated shield. He is wearing a Fremont style headdress and in his right hand he holds what appears to be a crane-headed dance staff with feathers down its shaft and a fringed bag connected just under the head. By his right foot a coiled snake reflects the spiral on his shield on the other side. His feet each have five toes carefully delineated, and he has a garment resembling a kilt around his waist.

The uppermost of the three figures holds a knife in his right hand and another crane-headed staff in his left. He was also pecked carefully with the distinctive Fremont headdress (or hairdo), clothing, and his bare feet also have the toes carefully delineated.

The middle figure also wears a headdress and has been carefully pecked to show individual fingers on his hands. He has a zig-zag or wavy line (lightning?) on his left side that connects to him at about waist high. The most interesting thing about this figure is that he again has a carefully delineated right foot – and no left foot. His left leg terminates at what would be about the ankle with no sign that there was ever a foot there. He seems to have been purposely made that way. The fascinating question is, of course, why? Why does he have only one foot?

The other two figures possess weapons and are arguably warriors commemorated on the cliff for their heroic deeds, but what about the man with one foot? Two possibilities can be imagined from the clues provided. Since he is accompanied by two warriors it is possible that he is also a warrior who lost his foot in battle and is commemorated here for his bravery (a possibility that Sally Cole suggested back in 1980). It might also be possible that the zig-zag line which connects to his waist does represent lightning and that he was the victim of a lightning strike which he survived but which cost him his foot. If that were the case he would be a person of tremendous spirit power indeed and would understandably have enough status to be portrayed with the other two heroes.

In any case, these figures must be classified has portraiture with their careful attention to individual details which anyone living in that area at that time would have recognized. They would have known who wore those headdresses and carried those crane-headed staffs, whose shield had that design and which particular warrior had lost that foot. They knew who he was and probably passed on the story of his deeds that had earned him his place on the cliff. Too bad we have forgotten.

1 comment:

  1. Figure in middle is female as evedent by the menstrual wear. The zag bolt may indicate fertility. The foot...from my observations when I was there the artist couldn't reach it to finish