Saturday, May 19, 2012


In looking at rock art we tend to approach the images as single, unitary works. Even in the case of exceptional images that must be classified as high quality visual portrayal we do not usually ask the obvious question; “where are his practice images?” No artist just springs up full blown onto the scene producing works of high quality. Such end results demand many years of practice to achieve.

3-Princesses, near Cub Creek, Dinosaur National
Monument, UT. Photo: Peter Faris.

In some instances we can identify multiple images created by the same hand, adding up to a body of work, something expected of a professional artist. One good example is the panel known as the 3-Princesses near Cub Creek in Dinosaur National Monument, Utah. These three Fremont anthropomorphs exhibit every indication in style and technique of having been produced by the same hand.

Three abstracted Fremont figures, Cub Creek, 
Dinosaur Nat. Mon., UT. Photo: Peter Faris.

Nearby the 3-Princesses, on the cliff face at the Cub Creek site, are a few other instances of multiple images that give every indication of having been produced by the same artist.

Fremont, McConkie Ranch,
UT. Photo: Peter Faris.

What this implies is that the artist that produced the high-quality panel that we admire must have produced many lower quality images while working up to that level of ability. So instead of a large number of creators producing the large number of images at Cub Creek, there may have actually been relatively few artists, each producing a range of images from poor to high quality while practicing their art. This question does have serious implications in the study of rock art as it goes directly to the question of who created it. Was it a large number of people, each making one, or at most a few images, or was it a small number of people, each creating a larger number of images while perfecting their art?  

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