Saturday, January 10, 2015


Petroglyph, along the Colorado River, Moab,
Utah. Photograph Mr. Kelly, Grand Junction,
Colorado, pre-1925.

On June 21, 2014, I posted a column titled DINOSAURS IN ROCK ART – THE HAVASUPAI CANYON HADROSAUR. In this I expressed my disbelief in the claims of creationists that there are rock art examples of dinosaurs that prove that humans and dinosaurs coexisted and interacted. The example I discussed in that posting, the Havasupai Canyon so-called “hadrosaur” was first recorded by the Doheny expedition in October and November of 1924.

In October and November of 1924, the Doheny Expedition to Havasupai canyon was fielded by the Oakland Museum, Oakland, California. Its purpose was to record an example of rock art that supposedly proved that dinosaurs and humans had coexisted. This expedition was led by Samuel Hubbard, director of the expedition and an honorary curator of archaeology at the museum, and accompanied by Charles W. Gilmore, Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the United States National Museum. The report on this expedition was written by Hubbard and published January 26, 1925.

So-called "Moab Mastodon," Photograph Dell Crandall, 1999.

In this posting I wish to bring up a claim in a supplement to the expedition report that was attached to attempt to strengthen Hubbard’s claim of petroglyphs of extinct creatures. On page 27 of the report is the astonishing claim that the petroglyph found along the Colorado River near Moab, Utah, and often called the “Moab Mastodon” is really the picture of a wooly rhinoceros. Hubbard wrote:

From the Grand Canyon in southern Utah comes another remarkable petroglyph. This was photographed and sent to me by Mr. George Kelly of Grand Junction, Colorado. The outline of the figure was so faint that he was obliged to chalk it in to secure a satisfactory photograph.
There is not the slightest question in my mind that this was intended to represent a rhinoceros.
All the ‘rhino’ character is present. The menacing horn; the prehensile upper lip; the short tail; the heavy body and short legs, all suggest a ‘rhino’ about to charge. This is the first time it has ever been known that prehistoric man in America was contemporary with the rhinoceros.

Wooly rhinocerous outline, European
cave art, public domain photo.

I have before me an outline of a wooly rhinoceros sketched by an artist-hunter on the limestone wall of the Cavern of Les Combarelles in France. The difference between the two is that the Cro-Magnon hunter shows the ears of his ‘rhino’ erect and pointed forward, while the American artist shows the ears turned over. I venture the prediction that there was that difference in the two animals.” (p. 27)

The photograph (at top) illustrating this claim shows the “Moab Mastodon” as it was prior to 1925. How much prior we cannot know because Hubbard does not reveal when he actually received the photo from Mr. Kelly of Grand Junction, Colorado. What I find very interesting is that this early photo allows us to compare with the same petroglyph as it is presently found. The first time I visited the “Moab Mastodon” I suspected that the figure had been seriously re-pecked as the patina across its torso seemed to me to show a suspicious variability. Indeed, comparing a new photo of that image with the pre-1925 photo suggests that the torso has indeed seen a major episode of touchup. This could possibly be a relic of the conditions under which it was originally photographed, so I cannot claim this to be any kind of definitive proof. The other major problem that I found with the “Moab Mastodon” was that it shows definite toes or claws. Checking those features in the 1925 photo they seem to be even more slender and defined. These are definitely not the feet of either an elephant or a rhinoceros.

In my November 25, 2009, posting titled ELEPHANTIDS IN NORTH AMERICA – THE MOAB MASTODON, I suggested that it might in fact be an image of a brown or grizzly bear with a large fish in its mouth. It seems to me that the feet with claws of the 1925 photo look even more like a bear’s clawed feet than its modern, retouched, incarnation. While it could represent many things, one thing I am sure of is that it is neither a mastodon, nor a wooly rhinoceros.

So, I am sorry mister Hubbard, I have to strenuously disagree with your conclusion that this petroglyph shows the Paleolithic Wooly Rhinoceros, I am grateful, however, for another (and much earlier) picture of this continuing enigma.


Hubbard, Samuel
1925    The Doheny Scientific Expedition to the Hava Supai Canyon, Northern Arizona, October and November, 1924, Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA.


  1. The so-called Moab Mastodon is, in fact, a bear with a fish in its mouth (head down tail up). Note the short tail clawed toes and a grizzly's shoulder hump. If you look closely at the earlier (chalk filled) image from pre-1925, you can plainly see the outline of the fish's head (pointing down). The person chalking the image just didn't want to include details that did not fit their fantasy. The fish's head is quite distinct now that the chalk is gone, thanks in part to the idiots who made latex molds of the glyph. There's another unmistakable bear petroglyph almost directly across the Colorado river.

  2. Someone just pointed me to this post and pre-1925 photo today, and I came to the same conclusion as the previous commented. I carefully aligned this older photo with my own, and you can see that the chalk only covers the high points and misses the pecked pits -- in fact what you are seeing here is nearly an inverse of the pecking! They also only partially filled it in, thus the missed features like the lower part of the "trunk" / fish head and the toes that are much more claw like than in actual life. Likely the black and white film used was nearly completely insensitive to the color difference between pecked and unpecked sandstone, thus the (badly done) chalking.

  3. To add to my previous comment: I've been looking at this all morning, I can't get the perspective difference between cameras quite perfect, but I've noticed a few more things. First, in the older photo, the figure is not only chalked, but outlined in something dark. That's part of why the toes for instance look thinner, but the trunk, head, everything appears a little smaller because of that. Second, the rock surface around the mammoth has undergone a lot of damage/erosion since 1925 (maybe a result of casts or rubbings?). There are at least two chunks of rock that have fallen, eroded, or been pulled off. And I think the lower part of the trunk (the "fish head") may be a third. It doesn't look pecked, and after aligning the photos while there's something there in the older one it's not the same as present day as I initially thought. The "fish head" could be new damage that has occurred between 1925 and 1970.