Saturday, April 16, 2016


Post-classic Vernal Abstract figures, Cub
Creek, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah.
Photograph Peter Faris, June 1984. 

In the collection of Cub Creek anthropomorphic figures from the Uintah Fremont people of Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, there is a sequence of figures undergoing varying stages of successive abstraction from Representative Realism to a highly abstracted stage. Included in these figures are a few with a visual treatment that I have wondered at since I first saw them about 30-some years ago. While most of the abstracted figures at Cub Creek use basic line or dot patterns to indicate the details of jewelry and torso/clothing, these figures use other symbols for that purpose.

Cub Creek figure, Dinosaur National
Monument, Utah. (Faris 1987:34)
As a starting point, this illustration shows the basic method of indicating a simplified figure at this site. Dots are used as facial details and jewelry (necklaces, ear bobs) and large pectoral pendants are portrayed. Body details are either composed of linear markings or lines of dots, and once the viewer is aware of the pattern it is easy to find a large number of these figures at Cub Creek which fall into the pattern although they all have individual differences.

Cub Creek, Dinosaur National Monument,
Utah. Photograph Peter Faris, 1984.

There are a few, however, which have details that differ noticeably from the expected pattern. A couple of them are illustrated here where one figure has torso details indicated with a couple of rows of connected triangles with the points up. There are four triangles across the upper part of the torso or chest area, and a pair of triangles in approximately the location of the waist.

Cub Creek figures, Dinosaur National
Monument, Utah. (Faris 1987:36)

Next to that figure is another one with the design located in the torso of two simple interlocked spirals, sort of a variation on the Na'kwach (brotherhood) symbol illustrated by Frank Waters in his Book Of The Hopi (1963:63). Waters claimed that it represents priests clasping hands in that manner during the dances of the Wuwuchim ceremony.

Cub Creek, Dinosaur National Monument,
Utah. Photograph Peter Faris, 1984.

To me, however, the one that is most interesting is a figure, also from Cub Creek, which has a torso and shoulders consisting of pretty much what I would expect a drawing of a Greek column and capitol of the Ionic order would be. 

Ionic column capitol, Wikipedia.

Note also that the line above the facial area is painted with a dark red ochre, and there seem to be visible traces of paint in other spots as well.

Cub Creek figure, Dinosaur National
Monument, Utah. (Faris 1987:35)

Now were these done in a joyful exploration into the possibilities of depicting the visual image in original and creative ways (i.e. artistic variation), or were they done with a sense of humor, illustrating the human image with a whimsical purpose and style, or are they accurate records of details of clothing and adornment that were themselves unique and creative? I do not know, but whichever is the case I very much like the implications for the mindset of the prehistoric Fremont artist(s) who created these images. It allows me to see them with an increased sense of common humanity, and I very much like what I see.


Faris, Peter
1987    Post-Classic Vernal Abstraction: The Evolution of a Unique Style in Late Fremont Rock Art in Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, pages 28-40, Southwestern Lore, Vol. 53, No. 1, Colorado Archaeological Society. 

Waters, Frank
1963    Book of the Hopi, Ballantine Books, New York.


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