Saturday, April 9, 2016


FIGURE 3, 3-Princesses, Cub Creek, 
Dinosaur Nat. Mon., Uintah County, UT.
Photograph Peter Faris, September 1989.

In my first column on this site, (March 26, 2015) I suggested that the next stage in this process could be seen in the 3-Princesses, a group of figures from near the Cub Creek site (FIGURES 3, 3A, 3B, FIGURE 4, and FIGURE 5). They have been simplified another step by losing their extremities although they still possess their decorative adornment. The first princess even wears facial markings that may represent face paint.

Figure 6A, Cub Creek, Dinosaur National 
Monument, Utah. Photograph Peter Faris,
June 1984.

Figure 6B, Cub Creek, Dinosaur National
Monument, Utah. Peter Faris, 1984,
page 32.

From this point on even the torso of the figure has disappeared, and we see figures that are represented by their jewelry and costume with a few facial features thrown in. FIGURE 6A is still roughly on par with the first princess for amount of detail. FIGURE 6A shows a hairdo or headdress, facial features, wears a pectoral and possible earbobs, and a kilt is seen where the bottom of the torso should fall. This figure also wears a belt line which will be seen as well as subsequent figures (an ink drawing of this figure is seen as FIGURE 6B).

Figure 7, Cub Creek, Dinosaur National
Monument, Peter Faris, 1987, page 34.

Figure 7 lacks the body outline, but the torso is composed of dots, it still has the pectoral, facial features, and ear bobs, as well as a necklace and headdress.
Figure 8, Cub Creek, Dinosaur National
Monument, Peter Faris, 1987, page 33.

Figure 8 also lacks the body outline. The torso is composed of six rows of dots, it still has the pectoral, facial features, and ear bobs, as well as a necklace, headdress, and belt. The emphasis on these figures is less the details of the human body being portrayed than it is on the items of decorative adornment. In a culture in which all of these items are handmade, and thus unique, such a focus on details of adornment seem to me to betray a concern for the identity of who wore these particular items, in other words it functions as a portrait.

Figure 9, Cub Creek, Dinosaur National
Monument, Utah. Photograph
John Faris, 1989.

Figure 10, Cub Creek, Dinosaur National
Monument, Peter Faris, 1987, page 38.

Figures 9 and 10 show another step in simplification with the presence of the torso almost ignored, its existence is implied by the positions of the pectoral, shirt or vest front seam, and the belt line. Facial details and ear bobs are also still found, but this figure, with such a degree  of simplification, is hard to label as realism.

Figure 11, Cub Creek, Dinosaur National Monument,
Utah. Photograph Peter Faris, 1984.

Figure 12, Cub Creek, Dinosaur National
Monument, Peter Faris, 1987, page 39.

These steps in the sequence have further eliminated details until at the end of the whole sequence we have the trio of figures in FIGURES 11 and 12 which would never be recognizable as portrayals of humans if we had not had the rest of the sequence to follow step by step. At this point in the whole history I tend to see that last Fremont artist at Cub Creek put down his hammer stone and step back, then turn and walk away (hopelessly romantic, I admit it).

Perhaps the figures were originally more complete than now, with elements and detailed added by paint, and, given that the great figure from the 3-Kings panel, with which I started my sequence, was both painted and pecked, this is a definite possibility. During my visits there however, I could see no trace of paint remaining on any of the Cub Creek anthropomorphs. Even had they been painted, the changes that we see in the remaining petroglyph elements indicate that the style of humanoid representation was changing, so the possibility of paint does not invalidate my conclusions. However we assume it played out, it is still the visual record of a remarkable cultural transition, from Classic Vernal Style, through Post-Classic Vernal Abstraction, to whatever came next, which before long, were the Ute/Shoshone peoples of the same area.

In 1987, I concluded my study of these images with the following paragraph:
"At this location, sometime around ca. A.D. 1200, the last inheritor of the artistic tradition of creative abstraction left the trio of figures carved into the cliff at Cub Creek. We probably can never know whether his or her people migrated out of the area or stayed in the area maintaining the hunter/gatherer lifestyle but having reached a point of deculturation that the continued  creation of these abstracted figures was no longer relevant to their way of life and their beliefs. Whichever the case, it was the end of a unique art form, a style based on simplification and abstraction but, most of all, on creative variation in anthropomorphic figure portrayal." (Faris 1987:40)


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.

Schaafsma, Polly
1980    Indian Rock Art of the Southwest, School of American Research, Santa Fe, and University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

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