Saturday, August 12, 2017

IMAGES OF FOOTWEAR IN ROCK ART - FREMONT MOCCASINS:


Fremont moccasin print petroglyphs,
Dinosaur Nat. Mon. Grand County, UT.
Photo: Peter Faris, June 1986.

A subject of interest in rock art is the portrayal of footwear. What do these images mean, what is their implication, what do they represent? For the sake of this discussion I will assume that any image of the outline of a human foot that does not display toes represents a shod foot - showing a foot wearing footwear, a sandal or moccasin. Such shod foot prints are a common subject of Fremont Rock Art of the Dinosaur National Monument.


Fremont style moccasin, Hogup cave,
Utah. Wikimedia, Public Domain.

A large number of leather moccasins have been retrieved from dry caves and rock shelters in Utah. Promontory Caves, on the shores of Utah's Great Salt Lake were first excavated in the 1930s, and excavations resumed in 2011 under the supervision of Dr. Jack Ives of the University of Alberta.

"The site - part of a complex of natural shelters known as the Promontory Caves - contains "exceedingly abundant" artifacts numbering in the thousands, Ives said, marking a human occupation that began rather suddenly about 850 years ago. Scant ceramic sherds and basket fragments, meanwhile, bear strong sigs of influence from other Great Basin cultures, including the Fremont. This wealth of artifacts may go a long way in demystifying the distinctive, little-researched populations often referred to as the Promontory Culture." (De Pastino 2015)


Promontory Cave moccasins,
westerndigs.org,
Public Domain.

"But it was the staggering amount of footwear in the caves that captured the attention of archaeologists, past and present. With soles made from a single piece of bison leather, lined with fur, and sewn together at the heel, the moccasins are made in a style typical of the Canadian Subarctic, Ives said, a fashion his team describes as being "decidedly out of place in the eastern Great Basin. These moccasins and other cues have led some experts to theorize that the cave's inhabitants were part of a great migration from the far north, a wave of people who moved into the Great Basin in the 12th and 13th centuries, and eventually gave rise to cultures that include the Apache and the Navajo." (De Pastino 2015)

Note, this description of the Promontory Culture people of Utah connects them with at least influence from the Fremont people if not sharing the Fremont culture outright. The Fremont, and other, people of Utah and Northwestern Colorado commonly wore leather moccasins. Fremont researchers describe the Fremont people as possessing a unique form of moccasin made from the hide removed from the lower leg of a deer and having the dew claws of the deer left on. "The Fremont made moccasins from the lower-leg hide of large animals, such as deer, bighorn sheep or bison. Dew claws were left on the soles, possibly to act as hobnails, providing extra traction on slippery surfaces." (nps.gov)


Fremont moccasin print petroglyphs,
Dinosaur Nat. Mon. Grand County, UT.
Photo: Peter Faris, June 1986.

The migration mentioned above, known as the Athapaskan migration occurred roughly 500 years ago. It is believed to have involved a relatively small group that assimilated and intermixed with resident groups along their route and in the southwest. Their influence is illustrated by the fact that the Athapaskan family of languages is now dominant in much of the southwest. The Navajo and Apache peoples are descendants of these Athapaskan migrants and their languages are closely related to Chipewyan, an Athapaskan language spoken in the subarctic. (ScienceDaily 2008) The relationship of these migrants to the Fremont people is still not fully understood, but the Fremont wore a type of moccasin inspired by the Athapaskan migrants, suggesting a strong influence.


Fremont moccasin print petroglyphs,
Dinosaur Nat. Mon. Grand County, UT.
Photo: Peter Faris, June 1986.

One location with a large number of petroglyphs of footwear (shod footprints) is found at Station #17 on Harper's Corner Road, in Dinosaur National Park, right by the northwestern Colorado/northeastern Utah Border. This is classical Fremont territory and rock art in this area is predominately Fremont, dating from sometime after 100 AD to ca. 1300 AD.



Fremont moccasin print petroglyphs,
Dinosaur Nat. Mon. Grand County, UT.
Photo: Peter Faris, June 1986.

Would an image of a moccasin have served as a symbol of travel, or does it represent something else entirely? What do you think?

NOTE: Some images in this posting were retrieved from the internet in a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on these reports you should read the originals at the sites listed below. 


REFERENCES:

De Pastino, Blake,
2015 Utah Cave Full of Children's Moccasins Sheds Light on Little-Known Ancient Culture, http://westerndigs.org/utah-cave-full-of-childrens-moccasins-sheds-light-on-little-known-ancient-culture/

https://www.nps.gov/care/learn/historyculture/fremont.htm

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080715104932.htm