Friday, October 15, 2010


Petroglyph panel, Echo Park, Dinosaur National
Monument, CO. Photo: Peter Faris, 1986.

Among the many remarkable rock art sites in Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado and Utah is this panel at Echo Park. Created in the distinctive Fremont Indian style, these petroglyphs are high on a cliff face with the lowest elements a possible twelve to fifteen feet above the ground. The stream runs against the base of the cliff in this location so there is nothing but blank cliff and running water below these images. It does not look likely that people could have found good access to the cliff face here for making the petroglyphs so possibly this is an example of the valley bottom eroding down that far since the petroglyphs were created.

Single course Fremont bone plaque necklace, from
Exploring the Fremont, David B. Madsen, 1989,
Utah Museum of Natural History, p.41.

The main anthropomorph in the upper left quadrant of the photo is composed of nearly 300 dots with some form of elaborate winged headdress, eyes, a mouth, ear pendants, and a seven plaque bone necklace incised into the cliff surface. This style of necklace is quite common in the portrayal of individuals in the Classic Fremont Style rock art and numerous examples have been recovered. Below the necklace can be seen a belt or waistband as well.

What is the most remarkable about these petroglyphs, however, is the technique used to create them because they are created from lines of many dots that seem to have been drilled into the rock. As I said above, given the lie of these petroglyphs I could not get into a position to examine them closely, but given the apparent depth, and consistent size and roundness of these dots I assume that they are drilled holes. Even if these are created on sandstone rather than much harder stone like basalt, drilling this many holes represents an awesome amount of work.

Originally these figures might have been painted as well, as many Classic Fremont Style figures from this area included both pecking and paint, indeed traces of paint can still be found on many of them. Some of these are located at other sites in Dinosaur National Monument and many others at nearby McConkey Ranch north of Vernal, Utah.

In any case they represent a truly unique example in North American rock art.

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