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Snake Dance

Snake Dance

This is just a small portion of the well-known Buckhorn Wash Pictograph Panel located in the San Rafael Swell. Because of the panel’s close proximity to the Old Spanish Trail and currently next to a wall-traveled road, there has been a steady stream of potential vandals passing by this spot for over two centuries……and vandalize it they did. Thankfully, as part of the 1996 Centennial Celebration, citizens of Emery County initiated the restoration of the Buckhorn Wash Panel.

While I rarely try to figure out the meaning behind the rock art sites I visit (I prefer just to enjoy them for what they are), I did read an interesting theory about this panel in a book called ‘On the Trail of Spider Woman’ by Carol Patterson. While this site is usually categorized as Barrier Canyon Style, LaVan Martineau has presented an interpretation that associates these pictographs with the Hopi Snake Dance Ceremony and dates them from AD 1000 to 1300. It’s an interesting theory and I enjoyed reading about it, but in the end, who really knows? The theory did help me come up with a name for this photo, though.

>> Swell Rock Art & Arches

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Faded Glory

Faded Glory

The Courthouse Wash pictographs located just inside of Arches National Park near Moab are an amazing display of Barrier Canyon Style pictographs. Unfortunately, in 1980 vandals made an effort to destroy this panel by scrubbing it with stiff brushes and a cleaning abrasive. The National Park Service has attempted to repair some of the damage, leaving the panel in the state you see in my photo above. I have seen some photos of this panel pre-1980 and it was definitely an amazing site. I would have loved to have seen it before it was vandalized. This panel really gets washed out while in direct sunlight, but luckily, while I was there a big cloud blocked the sun for a short time and I was able to get a few good shots where I could bring out some more of the details.

>> Moab Arches and Rock Art

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Snake-in-Mouth Alcove

Snake-in-Mouth Alcove

I spent many days searching for this particular site. I knew which canyon it was in, but was still unable to find it. After a few trips to the area I was finally able to find these amazing pictographs with the help of a friend, and I realized that they were within my sight all the days I had missed them previously!

This panel is located in a large alcove high above the canyon floor. It’s a bit of a steep scramble to get up there, but well worth the climb.

Once in front of the pictographs, you are treated to an excellent example of Barrier Canyon Style rock art. Inside the large anthropomorph’s mouth is a small blue snake from which this panel’s name derives. I will probably have to post a closer shot of this panel in the future for you to appreciate all of the finer details, but for now just enjoy the scene in it’s surrounding alcove.

>> Yellow Comet Alcove

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On Vandalism of Rock Art

From Stone Chisel and Yucca Brush:

“A common experience for rock art aficionados is to arrive at a reportedly spectacular site only to discover that previous visitors painted or carved names, dates, modern symbols, slogans, and other remarks over or adjacent to the Native American images. Perpetrators of such graffiti actually claim to hold a certain kinship with rock art iconography. More poignantly, they consider rock art as the first recognizable manifestation of graffiti, referring to it as ‘archeograffiti.’. Based on this rationale they have no compunctions about adding their own signs to the existing paleoart.

However, while graffiti is intrinsically defined as illicit, the motivation for rock art was licit. That is, it was condoned, supported, and even encouraged by the social group to whom the art belonged. Rock art thus does not constitute archaeograffiti, and graffiti, whether witty or aesthetically pleasing, gang-related or politically motivated, is tantamount to vandalism.”

 

– Ekkehart Malotki & Donald E. Weaver Jr.

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