Of Pictographs and Petroglyphs…

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah; Freemont petroglyphs 1


Freemont petroglyphs at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah; USA

We first heard of the Fremont people as we hiked to Lower Calf Creek Falls in the Grand Staircase Escalante region.The remains of their storage granaries perched at the edges of the high cliffs above us, and we were thrilled to spot their painted rock art, “pictographs,” on a distant canyon wall.

They also decorated many of the rock walls of Capitol Reef National Park to the east, but here the Freemont people carved into the cliff faces rather than painting upon them and created “petroglyphs.”*

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah; Freemont petroglyphs 4The Fremont culture farmed and hunted the Capitol Reef area from around 700 AD to 1250 AD. Their primitive art electrified our imaginations and created questions that can never be answered completely. Questions about ancient motivations and joys… about the death of a culture and the interpretation of its fragmented traces from centuries beyond.

*An easy way to remember the difference is to think: “paint a picture” for pictograph.

Updated from November 9, 2008.

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10 Comments to Of Pictographs and Petroglyphs…

  1. Wonderful to see.

  2. Suzanne Perazzini

    That’s interesting because I am thinking of setting my next novel in Bandelier National Park near Santa Fe, which I visited a few years back. They have the Pueblo Indian caves in the cliff faces, which could lend themselves to seriously spooky goings ons.

  3. Mesmerising. I think that ancient rock art really makes you wonder about life in those times. In Australia, the aborigines have similar wonderful art in their unique style.

  4. Jackal: While it’s fascinating to read about ancient cultures, it’s completely thrilling to spot pieces of the past within our present day. It took a few minutes to spot the first one, but once Matt found a goat we started seeing the pictures everywhere!
    Suzanne: Cliff caves would make a great setting!! I revisited Montezuma’s castle last spring, and I admit that my imagination ran a little wild…
    Mark: The rock art does raise so many questions about the ones who created it. I’m interested to see some of the aboriginal art and thinking that you probably have some examples on your site…?

  5. I drew the second one when I was 7.

    Hello from SpeedyCat! …. great post 😉

  6. Good pictures of fine rock art, Heather.

  7. nice post
    great pics

  8. I live on the Pacific coast of Canada on a small island. Here and on Vancouver Island we also have many petrogylphs, and burial caves that date back in excess of 2000 years. So it was interesting to view the the photos of the ones you took at this site so far away from us.

    Here we do not allow people to make rubbings of the petroglyphs any longer as it was causing their rapid deterioration. Instead we had artists get busy and make casts of the petroglyhs, which were then made into concrete replicas. The replicas are now at our museum and there is where folks make their petrogylph rubbings onto cloth.

    Thanks so much for posting the photos and for sharing your adventure with us.

  9. Speedcat: I thought I recognized your special touch on those goats. You were definitely ahead of your time!
    Thank you Jean-Luc and Demetrios! Fascinating, huh?
    TimeThief: It’s good to know your petroglyph treasures are protected. We were sad to see some defacement at Capitol Reef. The etchings are protected from further vandalism by a fenced walkway now, but I hope that at some point they’ll also shelter them from the elements of nature.

  10. You can also visit European caves, there rock paintings are even more ancient

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