Category Archives: Ancient Cultures

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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Torrey Things To Do

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Sinagua Style Sky-Boxes

Narrow ledges served as both pathways and playgrounds for the Sinagua people during their 100 year stay in Walnut Canyon.  Walking to the neighbors on a starless night would have been quite an adventure as would have been managing a tottering toddler, but their homes, built into the recesses of Walnut Canyon’s cliffs, provided both protection (from the elements, wildlife and enemies) as well as access to essential food and water. From their cave homes, the Sinaguas could monitor and prepare for approaching strangers. Yet directly above them was the flatter land of the canyon rim where they could grow beans, squash and drought-resistant corn and hunt deer. Six hundred feet below, Walnut Creek provided precious water for part of the year. Good water conservation and storage, supplemented by snow melt in the winter allowed the Sinaguas to live in relative comfort in the semi-arid climate.

The cramped cliff residences brought to mind primitive arena style sky-boxes -minus the plush seating and catered meals. Built by the Sinagua women from limestone rocks and gold clay, the walled cave homes were finished with a clay plaster. Situated to insulate, shelter and shade, the rooms had differing purposes. The larger rooms were most likely housing, and the many smaller rooms would have been used for storage. Children probably didn’t need much prompting to “go outside and play” with such cramped living quarters.

Within 100 years of their arrival, the Sinaguas moved on, eventually integrating, it is thought, into the Hopi tribe. Why they left is addressed by theories ranging from the ecological to the religious. What they left behind is more tangible: it is essentially a cliff side memorial to the men, women and children who once made Walnut Canyon their home.

Updated from May 19, 2010.

 

Flagstaff Things To Do

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Featured Photo: Floating Fairytales

Featured Photo: Floating Fairytales (Ronda, Spain)

The white villages of Andalucia, tethered to the edges of deep gorges and dramatic cliffs, float like fairytale towns above the countryside of southern Spain. Ronda, Spain perched above the El Tajo gorge is a picturesque labyrinth of old and older. The Moors —and the Romans before them, left behind ancient baths and winding walls. This view, with the Sierras as a backdrop, is one of my favorites.

 

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