Saturday, January 31, 2015


Ute equestrian figure. West of Denver, CO.
Photograph Peter Faris, September 22, 2005.

Location of Ute equestrian figure. West of Denver,
CO. Photograph Peter Faris, September 22, 2005.

Field sketch of Ute equestrian figure. West of
Denver, CO.  Peter Faris, September 22, 2005.

On September 22, 2005, I visited a rock art site in the foothills west of Denver. It is the second site that I know of in what is called the “Hogback Valley” the gap between the first ridge of foothills – “the Hogback” – and the Rocky Mountains west of Denver. This site sported a small, crudely painted, black figure that apparently represents an equestrian figure. Judging from the location it was probably created by the Ute.

Rock shelter west of Denver, CO.
Photograph Peter Faris, January, 1995.

Linear markings in rock shelter west of Denver, CO.
Photograph Peter Faris, January, 1995.

The other site I mentioned I last visited in January 1995. It consists of numerous short grooves in a rock shelter, and yes, attempts have been made to read them as Ogam - just not by me. It has been long held that there was no rock art in the Denver metro area. We now know of a couple of minor sites west of Denver, and a few others from up and down the Front Range, the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains in northern Colorado between say Pueblo and the Wyoming border.

The question is – why aren’t there more? The answer to that is presently unknown. If we could figure it out it might provide insights into why rock art was created, and where? There are certainly plenty of good rock faces for rock art. So why is there so little? What we can say is that the Front Range of northern Colorado was, for much of recent prehistory, and I suspect farther back in time as well, basically a frontier, a place where cultures of the Great Plains rubbed up against the peoples of the mountains.

Doesn’t that suggest that this rock art was not created as signs to other people? A very few minor examples of pictographs and petroglyphs, essentially hidden away and hard to find do not make for very good communication of messages of ownership, and they make poor “No Trespassing” signs. That suggests to me that the few examples we do find must have more local or personal relevance. The creation of it was not to broadcast a message to larger society in general, it seems to have been meant for much more private purposes, but what they may be I cannot say. What do you think?

And Oh yes, I did not mention the locations because I have been asked to keep them secret by the managers of the land they are on, sorry. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015


War or Hero twins with sky themes and other
petroglyphs. Galisteo Dike, New Mexico.

Among the Ancestral Puebloan peoples two mythical beings that were of importance in their creation cycle, and early mythology were the Hero Twins. These beings were involved in ridding the earth of the monsters and giants that threatened humans after the emergence. They were not, however, kachinas (katcinas) but instead are semi-divine cultural heroes.

Possible War or Hero Twins portrayal.
Galisteo Dike, New Mexico.

“In Zuni narratives that describe the time of the beginning, the Twin War Gods are culture heroes who bring the ancestors of the contemporary Zuni out of the fourth underworld to the surface of this earth; they contribute to making these people into “finished beings”; they shape the features of the earth’s surface (the Fifth World); they destroy or petrify the monsters that populate this world’ and they create constellations, stars, and other astronomical objects by throwing the body parts of various monsters into the sky.” (Williamson and Farrer 1992:76)

“In addition to depicting them as culture heroes or War Gods, some Zuni narratives also describe these twins as sons of the Sun Father – the Morning and Evening Stars, who serve as heralds for various ceremonial and agricultural activities.” (Williamson and Farrer 1992:76)

Homes of the Hopi Hero or Warrior Twins.
Chimney Rock National Monument, Colorado.
Photograph Peter Faris, 15 September 2002.

On September 23, 2009, I posted the column Chimney Rock and the Twin War Gods  in which I related the story of a delegation of Hopi elders who visited Chimney Rock National Monument after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to awake the heroes - which live in the two rock spires at Chimney Rock - to assist the United States during World War Two.

Possible Hero or War Twins from
McConkey Ranch, Vernal, Utah. Fremont
culture. Photograph Peter Faris.

Many instances of paired figures in rock art as well as other forms of Native American art and craft show are assumed to be representations of the Hero Twins. Examples I present here include a pair of panels from Galisteo Dike in New Mexico and a Fremont panel from McConkey Ranch near Vernal, Utah. The Fremont example appears to me to be an unfinished pair of shield figures from their resemblance to so many other shield figures at that locale. Also both figures were obviously created by the same artist on stylistic and technical reasons so they can be assumed to have been intended to represent warrior twins.

 “Drinking Vessel Depicting Hero Twins,
Mexico, Maya, Central Campeche,
c. A.D. 593-830 (Cat. No. 39)”
(Fields and Zamudio-Taylor, 2001:43)

From farther south I illustrate a depiction of the Mayan version of the Hero Twins on a drinking vessel. (Fields and Zamudio-Taylor 2001:43)

The Hero Twins can thus be seen as a very real (and continuing) influence on Native American culture in the Southwest and Mesoamerica. These, and many other portrayals, provide a fascinating insight into the beliefs and influences of the peoples and cultures and are a very interesting theme in the rock art and other arts of the native peoples of the region.


Fields, Virginia M., and Victor Zamudio-Taylor,
2001    Aztlan: Destination and Point of Departure, pages 38 – 77, Fig. 15, p. 43, The Road To Aztlan: Art From A Mythic Homeland, edited by Fields, Virginia M., and Victor Zamudio-Taylor,  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles.

Williamson, Ray A. and Claire R. Farrer
1992    Earth and Sky, Visions of the Cosmos in Native American Folklore, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Head of Sinbad, Emery County, UT.
Photograph Peter Faris, Aug. 1993.

On May 6, 2009, I posted a column titled “WHEN THE STARS FELL” about the November 12-13, 1833, Leonid meteor storm. On January 18, 2013, in a posting entitled METEORITES I speculated on the possibility of portrayals of meteorite observances in rock art. Then, on February 16, 2013, in METEORITES IN ROCK ART – CONTINUED? I expanded that to associate later Navajo Star Ceilings to the November 12-13 meteor storm of 1833. Now I wish to continue that thread with a Barrier Canyon Style panel (BCS) from Utah which appears to show two figures and a group of four meteors streaking through the sky. The panel in question is one of two remarkably well preserved panels located at Sinbad, in Utah. This site is located in the San Rafael Swell, in east central Utah.

Kenneth Castleton, Petroglyphs and Pictographs of
Utah, Volume One: The East and Northeast, 1984,
p. 133, Fig. 3.36.

This BCS rock art is usually dated by experts at from 6,000 to 7,000 years old. The two figures display the traits of classic Barrier Canyon Style (BCS). The left figure is a standard Barrier Canyon Style (BCS) figure with the goggle eyes, indeed, the eyes of this figure are a little more detailed than usual with what appears to be the iris of the eye portrayed as well. It is accompanied by the floating serpent so common the Barrier Canyon Style (BCS) figures on the  side. The figure on the right of the panel is not a standard BCS figure. It wears an ornate headdress and has a large pectoral on its chest. It has a bird flying just over its right shoulder, a group of small birds or insects flying around its headdress, and it holds a BCS standard plumed serpent in its left hand. Additionally, there are a group of symbols between the two figures above their shoulders which may represent birds seen flying from the front or back instead of in profile, and a row of seven small white figures between the two larger figures at approximately waist height.

Finally, to the right of the right hand figure are a group of four circles which are attached a cluster of lines extending out to the right, and looking like nothing more than four round things flying through the air and leaving a trail behind them. These are the figures that I am proposing as meteors.

1833 Meteor storm in White Swan Winter Count, from
Candace S. Greene and Russell Thornton, 2007, The
Year the Stars Fell: Lakota Winter Counts at the
Smithsonian, Smithsonian National Museum.

These shapes show enough similarity to many of the Winter Count portrayals of the 1833 Meteor Storm that I believe we have to consider the possibility that they too represent a group of meteors flying through the sky. They could either represent a dense meteor shower or storm (similar to the 1833 example, although BCS rock art is many thousands of years older), or a large meteor that has broken up into four pieces in the atmosphere. In Fall of 2012 I was lucky enough to observe a large fireball in the sky. As it fell pieces broke off and became smaller points of light on their own. This is known as a bolide and the pictographs at Sinbad could represent an effective attempted portrayal of that phenomenon.

It is also possible that these were meant to represent birds. Between the two figures are a half dozen small circles with lines sticking out on both sides, very like the possible meteors. These resemble birds seen from the front or back so that a wing is seen sticking out on both sides of the round body. These shapes are not included in Castleton's drawing but can be clearly seen in the photograph. We must keep this in mind as a possibility. I suggest that it is more likely however, that these are meant to be other meteors so what we are seeing is a proper meteor storm.

And, of course, not being able to resist the irony in the situation, you have caught me stating that this rock art panel illustrates four Flying Objects that are Unidentified, but I would much rather conclude that they are a meteors or a bolide than UFOs. 


Castleton, Kenneth B.,
1984    Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Utah, Volume One: The East and Northeast, Utah Museum of Natural History, Salt Lake City, Fig. 3.36, p. 133.

Greene, Candace S. and Russell Thornton
2007    The Year the Stars Fell: Lakota Winter Counts at the Smithsonian,  Smithsonian National Museum.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Petroglyph, along the Colorado River, Moab,
Utah. Photograph Mr. Kelly, Grand Junction,
Colorado, pre-1925.

On June 21, 2014, I posted a column titled DINOSAURS IN ROCK ART – THE HAVASUPAI CANYON HADROSAUR. In this I expressed my disbelief in the claims of creationists that there are rock art examples of dinosaurs that prove that humans and dinosaurs coexisted and interacted. The example I discussed in that posting, the Havasupai Canyon so-called “hadrosaur” was first recorded by the Doheny expedition in October and November of 1924.

In October and November of 1924, the Doheny Expedition to Havasupai canyon was fielded by the Oakland Museum, Oakland, California. Its purpose was to record an example of rock art that supposedly proved that dinosaurs and humans had coexisted. This expedition was led by Samuel Hubbard, director of the expedition and an honorary curator of archaeology at the museum, and accompanied by Charles W. Gilmore, Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the United States National Museum. The report on this expedition was written by Hubbard and published January 26, 1925.

So-called "Moab Mastodon," Photograph Dell Crandall, 1999.

In this posting I wish to bring up a claim in a supplement to the expedition report that was attached to attempt to strengthen Hubbard’s claim of petroglyphs of extinct creatures. On page 27 of the report is the astonishing claim that the petroglyph found along the Colorado River near Moab, Utah, and often called the “Moab Mastodon” is really the picture of a wooly rhinoceros. Hubbard wrote:

From the Grand Canyon in southern Utah comes another remarkable petroglyph. This was photographed and sent to me by Mr. George Kelly of Grand Junction, Colorado. The outline of the figure was so faint that he was obliged to chalk it in to secure a satisfactory photograph.
There is not the slightest question in my mind that this was intended to represent a rhinoceros.
All the ‘rhino’ character is present. The menacing horn; the prehensile upper lip; the short tail; the heavy body and short legs, all suggest a ‘rhino’ about to charge. This is the first time it has ever been known that prehistoric man in America was contemporary with the rhinoceros.

Wooly rhinocerous outline, European
cave art, public domain photo.

I have before me an outline of a wooly rhinoceros sketched by an artist-hunter on the limestone wall of the Cavern of Les Combarelles in France. The difference between the two is that the Cro-Magnon hunter shows the ears of his ‘rhino’ erect and pointed forward, while the American artist shows the ears turned over. I venture the prediction that there was that difference in the two animals.” (p. 27)

The photograph (at top) illustrating this claim shows the “Moab Mastodon” as it was prior to 1925. How much prior we cannot know because Hubbard does not reveal when he actually received the photo from Mr. Kelly of Grand Junction, Colorado. What I find very interesting is that this early photo allows us to compare with the same petroglyph as it is presently found. The first time I visited the “Moab Mastodon” I suspected that the figure had been seriously re-pecked as the patina across its torso seemed to me to show a suspicious variability. Indeed, comparing a new photo of that image with the pre-1925 photo suggests that the torso has indeed seen a major episode of touchup. This could possibly be a relic of the conditions under which it was originally photographed, so I cannot claim this to be any kind of definitive proof. The other major problem that I found with the “Moab Mastodon” was that it shows definite toes or claws. Checking those features in the 1925 photo they seem to be even more slender and defined. These are definitely not the feet of either an elephant or a rhinoceros.

In my November 25, 2009, posting titled ELEPHANTIDS IN NORTH AMERICA – THE MOAB MASTODON, I suggested that it might in fact be an image of a brown or grizzly bear with a large fish in its mouth. It seems to me that the feet with claws of the 1925 photo look even more like a bear’s clawed feet than its modern, retouched, incarnation. While it could represent many things, one thing I am sure of is that it is neither a mastodon, nor a wooly rhinoceros.

So, I am sorry mister Hubbard, I have to strenuously disagree with your conclusion that this petroglyph shows the Paleolithic Wooly Rhinoceros, I am grateful, however, for another (and much earlier) picture of this continuing enigma.


Hubbard, Samuel
1925    The Doheny Scientific Expedition to the Hava Supai Canyon, Northern Arizona, October and November, 1924, Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA.

Saturday, January 3, 2015


"The Lady of the Woods/Stone Lady of Crater
Lake", Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.
Photograph ca. 1999, by Steve Marks,
National Park Service.

"The Lady of the Woods/Stone Lady of Crater
Lake", Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.
Photograph ca. 1920, by Alex Sparrow,
National Park Service.

About a mile and a half from the lodge at Crater Lake National Park atop Mount Mazama, in Oregon, the nude figure of a woman is carved in relief in a large lave boulder. The story of the “Stone Woman of Crater Lake” was told on Jefferson Public Radio (Southern Oregon University) and has been published by Dennis M. Powers in a story he titled “Trail Leads to Mysterious Stone Woman of Crater Lake”.

Crater Lake, Oregon. Public domain.

 “Reports of a sculptured stone woman began filtering into Crater Lake National Park headquarters during the winter and spring of 1917. Workers located the figure on the lake’s rim, about a mile and a half from the lodge.  The nearly full relief of a nude figure was chiseled out of a lava boulder, its legs bent and one arm over its head as if shielding against danger. The news media reported the discovery with headlines such as “Mummy Woman found in woods” and “Ancient figure of woman discovered.”   

Crater Lake, Oregon. Public domain.

 The curator of archaeology at a California museum went so far as to speculate that it could be a petrified human body or a lava-filled cavity resulting from mud enveloping the body of a woman. The mystery was resolved four years later when Dr. Earl Russell Bush, official surgeon for the U.S. Engineers, revealed he was the sculptor. He said he had been stationed at the park in the summer of 1917 and had spent 14 days in October carving the figure. He had pledged his staff to secrecy.   A trail constructed in 1930 leads to the “Lady of the Woods,” where she sleeps surrounded by trees in view of those who can find her. “(Powers, episode 2393).
This “curator of archaeology at a California museum” was our old friend Samuel Hubbard, who found the dinosaur petroglyph and the man fighting the elephant petroglyph at the bottom of Havasupai Canyon, and identified the so-called “Moab Mastodon” as a wooly rhinoceros (to say nothing of his other amazing discoveries).

The full story of the creation of this carving had been printed in an article entitled “Stone Woman of Crater Lake No Longer Mystery” on October 24, 1923, in The Fresno Bee, and reprinted by the Crater Lake Institute in Crater Lake National Park News (

Vandalism photo, 2014, Crater Lake National Park.
Of course, were Doctor Bush to do something like this today it would be considered felony vandalism, but that was another time. Modern vandalism has hit Crater Lake National Park in the form of a blue-haired face painted on a boulder overlooking the lake at an elevation of about 9,000 feet. Federal agents have confirmed other painted images “in Yosemite, and four other national parks in California, Utah and Oregon. The images appear to come from a New York state woman traveling across the west and documenting her work on Instagram and Tumblr.” ( Because of its age the Stone Lady qualifies as rock art, but this painted face is just bad – definitely vandalism, certainly not art. Shame on whoever did this!

NOTE: I want to thank Mary Merryman, Curator of Museum Archive and Collections, and Steve Mark, Historian, of Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, for their help and cooperation in preparing this post. Our tax dollars are well spent.

Jefferson Public Radio, Southern Oregon University.

National Park Service.

Stone Woman of Crater Lake No Longer Mystery, The Fresno Bee, Sacramento Bureau, Fresno California, October 24, 1923.