Ceremonial Alcove Central Utah


Barrier Canyon Style 6500 B.C. to 300 A.D., Emery County


The delicate imagery in this panel suggests a complex story. From left to right, a figure with hollow eyes or circular shoulders rains or bleeds from his torso.  A strange horned bird with long thin legs extends feathered wings skyward. Blood drips from the fangs of a horned serpent that faces an armless central figure with feet of rain.  Further right, another serpent stands upright on two feet and a figure with flowing hair holds a third serpent close to his face. Black and white film footage of the Hopi Snake Dance in the 1920s shows dancers holding rattlesnakes in this position. 


To the far right, a tall figure has rain or blood swirling from his feet. Long delicate antennae composed of circles extend from another elongated spirit figure.  Small human forms have arms, legs, feet and fine long hair.


I have seen delicately painted figures similar to these on several other panels in the San Rafael Swell. These pictographs appear to be the work of one talanted person.


This panel was scarcely known until visitation to the area greatly increased.  Now that it has been “discovered,” what will become of it? Several pictographs in the area were recently vandalized with charcoal and crayons.  A new book on the Colorado Plateau identifies the canyon where this panel is located. It is difficult to discuss a site intelligently without a geographical reference, but location information inevitably leads to site vandalism.  I ask myself if this photograph may contribute to the destruction of the panel.  Truly, something is very wrong if we must hide what we cherish.