The Navajo Horse Panel Southern Utah


Historic Navaho Rock Art 1800 A.D. to 1925 A.D. San Juan County, Utah


This lovely nineteenth century Navaho petroglyph is carved on top of an Anasazi panel with a large spiral, bear tracks and serpents.  Nearby are modern carvings of deer and horses, which we would call graffiti. When did the majority of Native Americans stop making rock art?  When does carving and painting become graffiti, no matter who makes it?  The Utes, Piutes, Shoshoni and Navaho created rock art with distinctive styles.  This rock art began to disappear almost as soon as there was contact with Euro-Americans, who taught Native Americans to read and write and converted them to Christianity.  A similar change took place many years before.  The impressive Basketmaker rock art of southern Utah disappeared with the introduction of the Kiva-centered religion.


The hastily pecked deer and horse on the far right of this panel do not appear to hold the meaning of the elegant, beautifully constructed earlier horses. Rock art vandalism is now a problem for Native Americans as well as Euro-Americans.


Over the past two years, Native American archeologists and traditionalists have championed the rock art threatened by energy development in Nine Mile Canyon.  The Hopi Tribe has initiated an aggressive land-purchasing program, including land with clan rock art sites.  This may be the beginning of a new era in rock art preservation.