Barrier Canyon Anthropomorphic Style (named after the Great Gallery pictograph in Barrier Canyon, now known as Horseshoe Canyon)
1000 B.C. to 500 A.D. Grand County, Utah
When we look at medieval art, exquisite portrayals of the birth of Christ, Christ bearing a heavy wooden cross, Christ nailed to the cross, his hands and feet bleeding, we understand the passion inspiring medieval paintings. Whether or not we are Christians, we understand this story rooted deep in our culture. In Utah’s vast deserts there is another story. A series of large painted panels, several thousand years old, portray a narrative that we will probably never understand. The central characters are powerful ghostly figures, elongated spirit beings with the hollow eyes of death, standing near or holding serpents. At this Sego Junction Panel, the supernatural being has horns, which seems to be a universal symbol for shamanic power. A giant serpent stands near the spirit figure who may be a guide to the underworld, the world of death. These images are difficult to forget. The eyes, empty sockets of the dead, beckon me in my dreams.
Barrier Canyon Style pictographs, like European medieval art, are fueled by spiritual passion. Maybe by their very power the images have invited destruction. The Buckhorn Wash Panel, Sego Canyon Panel and Courthouse Wash Panel are easily accessible and have been vandalized in every possible manner. We must ask ourselves why we fail our obligation to history? How do we expand our narrow sense of history, limited to pioneers and cowboys, to include the great and mysterious civilizations of Utah’s past?