If you happen to be traveling to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, in Utah, along Hwy 211 after turning off of State Hwy 191, you’ll probably pass right by this parking area (with restroom) and a very short path leading to this amazing rock panel crammed with petroglyphs in a fenced-off, quiet sheltered area. Don’t pass by this place. It’s really cool!
This spot records about 2,000 years of human activity from B.C. to A.D. 1300. I can’t find out who actually discovered this spot to make it into an archaeological site, and nobody really knows what all the petroglyphs mean. Do they represent magical symbols, map symbols, calendar events or just doodles? I noticed some current graffiti on the panel (even though the area is fenced off), and I have to tell you, the current graffiti is not half as imaginative or pretty as the ancient stuff. Just sayin’. There’s a reason this archeological site is fenced off.
I had to do a little internet searching, but it has been called a state historical monument that apparently was once part of Bears Ears National Monument, but it’s now been chopped off and is part of the Indian Creek National Monument (according to visitutah.com), located 15 miles west of U.S. Highway 191 (about 60 miles south of Moab).
What’s the difference between petroglyphs and pictographs? Well, petroglyphs are actually carved into the rock, while pictographs are painted on rock. These petroglyphs were etched into the dark rock coating called “desert varnish” to expose the light, buff-colored rock beneath. You can tell the older petroglyphs from the others because they are dark and covered with a bit of desert varnish, again.
It never ceases to amaze me how this particular rock panel was discovered among the vast and imposing mesas, buttes and canyons. If you stand on the road, you can see the panel in the distance, but only if you are really looking for it
Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.