I grew up in the town of Diamond Springs, California located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Once upon a time Diamond had been known as Mo-lok’epakan, or, Morning Star’s Spring. It was a very holy place to the Maidu Indians. They came from miles around bearing their dead on litters for cremation.
Apparently the Maidu had been living in the area for a thousand years. It is a sad commentary on both our education system and how we treated the Indians that I grew up never hearing the name Morning Star’s Spring much less Mo-lok’epakan.
Our only connection with the Maidu’s lost heritage was finding an occasional arrowhead or Indian bead.
The thrill of finding arrowheads, however, led to a lifelong fascination with the culture of Native Americans. Over the past ten years that fascination has led me to an interest in Indian rock-art or petroglyphs and pictographs. Petroglyphs are pecked or scraped from dark, rock varnish exposing a lighter color underneath. Pictographs are painted on rocks.
Peggy and I have explored and photographed major rock-art sites throughout the western US. Today I will introduce Sego Canyon located in eastern Utah off of I-70 near the small town of Thompson. Later I will blog about other sites such as the Three Rivers Petroglyph National Recreation Site of New Mexico.
What captured me about Sego Canyon is the unique, almost ethereal rock-art of the archaic peoples, and the fact that the rock-art represents three distinctive Native American cultures ranging over 8000 years.
The pictographs featured below were made by archaic hunter-gatherer nomads who wandered across western North America between 6000 and 100 BC. Rock art is classified according to various styles and this particular style is known as Barrier Canyon. Its attributes include life-size, man-like creatures with hollow eyes, missing arms, antennae, and lots of snakes. The theory is that the figures may have represented shamanistic journeys to the underworld. I am voting for encounters with aliens… just kidding.
The Fremont Culture existed between 600 and 1200 AD and represented a more settled lifestyle. The rock-art of the Fremont Indians featured rectangular bodies with small heads. Both deer and mountain sheep are also found in the rock art below. Note the Indian shooting the mountain sheep with a large bow and arrow.
The final culture represented in Sego Canyon is that of the Ute Indians who lived in the area from 1300 AD up to 1880 when they were forced off the land to live on reservations. One indicator of more ‘modern’ rock-art is the presence of horses that didn’t exist in North America until the Spanish introduced them in the 1500s. Note the red leggings on the central figure. I also like the little red guy riding the horse. Yahoo! The round figure on the right is thought to represent a shield.