Rock Art Favorites: Bandelier National Monument, NM

Between 1150 and 1550 CE, the Ancestral Pueblo people carved out homes from the volcanic tuff in the area that is now Bandelier National Monument. One of my favorite sites at Bandelier is Long House, a large complex of multi-storied dwellings built against a cliff face with hundreds of small rooms carved into the rock. I love the petroglyphs throughout the complex. You can see the holes for the roof beams, indicating the location of second and third floors. It is amazing to be able to see where people would have stood on top of their roof to make the designs.  Please note, it is incredibly important to never climb on the walls of any site and to never touch the rock art images; it is both unethical and illegal to damage archaeological sites.

Link:

https://www.nps.gov/band/learn/historyculture/ancestral-pueblo-people.htm

Rock Art Favorites: Dinosaur National Monument, CO, UT

Don’t let the word ‘Dinosaur’ fool you; at Dinosaur National Monument, there are hundreds of prehistoric rock art images that were created by the Fremont people. When I recently visited the Monument, I was absolutely amazed at how many different panels exist. There are pictographs (painted) and petroglyphs (chipped or carved) represented, although petroglyphs are the dominant form. The rock art images are in the ‘Classic Vernal Style,’ which includes human and animal-like figures. Many of the figures have a distinct trapezoidal shape and wear what looks like different types of jewelry and headdresses. For more information on the rock art and culture of the Fremont, see by blog post on this topic or visit the Dinosaur National Monument website. I highly recommend making the trip to this park for the rock art alone!  Please note, it is both unethical and illegal to touch or vandalize rock art.

Links:

https://www.nps.gov/dino/learn/historyculture/viewing-petroglyphs-and-pictographs.htm

 

Who Were the Fremont People?

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Script from my ARCH365 Episode (click here to listen)

Some of the most spectacular rock art of the Great Basin and western Colorado Plateau was created by the Fremont, but who were the Fremont?

There are so many fascinating prehistoric peoples that made the Great Basin and American Southwest their home. The Ancestral Puebloans of Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon, the Hohokam irrigation canals and ballcourts of southern Arizona, the gorgeous pottery designs of the Mimbres of New Mexico, and so on, are some of the more well-known prehistoric cultures. Outside of archaeology, one of the lesser recognized, but incredibly unique, prehistoric peoples of the Great Basin and Southwest are the Fremont.

The name for this culture comes from the Fremont River in Utah, where the Navajo and Ute Native American tribes discovered the first Fremont sites. The Fremont lived in the sagebrush and pinon high desert region of the Great Basin and western Colorado Plateau, so areas of Utah, Nevada, and Colorado. They occupied this region from 600 to 1400 AD. It is more difficult to trace the Fremont on the landscape as a distinct culture after 1200 AD. Their lifestyle may have changed after long periods of drought and competition for resources with their neighbors. The Fremont were roughly adjacent to and roughly were contemporaneous with the more famous Ancestral Puebloans, who constructed pueblos and cliff dwellings throughout the southwest.

Well, the very fact that they aren’t easy to classify makes them interesting. This was a diverse culture, differing widely across the landscape. While some Fremont people were building above ground structures, others were constructing subsurface pithouses; some lived in large groups, while others lived in smaller bands—all contemporaneously. Consequently, archaeologists have struggled to define the Fremont as a distinct culture as an entire group since there are so many exceptions. They were not a cohesive group, demonstrating their flexibility to adapt and change.

They were primarily hunter-gatherers, supplementing their diet with farming. Pithouse villages with 10 to 100 houses, dotted the landscape, although it’s unlikely that they were all inhabited at the same time. These small villages tended to be located near streams, where fields could be easily irrigated. Granaries, small structures that stored food, were built into hard to reach places for the lean times. The Fremont built communal structures, essentially an oversized pit house that could accommodate more than just a family; they would also build large structures at the center of their village. Artifacts like turquoise beads and other exotic materials have been found in these structures, suggesting that some kind of ceremonial activities took place.

The Fremont made all kinds of fascinating artifacts and artwork, including clay figurines. They are fragile pieces of art since most were made of unfired clay and are typically not larger than the palm of your hand. These figurines typically have a trapezoidal shape and sometimes have arms, hands, legs, male, female and androgynous forms, hair-dresses, tattoos, jewelry, and so on. In some areas of the southwest, they would have been used for ceremonies, while in others they may have been toys for children.

They also had a unique rock art style that is truly stunning. The rock art includes pecked and painted images of rhomboid to trapezoidal – shaped bodies with broad shoulders, wearing elaborate necklaces, earrings, and headdresses. There are typically zoomorphs, animals, on the panels, such as deer or elk. Figures tend to be located on south or west facing sandstone walls, possibly associated with water or canyon confluences.

The primary way to see Fremont archaeology is through rock art. Dinosaur National Monument has some of the most spectacular Fremont rock art in the west. Just remember that you can’t touch the rock art or remove any artifacts from sites located nearby. That’s unethical and illegal.

Links:

https://www.nps.gov/care/learn/historyculture/fremont.htm

http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/american_indians/thefremont.html

Archaeology Podcast Network/ARCH365 Podcast:

https://www.archaeologypodcastnetwork.com/hq-downloads/arch365-289

Adventures in Rock Art: Picture Canyon, Flagstaff, AZ

Picture Canyon is just a short drive away from the heart of Flagstaff. It is a beautiful little state park that has been recently cleaned up to preserve the archaeological, geological, and wildlife resources of the canyon. Obviously, the archaeology was high on my list of things to check out. Unfortunately, the visible ruins of pit houses, cave dwellings, and artifacts have been vandalized over the years; the sites were still fun to explore, but the archaeologist in me was annoyed. At least the rock art is good shape! There are over 150 petroglyphs of animals, geometric designs, and archers. The petroglyphs were created by the Northern Sinagua, who lived and farmed the area between 1000 and 1200 AD. If you’re ever in Flagstaff, I highly recommend hiking through the canyon!

Find out more:

http://www.flagstaff.az.gov/index.aspx?NID=2881

*Please note: rock art is incredibly fragile. Do not touch rock art, spray-paint it, or vandalize it in any way. Not only is it ethically wrong, it is illegal.