Barrier Canyon Art
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The Barrier Canyon article discusses three of the best rock art panels in Utah. There is a rough dirt road to Barrier Canyon from the town of Green River, Utah, and another road across from Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park. The other two sites Buckhorn Wash and Sego Canyon can be reached by car with little difficulty.
A group of Indians in Utah’s Maize District of Canyonlands National Park are classified as Barrier Canyon Indians (Barrier Canyon is shown as Horseshoe Canyon on recent maps). Barrier Canyon Indians are dated from the mid-Archaic Period (~4000 B.C. to 2000 B.C.). Classification is based on pictographs and clay figurines. The clay figures were excavated from Cowboy Cave by Dr. Jesse Jennings of the University of Utah. Cowboy Cave is eight miles beyond the Great Gallery in Barrier Canyon. The clay figurines found in Cowboy Cave match the style of some Barrier Canyon pictographs. Barrier Canyon style rock art is found on the canyon walls of the northern Colorado Plateau in southeastern Utah, western Colorado, and northern Arizona.
From a parking lot with no facilities except a portable outhouse, the trail descends a 750 foot switchback trail to the Barrier Canyon streambed. The approximately 6.5 mile round trip trail is well marked and maintained.
The Barrier Canyon style pictograph rock art consists of larger-than-life-size anthropomorphic (manlike) forms. The identifying characteristics are vacant looking or missing eyes, the frequent absence of arms and legs, and the presence of vertical body markings. Unique to the Southwest, the Barrier Canyon pictographs are regarded by many as the finest rock art in the United States. Barrier Canyon’s Great Gallery is over three-hundred feet long with over sixty figures.
Archaeologists speculate the life-sized human-like figures were painted by different individuals between 4000 and 2000 B.C.. Despite this several thousand year period, there are very few occurrences of images being painted over by other Indians…this indicates the spiritual, or mystical, significance of the Prehistoric Indian pictographs to the Anasazi, Fremont, and historic Indians. Anyone visiting these sites cannot help but feel an aura of mystery.
Mountain sheep and deer with the hunters carrying spears on the left end of the Great Gallery site are a later date than the typical Barrier anthropomorphic figures.The Great Gallery area has several distinct panels, and not all of the art panels are from the same time period (Jacobs). Horseshoe Shelter contains a mixture of Barrier, Anasazi, and Fremont pictographs and petroglyphs. The Horseshoe shelter is under a huge rock alcove. Based on the rock art and other artifacts, this site was used as a shelter for thousands of years.
Late Barrier Canyon style rock art pictographs and Fremont petroglyphs panels are found in Buckhorn Wash east of Huntington, Utah.
Several panels in Buckhorn Wash have been covered with bullet holes and initials. Emory County and the BLM restored this panel in 1996.
The most famous pictograph is the Buckhorn Wash Angels.
As the Barrier Canyon people passed through Buckhorn Wash, they painted colorful images on the rock faces. The Buckhorn Wash Angle is regarded as the best panel. Some of the panels in Buckhorn Wash are thought to be about 4,000-6,000 years old. Other groups of prehistoric Indians have created panels as well.
The Sego Canyon rock art site is at the end of an oiled road north of Thompson, Utah. This is an excellent site to see Barrier, Fremont, and historic Indian panels.
Fremont petroglyphs imposed on older Barrier Canyon pictographs.
Horses were brought to Mexico by Cortez in 1519, and onto the Great Plains by Coronado in 1540. It is doubtful if horses reached the Canyonlands area before the late 1700’s. The first known horses to reach this area were horses with the Dominguez Escalante Expedition in 1776.
The Barrier Canyon article was written by Ned Eddins of Afton, Wyoming.
Permission is given for material from this site to be used for school research papers.
Citation: Eddins, Ned. (article name) Thefurtrapper.com. Afton, Wyoming. 2002.
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Archeology of Horseshoe Canyon
Barrier Canyon Rock Art
Jacobs, James Q