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Canyonlands Natural History Association is a nonprofit organization established to assist the scientific and educational efforts of the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the USDA Forest Service in southeast Utah.

Photo: Jeff, Arches Bookstore Manager
The Archeology of Horseshoe Canyon

National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior - Canyonlands National Park

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Abstract

The Archeology of Horseshoe Canyon Located in one of the most remote areas in North America, Horseshoe Canyon in Canyonlands National Park is renowned for its collection of Barrier Canyon Style pictographs (images that are painted on the surface) and petroglyphs (images that are chipped into the rock).

The trailhead lies at the end of a 30-mile dirt road across the remote San Rafael desert; the hike down into Horseshoe Canyon is over 3 miles long.

The power of these images deep in the heart of the silent canyon have inspired scientists, artists, and tourists for decades. All we can know for certain about these images and the people who made them is what has been left behind. Their use and meaning may be guessed-at, but we will never known for certain why the images were made, what they mean, or how they were used.

The articles in this book were written by some of the most renowned experts in the field of southwestern archaeology. They explore different aspects of the physical evidence left behind from the past, and speculate on its meaning and cultural context.

The Power and the Glory
by Alan Schroedl
Changes in the lifeway of the Desert Archaic culture over time and with climate change. Discussion of split twig figurines. Possible dates for BCS rock art.

Excerpts from Indian Rock Art of the Southwest
by Polly Schaafsma
A primer on rock art studies, including sections on style, function, interpretation, and technique. Comparion of BCS and Pecos styles.

Trance and Transformation in the Canyons: Shamanism and Early Rock Art on the Colorado Plateau
by Polly Shaafsma
BCS and Basketmaker rock art is examined for shamanistic themes. Schaafsma makes the case that shamanistic practices were behind the creation of this rock art, and that shamanism was very important in these societies.

Early Archaic Clay Figurines from Cowboy and Walters Caves in Southeastern Utah
by Nancy J. Coulam and Alan R. Schroedl
An extensive analysis and discussion of the clay artifacts found in the Horseshoe Canyon area, some of which resemble the ghost figures at the Great Gallery.

Barrier Canyon Rock Art Dating
by Betsy L. Tipps
A discussion of methods used to date BCS rock art, including the current chemical methods which have provided seven clustered dates between 1900 BC and AD 300.

Excerpts from Archaic Occupancy of the Glen Canyon Region
by Phil R. Geib
An extensive summary of chronometric data for characterizing the Archaic period of the Glen Canyon region and examination of different models of Archaic occupancy of the area.

The Curve-Tailed Canine
by Jim Blazik
A look at the representation of dogs in Barrier Canyon Style rock art.


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