The Temple Mountain Wash Pictograph Panel

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Ancient Petroglyphs

We visited the Temple Mountain Wash Pictograph Panel after touring Cathedral Valley with Jen Howe from Red Rock Adventure Guides. After photographing the sunrise at the Temples of the Sun and Moon, we drove part of the Cathedral Valley Loop towards Caineville. Here and there we stopped to admire the scenery.

There are Petroglyphs in and around Capitol Reef National Park. Some are attributed to the Fremont people who lived in Utah from 100-1300 AD. Others date back to the Archaic period, perhaps as far back as 8000 BC. The Temple Mountain Wash Pictograph Panel contains both styles with the Fremont people placing their paintings alongside the older ones.

This pictograph panel is right off the side of the road. It’s a quick stop for photos and to read the interpretive sign. Unfortunately, due to the easy accessibility, this panel has been defaced and even shot at by vandals. You can see some etched graffiti and bullet holes in the enlargement below.

The Temple Mountain Pictograph panel is significant because it contains some of the largest prehistoric painted figures in Utah. The largest image is, at present, about 6 feet tall. It could easily have been 8 feet or more. If you look carefully you will see the backs of two large animals. The sizes of these images seem to suggest that the creators wanted them to be easily seen and to demonstrate that they were of exceptional significance. It is obvious that a large part of the panel has broken off from the cliff face. This is spalling and it occurs principally because salt crystals grow from mineral-laden water that has penetrated into the stone from above. As the water evaporates near the surface, the crystals grow larger and eventually fracture off the front layer of sandstone. The presence of several small fragments of pigment in the spalled area between the left side and right side of the panel indicate that the area between them was apparently filled with petroglyphs. The section on the right side of the red figures, where the streaks of mud, also contains more images. These images are covered over with streaks of mud. When wind blow rain against the cliff face, some of the mud is washed away and the images become more visible; when the rain comes from above, the images are covered with streaks of mud. In total the panel would have been over 100 feet long. There are two ages of petroglyphs present in this panel. The horned figure on the far left is a Fremont anthropomorphic stylized human figure. The concentric circles are a common element in Fremont Panels. The Fremont existed from about AD 100 to AD 1300 and lived in nearly all of Utah. The other figures are Barrier Canyon Style which have several proposed dates. Some people believe that the date to the Archaic period, which started about 8000 to 6500 BC and ended about 2000 years ago, others believe that they date to AD 1 to 1100. Other dates have been proposed and there is even some disagreement on what actually constitutes Barrier Canyon Style. The Fremont figures are placed far to the left because it is likely that the rest of the cliff face was covered with Barrier Canyon Style figures. Why do you think the Fremont placed their pictographs on this panel?

Steve Manning, Utah Rock Art Research Association, text of interpretive sign

Capitol Reef Posts

Location: Green River, Utah
Designation: National Register of Historic Places
Date Designated/Established: 3/15/1976
Date of my visit: 4/13/2017

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