Monday, July 22, 2013

Coyote Gulch

Original Report - April 30, 2009

The Central Figures

The pictograph panel in lower Coyote Gulch is located about half a mile downstream from Coyote Natural Bridge. It is located on the north wall of the canyon at the top of a sandy hill. There is a very clear path running up the hill to the panel.
I have posted all the photos I took here on Photobucket.

Most of the images are pictographs painted on the rock, but there is a faint hourglass shapped figure scratched into the rock. Also something that looks like a pair of horns that have been pecked into the rock deeper than the scratching.
The art shows a Fremont influence. At least the light grey-yellow painted figures which are similar to the horned figures found in Fremont rock art. The other figures are more difficult to place, especially for an amatuer like myself. In some cases, like the object we labelled the tennis racquet, the red pigment looks older than the grey. But in the case of what Dave called, "The Chief", the red looks just as recent as the grey.
When we looked around we noticed that someone had piled up some of the stones in the area to look like a low wall. I am skeptical that this is authentic, but the stones may have well been builiding block of earlier structures. We also found two circles that had numerous bits of corn cob, squash rind, bone, and hard flints. One was inside the low wall. The other was in what looked like a fire ring, but some of the rocks in the ring were actually adobe, not stone. Again, I suspect these have not been lying here like this for hundreds of years. Most likely they are objects that hikers have run across and deposited here since they saw earlier hikers had done so. Dave raised an interesting question though, why hasn't somebody just walked off with all this stuff? Perhaps they have, just not all of it. Or do Coyote Gulch hikers have enough civic virtue to only look and not steal? At least two do.
Looking around the shelf where these two circles were (located under a slight overhang to the west of the panel) we noticed little bits of black charcoal mixed in with the sand. Even a casual observer can see that this site was occupied in some form in the past.
In order to find out more about the site I checked out two published articles. One is a paper by Phil R. Geib, entitled "New Evidence for the Antiquity of Fremont Occupation in Glen Canyon, South-central Utah." The other is an anthropological paper from the University Of Utah written in 1959 by James H. Gunnerson, entitled "1957 Excavations, Glen Canyon Area."
Gunnerson reports on excavations at three sites in Coyote Gulch, but the sites are all several miles upstream from the pictograph panel. Geib reports on radiocarbon dating from the richest site there, called the Alvey site, and from four other sites in the Escalante drainage. I have not been able to find any published information on this particular site, so it may not have ever been excavated. Nonetheless, information about the other sites sheds light on who was living in the area and when.
Gieb finds evidence from his radiocarbone dating that the Fremont were well-entrenched in the area, raising corn & squash and using pottery during the period from 200 AD to 900 AD. This date is a bit earlier than previous researchers had hypothesised. The Alvey site consisted of three layers the middle of which corresponds to this time period. The top layer had objects of both Fremont and Anasazi origin mixed together. This indicates that the Anasazi appeared here after the Fremont. The most common dates I have come across for the Anasazi are in the range of 1000 to 1250 AD.
According to Don Montoya, Museum Curator at the Anasazi State Park Museum in Boulder, UT, there is rock art scattered through this general area dating back as far as 5500 BC. So, the figures that are not obviously Fremont could be archaic or Anasazi. Or perhaps of some other orgin altogether.
Bottom line is that the side trip up the sandy hill is well worth the effort. The pictographs are in excellent condition and you can get up fairly close to them to see what they look like.
Dave Spencer at the Panel

I am informed by Dave who was informed by other knowledgable sources named Elliot, that there is another well-known pictograph panel in the Gulch. When we were hiking in I saw a well-worn trail high up the side of the canyon on another sand hill that I suspected might lead to pictographs or a cliff dwelling. Perhaps this is where they are.
I found a photo of a different panel on Flickr. Perhaps this is the other site.

I enhanced the contrast on one of the photos and reproduce it below:

It looks to me like there are two more faintly scratched figures here. The "tennis racquet" is painted over the top of one. On closer examination, it may be that it was scratched over the top of the racquet. If fact, it may have been painted, but if so the paint has mostly worn off. The other is just to the right of the central white horned figure. You can make out the horns to the right of its head.

Actually, all the easily visible figures look like they are painted on top of or around older, fainter ones.

Another Update
Here are two photos that show the main figures in the panel. One show where I think there are faint horned hourglass figures. Maybe I'm just seeing things, though.

And I have an opinion from an expert as well. Dr. Renee Barlow from the CEU Prehistory Museum in Price says in an email:
"It is quite beautiful, and does appear to be somewhat impressionistic with elements resembling Fremont figures. I think though, that overall the panel does not look like typical Fremont rock art in this region, so it may be difficult to assign a definitive cultural affiliation. If the rock art were dated, that would help of course."

Update 3
A nice set of photos linked together is available at

© 2009  Kerk L. Phillips

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