Limbless mummies. Bug-eyed space aliens. Shamanistic anthropomorphs. Trapezoidal beings. One of Utah’s best collections of rock art is found in this canyon north of Thompson Springs. The National Register of Historic Places helps preserve an gallery of outdoor artwork in this setting.
Alien bug-eyed anthropomorph with unusual accompaniments; Barrier Canyon style, over 2000 yr old
Three different cultures are represented here, and their artwork is utterly distinctive. The Barrier Canyon style, two to three thousand years old, is mysterious and beautiful. These figures are all painted (pictographs) and many are life-sized.
The Fremont culture flourished here between 600 and 1250 A.D. Their figures typically have trapezoidal heads and bodies, and often wear necklaces. A richly-decorated panel shows multiple individuals.
I’ve no photograph for the Ute artwork, but it is post-Spanish and therefore shows horses.
I find pictographs and petroglyphs deeply intriguing. They help me make an emotional connection to people far removed. What scenes from their lives were worthy of depicting? What can we infer about their lifestyle? Did they have pets? Why is the artwork concentrated in certain places?
Fremont culture (about 1000 yrs ago)
Someone left his truck in the desert.
Once upon a time, it was nice
Ghost towns are fun to explore. Thompson Springs, UT — population perhaps 30 or 40 — curled up and died over the last decades. It looks in some ways as if its people just got up and walked away. The railroad depot still says PARKING FOR PATRONS ONLY. The cafe counter is long and the chrome still shines through the dust. One house has a dozen bovine pelvises wired to its chain link fence.
My favorite, however, is the old motel. Its doors stand open in the spring breeze — none having been closed, I would bet, for years. I was there eight months ago and it looked just the same. Someone is squatting in the far west bedroom, as evidence by the signs. We halfway expected said person to appear at any moment, but saw no living person in the town.
The motel's lone occupant has left a message
If one uses one’s imagination, images of the bustling coal mining railroad town of the early 20th century can be conjured up. For now, however, there is nothing here but a few prairie dogs and pronghorns now and again.