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Canyon Rock Art: Field Sites

The beautiful canyons of Utah where the rock art can be found.

An Earthwatch team member sketches details of the rock art.
In canyon lands of southeastern Utah, join archaeologist and petroglyph expert Sally Cole, whose specialty is recording and interpreting ancient rock art. She has led over 20 Earthwatch expeditions to remote areas of Utah backcountry and documented over 300 ancient rock-art sites. Some of the rock art found may date back more than 2,000 years ago.

Cole says that she finds the "rock art" symbols intriguing. "You see something really interesting and you want you to find out more about it. Figuring out the meaning is like detective work. It requires tracking down a lot of different clues, before the big picture comes into view. It is using a scientific process to address questions about the past of people who had no written histories."

Rock art, like pottery, provides clues to the way ancient peoples lived, where they lived, how they made a living, what they believed, and maybe even what happened to them. Cole is interested in finding what the relationships were among Pueblo peoples. Which groups came in contact with one another? How did cultures and traditions change as a result of contact?

Unfortunately, rock-art drawings are quickly disappearing as hikers and rock climbers carelessly scramble over the images etched on boulders and cliffs, or vandals scribble graffiti on the canyon walls.

Cole's documentation of the rock art not only preserves a historic record, but also helps federal authorities know where to establish protected areas.

Photo Credits: Courtesy of Stacey Monty/Earthwatch Institute