McConkie Ranch Petroglyphs

McConkie Ranch Petroglyphs

Utah is a state rich with petroglyphs and pictographs. Areas near Vernal, UT are filled with art sites dating back 2000 years or more. We visited the McConkie Ranch Petroglyph site, just outside Vernal, where you can hike a short trail and discover several panels of artwork done in what is called the Classic Vernal Style.

The panels at the Ranch tell the stories of the Fremont people, who lived throughout Utah and adjacent areas of Idaho, Colorado, and Nevada. The Fremont lived in natural rock shelters and pit houses. Named after the Fremont River that flows through the area, the Fremont people were hunter-gatherers, living in small bands consisting of several families. They often moved around, encountering other people and residing with them for periods of time. All over this area, groups would come together then leave, repeating this process, which is called residential cycling. This constant mingling resulted in today’s tribal groups of Ute, Paiute, Hopi, Navajo, and Zuni.

The people represented in the panels may have been headhunters, as some anthropologists argue, as depicted by the severed heads held out for all to see. Pregnant women, animals and geometric shapes are all visible here. Trapezoidal bodies are adorned with necklaces, earrings, belts and facial expressions. The artwork may depict religious or mythological events, hunting excursions, celestial information and other important knowledge. One panel clearly shows a hunter encountering a bear.

This site is unique in that you can walk right up to the artwork to view it. You can imagine the person standing there, chipping away at the rock, creating their vision for others to see. It is humbling and awe-inspiring to witness these ancient images.

The Twins
Person holding possible cutting implement, with red coloring, perhaps depicting blood.

A pregnant woman.
Bear and hunter.
Possible family “clan”.

Person with possible severed head, dangling below elbow.

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