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Archeological Site Etiquette

Pictographs and Petroglyphs

Mule Canyon

Whether it's paintings or peckings, rock art is always exciting to find. You may find two types of rock art on your trip. Petroglyphs are pictures carved into the rock by pecking, incising, and scratching. Pictographs are paintings on the rock surface. You will see a variety of figures, animals, and abstract representations. Because the drawings do not present a written language as we know it, their meaning is left to our imaginations. When viewing rock art it is important to keep in mind that the real importance is not found in literal meaning, but in the feelings that result from the viewing. We are privileged to be looking at the abstract expressions of earlier peoples. As the oils on your fingers speed the erosion of rock art, please don't touch these ancient traces of previous cultures. The taking of latex mold prints or rubbings from rock art or adding modern additions is vandalism.

If you would like to learn more about rock art in southeast Utah, several books are available. Some suggestions are listed below. They are readily available at local book stores.

  • Prehistoric Rock Art by F.A. Barnes, Washatch Publishers, Inc., Salt Lake City, 1982.
  • Legacy on Stone, by Sally J. Cole, Johnson Books, Boulder, 1990.
  • Indian Rock Art of the Southwest, Plly Schaafsma,  University of New Mexico Press (School of American Research), Albuquerque, 1980.

Minimum Impact Practices

Please Stay Out of the Trash

The midden is sometimes thought of as a prehistoric trash mound. It is usually soft, charcoal-stained soil located immediately down slope of an alcove or cliff site. Middens contain valuable evidence of day to day activities revealing changing preferences in pottery, food, tools and even treatment of the dead. Please avoid creating or using trails through midden area, as trailing increases the natural erosion processes which eventually destroy these reservoirs of scientific information.

Would you want someone violating your ancestor's bones?

If you come upon human bones, please leave them alone and notify a ranger as soon as it is possible. Keep in mind that burial sites are the remains of ancestors of present day Native Americans and should be treated with respect. Native people view burials as part of a cycle. Birth, life, and then death are all a stage of the cycle, as is the process of burial or the abandonment of a village. When a burial takes place it is not seen as a leaving, but is a state of being that should not be disturbed by anything but the forces of nature.

Bring those memories home with you, take a picture!

One way to enjoy archaeological sites and rock art in a low impact manner is through photography.  However, please be cautious when publishing captions. Avoid naming a site or offering its location.  We know you want a good picture, but please never chalk rock art or light fires nearby to enhance the quality of a photograph.