Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture

Fremont Petroglyphs
Fremont Petroglyphs, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

For this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme, I present images from two Native American cultures in my home state of Utah, USA.

The photo above was taken near Dinosaur National Monument in northeastern Utah.  These are petroglyphs dating from AD 100 to 1200, and were made by people from the Native American Fremont culture.  Some of the figures reach 9 feet tall and are located along a 200-foot high sandstone cliff.  Many rock art sites such as petroglyphs exist across Utah, and as with most rock art, they are a record of the presence of the people who lived there at the time.  (Fremont people were here until about AD 1300.  A suggestion as to why their traditions and culture disappeared here is climate change and worsening farming conditions, which did not allow Fremont people to easily adapt to for sustenance.)

Of interest to most general readers of petroglyphs is “What does it mean?”  Although archaeologists have arrived at certain general interpretations, “interpreting rock art designs is intriguing yet difficult, often impossible.”

How would you interpret these petroglyphs?

Now to the opposite end of the state for the next photo.  Tucked away into a ledge above a dry wash in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park (southeastern Utah) is a structure from the Native American Pueblo culture.  This structure, located in the left side of the photo, is an Ancestral Puebloan granary (grain storage bin).  Built between AD 1270 and 1295, this type of granary was used to store corn, bean or squash seeds.  There are dozens of similar storage structures in this area, but few dwellings.  According to the park information, this suggests that the early inhabitants of this area farmed intensively but lived there only seasonally.

Puebloan Granary
Puebloan Granary, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

“For many years, changing weather patterns made growing crops more and more difficult. Around AD 1300, the ancestral Puebloans left the area and migrated south. Their descendants include the people living in modern pueblos in New Mexico and Arizona like Acoma, Zuni, and the Hopi Mesas.”  (Source: National Park Service – Canyonlands)

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WEEKLY TOP SHOT

“F” Challenge: Fossils

Dinosaur Skull Fossil
Dinosaur Skull Fossil, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
Linking up with WEEKLY TOP SHOT, OUR WORLD TUESDAY, YOUR SUNDAY BEST 
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This past weekend, Hubby and I took a short yet fascinating road trip to Dinosaur National Monument (DNM), located on the border between northeast Utah, USA and northwest Colorado, USA.  DNM is the only national park area set up to protect a historic dinosaur quarry.  It is one of the world’s best windows into the late Jurassic period and is home to an amazing display of fossils from this era.  The vast diversity of plant and animal fossils found there helps reveal its ancient environment.

The fossil beds in this area were discovered in 1909 by Paleontologist Earl Douglass, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA, when he found eight dinosaur tailbones protruding from a sandstone hill.  This find turned out to be part of the most complete Apatosaurus skeleton ever discovered.  Douglass was working for the Carnegie Museum at the time, and established a formal digsite here known as the Carnegie Quarry.

From 1909 to 1924, field crews excavated and shipped fossils to museums, including the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Utah.  The first skeleton, and first specimen found at the quarry, was sent to Pittsburgh (my previous home) and mounted at the Carnegie Museum.

In 1915, the quarry site was declared a national monument to protect and conserve its world-class fossil bones.  Originally 80-acres, the monument was expanded to over 200,000 acres in 1938 to protect the spectacular canyons and beauty of the Green and Yampa rivers.

This image below shows the original size of the Carnegie Quarry, and what now exists of the quarry, in red.  This red area is what you can view at DNM in the Quarry Exhibit Hall.

The initial quarry was formed as a result of a “log jam” of dinosaurs that were killed by long droughts and returning extensive rains and floods.  The resulting fast flowing river swept carcasses and bones downstream along the river bottom where they began to pile and be covered by sand and mud.

Fossils from the Carnegie Quarry have been collected from almost 400 different dinosaurs.  Visitors can view a wall at the Quarry Exhibit Hall of the remaining 1,500 (approx.) fossil bones from 100 individuals dating back about 149 million years.  Earl Douglass was one of the first to suggest leaving some of the bones in place for public viewing.  DNM was the first place to do this and other sites have followed.

We were told that the skull in the very first photo above is the most photographed fossil at the quarry.  The following is a photo of the quarry wall inside the exhibit hall.  In the upper middle part of the photo, I’ve drawn an arrow to show where this skull is located.  (You can see a small protrusion at the end of the arrow point.)

Quarry Exhibit Hall
Quarry Exhibit Hall, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

Here is another skull with the spine directly to the left of it.  This is a camarasaurus, which is the most common dinosaur at the quarry:

Camarasaurus skull (circled) and spine

The original Quarry Exhibit Hall, built in 1958 to house the quarry was closed in July 2006 because it was at risk of collapsing due to the expanding and contracting of the soil it was built on.  The Quarry Exhibit Hall underwent a major rehabilitation and was reopened on October 4, 2011:

Quarry Exhibit Hall at Dinosaur National Monument

Allosaurus skeleton. Original skull is seen in the lower left side of the photo.

This large, original Allosaurus skull inside the exhibit hall is one of the best-preserved skulls ever discovered.  It is uncrushed and only minimally distorted:

Allosaurus skull fossil

Near the quarry, visitors can take a short hike along the Fossil Discovery Trail and see more fossils of bone fragments, 100 million year old fish scales, and small clams.  Further away from the quarry, visitors can go on other hiking trails and scenic drives, take a river rafting trip, see dramatic river canyons, look for petroglyphs, etc.

The 23 rock layers and unique rock formations in this monument area provide a geologic record of earth’s history spanning over one billion years.  Fossils were deposited in many different environments, which allow scientists to reconstruct how the area was 150 million years ago.  Evidence, including Native American rock art (petroglyphs) show that the area has been inhabited off and on for thousands of years.

According to information at the visitors center, the monument has the “most complete geological records of any National Park Service site…It’s rock layers preserve ecosystems from ancient seas, to dinosaurs roaming river plains, to Sahara-like deserts with tiny mammals.”  Fascinating!

Baseball cap placed next to a dinosaur fossil – to show perspective

I am glad for the preservation of such historical significance and scenic beauty for present and future generations.


This is for the letter “F” Story Challenge by Frizztext, to share a short story or reflection, even an aphorism using a word tagged with each letter of the alphabet.

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U! Challenge: Utah, Ute

Potash Petroglyphs
Potash Petroglyphs, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).

Utah, a state in the Western USA, was the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics and is the place where I grew up.  I just spent the last week visiting the Moab, Utah area and decided to use my home state to represent this week’s theme of “U.”

Utah was officially granted statehood on January 4, 1896.  The capital is Salt Lake City.  It is a dry, semi-arid to desert climate, and is a geographically diverse state known for the natural variety of its terrain.  What I like most about Utah is it’s incredible natural beauty, year round outdoor recreational activities, and four distinct seasons, to name a few.  From the beautiful mountains of northern Utah with it’s world-renowned ski resorts and fluffy powder snow (“The Greatest Snow on Earth®”), to the striking terrain of southern Utah sculpted over millions of years into spectacular canyons, arches, pinnacles, etc., visitors come from all over the world to experience Utah!  It is an outdoor enthusiasts paradise which includes skiing, snowboarding, hiking, boating, water skiing, horseback riding, camping, fishing, rock climbing, etc.

The name “Utah” is derived from the name of the “Ute” Native American tribe now living primarily in Utah and Colorado.  According to www.uteindian.com, Ute means “Land of the sun”.  Thousands of years before European explorers arrived, Native American tribes represented the original inhabitants of the area now known as Utah.  This included the Desert Archaic Culture starting in 10,000 B.C., per the Utah History Encyclopedia, and the Anasazi and Fremont Native American tribes from about 1 A.D. to 1300.  The most recent inhabitants, the Utes, have been in southeast Utah since the 1200’s.  Since those ancient times, Utah has become a web of sacred places, dwelling sites, and intriguing rock art messages depicting their art, lives and beliefs through petroglyphs and pictographs.  The southern Utah region was explored by the Spanish in 1540, and trappers and fur traders explored some of the Utah areas in the early 19th century.  The first Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.  At that time, Utah was Mexican territory.  In 1848, Utah became a United States territory through the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and in 1896 officially became a state.

The images I chose to represent the theme this week are photos of some of the many rock art petryoglyphs left by some of Utah’s earliest inhabitants.  I find this art both fascinating and humbling, and took several photos last week when I was in Moab (Canyonlands and Arches National Park areas, Slickrock mountain biking, etc.)  See also my previous posting on Newspaper Rock petroglyphs near Canyonlands.

The first photo above was taking along the Potash-Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway (U-279) where you can see great views of the Colorado River, ancient petroglyphs and dinosaur tracks.  The presence of bows and arrows in this image is presumed to indicate a date after 500 A.D.

The photos below were taken along the Hurrah Pass Trail.

Moonflower Petroglyphs
Moonflower Petroglyphs, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (Click on image to enlarge).

How would you interpret these petroglyphs?

If you live in Utah, or have visited, where are your favorite places?  If you have not visited Utah, what are the places would you like to see?

There are many great places to explore in Utah!  Here are just a few of them: Continue reading