Dinosaur National Monument, 210,000 acres in size, spans the border between northwest Colorado and northeast Utah. Within the monument is a thick deposit of Jurassic Age dinosaur bones preserved in the lithified sands of an ancient river. Earl Douglass, a paleontologist working for the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh, discovered these fossil bones in a tilted rock layer in 1909. Today, paleontologists have chipped away at this rock layer to reveal an incredible array of dinosaur bones. This remarkable tilted rock forms one entire wall of the Quarry Visitor Center, allowing the public to see the bones preserved in their natural state.
The Fremont people created the rock art in the Dinosaur National Monument over 1,000 years ago. These people, named after the Fremont River in south-central Utah, were in the area as early as 200 AD and settled in small villages around 400 AD (Cassells, 1990). Fremont cultural artifacts are found throughout much of the eastern Great Basin Desert, the upper Colorado River and Green River drainage (Hagood and West, 1992).
Because the Fremont Culture developed a lifestyle beyond mere subsistence, they had time to create artwork that survived long after they were gone. Their canvasses were smooth surfaces of near-vertical cliff faces and high canyon walls. The Fremont people in the Cub Creek area commonly used the buff-colored Weber Sandstone, formed by both wind and marine deposition during the Pennsylvanian Period.
geometric designs such as lines and zigzags (Schaafsma, 1995). Human-like figures, having horns or antennae coming out their head, are visible in figure 2 and 3. A large dog appears in the left corner. Different artists worked large panels such as this one over a number of years. Figure 4 is a depiction of Kokopelli, the flute player. Cub Creek rock art is distinguished by several large lizard figures, like the one in figure 5.
Figure 2. A Fremont artist carved this ancient mural into sandstone over 1,000 years ago. This artwork may be a reflection of the Fremont's religion. A large dog appers on the left corne of this image. Photo date Feb, 2001, by S.W. Veatch.
Figure 3. Close up of the previous panel showing a spirit being with arms raised and hands open. Photo date Feb, 2001, by S.W. Veatch.
Figure 4. Kokopelli, the flute player of Anasazi mythology, reveals Fremont interaction with native cultures of the Four Corners area. Photo date Feb 2001, by S.W. Veatch.
Figure 5. A number of lizard images appear only at this site along Cub Creek. Photo date Feb, 2001, by S.W. Veatch.
Anthropormorphs (human-like figures) Large trapezoidal bodies with broad shoulders and stick legs are ornately decorated with horned headdresses, earrings, and necklaces.
- Some figures hold shields or mystical objects.
- Most designs are outlines, however some are completely pecked to form solid figures.
The rocks tell many stories in this remote and rugged land. Preserved in the sands of an ancient river is a time capsule from the world of dinosaurs —a fossil bone deposit that gives the park its name.
Much of the information presented in this paper was gained from a number of field trips undertaken by the author. A number of new images of rock art were obtained with a recent field trip with the South Suburban Park and Recreation Department of Littleton, Colorado. I thank Dr. William Orr of the University of Oregon and Elizabeth Simmons, Metropolitan State College, Denver, for their advice and critically reviewing this paper.
Books, Boulder. 279 p.
Hagood, Z. and West, L., 1992. Dinosaur: The Story Behind the Scenery. KC Publications, Las Vegas, NV 48 p.
Press, Albuqurque, NM 329 p.