Rock Art and the Salt Valley Game Drive
Arches National Park
Rory Paul Tyler
Figure 1. Salt Valley. Kill Zone.
Figure 2. Salt Valley Game Drive. Arches National Park. 1 – Klondike Bluffs. 2 – Dark Angel. 3 – Skyline Arch Panel. 4 – Kill Zone. 5 – Butcher Shop. 6 – Fiery Furnace.
Figure 3. Salt Valley looking northwest from Doc Martin Point. Klondike Bluffs in the distance, right. The Kill Zone is at center.
INTRODUCTION: In this essay I will discuss how the rock art, topography, and artifact arrays in Salt Valley led me to conclude that the ancient inhabitants of this area used Salt Valley as a game drive location. Its target species was desert bighorn sheep. This was done by directing the sheep down the valley into a mire trap below the Skyline Arch Panel then, after capturing and killing them in the Kill Zone, butchering them below the Fiery Furnace, and transporting the meat and hide to the headwaters of Freshwater Spring Canyon at the top of the Fiery Furnace where there was good shelter, a good wood supply, and the only reliable fresh water in the area. The Salt Valley game drive covers about six miles from Klondike Bluffs to the Kill Zone then about two miles from the Kill Zone to the Fiery Furnace/Freshwater Spring Canyon site. The entire site covers approximately eight miles. I should say that the phrase ‘game drive’ is probably an exaggeration. The sheep knew the area well and had routine usages. The hunters were simply taking advantage of the sheep’s normal patterns of behavior.
To build this picture I will discuss the six different locations noted in Figure 2. No single site reveals the reality of the Salt Valley game drive, but taken together they combine to tell of a hunting saga in Salt Valley that was probably repeated hundreds of times over thousands of years.
Figure 4. Salt Valley, looking north. The landscape has a corral-like character. Klondike Bluffs is well lit, center/left. It is the only major site on the west side of the valley that I affiliate with a game drive. The Dark Angel site is in the shaded area across the valley, center/right. The Windows section of Arches National Park is also well lit, lower/left. It is not part of the hunt. There is no rock art there.Klondike Bluffs
Figure 5. Klondike Bluffs, The top of Klondike Bluffs is rich in lithic scatter – stone chips left over from toolmaking, right. Many of the chips are smaller, suggesting the manufacture of arrowheads, spearheads, knife blades, and their edges. The rock art at this site is beneath the protective overhang of the Entrada cap rock on the vertical wall, upper/center. The rock art site is fairly small, mostly of Archaic origin with some Basketmaker petroglyphs chipped over Archaic paintings
Figure 6. Klondike Bluffs, North Panel. The rock art site below the pinnacle of Klondike Bluffs is on an east-facing wall. There are two components to the site; the entirely Archaic North Panel, seen here, and the South Panel, a mix of Archaic and Basketmaker art about 200 feet to the left. The dark inclusions, lower/left, may have been incorporated into the artistry of this panel. If that relationship ever existed, no man-made marks can be found now.
Archaic rock art is often referred to generically as Barrier Canyon Style. Given the 6,000 year span of Archaic occupation, other distinctive styles have probably come and gone. I use the term ‘Barrier Canyon Archaic’ to include that style in the milieu of Archaic art while making space for stylistic and cultural distinctions that are not of the Barrier Canyon style.
Figure 7. Klondike Bluffs, North Panel. The large figure, upper/right, seems bent over, conforming to the natural curve of the rock above it. The three figures it ‘watches over’ have the typical armless design and vertical striations of Barrier Canyon Style Arc haic pictographs, but they are too dilapidated to get much information from. There are several ‘rain cloud’ illustrations at this site, hovering over notable figures. The ‘bent over’ figure may have been a replication and anthropomorphization of a ‘rain’ motif.
Figure 8. Klondike Bluffs, North Panel. About ten feet to the left is this torpedo-shaped figure. To its right is the classic atlatl design, a straight shaft with an oval or circle on one end. It is assumed that the ovate design element represents the fletching on one end of an atlatl spear. The atlatl was the primary projectile weapon in the region until it was displaced by the bow-and-arrow sometime around 300 – 500 AD. The presence of an atlatl on this panel is a strong indicator that hunting and hunting magic were part of its raison d’etre in the Archaic era, roughly 6,000 BC – 0 AD.
The ‘torpedo’ is a fairly common figure in Barrier Canyon Archaic pictographs. There ar e few Archaic burials. This leads to speculation that they practiced some form of open-air burial, a common practice among North American natives.
My observations have led me to suspect that the ‘totpedo. may have been depicting dead people in burial baskets. (See the slideshow ‘Moab’s Ancient Artists’ on my website.) If this is true it might indicate the existence of ancestor worship in Archaic theology. In this case the person in the bag may have been a famous hunter, as indicated by the close association with the atlatl. This painting is where a living hunter might have gone to pray for supernatural assistance in his quest. This is speculation, plausible but unprovable.
Figure 9. Klondike Bluffs, North Panel. The dark inclusions seen in Figure 6 continue. A few feet to the left of the previous picture is a fairly common Barrier Canyon Archaic montage. The central figure is armless, but has earrings. Above is a dense red line with faint rain-like emanations. In the upper/right corner is another atlatl. It is faint, but unmistakable, adding to the overall hunting mystique of the site.
Figure 10. Klondike Bluffs, South Panel. The pictographs resume about 100 feet away. One of these figures has a horned headdress. The other has ear rings. A dark, rainy cloud hovers above, like in Figure 9. All of these design elements are common Barrier Canyon Archaic stylizations.
Figure 11. Klondike Bluffs, South Panel. This eye-catching array includes Basketmaker petroglyphs pecked over Archaic pictographs. The Archaic/Basketmaker convergence also occurs across the valley at the Dark Angel site. This panel contains common Barrier Canyon Archaic styles…horns, dots, vertical lines. This is the most distinct ‘rain cloud’ depiction at the site, upper/left.
I use the term ‘fantamorph’ to describe images with impossible features, such as this sheep’s fantastic horns. By and large, fantamorphic sheep indicate a ‘Spirit Sheep’, an avatar representing the metaphysical energy of the species which must be placated, appeased, honored, and so on, by the hunter if he is to receive supernatural favor for his hunt. I discuss Spirit Sheep and the affiliation with hunting magic on my website in the Codicon section on Zoomorphs.
The Basketmaker culture arrived in the Moab region as early as 1,000 BC. That means that these Archaic pictographs were created at least 2,000 years ago, and as early as 6,000 years ago. The antiquity of Salt Valley’s use as a game drive site is impressive.The Spirit Sheep’s horns in Figure 11 extend and metamorphose into a second Spirit Sheep, doubling down as it were on the metaphysical emphasis of the panel. Basketmaker artists were very creative with their basic symbols, combining, conflating, and extending their meanings in many ways. The fringed-circle design, right, appears elsewhere in the region, but not regularly. The ‘tail’ extending from the large Spirit Sheep is pecked on top of the fringed circle, indicating that the fringed circle design is quite old, precluding a ‘Ute’ designation. Ute art often includes shields, but this isn’t one. The Ute people arrived on the Colorado Plateau sometime around 1300 AD.2. Dark Angel
The Dark Angel is a monolith (not in this picture) on the edge of Salt Valley at the north end of Devil’s Garden. About 100 yards east of the monolith a graben valley has formed where a section of the rock wall slid into the Salt Valley anticline creating a narrow, sheltered valley 200 yards long. Vertical rock walls define both sides of the graben, and hold rock art, especially on the eastern wall. A rough count indicates 12 – 15 rock art panels at the site, holding 200 to 300 icons.
Figure 12. Klondike Bluffs from the Dark Angel site. The Klondike Bluffs rock art site is on the high point, left.
Figure 13. Dark Angel Graben. Looking south from north end. La Sal Mountains in the distance. Most of the rock art is on the left side of the graben. The Archaic pictographs are on the formation on the right. The crack at bottom/center is an easy access point from the Dark Angel monolith into the graben.
Figure 14. From the south looking north. Salt Valley, left. Dark Angel graben, center. Dark Angel and Devil’s Garden, right.
There are many petroglyphs and pictographs at the Dark Angel site. I will focus my attention on three panels. The first is an Archaic panel on the east-facing graben wall of the graben, center. The Entry Panel is at the northeast corner of the graben. Mostly Basketmaker, it has some design elements that exhibit Archaic stylings. The Registration Panel, is about halfway down the wall on the right. There is no art on the Dark Angel itself or on the nearby rock walls of the Devil’s Garden, right.
Figure 15. The Dark Angel seen from the Archaic figures in the Dark Angel Graben. The darkly patinated walls across the valley are heavily marked with Basketmaker rock art. The Dark Angel cannot be seen from that side of the graben.
Figure 16. Despite its lack of art the Dark Angel may have been an impr essive place from which to enact a ceremony. See the figure at center?
Figure 17. Dark Angel, Archaic art. Typical Barrier Canyon Archaic motifs. There is nothing out of the ordinary here. The panel does verify an Archaic presence at this site.
Figure 18. One of the two largest panels on the east side of the graben is behind the pine tree in this picture at the northern entrance. If there were a ceremony involving a passage from the Dark Angel monolith to rock art in the graben this would have been the path of least resistance.
Figure 19. Entry Panel (I just named it). The Ent ry Panel contains a number of interesting glyphs.
20. The large human figures do not resemble common Basketmaker motifs and may have design elements similar to Glen Canyon Linear Archaic art, but that’s just a guess. The dotted line, upper/right, is a design element common in Archaic rock art. It may indicate a ‘containment’ intent. The fantamorphic zoomorph, lower/left has some interesting design elements.
Figure 21. Entry Panel, detail. This fantamorph may or may not have horns. They might be ears. There are fangs depending from its upper jaw, just below the mu zzle. It’s feet are round and pad-like. There are tracks from feet like these on the Skyline Arch Panel (See Figure 53). I would classify this as a Predator.
Figure 22. Dark Angel, Entry Panel. This panel has a number of interesting features. I will start on the left side.
Figure 23. Dark Angel, Entry Panel. A well-pecked Predator, left, facing a large sheep from an earlier era. At right is a sheep pierced by an atlatl. Both sheep display an Archaic style.
Figure 24. The Predator from the left side of Figure 23. It has short ears and feet with tin ed toes. It does not definitively represent any species. However, it is clearly not a sheep.
Figure 25. A closer look at the at latl-pierced sheep in Figure 23.
Figure 26. Dark Angel, Entry Panel. Detail of the lower/right quadrant of Figure 22. At least three of the sheep have the spare, linear design common in Archaic art. A small figure, low er left, has the wide-eyed motif also common in Archaic art. The bright pecked sheep at the top resembles a Basketmaker Spirit Sheep. It was pecked later, on top of the Archaic images.
Figure 27. The figure with the wide, round eyes is in the lower/left in Figure 26. The wide-eyed motif is a common Archaic design element. It occurs again at this site (not shown) and in Figure 73. I suspect that dotted lines may represent a containment motif. A dotted line can be found in Figure 20 and again on the Skyline Arch Panel, Figure 53. The small, bulging ridge line, right, may also have been invested with containment intent. Such topology is often included as a design element in a hunting-themed panel.
Figure 28. Dark Angel, Entry Panel. Basketmaker Spirit Sheep often have a noble stance and stand apart from lesser mortals. This Spirit Sheep meets those criteria. This fellow has been pecked on top of earlier Archaic sheep depictions. Directly in front of him it appears that the animal was pierced by an atlatl dart. That is not assured by this image alone, but given the other definitive atlatl depictions at the Dark Angel site, it is a plausible deduction.
The anthropomorph appears to be o f a similar vintage to the Spirit Sheep but seems to be more Archaic than Basketmaker in style. This might indicate a fairly close overlap in the Archaic-to-Basketmaker transition in using Salt Valley as a game drive venue. I discuss the possible close relationship between the Archaic and Basketmaker people in my blog post ‘Finding Meaning in Moab’s Basketmaker Rock Art’.
You can find out more about the Spirit Sheep interpretation on my website in the Zoomorph section of the Codicon.
29. Dark Angel, Registration Panel. The Registration Panel is the largest, largely coherent, panel at the Dark Angel site. It is difficult to photograph because of its large size and the juniper tree casting shadows encroaching on the view. I call it the Registration Panel because the Park Service has an old, dilapidated registration box at the site.
Figure 30. Dark Angel, Registration Panel. The Park Service’s registration box.
Figure 31. Dark Angel, Registration Panel. The Registration Panel is about 30 feet long. The ‘parade’ section of the panel, far right, is a telling collection of hunting magic figures.
Figure 32. Dark Angel, Registration Panel, detail. The right side of the panel, the ‘Parade’ section. Right to left, a long-necked, long-legged bird, a small snake, a three-horned Spirit Sheep who’s rear legs overlap an earlier feline glyph, another Spirit figure that looks like a deer or elk with fantastic horns, and two more sheep. The line of triangles may represent a containment intention or effort.
Figure 33. Dark Angel, Registration Panel, detail. The left side of the ‘Parade’ section contains, right to left, a dome-like figure (perhaps a trap, a sheep in a distressed posture pierced by an atlatl, a small predator facing left below the sheep, a foot-like print, a heavily patinated large Spirit Sheep facing right, and above it a large animal with short-ears and Predator feet, also heavily patinated. Below the large Spirit Sheep is a wavy line, possibly indicating containment intent. The ‘foot’ glyph is a fairly common design on hunting panels but I have no idea what it might indicate.
Figure 34. Dark Angel, Registration Panel. The left side of the panel is not as representational as the right. Like so much art at the Dark Angel, several different peck ing efforts show different patinas indicating usage over a long time. Converging wavy and/or dotted lines, top resemble containment motifs seen on many hunting panels.
Figure 35. Dark Angel, Registration Panel, detail. The long-legged, long-necked, long-beaked bird leading the ‘parade’ may represent a heron. Similar bird designs are fairly common in Moab’s Basketmaker rock art. The piercing prowess of the heron’s long bill would not be lost on atlatl-hurling hunters.
The three-horned sheep is a fantamorph imbued, no doubt , with supernatural characteristics. It’s rear legs overlap a short-eared, long-tailed, round-footed Predator, probably a mountain lion. The lion’s darker patina indicates, once again, the long usage of this site by generations of hunters.
There is a vertical line of triangles, lower/left, reiterating the containment intent of the horizontal triangle line.
Figure 36. Dark Angel, Registration Panel, detail of the ‘Parade’. Figure
37. Dark Angel, Registration Panel, detail, Left to right. The Predator, top/left, is probably a lion. It stands behind a sheep pierced by an atlatll. Below the Lion is a large Spirit Sheep, a newer foot symbol, another lion facing left under the atlatl victim, a newer man, and a possible trap or containment symbol. There is a great deal of Archaic art on this section of the panel. It is hard to see because the finely etched Archaic lines blend with the old patinas of the panel.
Figure 38. Dark Angel, Registration Panel, detail. The segmented foot and tined toes of the Predator are diagnostic. This design is often misidentified as a Ute bear track. The atlatl in the sheep belies that interpretation. The Ute people did not move to the Colorado Plateau until 800 years after the atlatl was replaced by the bow-and-arrow. I use the term Predator, but Lion is my first interpretive option.
There is quite a bit of Archaic rock art on this part of the panel but it is hard to see. The large Spirit Sheep was pecked over a number of vertical scratches that show where some Archaic art was.
Figure 39. Dark Angel, Registration Panel, detail. The bright sheep, center/left, is probably a Basketmaker creation. It is to the right of an Archaic glyph which was pro bably painted when it was made. Its style resembles the Barrier Canyon Stye Archaic art across the graben, Figure 17, and across Salt Valley at Klondike Bluffs, Figure 11.
Figure 40. Dark Angel, Registration Panel, detail. Archaic figure, left. There are more vertical striations, probably Archaic origin, between the Archaic figure and the sheep. This may be a Spirit Sheep or a Curious Sheep, the one that gets away on some hunting panels. Its possible ‘recoil’ stance would be consistent with other Curious Sheep at other sites. See the Codicon for a definition.
Figure 41. The concentration of Archaic motifs and atlatls indicates that the Dark Angel site was part of the Salt Valley game drive in Archaic times as well as Basketmaker times. I suspect that the Basketmakers, whether they were immigrants or evolved out of Archaic roots, learned a great deal about how to use Salt Valley from the Archaic inhabitants.
The Dark Angel site has a large concentration of lithic scatter from toolmaking. Most of the stone chips are smaller, implying that the artisan was making fine points or edges rather than heavier tools that would have been useful for butchering.
Figure 42. Dark Angel Site. This partial point is too large and heavy to have been part of an arrowhead. It was probably made for an atlatl spear.3. Skyline Arch Panel
3. Skyline Arch Panel
Figure 43. The Skyline Panel is a little over two mile down Salt Valley from the Dark Angel. It is among the last rock outcrops in the valley with a suitable surface for creating rock art. Beyond this point there are a number of small canyon formations oozing out of the anticline’s fissure that are rich in bentonite clay. I propose that the hunters drove herds of animals into the steepest of these small canyons, the one with the heaviest clay content. When the clay got wet it turned into a slippery, gooey mess. Animals trying to climb out of the canyon in these conditions would make an easy target. As the sheep ran deeper into the canyon they would run into fences and nets placed there by the hunters.
Figure 45. Salt Valley, looking north from the Skyline Arch Panel. Klondike Bluffs, left. Dark Angel and Devil’s Garden, right.
Figure 46. Salt Valley, looking south from the vicinity of Skyline Arch. The Salt Valley drainage is on the right. On the right, the small hills with beige extrusions are where the clay comes to the surface of the valley, creating the canyon that the ancient hunters used as a mire trap. It is about a mile downstream from the Skyline Arch Panel and four miles from the Dark Angel. The Windows section of Arches National Park, top/center.
Figure 47. Skyline Arch, Arches National Park. The Skyline Arch Panel is on the small, dark cliff line that stretches across the center of the picture. This is among the last places near the Kill Zone that has rock surfaces suitable for placing rock art.
Figure 48. Skyline Arch Panel.
Figure 49. Skyline Arch Panel. It is difficult to get a good image of the entire panel. I will start this discussion by focusing on the left side of the panel and move to the right.
Figure 50. Skyline Arch Panel, left. An unusual anthropomorph, lower/right.
Figure 51. The headdress with the circular appendages makes me think of Micky Mouse. I can’t help it. It is an interesting leap of imagination to think of Mickey Mouse as bloodthirsty Predator.
Figure 52. Skyline Arch Panel, left. The dominant icon is the fierce looking track, center. Whether it represents, a lion, a bear, a fantamorph, or a vision is irrelevant. Its intent is predatory. Similar designs are fairly common throughout the region.
What to make of the twin circles, left, is another matter. My interpretive method suggests that proximally place icons have a likelihood of implying the same or similar intent. How might these circles be related to a predatory intent?
Figure 53. Skyline Arch Panel, center. The tracks, right, resemble the feet of a Predator glyph on Dark Angel’s Entry Panel, Figure 21. These unusual tracks are a match for those unusual feet. They create a symbolic bond between the two panels that might otherwise go unnoticed.
The sheep at lower left resembles Archaic styles. As noted before, lines of dots may indicate containment intent.
The panel morphs into a net-like configuration, right.
Figure 54. Skyline Arch Panel, right. The large fantamorph, low/center, is what tipped me off to the Salt Valley game drive. I will discuss it next. The net-like pattern mentioned is the previous photo is on the left side of this one. I have identified the small animal, upper/right, as a Basketmaker lion symbol. See the Cat entry in the Codicon to see how I arrived at this interpretation.
Figure 55. Skyline Arch Panel. This fantamorph has sheep horns and bird feet. As mentioned in Figure 35, heron and heron tracks frequently appear as hunting totems. It wasn’t until I learned more about net-hunting that I considered whether the pattern inside the fantamorph’s body might be a net symbol and began to look around the area to see where and how a game drive might be mounted here. The conflation of hunter and prey design elements in a single image is a common Basketmaker motif.
Figure 56. The short-eared, long-tailed zoomorph represents a mountain lion . I have seen this attenuated design elsewhere in the Basketmaker region.
4. Kill Zone
Figure 57. Kill Zone, Salt Valley.
These are the clay hills mentioned in Figure 46. The deepest canyon, right, is the one that the sheep would be driven into. They may have been familiar with it as a piece of escape terrain, but on a rainy December morning, with hunting nets strung across the narrow egress at the other end of the passage, escape might elude them.
The red rock on the horizon starts at the Skyline Arch area, left, and ends at the Fiery Furnace, right.
Figure 58. Kill Zone, entrance. Bentonite clay oozed through the cracked rock above it and created the gray part of the ridge line, center. It is sticky and slippery when wet. If a game drive were planned for the late fall when the Salt Valley herd flocked together for mating season, and if the sheep knew this was usually a good escape route, a big hunt on a rainy day might pay off.
Figure 59. Kill Zone. Bentonite extrusions. The pinnacle at the far end of the canyon marks a stony enclosure that could have served as a corral. There is an easy exit out there, around this bend and to the right, but it would be easy to defend. From this spot and further up the draw I found finished artifacts, stone knives and points, but little waste from toolmaking.
Figure 60. The canyon ends in this rocky cul-de-sac. The talus chute on the right is an easy route out.
Figure 61. Kill Zone. The exit from the cul-de-sac. The sheep would know this route. It would be easy to build a fence or place a net to block it off. I found a lot of artifacts at the bottom of this slope, including a possible fluted Fulsom point 2 1/2 to 3 inches long. I did not have a camera when I found it. I hid it on site, then forgot where I stashed it. It’s here somewhere.
Figure 62. I found these eight broken knives within about a 15 feet of each other at the bottom of the aforementioned slope. They are still there as far as I know, scattered where I found them.
Figure 63. An arrowhead and another broken knife. The arrowhead indicates that the site was also used for hunting after 500 AD when the bow-and-arrow replaced the atlatl as the region’s primary projectile weapon.
Figure 64. A broken atlatl point. It was quite long and narro w, too narrow to be a knife and too heavy to be an arrowhead.
Figure 65. Kill Zone. I found the knife blades, the atlatl, and more at the bottom of this bentonite slope.
5. Butcher Shop
Figure 66. Fiery Furnace/Butcher Shop. After the kill comes the cleaning. They would probably not have wanted to clean the animals in the midst of a bentonite mire. A mile downstream the terrain becomes rocky and sandy, left. This area is thick with lithic scatter, mostly larger size, as if tools were being made for cutting and scraping, not piercing and stabbing. The Fiery Furnace is on the right.
Figure 67. Fiery Furnace. The Butcher Shop is out of sight on the left. The Freshwater Spring Canyon archeological site is at the end of the low ridge, top/center. The approach to this site is through the rocks on the right. Freshwater Spring Canyon is the closest source of reliable drinking water in this area.
Figure 68. Fiery Furnace/Freshwater Spring archeological site, The Freshwater Spring Canyon archeological site is on top of this ridge line in a Navajo Sandstone outcrop. Hunter’s would have carried butchered animals from the Butcher Shop, out of sight on the left, below and past the Fiery Furnace, then up these fractured Entrada cap rock landscapes to the Freshwater Spring Alcove, a distance of about 2 miles.
Figure 69. Butcher Shop. The Kill Zone is a mile away, center. Figure 46 was taken from Doc Martin Point, upper/right. The Butcher Shop is sandy and rocky. It was a better place for a butchery than the mess at the Kill Zone. The Butcher Shop is thick with lithic scatter. Most of the flakes are larger and heavier than the flakes at Dark Angel and Klondike Bluffs. They could have been used as butcher’s tools and scrapers.
There is little rock art between the Skyline Arch Panel and the Fiery Furnace. The only Archaic panel is in the boulder collection at the center of this picture.
Figure 70. Butcher Shop. Much of the lithic scatter at this site is large and more coarsely chipped.
Figure 71. Butcher Shop. It would be easier to skin and butche r an animal on this Navajo Sandstone than, say, at Figure 59.
Figure 72. Butcher Shop. A round, biface scraper or knife.
Figure 73. Butcher Shop, Metamorphosis Panel. The Archaic figure has the same kind of round, wide eyes seen on many Archaic figures, Figure 27 for example. To his left an icon may be transforming, bottom to top, from a snake to a bird. Hence the name ‘Metamorphosis Panel’.
Some people interpret the small animal on the right as a canine. It might be a feline instead, especially given the valley’s plethora of alpha predator depictions, but neither interpretation is assured. The main figure is about 10 inches high. There is no other art at the site.
6. Fiery Furnace/Freshwater Spring Canyon
Figure 74. Freshwater Springs area. The route from the Butcher Shop goes through Salt Valley below the Fiery Furnace, left, then ascends through the cracked and fissured landscape, center. The Freshwater Spring archeological site is in an alcove on the left end of the ridge, top. The beige Entrada cap rock forms an aquifer that feeds some small springs and seeps on the other side of the ridge. The Book Cliffs form the skyline to the north about 15 miles away.
Figure 75. Freshwater Spring Canyon site, a Navajo Sandstone remnant resting of the Entrada cap rock. The site is in the partially shaded alcove, top center. It is about 60 feet by 40 feet. The site is filled with lithic scatter and charcoal remains at least a foot deep from one side to the other. With shelter, wood, and water this would have been a natural end point for any activities involving a Salt Valley hunt. There is no rock art at the site, possibly because the hunt was over by this point and you didn’t need any magical assistance to stuff your mouth.
Figure 76. Freshwater Spring Canyon archeological site. The white flecks are stone flakes from tool making. They cover the bottom of the alcove from side to side. The dark color of the sand is from decayed charcoal from multitudes of fires. The charcoal also goes from one side to the other and is over a foot deep. These facts attest to the long, intensive use of this site.
There is an ancient hearth at top center.
Figure 77. Freshwater Spring archeological site. There is a lot of lithic scatter at this site.
Figure 78. Freshwater Spring Canyon site. The remains of a hearth surrounded by lithic scatter.
Figure 79. Freshwater Springs Canyon site. The butt end of a broken knife is typical of the artifactu al remains at the site. I did not find any atlatl points or arrowheads, whole or partial, in the area.
Figure 80. Freshwater Spring Canyon site. The archeological site is in the alcove at far right. From this point on, the canyon slopes down and away, cutting into the Slickrock member of the Entrada sandstone, forming small canyons that hold reliable spring and seeps.
Figure 81. Freshwater Spring Canyon. The formation slopes away from the archeological site as small canyons begin cutting into the Slickrock sandstone. The whitish horizontal line, center, is the drip line for seep.
Figure 82. Freshwater Spring Canyon. As the entrenchments get deeper more freshwater appears.
Figure 83. Freshwater Spring Canyon. As the entrenchments get deeper, movement through the area becomes more difficult. There is water in the bottom of this canyon, but getting to it presents a challenge. That is my shadow, bottom/center.
Figure 84. The Fiery Furnace. The Freshwater Spring Canyon site is to the right, just beyond the impassible fissures of the Fiery Furnace.Figure 85. Salt Valley from the La Sal Mountains. No single site or panel in Salt Valley impels the viewer to see this as the site of a large scale hunt. Adding the pieces and clues up creates a compelling argument for many big hunts taking place here for millennia. According to the archeologist Julian Steward, a major game drive could be mounted at any given site about once or twice in a generation. Between hunts the game was not disturbed until the herd had recovered a large enough population to make it worth mounting another hunt.
The rock art in Salt Valley spans an age that includes the Archaic atlatl users and the users of the bow-and-arrow. That time span could amount to five thousand years or more. A five thousand year span, with one hunt every 20 years, would amount to almost 300 game drives. These numbers are highly speculative, but it gives you some idea of what may have taken place here for almost unimaginable stretches of time.