One of the highlights of the entire San Rafael Swell is the mysterious Buckhorn Wash pictograph panel. Spanning over 130 feet, this panel of red pictograph figures are the stars of this site!
The main panel was painted well over 2,000 years ago by a Indian culture, that archeologists have named the “Barrier Canyon Culture”. The Barrier Canyon people were an archaic age hunter-gatherer society, living in caves or brush shelters. This site also has a few petroglyphs from the ancient Fremont Culture and a few faint petroglyphs here. A pictograph is painted onto a surface, and a petroglyph is carved or pecked into the stone.
The red pigment was created using powdered hematite, and possibly mixed with animal fat, eggs, or some other fluid. For a brush, the artist may have used fingers or brushes made from animal fur or slender grasses. When painted on freshly exposed sandstone, the stone absorbs the pigments, thus preserving them for thousands of years.
The images here are fascinating, and defy interpretation. It is crucial to remember that sites such as these are irreplaceable, and are considered sacred by many indigenous Americans. These striking figures were restored as part of Emery County’s Utah Centennial Project in 1996.
For more information on unique Utah sites or animals, check out our Utah Field Guide on our Outdoors page at KSLTV.com.