Dean M. Chriss
Photography
Holy Ghost and Attendants, Great Gallery, Utah

Holy Ghost and Attendants, Great Gallery, Utah

(Click image to enlarge)

The Great Gallery is widely thought to be the most significant rock art site in North America. Approximately eighty figures stretch roughly 300 feet along the west side of the canyon. Many of these are larger than life, with one more than twelve feet tall. The panel shown here is on the far left end of the gallery, and is somewhat set apart from the rest of the figures. The largest figure on this panel is approximately eight feet in height.

The Great Gallery images were created with red ocher-tinted paint applied in a number of ways. These included spraying from the mouth, applying with fingers, and carving lines through previously painted areas. There has been some debate in recent years regarding when the paintings were created. Clay figures of the same style found in nearby caves date back to approximately B.C. 6000. The most recent radio-carbon date obtained from specially cleaned flakes of pigment that fell naturally from the canyon wall produced a date of approximately B.C. 7500. This very roughly coincides with the age of the clay figures previously mentioned, setting the age of the artwork at approximately 9500 years. It was previously thought that these works were considerably younger, though still quite old.

The ancient rock art art present here and in other areas is irreplaceable, priceless, and extremely fragile. The lightest touch causes eventual staining from oils that are present in human skin. Worse, it can cause immediate flaking of paint. Many people walking too near the art can sometimes erode and undercut the rock on which the art is displayed, perhaps causing it to break and fall sometime in the distant future. Small things have huge impacts over time that spans thousands of years.