AAS 199th meeting, Washington, DC, January 2002
Session 15. HAD IV: New Views of Historical Topics
Display, Monday, January 7, 2002, 9:20am-6:30pm, Exhibit Hall

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[15.03] Light/Shadow Interactions at the Great Gallery

I. R. Little-Marenin, S. J. Little (CASA, U. of CO), G. Cox (Canyonlands National Park)

The Great Gallery is a wonderful collection of rock art in Horseshoe Canyon (Canyonlands National Park). Both pictographs and petroglyphs are found there. Archaic hunter-gatherers used Horseshoe Canyon (also known as Barrier Canyon) on their travels and left the rock art behind. On a 60-foot wall, there are over 50 painted life sized ghost- like figures as well as many smaller pictographs and petroglyphs. The Barrier Canyon Painters primarily used reds (hematite) ranging in color from dark purple to light red-orange and brown as well as white. A paint chip from a fallen piece of an anthropomorphic figure has been 14C dated to 1200-1400 BC. This date is currently being rechecked with a different paint chip. At least one figure is painted over a partially rubbed out petroglyph of a big horn sheep with large horns indicating an earlier age for this petroglyph.

Among the panel of large and small vertical anthropomorphs, we find a diagonal line of 11 small red painted Big Horn sheep. The inclination of the line is at a distinctly different angle to the rest of the figures. One of us (GC) noticed that on the winter solstice, the shadow cast by the cliff face on the western edge of the panel, lines up exactly with the Big Horn sheep as the shadow crosses the pictograph panel. We re-observed and documented this light/shadow interaction event on December 20, 2000 and confirmed the original observation. At the summer solstice, a large anthropomorph on a separate panel left of the major panel is pierced by a triangular-shaped shadow produced by the cliff face above. Our presentation will include pictures of the Great Gallery undergoing the light/shadow interactions.

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