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Anasazi Ridge Petroglyphs

Photographs of Anasazi rock art, Utah.  Click on any photo to enlarge.

In the geologically diverse region
of St George, Utah, red, mauve and pale tan Jurassic era sandstones have been sculpted into artistic formations by wind and water erosion. Younger volcanic basalts from distinct cinder cones dot the landscape with blackened rock varnished boulders. The Virgin  River and Santa Clara Rivers flow through here. The temperature is mild, summer highs average in the low 90 to 100s and winter lows fall into the 20 and 30s. Monthly rain averages 1.25" from January to March, Spring rain is less than 0.5" and Fall rain about 0.75" a month.

Utah archaeologist Jessie Jennings once summarized: "From 10,000 or more years ago, until A.D. 400, the only culture represented in Utah, as well as the rest of the Great Basin, was the Desert Archaic. That culture is characterized as a hunting-gathering one, a flexible, highly adaptive lifeway that has characterized most of man's worldwide history."  After AD 400 the Anasazi began building settlements and practiced flood-plain agriculture to grow corn, beans and squash along the permanent water courses of southwestern Utah. These newcomers were the Virgin River branch of the Kayenta Anasazi. They did not build large architectural structures, but instead built small seasonal structures of only a few rooms, which were better suited to their farming practices. After AD 1000 Shoshone and Paiute people displaced the Anasazi and used a more efficient harvesting technology to settle and expand eastward across the Great Basin.

Anasazi Ridge is a rock art site overlooking the Santa Clara River a few miles west of St George. Several hundred petroglyphs (no pictographs were observed) are found on sandstone cap boulders on top of a 80 meter high north to south running ridge. Exploratory excavations by Brigham Young University in 2006 have uncovered possible Anasazi pueblo walls along the top of the ridge. The petroglyphs here are found as isolated elements, in small groups, and a few larger panels along a hundred meter section of the ridge. There is little to no super imposition of images.

Many of the petroglyphs are similar to those found at other Anasazi sites and are believed to have been made during Anasazi times. The images are found on the sides of boulders as well as across the boulder tops where the outer layers of sandstone are eroding away. Common elements include spirals, anthropomorphs, footprints- human and animal, blanket designs, species nonspecific quadrupeds, and sheep- square body and rounded. There are some bisected circles, dots and squiggles that may date from Archaic times and some abstract designs that may be of later Numic origin.

Anasazi Ridge Petroglyphs, Santa Clara Utah

curvilinear petroglyph St George, Utah

Anasazi Ridge is situated high above the flood plain of the Santa Clara River.

Some enigmatic petroglyphs could have been made during different periods of time.

Anasazi blanket design petroglyph

anthropomorph petroglyph

Blanket designs were probably made by the
Virgin Anasazi people.

Most of the petroglyphs are carved into the dark brown portions of the sandstone.

anasazi geometric petroglyph

beartrack footprint petroglyphs

This well made abstract panel leaves today's viewer wondering what the rock art maker was thinking long ago.
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Footprints of different types, including these seven toed bear tracks, are found throughout the boulders.

rock aty bighorn sheep

Anasazi Ridge rock art

Square body and round body sheep petroglyphs
are found here.

A degree of repatinization between petroglyphs on the same panel may indicate a difference in age.

Santa Clara River petroglyphs Anasazi human-like figure

Petroglyphs on top of the sandstone boulders are deteriorating due to exfoliation.

Solid body figures with stick-like appendages terminating in three digits are found at other Anasazi sites.

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