Aboriginal antiquities visible in Utah

The people to the west of the Wasatch Mountains and north of Provo depended to a great extent upon hunting. The common type of habitation was a pit-house somewhat like that of northeastern Utah and that used by the Pueblo I people of southwestern Colorado. Pottery was poorer than in most other areas and only a small portion of the food bowls were decorated. Western Utah south of Provo and north of the Colorado Plateau was characterized by a stronger agriculture complex than the northern country. The type dwelling was an adobe-walled structure, usually with two to twenty rooms, and was built somewhat after the manner of the Pueblo II masonry houses of southern Utah. Pottery was similar to that of the south, but had characteristics of its own. A large group was distributed about the shores of Great Salt Lake and somewhat to the south. They were a hunting and pottery-making people and preceded the Shoshoni, who occupied the area in historic times. It may be well to, add that this area was never inhabited by pygmies, giants, Hebrews, Egyptians, or men associated with dinosaurs.

Petroglyphs and pictographs represent an important class of antiquities of wide distribution in Utah. The former are pecked or scratched on rock surfaces, and the latter are painted. An abundance of smooth stones in the mountains encouraged the development of these art forms. West of the Wasatch Mountains the designs usually consist of crude human figures, mountain sheep, deer, and various geometric figures. Throughout the Colorado drainage basin, especially near Vernal, there are groups of large ornamental figures, some pecked and others painted in red, yellow, brown, black, and white. Among them are the finest examples in the United States. It is generally agreed that the pictures had no significance as written symbols. A great many of them were, quite possibly, of a ceremonial nature, while others may have been inscribed for amusement. In a few cases there seems to have been an attempt to portray scenes of hunting, dancing, or war.

Aboriginal antiquities visible in Utah may be divided into two general classes: the minor elements of material culture, which can be viewed in museums; and the major antiquities, including cliff dwellings, mounds, glyphs, and other remains, which can only be seen in situ. Of the first class, Salt Lake City has the finest collections of archeological specimens in the State, on exhibition at the University of Utah and at the Latter-day Saints Church Museum in Temple Square. Smaller collections are at Brigham Young University, Provo; at Snow College, Ephraim; and at Zion National Park. The arid climate of the Southwest has preserved many elements of material culture, such as desiccated human remains, sandals, baskets, wooden implements, fur and feather blankets, corn, and other vegetable products. Beautiful examples of the ceramic wares of the ancient peoples are in great abundance, while the complete series of stone implements ranging from the largest metates (corn grinders) to the smallest arrow points illustrate the material equipment of every phase of life.

The best and most extensive major antiquities are concentrated in the southern part of the State, in regions closest to the focal area. However, a number of large and important groups of ruins are found farther north. Among these, perhaps, the structures in Nine Mile Canyon are most easily reached. Here, perched in every available crevice of the towering cliffs, are the most northerly examples of the cliff-dwelling type of architecture. Small, stone, towerlike structures occupy difficult ledges and commanding ridges. High above the canyon floor on the tops of narrow stone pinnacles are the remains of ancient living quarters. Numerous mounds on the canyon bottoms mark the sites of primitive villages. Practically every available rock surface is covered with examples of some of the finest glyphs in the West. Other important glyphs and masonry structures are near Vernal.

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