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Book review: New book on Nine Mile Canyon is an archeological delight

By Margot Hovley

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Aug. 17 2013 12:30 p.m. MDT

The Sand Hill Crane panel is well preserved in Nine Mile Canyon, Utah, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

"NINE MILE CANYON: The Archaeological History of an American Treasure," by Jerry D. Spangler, University of Utah Press, $34.95, 194 pages (nf)

Head toward Price and take a jog to the east, and you'll find yourself in Nine Mile Canyon. It's a curious name for a canyon that is actually more like 40 miles long, and there are various stories about how it got its name, none of which are confirmed.

"Nine Mile Canyon: The Archaeological History of an American Treasure" isn't the first book that expert Jerry D. Spangler has written about the area. He wrote "Horned Snakes and Axle Grease" in 2003 as a roadside guide to the canyon, and also "Treasures of the Tavaputs" in 2007. The current offering is full of Nine Mile Canyon's historical and archaeological details, presented in a more scholarly fashion than the roadside guide.

Spangler's knowledge and credentials as a registered professional archaeologist with a master's degree in anthropology from Brigham Young University shine through in this exhaustive work. He has spent more than two decades researching the history and prehistory of Nine Mile Canyon. The former Deseret News reporter is also director of the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance, which works to preserve the cultural past.

Sections include chapters on the previous explorers of the area, geographical details and information on the long-vanished native dwellers and the wealth of rock art they left behind. So much art work can be found here that the area is actually nicknamed "the world’s longest art gallery," with more than 10,000 images created by the ancient Fremont and Ute Indians.

Beautiful color photographs, some taken by the author, enhance the pages. Also included are black and white historical photographs of the early explorers of the canyon, plus informative maps. But you won't find the answers to puzzling questions about the former inhabitants, or meanings behind their enigmatic rock art.

Of special local interest are stories of how Brigham Young University students conducted several archaeological investigations into the area.

The writing is scholarly in manner but clear and concise, complete with thorough references and indexing. This is the first book that is devoted exclusively to the archaeology of this unique place, and is sure to become a source of information on Nine Mile Canyon for years to come.

Margot Hovley's first novel, "Sudden Darkness," was published by Covenant Communications in fall 2012. Find her self-reliance blog at www.mynewoldschool.com or read about her writing adventures at www.margothovley.com.

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