So many environmental press releases and newsletters have piled up on my desk that the Seasons Greetings from College & Pro Football Newsweekly - a poster of a cheerleader that some kindly soul deposited here - was buried in a paper avalanche.
Let's clear away the ecology stuff!- Not so old after all?
"Of Human Interest," the archaeology newsletter published by Brigham Young University mentions that Salt Lake researcher Steven J. Manning has written a paper about dating the Barrier Canyon pictographs of southern and central Utah. The age of the Barrier Canyon Culture, which painted the world-famous panels in the separate sections of Canyonlands National Park and the San Rafael Swell, is one of the mysteries of the West.
These amazing panels look old indeed. They are in the same region as caves where people lived in archaic times, back as long ago as 8,000 years. Often experts say they are at least 3,000 years old.
So I gave him a call.
Manning, who works at the University of Utah Public Safety Department and is surveying the state's pictographs and petroglyphs, has a different idea. From what he has observed, Barrier Canyon rock art extended almost to the historic period, until about 1500 A.D.
"If you look at the Hopi Indians today, in the kachina costumes they have hanging from the back belts a fox pelt. Well, in all the archaeological evidences in all the Southwest, that fox pelt doesn't appear until about 1500," Manning said.
The kachina cult swept up from the south, he believes, from the Mogollon Culture in central Arizona, then into Utah. To make this part of a kachina dancer's costumes, clan members would kill and skin a fox, then drape the entire pelt - head, feet and all - over a belt at the back of the costume. The tail hung to the ground.
"The fox pelt pendant appears to be present on Barrier Canyon rock art," he said. So some Barrier Canyon panels seem to have been painted as late as the arrival of the fox pelt style of dressing.
"It's just a theory of course," Manning said. "There are several other possible explanations."
His idea is bolstered by the fact that in Canyonlands, white Barrier Canyon pictographs are painted over red pictographs in the same style. White was a favorite pigment for rock paintings of the Pueblo people, who migrated away from Utah around 1300 A.D. and continued building in Arizona and along the Rio Grande even later. The Hopi and Zuni are present-day Pueblo people.
Possibly, the Pueblo technique of making white paint filtered into the San Rafael and Canyonlands region, and people used it to continue the Barrier Canyon tradition.
- Hydro worries.
A proposed hydroelectric project in the Deep Creek Mountains may have the potential to damage streams in those rugged peaks, which are a wooded range rising from the salt desert in western Juab and Tooele counties. "Birch Creek stands to lose about one mile and a half of stream," Gary Macfarlane, conservation director of the Utah Wilderness Association, wrote to James Parker, director of the Bureau of Land Management for Utah.
According to Macfarlane, two hydro projects in the Deeps have been on the books since 1983, but not much has been done other than construction of some pipelines. "Now is the time that it looks like they may in fact build Birch and Trout Creek," one of the projects, he said.
The rare Snake Valley strain of Lake Bonneville cutthroat trout has managed to hang on in the streams.
- Dumb Idea of the Week.
Johns Hopkins University Press has published a book called Bravo 20: The Bombing of the American West. A Navy bombing range in one of the more desolate sections of the Nevada desert is recorded in detail, with maps, drawings and photographs. Richard Misrach, the author and photographer, proposes that Congress should create a national park on the site, with a visitor center and museum. There would be a "walk-in crater" with an overlook so you can see bombshells sticking in its sides, and a "Boardwalk of the Bombs" winding past munitions, destroyed halftracks, craters filled with colored water and targets.
- More clutter at Grand Canyon.
A draft supplemental environmental impact statement is available on planned new visitor services at Grand Canyon National Park's North Rim. Proposals include plans for a 100-room motel-type lodge, a restaurant and 50 new units in the campground. Comments will be accepted until March 29, 1991.
- Bought any ruins lately?
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance protests a pending sale of state land in the Gulch and Circle Cliffs areas in southern Utah. "We believe significant archaeological resources exist within the sections and have begun the search for an archaeologist to survey these areas," wrote Ken A. Rait, issues coordinator for SUWA.
On Dec. 20, he wrote to Richard Mitchell of the Utah Division of State Lands and Forestry, "The decision to proceed with these sales would be a tragedy to the national interest . . . I urge that an exchange be sought for these lands with the federal government."
There. I'm finally down to the poster.