The Story Panel of Trail Canyon

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Story Panel petroglyph

What do these figures tell us? Who are they? What is the meaning of this scene, and the arrangement of the elements within it. What are the objects and patterns, and what do they mean?
This panel was found within a quarter mile of Patahoek, not far up the side canyon from the high point where he overlooks the junction of the trails.

(See full size image)


It is easy to speculate, to ponder and reflect until one's one experiences and culture begin to "suggest" appropriate meanings for these scenes, or at least some of the elements of the scene.

For instance, I see the shield-like pattern in the upper left corner as a "clan symbol" which identifies the affiliation of the two erect figures just to the right. OR, it could be something else, such as a season marker, or a prayer symbol.

The standing figures suggest that they are native people, perhaps a man and woman, or a warrior and a priest. The man (warrior) in the left is holding a staff in his right hand; the woman (priest) is holding something rising, perhaps rising steam or sacred smoke. The animal figure immediately to the right of them appears to be a dog.

Below them on the left side are two mountain sheep figures, one of the most common petroglyph figures in the intermountain west. Another sheep figure is partially shown at the bottom.

The cluster of images in the center is not suggestive of anything certain, but may be geographic map symbols, which locate the site where the "story" of this scene occurred.

The most fascinating figures by far are the prone man-like figure, and the obvious cow-like figure, also prone behind the man.

We had never seen a panel like this in the books or in our travels. It was so strongly suggestive of a "story," unlike all the other panels we had seen, that we took it to be so.. and we also believe it is of relatively modern time in native history.

My friend and I discussed our theories at length (he believed the "staff" to be a telegraph pole) and we generally agreed that the prone man-like figure represents a fallen white man. His hat lies near his head. His face is obviously white, and his outstretched right hand is open and empty.. "without power."

The dead cow represents defeat and loss of wealth, and a meal for the native family or clan.

We believe the panel is a story of a confrontation and victory... or a symbolic prayer for deliverance from the invading white man, and victory over a foreign culture.

That was our interpretation. What is yours?



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