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Rock Art —The Wolfman and the Crane

Updated: Feb 4, 2023

After an evening of rain, a short walk takes me to the well-known Wolfman panel where I compare it to another one in the general vicinity.

Unusually heavy rainfall this fall turned clay roads into gumbo, making it a challenge to drive to some of the more remote sites on my Bears Ears "to see" list — specifically, the Dark Canyon Plateau and the slopes of the Abajo mountains. I opted instead to stay in the southern part of Bears Ears National Monument and wait for a few days of sun.

Potholes. In this photo, Butler Wash is to the left, or west, where it has carved a deep channel in the Navajo sandstone. That surface sandstone extends further to the east here than further up Butler Wash. Potholes will form in the natural depressions after a significant rain. Here, we are looking north. Comb Ridge is to the left, or west, and the cliff face of Tank Mesa is to the right, or east. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

A short drive north up Butler Wash from the paved road is the Wolfman Panel. So-called because it contains a.unique human-like figure (anthropomorph), it probably dates from the Basketmaker period. In addition to the Wolfman there are a number of other figures carved into the sandstone.

The wading bird (Crane?) was of special interest to me, because I could compare it to another wading bird petroglyph nor far away

Wolfman Panel. On the heavily patinated wall of the sandstone channel created by Butler Wash, there are a few structures and this impressive panel of petroglyphs. The Wolfman is the tall (1m?) human-like figure in the center. Among the other depicted objects are a planting stick and seed bag, an atlatl, a couple of wading birds, a copulating couple, necklaces, and twined bags with horizontal stripes. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

Crane Panel. Not far away from the Wolfman site, this panel depicts only a wading bird (crane?) and a circular object (shield?). Unlike the Wolfman panel, there are no visible structures near the Crane panel. Both petroglyph sites were similar in that their glyphs were up high and in plain view — they were meant to be seen. It is interesting to compare the stylistic differences in the birds, but the significance of the variation is unknown and probably unknowable. In the same vein, what is the significance of the accompanying circle?


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