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New Dates for Prehistoric Paintings in Utah’s Great Gallery

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Utah-Pictographs-Redated(Courtesy Joel Pederson/Utah State University)LOGAN, UTAH— A team led by Utah State University geologist Joel Pederson has used luminescence dating techniques to document the timing of geologic events in southern Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, and thus “draw a box” around a probable window of time for the creation of the paintings in Horseshoe Canyon’s Great Gallery. “The most accepted hypotheses pointed to the age of these paintings as 2,000 to 4,000 years old or perhaps even 7,000 to 8,000 years old. Our findings reveal these paintings were likely made between 1,000 and 2,000 years ago,” Pederson told The new dates suggest that the artists may have co-existed with the Fremont people, who are known for their carved pictographs. “Previous ideas suggested a people different from the Fremont created the paintings because the medium and images are so different. This raises a lot of archaeological questions,” Pederson explained. To learn more about art from this period in Southwestern prehistory, see "Investigating A Decades-Old Disapperance," ARCHAEOLOGY's account of a mystery involving Fremont figurines.