Writing On the Wall: Sego Canyon, Utah

Barrier Canyon style pictographs at Sego Canyon

On my travels in the Southwest, I’ve seen quite a few petroglyphs: illustrations chipped or carved into the surface of the rock. Two days ago in Sego Canyon, I saw some of my first pictographs: rock art painted onto the wall using natural pigments. These paintings, known as Barrier Canyon Style, were created 8,000 years ago (!) by little-known nomads called the Archaic People.

Sego Canyon, detail

Barrier Canyon Style is identified by larger than life anthropomorphic forms, usually with hollowed or missing eyes, an absence of arms and legs, and horns, antennae, earrings, and snakes. The ghostly red images are thought to represent shamanistic art associated with ritual activities of the Archaic people.

Ghosts of Sego Canyon. Note the bullet holes.

I was unprepared for how spooky the images are! I worry I might meet them again in my nightmares. Sego Canyon is a beautiful place. You have to wonder what these ancient people saw there to inspire such beautifully hideous artwork. So monstrous, so alien! Hmmm…

Sego Canyon & Pictographs

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
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15 Responses to Writing On the Wall: Sego Canyon, Utah

  1. gaucho8782 says:

    Cool! more proof that we are descendants of aliens!! j/k

  2. Chris Major says:

    Stunning images, I am really enjoying following your travels, your adventures are a world away from my own. I look forward to every post

  3. Rachael says:

    We had the pleasure of viewing some of these in person in 2009 and every time we saw some the children became more convinced that the ancient peoples had been visited by aliens.
    I am new to the world of blogs but yours is the best I have found so far. I am enjoying sharing it with my eleven year-old, Maggie, a feisty girl often frustrated by the shopping obsessed girly girls who seem to abound in our town and her school. It is so good to be able to inspire her with your blog. We hope to return to the SouthWest in 2014 and your blog will be an invaluable guide. Thanks!
    (PS Maggie says hi to Bowie and D.O.G.)

  4. ritaroberts says:

    What a fantastic blog. I so enjoy following your travels The Canyons have always fascinated me and I would love to see for myself some day but for the time being your blog brings it all to life and the photographs are brilliant,love the pictographs

  5. summer233 says:

    Reblogged this on ponderingaloud and commented:
    Very awe-inspiring and thought provoking.I hope to see them for myself one of these days.

  6. I never tire of seeing petroglyphs and pictographs of any kind. But the unique and unusual keeps the excitement fresh!

    Great photos all!

    Tijeras, NM

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  8. Iris says:

    ow wow that’s amazing! so pretty and special.. how can you not love travelling when you get to see such things.. 🙂

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  12. KDKH says:

    I’ve been there. Pretty awesome – glad to see someone else interested in one of my nerdy interests.

  13. Claude Niero says:


    Very similar to the ones found here in Australia

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