Teaming Up to Record Rock Imagery

Utah SHPO, URARA, and Logan Simpson Team Up to Record Rock Imagery in Central Utah

Written by Tina Hart, archaeologist at Logan Simpson Design

Robert Van Orden, a member of the Utah Rock Art Research Association  (URARA), traveled more than 900 miles to participate in a project to assist the Utah State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to document rock imagery locations in Central Utah with professional archaeologists. Robert’s opportunity to work alongside professionals came about after URARA submitted Global Positioning System (GPS) data obtained by their membership of rock imagery locations across Utah to the Utah SHPO. After assessing the data, SHPO determined that professional archaeologists needed to field check the GPS data, document the rock imagery to the standards set by the land managers, and submit records of those documentation efforts so that the land managers can actively managed these non-renewable and endangered resources. With increasing visibility due to social media and increased visitation to public and State lands, there is a need to document these important cultural resources so that they may be managed for the benefit of the public. Professional archaeologists at Logan Simpson , a consulting firm that provides cultural resource management services, share Robert’s and other URARA members’ passion for rock imagery and the landscapes where they are found. That is why when SHPO solicited proposals seeking professionals to complete the assessment of the URARA GPS data of rock imagery locations, Logan Simpson jumped at the chance to help document these sites with the help of interested volunteers. Because the data was collected by URARA, it seemed only logical that Logan Simpson would work with URARA members, like Robert, to document Utah’s rock imagery resources so that they can be better protected.

Rock Imagery GPS Locations.

Project Goals

The Utah SHPO had multi-faceted goals for this pilot project. Firstly, there was a desire to do something meaningful with the URARA GPS data, namely to ensure that all the points were documented as archaeological sites, when appropriate, so that they become “visible” in the official cultural resources record and therefore can be managed for preservation. Secondly, but not any less important, the SHPO desired an effective public participation plan to help foster a sense of stewardship for cultural resources by Utahns and other members of the public. Archaeological vandalism is a significant problem in Utah, and the state’s fragile cultural resources are at risk, especially rock imagery sites, and land managers don’t have sufficient resources to monitor impacts to sites. Given the threats of vandalism and lack of resources, public stewards are critical in efforts to preserve our shared cultural heritage for future generations.

The Utah SHPO contracted with Logan Simpson to conduct targeted archaeological site documentation at rock imagery locations on various federal and state land jurisdictions in Carbon, Sanpete, and Sevier Counties in central Utah. The goals of the project were to obtain baseline information of rock imagery sites to assist with management and interpretive efforts, prepare public products to increase awareness about fragile rock imagery, and incorporate volunteers. The project plan included volunteers working alongside professional archaeologists in the field, a documentary video for the project, and a PowerPoint presentation.

Logan Simpson archaeologist Wade Carter and URARA volunteer Troy Scotter record rock imagery at Snake Rock Village. Although the site had been named after this petroglyph, the rock imagery was not formally documented in the site form until now.

Volunteer Engagement

Engaging volunteers was an important component of this project. As a natural first step, Logan Simpson reached out to URARA to engage their membership; after all, it was those folks who collected the GPS data and provided it to SHPO in the first place. The URARA membership enthusiastically responded to the call for volunteers, and there was no need to look elsewhere for additional assistance. Logan Simpson’s plan, which was executed successfully, was to include at least one URARA volunteer with each professional archaeological field crew. Each crew consisted of two professional archaeologists—one field supervisor and one field archaeologist—who were paired with one or two volunteers.

Project Results

Over the course of two field sessions, the project team visited 147 GPS points, some of which were originally collected by the same volunteers who ultimately helped document them. A variety of rock imagery stylistic traditions were documented during the project, including the Basin and Range Tradition, Barrier Canyon style, Glen Canyon Style 5, and the Sevier and Northern San Rafael Fremont styles, as well as Ute and Paiute imagery. The project resulted in the documentation of 18 newly recorded sites and updates for 53 previously recorded sites for a total of 71 sites. As a result of this project, Logan Simpson and URARA added 18 newly recorded sites to the official record, and these important places can now be preserved by land managers.

Our approach to public participation literally brought the public into the field alongside professional archaeologists to help with these documentation, and ultimately preservation, efforts. With the video, PowerPoint, and blog, we then brought the project to a wider public audience. It is collaborations such as this that help “get the word out” about the awesome heritage of this great state. Archaeologists have a responsibility to share our findings with the public and engage them in our collective mission to manage and preserve significant cultural resources, including rock imagery and many, many other resource types across the state of Utah.

Logan Simpson Video Director Erick Laurila interviews SHPO Compliance Archaeologist Savanna Agardy at Fremont Indian State Park.

Project Video

Over the course of the project, Logan Simpson staff and volunteers documented the field efforts using GoPro and other video cameras, still photography, and drone imagery. We conducted in-field interviews with Logan Simpson archaeologists, URARA volunteers, and SHPO staff. The efforts resulted in a 17-minute video about the project, with captivating footage of the landscapes and rock imagery of central Utah. Video themes include public participation in historic preservation, stewardship, respectful visitation, and where to go to learn more, such as Fremont Indian State Park , URARA, Utah Cultural Site Stewardship Program , and UPAN . The video was first premiered to the URARA membership, SHPO, land managers, and the rest of the project team. Check out the video on the SHPO YouTube Channel!