Are petroglyphs meant to be religious figures, historical records, astronomical calendars, or graffiti? The rock art of Utah’s Parowan Gap appears to be all four.
You’ll travel an ancient road when you visit the Gap. Ancient people – probably the Paiute, used this route when they went desert hunting and foraging grounds to the west of the Red Hills. On one side of the Gap itself, they pecked out numerous figures including clouds, snakes, lizards, bird men, spirals, and a bizarre inscription known as the Zipper.
It’s the Zipper that most people come to see. Only recently have scientists determined it to be a calendar marking the movements of the sun. At the solstice, people gather in the Gap to observe the sun set in a notch of a nearby hill. Every 19 years, the moon also lines up according to the ancient charts. It will do this again in 2024.
More rock art can be found on faces near the Zipper and at various points in the canyon. Keep a careful eye open while you drive towards the western entrance to the Gap. Remember to never touch rock art because the acidic oils from your fingers can hasten the decay of these antiquities. Don’t try to brighten them up with chalk and don’t be tempted to add images of your own.
Other adventures await you in the Gap; there are rock towers to photograph and perhaps to scale, cactus grow between the boulders, and you just might catch a glimpse of a deer, an antelope, or wandering livestock.
Listen to the wind when you visit. It is the sound of the force that have made the place, the echo of history both human and natural.