(June 11, 2017)—Monuments come in different shapes and sizes. For many, monuments bring to mind plaques or statues that commemorate some historical figure or event. It is important to recognize that places may also be monuments—from a dot on a map, as with the Four Corners Monument, or expansive tracts of natural landscape, such as the Grand Canyon, which was a national monument before it became a national park.
What constitutes them as monuments is not their size, but the stories they tell and the values they enshrine. The sizes, shapes, contours, and colors of our nation’s monuments vary considerably, and justly so, because our nation strives to honor the stories and values of all of its citizens in its public lands.
Some of our nation’s stories and values cannot fit on a plaque, nor are they conveniently bound to a building or a memorial. Rather, they require space in order to fully recognize them. Bears Ears National Monument is such a place. The stories and values commemorated by and protected in Bears Ears are entwined in the landscape. This is perhaps most apparent in the many different styles of rock art layered across and interwoven through this landscape. And rock art is just one of many of the “objects” that are honored within the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument.
As a mode of personal and cultural expression, people craft rock art to convey stories, values, and beliefs. From an archaeological perspective, different styles and traditions of rock art point toward shifting cultural identities through time, each of which has its own stories and values, some shared and others unique. The diversity of rock art styles that come together in Bears Ears National Monument is a testament to the depth, richness, and interconnectedness of this cultural landscape over millennia.
In his 2010 book about Fremont rock art, which is one of the styles represented in Bears Ears National Monument, Steven Simms wrote, “The symbols and figures…are part of an ideological fabric stretched across a sacred landscape…”
We think these maps and photographs show that well—a continuous, dynamic series of ideological fabrics woven across a sacred landscape. Taking a scissors to this tapestry would diminish it into frayed scraps.
Click on any map or image to enlarge it. You may also download the maps (PDF).
With special thanks to Jonathan Bailey, RE Burrillo, and Polly Schaafsma.