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Newspaper Rock

Published / by Laura Angell / Leave a Comment

Written by Laura Angell, BA History Student at the University of Utah

Placed By: Unknown

Sign Information:

This sign is not a historical marker, it was placed to document the area and provide some brief information about the site. The sign was placed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Sign Text:

Newspaper Rock is a petroglyph panel etched in sandstone that record approximately 2,000 years of early human activity. Prehistoric peoples, probably from the Archaic, Basketmaker, Fremont and Pueblo cultures, etched on the rock from B.C. time to A.D. 1300. In historic times, Ute and Navajo people, as well as European Americans made their contributions.

In interpreting the figures on the rock, scholars are undecided as to their meaning or have yet to decipher them. In Navajo, the rock is called “Tse’Hane’” (Rock that tells a story).

Unfortunately, we do not know if the figures represent storytelling, doodling, hunting magic, clan symbols, ancient graffiti or something else. Without a true understanding of the petroglyphs much is left for individual interpretation.

Newspaper Rock is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Please continue to preserve it.

GPS Coordinates: 37°59’6.6″N 109°31’05.1″W

Newspaper Rock Feb. 2017

Extended Research:

Utah’s territory has been shaped by the presence of early Americans throughout the territory. Newspaper Rock is one of the few pieces that remains as evidence of the Native American activity in the area. The site was rediscovered by early pioneers and was given the name Newspaper Rock due to the abundance of petroglyphs on the large sandstone canvas. The various artists responsible for this artwork are not known, however, historians and archaeologists believe that different Native American cultural groups who have lived in the four corners area have contributed to the artwork on the rock over several thousand years. The artwork was etched on the rock face that contains a black coloring, known as “desert varnish,” which gets its color from a combination of iron deposits and bacteria that forms when rain falls on the exposed sandstone. The artists who created the petroglyphs used the technique of chiseling away at the top layer of the sandstone to reveal the red rock underneath. The petroglyphs date back from about 2,000 years ago to as recent as the 20th century.

One of the individuals responsible for one of the more recent markings is Ramón González. González and his family moved from New Mexico to Monticello and permanently settled in March of 1900. The family created a homestead in the Indian Creek area on land that included the Newspaper Rock site. González carved his name on the far left corner of the rock before he died in 1902.[1] The inscription reads “J.P. Gonzalez 1902” and just below, another says “C.D. Gonsales 6/3/54.” Other recent inscriptions include, “Jean,” written with a backwards N and “JER.”

Newspaper Rock has been recognized as a state historical monument since its dedication in 1961. During this year, control of the site went from the Bureau of Land Management to the State Park and Recreation Commission. The Commission stated its goal for the site was to make improvements by building a fence around the monument, build a parking lot, a picnicking site, and camping facilities. These improvements began in the Spring of 1962 and a portion of the funding for the project was provided by Sunset Magazine.

An image of a woman pointing towards the artwork. Part of the Al Watkins Morton Photograph Collection, 1940-1950. Courtesy the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts.[2]

The monument has become a tourist destination in the 20th and 21st centuries. Over the years the site has continued to garner attention. Many individuals found the vast artwork of interest and took pictures of their interactions with the site. Documentation about the site has continued to assist in the increase of visitation to the area.

 

 

 

 

 

The Times Independent newspaper has documented the amount of visitors that the site has received over the years. Gordon W. Topham, a ranger during the time, states that the sizable differences in numbers may have been due to “the fact that many vacation plans were canceled in 1974 due to the price of gas” and during one of the months, the sign for the monument was in Salt Lake City for repairs, and many people passed the monument.

Statistics provided by Gordon W. Topham, Utah State Division of Parks and Recreation. Courtesy Times Independent 1975, 1976.[3]

Statistics provided by Gordon W. Topham, Utah State Division of Parks and Recreation. Courtesy Times Independent 1975, 1976.[3]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2017, a trip to the site proved that the conservation efforts of the State Park and Recreation Commission and Bureau of Land Management have been beneficial for the preservation of the site. Although the background and meaning of the artwork remains a mystery, the monument continues to represent the early American presence in Utah and the importance of artwork to their culture.

 

[1] Gonzalez, William H. and Padilla, Genaro M., “Monticello, the Hispanic Cultural Gateway to Utah,” Utah Historical Quarterly, 52(Winter 1984): 9-28.

[2] Morton, Alton Watkins, “Woman points to what is known now as Newspaper Rock State Historical Monument,” 470, 1940-1950.

[3] “State Commission Announced Plans to Develop ‘Newspaper Rock,'” Times Independent, 12/28/1961.

[3] “Newspaper Rock State Park Visitor Increase Noted,” Times Independent, 1/09/1975.

[3] “Newspaper Rock Visitation is Way Up,” Times Independent, 6/12/1975.

[3] “29% Increase in Visits Noted at Newspaper Rock,” Times Independent, 1/8/1976.

[3] “Visitation Down at Newspaper Rock,” Times Independent, 2/12/1976.

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources

Morton, Alton Watkins, “Woman points to what is known now as Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument.” 470, 1940-1950. http://heritage.utah.gov/apps/history/findaids/C00468/C0468.xml

“State Commission Announced Plans to Develop ‘Newspaper Rock,'” Times Independent, 12/28/1961. https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/details?id=20373525&facet_paper=&q=title_t%3A%28Newspaper+Rock%29#t_20373525

“Newspaper Rock State Park Visitor Increase Noted,” Times Independent, 1/09/1975. https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/details?id=20445223&facet_paper=&q=title_t%3A%28Newspaper+Rock%29#t_20445223

“Newspaper Rock Visitation is Way Up,” Times Independent, 6/12/1975. https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/details?id=20430965&facet_paper=&q=title_t%3A%28Newspaper+Rock%29#t_20430965

“29% Increase in Visits Noted at Newspaper Rock,” Times Independent, 1/8/1976. https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/details?id=20449383&facet_paper=&q=title_t%3A%28Newspaper+Rock%29#t_20449383

“Visitation Down at Newspaper Rock,” Times Independent, 2/12/1976. https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/details?id=20462238&facet_paper=&q=title_t%3A%28Newspaper+Rock%29#t_20462238

Secondary Sources

Castleton, K. B., 1979. Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Utah. Salt Lake City.

Gonzalez, William H. and Padilla, Genaro M., “Monticello, the Hispanic Cultural Gateway to Utah,” Utah Historic Quarterly, 52(Winter 1984): 9-28.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Lands. Newspaper Rock Recreation Site. http://www.utahscanyoncountry.com/blm.html

National Park Service Petrified Forest. Newspaper Rock. https://www.nps.gov/pefo/learn/historyculture/newspaper-rock.htm

Utah Parks. Petroglyphs Near Moab Utah. http://www.myutahparks.com/petroglyphs-moab/