Between 1400 and 700 years ago, a group of people we call the Fremont were carving petroglyphs in sandstone across the American Southwest. Hundreds if not thousands of examples have been found in Utah, including this fine display located in Capitol Reef National Park. A few dozen figures of various shapes and sizes are carved, scratched, pecked and chiseled out of the rock. This exposed different colors underneath the rock surface, or at the least it made visible depressions that form shadows. Some pictographs that are combinations of both scratching and painting do exist here and at other sites.
Ceremonial and anthropomorphic figures cover the rocks in familiar symbols in addition to some that are very abstract. The work of the Fremont seems to often give a glimpse into their daily life, differing greatly from the highly unusual and almost ethereal Barrier Canyon Style that preceded them by thousands of years. One element they both shared was putting horns on humanoid heads, whether they are incorporated into a mask or a head dress or they represent a shaman or hybrid man-beast. In the Fremont style you see many common motifs such as hunting, birthing, fighting, farming, and ceremonies and rituals. The Fremont inhabited natural rock shelters as well as pit houses, which are half-buried dwellings covered by a wooden frame topped with a brush roof. They foraged for food, but they also grew corn when it was possible. The Fremont apparently left the area and were forced to migrate and possibly even join other tribes when the area became too dry to inhabit any longer. The people who carved these glyphs might have lived in this area while they did because of the life giving water of the Fremont River only dozens of yards from this site.