The Head of Sinbad is one of the best preserved ancient pieces of rock art in the world. It sits unassumingly on a wall a dozen feet off the ground in the desert wasteland of the northern San Rafael Swell. Thousands of cars pass nearby every day, but few know what treasures lie just a mile north of the paved highway. The whole area around this Barrier Canyon Style pictograph is named Head of Sinbad, and it offers a pretty decent array of places to check out while down here.
Whatever the combination of materials the Native Americans used to make this piece, it was a masterful mix of paint to last this long. Or perhaps the location was the key. Scholars estimate the pictographs to be 4,000 years old by correlating them with artifacts that dating to 7,000 years ago. New technologies have brought skeptics into the fold since 2014 however, when scientists released a report claiming a much more conservative 1,000- to 2,000-year-old placing. Any of those dates are amazing when you consider that they made their paints from iron oxides, powdered minerals, charcoal, plant material, blood, and unknown materials to bond it all together. This piece in particular wins the prize for "best concoction" because the color appears so vibrant and fresh.
The anthropomorphic figures common in the Barrier Canyon Style (named after Barrier Canyon, now renamed Horseshoe Canyon, and home of the Great Gallery) vary greatly in their size and shape. The little figure depicted here looks like it could be a shaman or a mythical creature...perhaps a hybrid of man and animal? Is that a head dress, or the figure's actual eyes? The possibilities are fun to consider. The figure of a nearby snake is another common symbol that hints at the arcane, spiritual and divine. Two other figures sit to the left of the main piece, and they also have a snake accompanying them and have other strange spirals and ascending orbs seen regularly among Barrier Canyon Style.
Within the greater Head of Sinbad area you can find a lot to do for at least half a day. Dutchman's Arch is just a mile southwest of the panel. Lone Warrior Panel is a few more miles southwest of I-70. Swasey's Cabin and Eagle Canyon Arch are also within reach along with some awesome old mining trucks and structures toward Reds Canyon Road. If you also check out the Black Dragon Panel on your way toward this area you can catch a pretty good array of off-the-beaten-path arches, rock art, and pioneer history in central Utah.