An Enigmatic People and Their Rock Art

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An Enigmatic People and Their Rock Art

Archaeologists often rely on material traits to define culture groups. In the Southwest, one such group, the Fremont culture, has to a large degree defied classification. Inhabiting an expansive territory in the northern reaches of the Southwest, the Fremont sometimes look archaeologically very similar to their neighbors, the Anasazi, and to groups living on the Plains and in the Great Basin. The origin and eventual demise of the Fremont culture has been the subject of much debate, as has the question of whether the Fremont even constitute a “culture.” More than any other term “variable” seems to describe the Fremont best. Several traits appear more distinctly “Fremont” including a certain type of basketry, elaborate clay figurines, and a type of rock art, but many items and life ways of this diverse group are similar to those of neighboring regions. In the Fremont areas bordering those of the Anasazi, Fremont material culture both differs from and resembles that of its southern neighbors. Rock art in particular provides an interesting example of the diversity and cohesiveness within the Fremont culture and evidence of Fremont interaction with nearby peoples.

Geographic Extent and Origin

Noel Morss (1931), using survey work completed along the Fremont River in south central Utah, was first to designate the Fremont as a culture, one he saw as primitive and peripheral to the Anasazi. Since that time researchers have expanded the territory attributed to Fremont habitation to include most of Utah north of the Colorado River, parts of western Colorado and eastern Nevada, and a small section of southern Wyoming (Figure 1). This variable landscape includes alpine meadows, deep ca...

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...s No. 6. Museum of Northern Arizona Press, Flagstaff.

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1970 Median Village and Fremont Culture Regional Variation. University of Utah Anthopological Papers No. 95. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

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1931 The Ancient Culture of the Fremont River in Utah: Report on the Explorations Under the Claflin-Emerson Fund, 1928-29. Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Vol. XII, No. 3. Harvard University, Cambridge.

1954 Clay Figurines of the American Southwest. Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Vol. 49, No. 1. Harvard University, Cambridge

Schaafsma, P.

1994 The Rock Art of Utah. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

Winter, J.

1972 The Distribution and Development of Fremont Maize Agriculture: Some Preliminary Interpretations. American Antiquity 38:439-451.
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