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Land of the Lost: Native American Artifacts in Utah’s Range Creek

Utah's Range Creek hides the most intact Native American artifacts in the United States. Get there now–while you can still play archaeologist.

Nelson is the most spectacular gallery in Range Creek. I spy a sun-disk petroglyph with 13 spokes, and two figures that look like warriors, with a lightning bolt passing between their heads. Maybe it means they’re empaths, able to feel each other’s pain. Maybe it’s a warning sign for intruders. In another, a ram leaps up a wall, exposing his fat belly to a hunter’s bow. Is this a prayer for food, or a prehistoric hunter’s way of showing off? Either way, the artist clearly likes to kill things. Then I come upon the Falling Man. He has a triangular head, his arms splayed out, legs pointed skyward like a tuning fork. Someone etched this figure at the bottom of a nasty drop just below a granary. Had someone shoved a corn burglar off the cliff face? I want to make sense of all these images, but I’m on my own.

Later, I call a few archaeologists, who each tell me something very cool: They have no answers. My hunches are as good as any. All theories are plausible in Range Creek–even the wild ones. In one last effort to figure these images out, I call Waldo. After all, the rancher has looked at them more than anybody.

"What do they mean?" he repeats. "Well, it all depends on how much imagination you got. I could tell you them people got off flying saucers, or that they got off of Noah’s Ark, and nobody could say that I’m wrong."

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