Ancient Santa in Stone

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This year, Santa can’t wait for Christmas. A small, but dedicated group of rock art preservationists in Utah – the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition, and their allies – are fighting to preserve what may be the original Santa Claus.

Nine Mile Canyon: Located high on the side of a sheer cliff in a rugged place in central Utah, is an ancient petroglyph that dates back over 1,000 years; it has an uncanny resemblance to the modern day Santa, an elf, and his nine reindeer.

A petroglyph is a work of prehistoric Indian rock art that is chiseled or “pecked” into rock, usually into a dark patina surface; the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition and their preservationist friends are seeking to save this ancient petroglyph from destruction.

An industrial gas and oil development in the area is slowly destroying this and thousands of other petroglyphs that call this canyon home.

According to Pam Miller, a trained archaeologist and Chair of the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition, “‘Santa’ is one of more than 10,000 unique petroglyphs and pictographs (prehistoric Indian art painted on rock) found in the canyon that are being obliterated by dust and destroyed by dust-suppressant chemicals (magnesium chloride) that is being sprayed on roads. Additionally, the vibrations of huge trucks, drill rigs, bulldozers, and industrial traffic are also affecting these ancient works of art.”

Bill Bryant, the photographer who managed to photograph “Santa” using a super-telephoto lens said that, “The destruction going on here is tragic. This entire canyon is a national treasure that should be made into a national monument or park.”

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