Procession Panel

If you love petroglyphs, you will definitely want to visit Procession Panel, located along a southwest facing cliff, high atop Comb Ridge. The impressive petroglyph panel, thought to represent a ceremonial gathering or migration story, depicts 179 human-like forms coming from three different directions and converging on a central circle. Other figures in the panel include mountain sheep, deer and/or elk and snakes.

According to archeologists, a thousand years or so ago individual ceremonies and rituals gave way to group events. The Procession Panel shows carved human figures march in three lines toward a circle that probably represents a great kiva. To stand before the Procession Panel is to feel the power of ancestral Puebloan villagers coming together to dance, sing, feast and to become one.

Amazingly, the Procession Panel stood for centuries until teachers discovered it in February 1990. There is some concern that the popularity of the panel will attract too many visitors to the Bears Ears National Monument, so a lot of people purposely don’t give out the exact location of the Procession Panel.

Finding it is not exactly easy, so we hired to Navajo guides who work for Wild Expeditions in Bluff, Utah. Here is a link to that company’s site:

And here are our guides, Nate and Louis.

They we both knowledgeable and fun to be with.

Anyway, here is the Procession Panel as best as I could get it on a cell phone.

The panel contains a number of figures that are either Shaman or Chiefs. These can be determined by the fact that they have headdresses with birds or other figures on top.

The birds may represent Macaws or Macaw feathers, similar to what was discovered at Chaco Canyon. The picture below gives a better look at a chief.

Common to the petroglyphs we have seen are hand prints, kind of a “Kilroy was here” statement (my guess). There are other interpretations of the hand prints. Were they the signatures of the artists, confirming their work as well as their self-awareness? Was it an artist, or shaman, touching the rock surface in order to acknowledge and therefore enter the spirit world, known as the ‘sealing’ ritual? When you look at a panel like the Procession Panel, you have to let your imagination run wild.

Another common depiction is that of a dog, indicating, perhaps, that Native Americans domesticated dogs a long time ago. The picture below shows both a hand print and a dog.

In my mind, though, a couple of the more fascinating images in the Procession Panel are those of a great kiva and atlatls.

The Atlatl was an ancient type of Spear thrower, a ‘throwing stick’ used to throw a spear with greater propulsion towards the quarry. The Atlatl was used to propel throwing-spears or “darts” and used prior to the appearance of the bow and arrow. Essentially the Atlatl lengthens the length of the spear thrower’s arm and with a loaded, spring-like, action can provide the benefit of greater force and distance over that of the hand thrown spear. The spears thrown from the Atlatl ranged between 4 – 5ft in length. The Atlatl had a range up to 500 feet and the power to inflict serious injuries with more speed, force, and accuracy than spears that were thrown by hand alone. The word ‘Atlatl’ derives from Aztec meaning a spear throwing stick device. How do you pronounce Atlatl? Try this: “at-uhl  at-uhl”.

Then there is the kiva. It is quite possible that the kiva shown in the petroglyph is the great kiva in Chaco Canyon. If so, this would confirm that ancient people made long journeys for the specific purpose of reaching that kiva. Again, you have to let your imagination go.

The Procession Panel is not the only incredible sight you will find on the hike. Just the views alone are worth trudging up the hills.

If you are at all interested in Native American culture, the Procession Panel is a must-see.