Utah Winged Monster: Mystery Solved

Utah winged monster
Antiquity, Volume 89

Tourists who visit the Black Dragon Canyon trail don’t go there just to see the amazing canyon red walls. The biggest attraction is an ancient artwork – there is an odd figure painted on one of the walls. It looks like it has wings and most people thought it was a dragon or a pterodactyl.

Now, researchers have analyzed thoroughly the faded pigments and found out what the “winged monster” actually is.

„It is not a single figure. It is not a pterodactyl,“ said Paul Bahn, a freelance archaeologist. „It’s a beautiful set of images.“

A visual image with no computer enhancement. Antiquity, Volume 89
A visual image with no computer enhancement. Antiquity, Volume 89

Since its discovery in 1928, the depiction is a popular topic for debates. In 1947, a man named John Simonson outlined the image with chalk. At this time, outlining with chalk was a common practice but now it’s illegal because such an act damages the depictions and renders them harder to analyze. Fortunately, with the help of modern technology scientists can peer past the chalk.

On the set of images we can see one large central figure holding a snake-like object (same motif can be found at other sites in the canyon). There is another one, smaller human silhouette, two dogs or sheep, and a large figure that may be one of the many horned snakes found in paintings in the area. The scientists published their findings in the journal Antiquity.

Until now, most people saw a winged creature in the painting and creationists have used it as a proof that Native Americans had coexisted with pterosaurs, flying reptiles that lived during the Cretaceous. ​

There’s no doubt that Simonson have helped for the creation of the odd deception, but modern technology solved the long-standing mystery.