ZEPHYR CREEK PICTOGRAPHS
Zephyr Creek Pictograph Site
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Zephyr Creek Pictograph Site consists of a series of five groupings (panels) of red painted figures on the south face of a small overhang in a prominent dolomite bedrock ridge. The site borders the Zephyr Creek valley in the front ranges of the Rocky Mountains of southwestern Alberta, approximately 40 km west of Longview.
The heritage value of the Zephyr Creek Pictograph Site lies in its identity as one of the largest collections of pictographs known in Alberta, displaying a rare variety of designs and figures as well as stories and themes.
The earliest published reference identifying the Zephyr Creek Pictograph Site occurred in 1955; subsequent investigations took place between 1958 and 1981. The pictographs extend over a distance of 1000 metres along a bedrock ridge and include a series of geometric shapes, human "stick" figures and animals that are arranged into five clusters or panels. The figures are interpreted as hunters with bows and arrows, bison, elk, deer, dog or coyote, serpent, and a fish with gills. The exact number of pictographs cannot be determined, due to the faded condition of some of the scenes.
Although the specific age of the Zephyr Creek Pictographs cannot currently be determined, the absence of European trade items or symbols in the panels suggests that they at least pre date 1750, and are likely to be prehistoric in origin. Based on the variation in pictograph clarity and preservation, ranging from faded figures to well-defined forms, it is inferred that the location was revisited and figures added repeatedly over time, rather than the pictographs being created in a single occurrence. The styles of the pictographs have been interpreted by some researchers as indicative of those of people from the Interior Plateau of British Columbia, rather than the Northwestern Plains. Other researchers have suggested, however, that although the art style may not be of the Northwestern Plains, the subject matter of at least one of the panels depicting human figures and bison is suggestive of a Plains lifestyle.
Sources: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1062); Leechman, Douglas, Margaret Hess, Roy L. Fowler, 1955 'Pictographs in Southwestern Alberta', in Bulletin No. 136, Annual Report of the National Museum for the Fiscal Year 1953-54, p. 36-53; Keyser, James D., The Zephyr Creek Pictographs: Columbia Plateau Rock Art on the Periphery of the Northwestern Plains, Archaeology in Alberta 1977, Brink, Jack. 1981. "Rock Art Sites in Alberta: Retrospect and Prospect" in Alberta Archaeology: Prospect and Retrospect. T.A. Moore (editor). The Archaeological Society of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta.. Keyser, James D. and Michael A. Klassen. 2001. University of Washington Press, Seattle, Washington.
The character-defining elements of the Zephyr Creek Pictograph Site include:
- the large number of pictographs, which represent one of the largest collections of pictographs known in Alberta;
- the design elements of the pictographs, which show a rare variety of designs, figures, stories and themes, rather than individual characters or events;
- the variation in the clarity and intensity of the figures and designs, which suggests considerable antiquity of the site, as well as continued use of the site over a long period of time;
- the high altitude setting of the site, which is unique in the region, and well above the location of other known prehistoric activity areas;
- the knowledge value resident in depictions, which may provide information about ancient lifeways not typically discernable at other sites, including information about ceremonial life, environment and resource gathering practices.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
- Peopling the Land
- Canada's Earliest Inhabitants
Function - Category and Type
- Nature Element
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1062)
Cross-Reference to Collection