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Archaeologist to lead a tour of Castle Gardens

Jun 9, 2013 - From staff reports

Craig Bromley of the Lander BLM will discuss the tribal importance of the area and its future as a Wyoming cultural site.

The Alliance for Historic Wyoming, in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management, will host a tour of the Castle Gardens Rock Art Site in Fremont County on June 22.

The event is part of AHW's Unbarred series, which provides glimpses into preservation efforts in Wyoming. The Castle Gardens event will feature a tour of the site with archaeologist Craig Bromley of the Lander BLM as well as a discussion of the tribal importance of the site and its future as a cultural site in Wyoming.

Castle Gardens, named for the area's turrets and towers of eroded sandstone, is located roughly 45 miles east of Riverton in the interior Wind River Basin. The area has been attracting visitors for thousands of years, many of whom have left their markings in the soft sandstone.

This early "graffiti" is now recognized and appreciated as Native American rock art, also known as petroglyphs and pictographs.

Visitors who wish to go on the tour are asked to meet at the Waltman Rest Area on Highway 20/26 between Casper and Shoshoni at 10 a.m. Attendees should bring plenty of water and a lunch and be properly dressed for the weather and conditions as there are limited facilities at the Castle Gardens site. There is little shade at the site.

The first systematic study of Castle Gardens took place in 1932 by professional archaeologist E. B. Renaud of the Archeological Society of the Western High Plains. Renaud was guided by Wyoming geologist JD Love, and came away with valuable drawings and photographs of the area.

Renaud found no items from the historic period that indicated that Castle Gardens was an older site.

The most famous rock art at the site is the Castle Gardens Shield Style, the oldest recognizable example of the shield-bearing warrior figure type. This style features elaborately drawn figures and shields and seems to be a style unique to the Bighorn and Wind River Basins in Wyoming.

The warrior shields feature geometric and animal forms and were colored with layers of paint in shades of red, orange, black, white, and green. The use of many paint colors, especially green, is rare in Wyoming and is a distinguishing characteristic of the Castle Gardens Shield Style. The Great Turtle shield (housed at the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne) exemplifies the hallmarks of this style.

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