Creationists foiled again: Ancient rock painting is NOT a pterosaur

The interpretation of ancient rock paintings of Utah’s Black Dragon Canyon should finally be put to rest. But it won’t be.

Source: ‘Winged Monster’ Rock Art Finally Deciphered

Now, using cutting-edge technology, researchers suggest the red paintings show five separate images, including a tall bug-eyed person, a smaller person, a sheep, a dog and a serpentlike figure.

“It is not a single figure. It is not a pterodactyl,” said co-lead researcher Paul Bahn, a freelance archaeologist. “It’s a beautiful set of images.”

Creationists and researches have been debating the rock paintings for years and the theories have ranged from being depictions of humans and animals to some winged monster or pterosaur.

The rock paintings are from the agrarian Fremont culture which lived in the area up until the 1100s.

The chalking of the image (tracing it with chalk, which is now illegal) added to the interpretation that it was a depiction of a now-extinct flying reptile. Creationists who are eager to discredit the concept of evolution, were adamant that this was clear evidence that such creatures lived not over 65 million years ago, but during the time of humans to make drawings of them. But that’s nonsense. As the scientists note, even faced with the new evidence, Creation-minded folks won’t budge. They will simply look to cite other anomalies to support their allegations. And, they ignore scientific evidence that clearly shows their young earth ideas as erroneous.


Interpreted as


“What was supposed to be one wing of this pterodactyl is actually two little four-legged animals. The so-called head and beak and neck of the pterodactyl [are] actually a human figure with its spindly legs and its two arms stretching out.”

Their paper, in the journal Antiquities, is called “The death of a pterodactyl“. The idea that this is not really a pterosaur but a human, is not new [PDF].

A pterodactyl is a particular type of pterosaur. Pterosaurs are the name of the Order of animals. Pterodacylus is a specific genus within Pterosauria. So, it’s typically more correct to use the overarching term “pterosaurs” when referring to generalized winged reptiles that lived at the time of dinosaurs. They were NOT dinosaurs but they were, arguably, the coolest animals that ever lived.

Photo credit: Jean-Loïc Le Quellec, Paul Bahn and Marvin Rowe

This is what it really looked like. Photo credit: Jean-Loïc Le Quellec, Paul Bahn and Marvin Rowe

The Black Dragon Canyon is named after this interesting pictograph. So perhaps the title of the paper should have been death of a black dragon? It’s pretty common for people with fringe ideas to interpret ancient art in a mystical vein. Other pictograms in the area are said to show “spacemen”. Other ancient art is interpreted as dinosaurs. But artistic depictions of animals should NOT be taken literally. These artists were not journalists.

This is a opportunity to share my new post on the illusion of facticity in cryptozoology. I’ve also written on the fallacy of claiming that prehistoric animals still exist today.

  8 comments for “Creationists foiled again: Ancient rock painting is NOT a pterosaur

  1. Bill T.
    August 21, 2015 at 4:58 AM

    So, the figure that looks like a human was intended to be representational of a human. Mind boggling.

  2. Harrow
    August 21, 2015 at 11:37 AM

    Of course such paintings can only be confidently interpreted in the context of the originating culture. Nevertheless the meaning of this illustration seems obvious. It is part of an instruction manual on food production.

    “1. Your dog can only keep your herd together; he cannot count. You must tally your animals yourself. This is the only way to discover when one of them has eluded your dog and wandered away.

    “2. For the best seafood, cast your net where the brackish water runs in different directions at different times. A pair of small rock cairns is the best way to mark the limits of the reversed flow.”

    There’s probably another painting nearby that explains how to keep chickens.

  3. Haldurson
    August 21, 2015 at 12:10 PM

    It actually shows the notes of a budding comedian, trying to work out which is funnier — a man being bitten on the ass by a snake while watching his goats, or someone accidentally lighting himself on fire. The artist is clearly preparing for open Talking-Stick night at the campfire.

  4. Kurt
    August 21, 2015 at 1:23 PM

    What always gets me is that no one assumes that ancient people, you know, had imaginations. Even if this was a dragon, why couldn’t someone have made it up? Why can’t those figures that look like aliens be, I don’t know, some early humans idea of an alien? Or an insect person? It’s not like people didn’t have imaginations before 1740. This falls into the same category as the idea that, yeah, white people and maybe the Chinese could build giant structures themselves but anyone else needed space alien help.

  5. busterggi (Bob Jase)
    August 21, 2015 at 3:18 PM

    A creationist would probably claim that Munch’s ‘The Scream’ is exactly like Leonardo’s ‘Mona Lisa’ if they thought it would help their case.

  6. karl
    August 21, 2015 at 3:40 PM

    Many creationists believe some dinosaurs survived on the ark. And they (mostly) died out recently. Apparently they were hunted to extinction! Since there were, apparently, dinosaurs up until the time of St. George and the Dragon, creationists have to account for why, you know, no one really mentioned these huge beasts. See, apparently they did! Look at a handful of ancient cave art and, of course, legends about dragons. So, see, dinosaurs were not ignored.

    Of course, this ignores the fact you would think these marvelous beasts, being big trophy items, aren’t mentioned as part of booty or tributes to kings (such tributes are well documented by ancient historians), why there are no teeth or claws buried with kings, warriors, or hunters. Why there are no images of great kings or warriors having such skins displayed in their throne rooms or manors. Why would artifacts of these amazing beasts be of no value or worthy any mention when elephant, tiger, and lion parts are part of the household items of rich Europeans?

  7. Mike C.
    August 23, 2015 at 7:40 PM

    Creationists, right up there with the Flat Earthers.

  8. Erik1986
    August 25, 2015 at 2:15 PM

    Yes. This. Why assumption they had no imagination and could only “paint what they saw.” I love horses. I particularly love Appaloosa horses, which are spotted. There is a lovely cave painting (Peche Merle, IIRC), which shows a horse with a solid-coloured head and neck and a spotted body. This is referenced as, and well may be, evidence of the ancient existence of spotted horses – but even I couldn’t help thinking, “or maybe the painter just thought spots would look “nice” or “interesting,” and didn’t actually SEE a spotted horse.” LOL

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