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FLOWELL - At the bottom of the ridge, Inga Nagel stared at centuries-old circles and lines etched into a basalt boulder as she carefully sketched them onto a pad of graph paper.
About 40 feet above her, Ken Mears used a laptop computer to operate a laser scanning device to build a three-dimensional image of the rock art site in the Devil's Kitchen, a few miles west of Fillmore.
Nearly the entire spectrum of human recording technology - from cameras to GPS to pencils - worked in concert Saturday as volunteers documented some of Utah's earliest art.
While much of the work has withstood the test of time, what remains poses challenges to those trying to record the ancient spirals, sheep and squiggles.
"Now we're racing because the sun is coming over the hill and we won't be able to see anything," said Nagel, of California, a member of the Utah Rock Art Research Association.
As the lighting changes, some images become more visible, while others nearly fade away. And what the human eye can detect in varying light is often different from what cameras can record.
Lasers may do eyes and camera lenses one better. Besides mapping the site, the lasers can be positioned to pull out minute details of the petroglyphs, regardless of the natural light. On one rock panel, the laser scanner found a human figure in an area that appeared empty on a digital picture, said Mears, who is with M2 Technical Services in South Jordan.
The scanner is the latest technology the Bureau of Land Management, which has authority over the Devil's Kitchen, is testing for archaeological surveys.
"We weren't sure how well it would do with petroglyphs," said Mears, explaining that the technology has been used in mining to measure open pit mines. "This is our maiden voyage for archaeology."
At the Devil's Kitchen, scanner data will form a three-dimensional map of the entire ridge by taking recordings at various locations. The laser sends out a beam, and depending on how long it takes to bounce back, that determines distance.
Down the ridge, Nagel and Mary Young continued the time-honored, low-tech art of drawing. They taped nets over rock art on two boulders to create a grid system for recording the location of each pattern.
Young said the ancient patterns, some of which are likely from the Fremont Indians who roamed the area 1,000 years ago, inspire her own art involving fused glass.
"It takes us a long time to draw," said Young, of Granite, between pencil strokes, "but probably nothing like it took the original artist to peck out."
Other volunteers, including some from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, scattered across the site to fill out reports on various rock art panels. Photographers, using digital and film cameras, also snapped shots of rock art while others took GPS measurements.
Amy Cole, a senior program officer with the preservation group, said the event was to inspire people to volunteer to record cultural resources on public land.
The event was also intended to encourage agencies such as the BLM to put more effort into taking inventory of the land.
Joelle McCarthy, a BLM archaeologist in Fillmore, said federal funding is at a premium and money is not available to do all the needed surveys. Much of the survey work that gets done is related to areas that may be impacted by construction or other projects.
"Just doing archaeology for the sake of archaeology, it's becoming really difficult," she said, explaining that she inventories a few hundred acres a year on her own. Her office is responsible for 4 million of the Utah BLM's 22 million acres.
The BLM has several inventory projects going on and key to those are volunteers such as site stewards who monitor sensitive areas for vandalism.
Just above a human figure in the Devil's Kitchen, someone had carved the letters FD, one of the area's more noticeable vandalism incidents. A 1990 photo showed the same marks, though no new ones are present today, said Steve Manning, a member of the Utah Rock Art Research Association.
"I think people have learned to take better care of these places," he said.
A few panels away, Troy Scotter called out details of a faded, arrowhead-shaped human figure near some abstract rectangles.
"We have an anthro here," he said of the human figure. As for the other shapes, "I have no idea what these are."
Scotter, president of the association, said it is anyone's guess as to whether the original artists assigned meaning to the abstract symbols.
Manning paused to look at a nearby spiral pattern with a rock bump at its center.
"Maybe someday we can figure out what these mean," Manning said.