Highly detailed rock art panel in the canyons of Mojave County, Arizona

Esplanade Polychrome Style -also known as Grand Canyon Style Polychrome- is one of the most recent rock art styles to be identified in North America. It was not reported to until the late 1980s and still is only known from 25 sites all located in Mojave County Arizona. It is distinguished by finely painted figures with elongated and often x-ray body details. The use of red, yellow, white, black and sometimes green paint is also present in many sites.

In one of the best-known shelters the images are remarkably well preserved. No concrete dating work has been done on the style but they are assumed to be similar in age to other large scale anthropomorphic North American rock art traditions like Barrier Canyon Style rock art (Late Western Archaic up to 4,000 years BP).

Grand Canyon Style Polychrome
An Esplanade Style polychrome rock art panel in Mojave County, Arizona
Esplanade Polychrome features finely painted details.
Detail of an Esplanade Style / Grand Canyon Polychrome painting from Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. This style is known entirely from sites within Mojave County, Arizona

One feature that distinguishes the style are the finely painted body details such as the eye lashes seen in the image above.

Type site for the Esplanade Style Polychrome
An orthomosaic image of the type site for Esplanade Style polychrome panel in Mojave County, Arizona.

What do these images mean? We don’t know. But do we need to know in order to experience the mystery and beauty of the work?

stylized sheep and shield at an Esplanade Polychrome site
Details of the type site for Esplanade Style Polychrome.
stylized quadrupeds
Stylized quadrupeds in a well-preserved rock shelter.

To learn more about the rock art of Northern Arizona we recommend the book Rock Art of the Grand Canyon Region by Don D. Christenson, Jerry Dickey and Steven M, Frees

You can purchase it here from Sunbelt Publications.