Dean M. Chriss
Sleigh Scene Petroglyph

Sleigh Scene

(Click image to enlarge)

This petroglyph from the Formative period (2000 BCE to 250 CE) is the earliest known evidence that Santa Claus exists. The ancient artwork does not show the jolly old elf, but it does show his sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. It also depicts Rudolf, the most famous reindeer of all, who oddly appears to be surveying the surroundings behind the sleigh instead of leading it.

Experts think the artist used existing features in the rock to represent storm clouds that the reindeer and sleigh veered sharply upward to avoid. Because Santa is not shown these experts believe he may have been thrown from the sleigh during the bumpy ride, and Rudolf may be checking for him. Looking carefully at the larger photograph it becomes obvious that light is emanating from Rudolf's nose, which is further evidence of the stormy weather and that Rudolph is searching for Santa. If so, this scene depicts a truly historic moment in Christmas history. There is another petroglyph depicting Santa Claus himself from the later Fremont period (about 1-1200 CE), so we know Santa survived this incident. Rudolf undoubtedly swooped down beneath Santa as he fell, and Santa rode him back up to the sleigh.