Saturday, August 19, 2017

IMAGES OF FOOTWEAR IN ROCK ART - ANASAZI SANDALS:


Shod footprint, Three Rivers, Otero
County, NM. Photo Jack and Esther
Faris, November 1988.


Closeup of shod footprint, Three Rivers,
Otero  County, NM. Photo Jack and
Esther Faris, November 1988.

As mentioned last week, a subject of interest in rock art is the portrayal of footwear. What do these images mean, what is their implication, what do they represent? Among the Ancestral Puebloan peoples, and most other people of the southwest, the common footwear was the sandal. For the sake of this discussion I will assume that any image of the outline of a human foot that does not display toes represents shod foot, showing a piece of footwear, sandal or moccasin.


Plaited sandal, Kayenta Anasazi,
Arizona, 900-1300 AD, yucca
leaves and cordage. Natural
History Museum of Utah.

Sandals were woven out of plant fibers or bark (often juniper), but perhaps the most common sandal was hand woven of yucca leaves (although especially fine examples might be twined out of cotton fibers). More than one technique was used in their production. The simplest ones were plaited with a warp in one direction, crossed by a weft in the other direction in an over-under alternating pattern. More complicated, and finer, results were obtained by twining, and the finest examples were often decorated by using different colors of dyed material, or by painting them subsequent to their weaving.


Twined yucca fiber sandal,
Glowacki, Fig. 10, p. 141.

Glowacki observed in 2015 that "Changes in sandal technology and the iconography depicted on murals and in rock art imply widespread reorganization in Western Mesa Verde influenced in part by changing relationships with an perceptions of Chaco and Aztec that altered local interactions and practices. For example, twined sandals, made of finely woven yucca with raised geometric designs on the tread or designs that were painted or dyed after production were used until the early 1200s, subsequently being replaced by plaited sandals." (Glowacki 2015:140)


Alex Patterson, 1992, A Field
Guide To Rock Art Symbols, p. 173.

These are assumed to have been used as ceremonial dance footwear, given the amount of work, and the specialized knowledge, required to produce them. "the intricacies of the unique geometric designs on the tread, and the impracticality of wearing finely twined sandals for daily use." (Glowacki 2015:140)


Footprint petroglyph, Spruce Tree
House, Mesa Verde, CO., Photo
Peter Faris, July 2002.

"The high frequency of sandal imagery in Western Mesa Verde and the depictions of sandals on rock art panels near habitations and on the inside and outside walls of rooms and kivas suggest that twined sandals had a different role in Western Mesa Verde culture than in other parts of the region." (Glowacki 2015:140-42)


Alex Patterson, 1992, A Field
Guide To Rock Art Symbols,
p. 173.

"Twined yucca sandals fell into disuse across the northern Southwest coincident with both the decline of Chaco and the extreme drought conditions of the mid-1100s." (Glowacki 2015:142)



Franktown Cave sandal, Franktown,
Colorado. 3345 - 3033 B.C. 
https://collectioncare.auraria.edu


The ubiquity and time-depth of the plaited yucca sandal is easily illustrated by the Franktown Cave sandal, recovered from a dry cave near Franktown, Colorado, and dated from between 3345 and 3033 B.C.(www.collectioncare.auraria.edu)  Indeed, anywhere and anytime that people had access to yucca they seem to have produced sandals for footwear.

Would an image of a sandal or moccasin serve as a symbol of travel, or does Glowacki have it correct that it is a symbol of ceremonial significance? In this latter case a depiction of a sandal print, especially a geometrically decorated sandal print, might represent a ceremonial dance. Or does it represent something else entirely? What do you think?

NOTE: Some of the images in this posting were obtained through an internet search for "Public Domain." If I have used any images that were not intended to be public domain please inform me and I will be happy to give full credit.


REFERENCES:

Glowacki, Donna M.,
2015 Living and Leaving, A Social History of Regional Depopulation in Thirteenth-Century Mesa Verde, University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

https://collectioncare.auraria.edu/content/yucca-woven-sandal-franktown-cave

Patterson, Alex
1992 A Field Guide To Rock Art Symbols, Johnson Books, Boulder, CO.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

IMAGES OF FOOTWEAR IN ROCK ART - FREMONT MOCCASINS:


Fremont moccasin print petroglyphs,
Dinosaur Nat. Mon. Grand County, UT.
Photo: Peter Faris, June 1986.

A subject of interest in rock art is the portrayal of footwear. What do these images mean, what is their implication, what do they represent? For the sake of this discussion I will assume that any image of the outline of a human foot that does not display toes represents a shod foot - showing a foot wearing footwear, a sandal or moccasin. Such shod foot prints are a common subject of Fremont Rock Art of the Dinosaur National Monument.


Fremont style moccasin, Hogup cave,
Utah. Wikimedia, Public Domain.

A large number of leather moccasins have been retrieved from dry caves and rock shelters in Utah. Promontory Caves, on the shores of Utah's Great Salt Lake were first excavated in the 1930s, and excavations resumed in 2011 under the supervision of Dr. Jack Ives of the University of Alberta.

"The site - part of a complex of natural shelters known as the Promontory Caves - contains "exceedingly abundant" artifacts numbering in the thousands, Ives said, marking a human occupation that began rather suddenly about 850 years ago. Scant ceramic sherds and basket fragments, meanwhile, bear strong sigs of influence from other Great Basin cultures, including the Fremont. This wealth of artifacts may go a long way in demystifying the distinctive, little-researched populations often referred to as the Promontory Culture." (De Pastino 2015)


Promontory Cave moccasins,
westerndigs.org,
Public Domain.

"But it was the staggering amount of footwear in the caves that captured the attention of archaeologists, past and present. With soles made from a single piece of bison leather, lined with fur, and sewn together at the heel, the moccasins are made in a style typical of the Canadian Subarctic, Ives said, a fashion his team describes as being "decidedly out of place in the eastern Great Basin. These moccasins and other cues have led some experts to theorize that the cave's inhabitants were part of a great migration from the far north, a wave of people who moved into the Great Basin in the 12th and 13th centuries, and eventually gave rise to cultures that include the Apache and the Navajo." (De Pastino 2015)

Note, this description of the Promontory Culture people of Utah connects them with at least influence from the Fremont people if not sharing the Fremont culture outright. The Fremont, and other, people of Utah and Northwestern Colorado commonly wore leather moccasins. Fremont researchers describe the Fremont people as possessing a unique form of moccasin made from the hide removed from the lower leg of a deer and having the dew claws of the deer left on. "The Fremont made moccasins from the lower-leg hide of large animals, such as deer, bighorn sheep or bison. Dew claws were left on the soles, possibly to act as hobnails, providing extra traction on slippery surfaces." (nps.gov)


Fremont moccasin print petroglyphs,
Dinosaur Nat. Mon. Grand County, UT.
Photo: Peter Faris, June 1986.

The migration mentioned above, known as the Athapaskan migration occurred roughly 500 years ago. It is believed to have involved a relatively small group that assimilated and intermixed with resident groups along their route and in the southwest. Their influence is illustrated by the fact that the Athapaskan family of languages is now dominant in much of the southwest. The Navajo and Apache peoples are descendants of these Athapaskan migrants and their languages are closely related to Chipewyan, an Athapaskan language spoken in the subarctic. (ScienceDaily 2008) The relationship of these migrants to the Fremont people is still not fully understood, but the Fremont wore a type of moccasin inspired by the Athapaskan migrants, suggesting a strong influence.


Fremont moccasin print petroglyphs,
Dinosaur Nat. Mon. Grand County, UT.
Photo: Peter Faris, June 1986.

One location with a large number of petroglyphs of footwear (shod footprints) is found at Station #17 on Harper's Corner Road, in Dinosaur National Park, right by the northwestern Colorado/northeastern Utah Border. This is classical Fremont territory and rock art in this area is predominately Fremont, dating from sometime after 100 AD to ca. 1300 AD.



Fremont moccasin print petroglyphs,
Dinosaur Nat. Mon. Grand County, UT.
Photo: Peter Faris, June 1986.

Would an image of a moccasin have served as a symbol of travel, or does it represent something else entirely? What do you think?

NOTE: Some images in this posting were retrieved from the internet in a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on these reports you should read the originals at the sites listed below. 


REFERENCES:

De Pastino, Blake,
2015 Utah Cave Full of Children's Moccasins Sheds Light on Little-Known Ancient Culture, http://westerndigs.org/utah-cave-full-of-childrens-moccasins-sheds-light-on-little-known-ancient-culture/

https://www.nps.gov/care/learn/historyculture/fremont.htm

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080715104932.htm

Saturday, July 29, 2017

WHY I AM SKEPTICAL ABOUT A RUSSIAN CIRCLE OF HOLES BEING AN ANCIENT SUNDIAL:


 Russian stone circle purported to
be a sundial/moondial.

LiveScience article by Stephanie Pappas, dated October 15, 2014, announced the discovery of a combination Sundial/Moondial carved into a rock found in 1991 near Rostov, Russia. It has been provisionally dated to the Bronze Age. Found in the grave of a man who died in his 50s it is marked with round holes arranged in a circle.

"The slab is marked with round divots arranged in a circle, and an astronomical analysis suggests that these markings coincide with heavenly events, including sunrises and moonrises." (Pappas 2014) The astronomical analysis was done by researcher Larisa Vodolazhskaya of the Archaeoastronimical Research Center at Russia's Southern Federal University.
Pappas's article describes this discovery in light of a similar one found in the Ukraine, but unfortunately the descriptions are somewhat confused an which discovery fits which description is pretty difficult to determine. Perhaps they were assumed to be similar.

The circle of holes is described as being 0.9' (feet) in diameter. Once the researchers had decided that it marked sunrise/moonrise alignments they approached it as if it were a piece of astronomical equipment that could be used to predict events, or even carry out "research." (Seeker 2014)

As I listed in the headline for this posting I am very skeptical about these conclusions for a number of reasons. First; there is no information provided about how the original position of the rock slab was determined. Without such data it would not be possible to determine any alignments at all.
Second; the holes are anything but precise, they are not the same size or even perfect circles. Were they assuming the sight line runs from an edge of each dot, or the center of each dot, or from this edge to that center? If it were an edge the holes would have to be exactly the same to make alignments reliable.
Third; the diameter of the arrangement was given as about 9/10 of a foot. This small diameter means that there is much too short a sight-line to determine such precise data.
Fourth; the holes do not make a circle but are more oval in arrangement. Again, a considerable lack of precision makes any reliable results doubtful. These reasons illustrate why I am so skeptical about the circles of dots being useful as astronomical equipment.

So what could it have been used for? I am much more comfortable considering it to be a game or counting board for a number of reasons. Any game that involved moving markers could have been played and my criticisms such as size and shapes of holes, small diameter, and oval outline would not affect a game at all. Indeed, the small diameter would make it easier to use as a game board. And for counting, the user could move a pebble from hole to hole to indicate numbers of whatever is considered significant. So until better information comes along, I am in the thumbs-down column as to this discovery representing significant astronomical knowledge by these ancient people.


REFERENCES:

http://www.seeker.com/mysterious-slab-in-russia-may-be-a-sundial-1769195077.html

Pappas, Stephanie,
2014 Illuminating! Ancient Slab May Be Sundial-Moondial, LiveScience.

FIRST PALEOLITHIC ROCK ART IN GERMANY: ENGRAVINGS ON HUNSRUCK SLATE.



Paleolithic slate engravings,
Hunsruck, Germany.
Public domain.

A recent paper on thefreelibrary.com reported the discovery of the first large-scale paleolithic art in Germany. Originally discovered in 2010, the engravings were found on a rock face in the mountainous Hunsruck area.
The engraving shows a group of three horses and one other unidentified animal deeply carved into the surface of a large slate boulder.


Close-up of Paleolithic slate
engravings, Hunsruck,
Germany. Public domain.

A number of experts, including Paul Bahn in 2013, have authenticated the find and attribute it to the paleolithic period. Other examples of open-air paleolithic art have also been attributed in France and Spain, but this is Germany's lone example so far.


Drawing of the Paleolithic slate
engravings, Hunsruck,
Germany. Public domain.

This boulder is located in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, near the village of Gondershausen. The slate deposits in this area have long been mined and are famous for fossils recovered. Analysis of the images has discovered that at least three periods of engraving were undertaken, with the deep lines of the animal engravings coming first. Lighter lines, added later, are hard to decipher with portions obscured by lichen growth, and weathering.

Hopefully other examples of large-scale paleolithic art will be discovered there to add to our knowledge of the people of that time and place.

NOTE: Images in this posting were retrieved from the internet in a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on these reports you should read the originals at the sites listed below.


REFERENCE:

https://www.thefreelibrary.com/First+Palaeolithic+rock+art+in+Germany%3A+engravings+on+Hunsruck+slate.-a0446932799

Saturday, July 22, 2017

EARLY VISITORS TO CAVE ART SITES - ROUFFIGNAC:


Bust of Francois de Belleforest,
Wikipedia. Public domain.

On July 1, 2017, I published an article that I called NIAUX CAVERN - AN EARLY VISITOR'S GRAFFITI, in which I wrote about Ruben de la Vialle who visited Niaux and left his name and the year 1660 on the wall.

Another early visitor to a painted cave in France was the French writer Francois de Belleforest who wrote about Rouffignac and mentioned the "paintings" he found within, in 1575.


Map of Rouffignac cave,
entrance at lower right.

"The original entrance is still wide open today. It was a popular place to explore, particularly in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, as we can see from the numerous inscriptions on the walls. There are names and dates that cover four centuries. No one in those days knew about the existence of Paleolithic culture, so it is understandable that the art was ignored, even though some drawings were quite visible. In fact, as early as 1575, Francois de Belle-Forest wrote about the wonders of this cave and mentioned the 'paintings,' adding that he thought the place to be one of idolatry, possibly with sacrificial rituals dedicated to Venus or some other 'infernal' pagan deity. His interesting manuscript provides supplementary evidence for authentication of the art. Indeed, as prehistoric art was unheard of until the mid-1800s at the very earliest, no fake 'prehistoric' depictions could have been done before then, certainly not in 1575." (Rothenberg 2011:98-9)


Mammoth and ibexes, Rouffignac.
Public Domain.


Close-up of mammoth and ibexes, 
Rouffignac. Public Domain.

I am unable, obviously, to determine exactly which paintings Belleforest might have seen (although I assume they were the ones nearest the entrance). Rouffignac is, however, called the "Cave of 100 Mammoths" for its large number of portrayals of that creature, so perhaps he saw mammoths.



Mammoth frieze, Rouffignac.
Public Domain.

Rouffignac is decorated with 158 mammoths, 28 bisons, 15 horses, 12 capricorns (ibexes), and 10 wooly rhinoceros. Seventy-eight percent of all the animals depicted are mammoths. (Wikipedia) We must regret that Belleforest did not delineate further what he saw, to allow us to identify the specific images, but we should certainly celebrate him as an early visitor to a cave art site.


NOTE: The images in this posting were retrieved from the Internet with a search for Public Domain images. If they were used inappropriately and are not intended to be Public Domain I apologize to the owner of the picture's rights. If this is the case please inform me.


REFERENCES:

Rothenberg, David,
2011 Survival of the Beautiful, Art, Science, and Evolution, Bloomsbury Press, New York.

Wikipedia.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

NEW DISCOVERIES IN AZILIAN CULTURE ROCK ART:




Azilian painted pebble,
Wikipedia. Public Domain.

It has long been believed that the great Ice Age art of Europe disappeared with the decline of the Magdalenian culture about 12,000 BCE. The following culture in that area has been named the Azilian culture, and the main art practice associated with Azilian has been decorated pebbles.


"The Azilian is a name given by archaeologists to an industry of the Epipaleolithic in northern Spain and southern France.
It probably dates to the period of - around 12,000 years ago - and followed the Magdalenian culture. Archaeologists think the Azilian represents the tail end of the Magdalenian as the warming climate brought about changes in human behaviour in the area. The effects of melting ice sheets would have diminished the food supply and probably impoverished the previously well-fed Magdalenian manufacturers. As a result, Azilian tools and art were cruder and less expansive than their Ice Age predecessors - or simply different.
Diagnostic artifacts from the culture include Azilian points (microliths with rounded retouched backs), crude flat bone harpoons and pebbles with abstract decoration. The latter were first found in the River Arize at the type-site for the culture, Le Mas-d'Azil in the French Pyrenees." (Wikipedia)

Large numbers of the painted pebbles mentioned above have been recovered from Azilian sites, and this has long been assumed to represent their total artistic output.

"Azilian pebbles carry simple designs coloured and/or decorated with paint made from red ochre (iron peroxide), applied from the creator's fingers. Dots, borders and bands of colour, zig-zags, ovals and dashes are featured. About 1400 pebbles like these were found at Le Mas-d'Azil, southwestern France." (Wikipedia)


Engraved aurochs on schist plaque.
Azilian, Le Rocher del'Imperatrice,
France. Plos.org, Public Domain.


Drawing of aurochs on schist plaque.
Azilian, Le Rocher del'Imperatrice,
France. Plos.org, Public Domain.

A recent publication online on Plosone (Plos.org, March 3, 2017) by a team of French researchers led by Nicolas Naudinot described a group of 45 schist placques recovered at Le Rocher del'Imperatrice described sophisticated realistic engravings that open up a whole new area of understanding of the art of this important period of history.

"The development of the Azilian in Western Europe 14,000 years ago is considered a 'revolution' in Upper Paleolithic Archaeology. One of the main elements of this rapid social restructuring is the abandonment of naturalistic figurative art on portable pieces or on cave walls in the Magdalenian in favor of abstract expression on small pebbles.
Recent work shows that the transformation of human societies between the Magdalenian and the Azilian was more gradual. The discovery of a new Early Azilian site with decorated stones in France supports this hypothesis. While major changes in stone tool technology between the Magdalenian and Azilian clearly mark important adaptive changes, the discovery of 45 engraved schist tablets from archaeological layers at Le Rocher de l'Iperatrice attests to iconogaphic continuity together with special valorization of aurochs as shown by a 'shining' bull depiction." (Naudinot 2017)

Realistic, larger-scale depictions of aurochs and horses provide evidence that cultural and religious beliefs had not totally abandoned the fascination in large animals found in previous cultures, and suggest that the evolution of these beliefs and mythology moved more slowly, lagging behind the evolution of tools to fit the new conditions the people lived in.


Engraved aurochs on schist plaque.
Azilian, Le Rocher del'Imperatrice,
France. Plos.org, Public Domain.


Drawing of aurochs on schist plaque.
Azilian, Le Rocher del'Imperatrice,
France. Plos.org, Public Domain.

A depiction on one schist plaque of an aurochs seems to be accentuated by an aura or rays around its head. "One side bears a special composition of a bull's head in left profile surrounded by deep rays that create a highlighting visual effect. No equivalent 'shining animal' could be found in the European Paleolithic iconography. The technological study of this piece shows an intentional organization of gestures in order to point up the central place of the aurochs. The rays were engraved after the animal. But to place the aurochs at the forefront, the horns have been accentuated by a new series of engraving in the same grooves, occurring in the areas where the rays and the horns intersect." (Naudinot 2017)

This type of symbolic representation may be later traced to the portrayal of halos on holy images in medieval and renaissance art and may point to the origin of a symbol utilized and understood down to the present. In other words, it is possible that this represents the earliest known example of a symbol that has lasted for ca. 14,000 years, an important discovery to be sure.

NOTE: The images in this posting were retrieved from the Internet with a search for Public Domain images. If they were used inappropriately and are not intended to be Public Domain I apologize to the owner of the picture's rights. If this is the case please inform me.

REFERENCES:                                                          
Naudinot, et al,
2017 Divergence in the Evolution of Paleolithic Symbolic and Technological Systems: the Shining Bull and Engraved tablets of Rocher de L'Imperatrice,
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pome.0173037


Wikipedia

Saturday, July 8, 2017

PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES - A BOOK REVIEW:



Pushing The Boundaries,
Front Cover

This volume is another rock art publication of the Oregon Archaeological Society (OAS), their 24th book, a remarkable contribution for such a group. This particular book covers a region in southeastern Oregon known as the Harney Basin, centered a couple of hundred miles south of Pendleton, and a transitional area between the Columbia Plateau and the Great Basin. Pushing the Boundaries: The Pictographs Petroglyphs of Oregon's Harney Basin, written by Don Hann and Daniel Leen adds a little-known area to the record, and covers this important region in great detail.



Harney Basin, Oregon. Photo:
used with permission of OAS.


Map of Harney Basin, Oregon.
Wikipedia.

As with other volumes published by the Oregon Archaeological Society this book is seriously scholarly, boasting 14 pages of references out of a 107 page total.


Harney Basin pictograph sites.
Photo: used with permission
of OAS.

The website of the OAS describes the volume with this statement:
"Archaeologists Daniel Leen and Don Hann have joined forces to create this interesting and scientifically important volume on the rock art of the Harney Basin in southeastern Oregon. Sitting at the cultural boundary between the Columbia Plateau and the Great Basin, the pictographs and petroglyphs of the Harney Basin have long captured the interests of both professional and avocational archaeologists. Hann, a U.S. Forest service Archaeologist and Leen, a well known archaeologist and artist, describe the major sites in detail, interpret the imagery, and explain that the ancient drawings and carvings are likely the work of groups from both the Columbia Plateau and the Great Basin who used the Harney Basin throughout at least the last 5,000 years.
Fortunately, Leen, one of the premier rock art recorders in the Pacific Northwest, spent two summers in the early 1980s carefully recording more than 40 Harney Basin sites. Hann's knowledge of Blue Mountains/Harney Basin prehistory, coupled with Leen's excellent tracings have produced a volume that will quickly become a classic for any student of western North American rock art." (http://www.oregonarchaeological.org/publications)



Figure 6, 35HA1372, panel4, p. 22.
Photo: used with permission of OAS.

The finely detailed black and white drawings by  that illustrate this volume are gems in their own right, although they are generally reproduced in small scale. Their detail and clarity make me hungry to see the full-scale originals. A considerable amount of information about the people who created the rock art is provided as well.



Plate 1, Harney Basin, Site 24,
Rattlesnake Rim. Photo: used
with permission of OAS.

"The people living in Harney Basin bay have included members of both Columbia Plateau and Great Basin ethnic groups tied together through bonds of marriage and trade. (Rhode 2012:4-10)" (p.81)
"The Great Basin group which inhabited Harney Basin in the early historic period was the Northern Paiute - Several distinct bands of the Northern Paiute lived here including the Wadatika, Hunipuitoka (Walpapi), and Koa'aga'itoka." (p.6)
"Plateau tribes that lived adjacent to Harney Basin in the southern Blue Mountains include the Western Columbia River Sahaptins (also known as the John Day Band, the Dock-Spus or erroneously the Tenino), Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla and Nez Perce Indians." (p. 7) 



Plate 2, Harney Basin, Site 24,
Rattlesnake Rim. Photo: used
with permission of OAS.

The authors found a cultural association with these groups and the style of the rock art as well as the media it was produced in.
"Harney Basin petroglyphs show clear affiliation with the Great Basin but local variation in design elements demonstrates influence from the Columbia Plateau." (p. 79)
"Harney Basin pictographs are associated with the Columbia Plateau. They fit clearly into Keyser's (1992:83) North Oregon Rectilinear Style." (p. 79)

To me, the striking quality of this book is that the authors present a detailed, scientific record and analysis of the rock art of the region without falling into the trap of trying to fit the material into any current fad espoused by pop rock art analysts. I think I only counted the "s-word" (shaman) once in the whole volume, and did not notice the word "neuropsychological" at all. This book definitely belongs in the library of any serious student of North American rock art.
Five star approval rating.

To purchase a copy of this, or any other of their excellent books, simply visit  http://www.oregonarchaeological.org/publications/.

8.5” x 11” 107 pages, 100 illustrations, two pages of color plates
ISBN #: 978-0-9915200-2-2 OAS Publication: #24. Price $15.00 plus $4.00 Shipping and Handling.

REFERENCE:

Hann, Don, & Daniel Leen
2017 Pushing the Boundaries: The Pictographs Petroglyphs of Oregon's Harney Basin, Oregon Archaeological Society Publication #24 , www.oregonarchaeological.org