Friday, November 26, 2010


For a few weeks until July 24, 2010, the poll question on RockArtBlog was Do You Believe That Secrecy Protects Rock Art Sites, Or Is The Broadest Transparency And Education Possible More Effective? The answer choices are listed below along with their votes.

Open and effective education and site stewardship provide the best protection. 4 votes, 44.44%

Plant poison ivy and fertilize regularly. 3 votes, 33.33%

Controlled access limited to acknowledged researchers and scholars. 1 vote, 11.11%

Keep it totally secret - do not let anyone (including vandals) know where it is. 1 vote, 11.11%

It is important to remember the disclaimer, that this is only an opinion poll and in no way represents objective proof. It is also not possible to confirm the qualifications of the respondents. That said, it does represent the actual responses to an actual question and is worthy of note. We do not seem to believe that secrecy works to protect rock art.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Archaeoastronomy panel, Peñasco Blanco Trail,
Chaco Canyon, NM. Photo: Peter Faris, 1997.

Archaeoastronomy is the study of the astronomical knowledge of ancient peoples. Students of archaeoastonomy have long been fascinated with the evidence for ancient astronomy found in Chaco Canyon consisting of the Fajada Butte sun calendar and the supposed supernova panel on Peñasco Blanco trail. High above Chaco Canyon’s Peñasco Blanco trail can be found a panel that has often been identified as the Supernova of AD 1054 that produced the Crab Nebula. This well known panel includes a crescent moon, a 10-pointed star which is believed to represent the supernova explosion, and a hand print.

Archaeoastronomy panel, Peñasco Blanco trail, Chaco
Canyon, NM. Red color enhanced to bring out the tail of
the comet pictograph below. Photo: Peter Faris, 1997.

What is not usually mentioned is that there is more rock art at that location. Right below the supposed supernova panel on the rock overhang, and painted in white on the face of the cliff is a large concentric circle symbol, often identified as an Ancestral Pueblo sun symbol. In this case, however, what appears to be a faded flame-like extension can be seen projecting to the right from the sun symbol. This extension, which also appears to be considerably obscured by dust, seems to combine with the sun symbol to represent a comet. Using the large sun symbol as the head of the comet certainly implies that it was large and bright.

Chaco Canyon was a major center of Ancestral Puebloan culture between AD 900 and AD 1150. During that period Halley’s Comet appeared in AD 912, AD 989, AD 1066, and AD 1145. Elsewhere in the world the AD 1066 appearance figured as an omen in the Norman conquest of England and, as such was also portrayed in the Bayeux Tapestry record of Duke William’s conquest. One old written reference in England mentions it as appearing four times as bright as Venus, and another likened its size and brightness to that of the moon.

Field sketch of Halley's comet pictograph,
Peñasco Blanco trail, Chaco Canyon, NM.
Peter Faris, 1997.

I submit that the brightest and most impressive of these appearances would be the obvious candidate for reproduction above the Peñasco Blanco trail. From the information available that was probably the AD 1066 appearance of Halley’s. The proximity of that date to that of the supernova of AD 1054 also is suggestive of the AD 1066 appearance as we know that someone in that location had painted an astronomical event probably twelve years earlier. Certainly the people there at that time showed interest in the events seen in the heavens as is proved by the Fajada Butte Sun Calendar and the supernova panel. These clues suggest to me that the faded pictograph below the supernova panel is a record of the AD 1066 appearance of Halley’s Comet.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New Technique in Digital Photography may have Important Applications in the Study of Rock Art and other Scientific Applications:

My friend Teresa forwarded this information: from Southwest Archaeology Today, news from the Center for Desert Archaeology, in Tucson, AZ.
A technique called GigaPan can be used to take incredibly detailed photographs of rock art. Rock art expert Sandra Olsen and photographer Richard T. Bryant took this technology to Saudi Arabia to document its rock art, working with the Saudi Ministry of Education. You can view some of their results and see the marvelous detail the technique achieves online at

Thursday, November 11, 2010


In October 2010, we vacationed in Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii, and took the occasion to visit some rock art sites on the island, and also found the Waikiki Beach Wizard Stones.

Waikiki beach "Wizard Stones", view looking west,
Oahu, Hawaii. Photo: Peter Faris, 10/27/10.
“These ancient stones, according to tradition, were once empowered with the mana (spiritual power) of four great kahuna (wizards) who arrived from Kahiki (the traditional homeland; some say Tahiti or the Society Islands) before the reign of the 16th century ruler of Oahu, chief Kakuhihewa. These kahuna, who became widely known throughout the islands as healers, instructed the people that four large stones should be moved from nearby Kaimuki and placed on the beach at Waikiki.” (James 2010:27) Kaimuki is a small crater on the North side of nearby Diamond Head.

The particular stones chosen supposedly consist of “bell stone” a special basaltic rock from Kaimuki quarry, that produces a bell-like ringing tone when struck. Although they were originally in separate locations, over the years they have been consolidated and in 1980 were moved into their present location in Kuhio beach park, which originally held only one of the four.

Waikiki beach "Wizard Stones", view looking northeast,
Oahu, Hawaii. Photo: Peter Faris, 10/27/10.

While they display no actual imagery or show no signs of carving, I include them because of the special spiritual significance that are afforded these stones by native Hawaiian peoples. In the late 1800s, Princess Likelike, sister of King Kalakaua, placed a lei on each stone as an offering and prayed before going into the water. (James 2010:27-28) Today offerings are often found placed upon the stones as well (note leis hanging from the fence in photo no. 2), a phenomenon we recognize in North American at many rock art sites as well as other sites of spiritual significance.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


On Tuesday, July 6, 2010, I published a posting about cowboy rock art in Trinchera Pass, Colorado. This collection of rock art was supposedly created by drovers moving herds from Texas to the gold fields of Colorado in the latter half of the 1800s. It displays many markings and symbols as well as some pictures that are almost light-hearted and humorous. There is another side to cowboy rock art, the imagery produced by men who spend a considerable amount of time alone, in isolation, and lonely. These are often female figures of the sort that we generally classify as pinups, attractive and physically appealing. There is an inescapable comparison to be made with the historic aircraft nose art of WWII, also produced by men who were in a situation that minimized contact with females, and also often included images of nude or scantily clad females.

Baca County, Colorado. Photo: Bill McGlone.

An excellent example of this type of art is the panel from Baca County, CO. Its identification as cowboy art is reinforced by the presence of the small figure of a rider on a rearing horse on the right side of the panel.

Dragon trail, South of Rangley, Rio Blanco county, Colorado.
Photo: Peter Faris.

In this case I am extending the term “cowboy art” to include that produced by sheep herders, who were in very much the same situation toward female companionship. An example of this is the delicate caped lady carved in Canyon Pintado by Paco Chacon of Fruita, Colorado, on January 9, 1975. Unfortunately since I saw it some twenty plus years ago some idiot apparently saw only sin and decadence and decided to exorcise the evil with some thirty plus gunshots as illustrated by the second photo which was taken by Cheryl Ames in 2008.

Dragon trail, South of Rangley, Rio Blanco
county, Colorado. Photo: Cheryl Ames.