Saturday, November 9, 2019

MUSIC IN ROCK ART - DONG SON DRUMS IN INDONESIA:



Figure playing a Dong Son Drum,
Kisar, Indonesia.
Photograph from Live Science.

I have written previously about the topic of music as it relates to rock art. Of course, both music and visual art share many of the same characteristics; creativity, discipline, and philosophy. But most of my previous references have been aimed at the idea of music being played in rock art sites as part of a ritual. As far as rock art portraying musical instruments I have written about a possible musical bow (or mouth bow) at the cave of Les Trois Freres in March 28, 2010, "Music At Rock Art Sites?" and a horn rasp or morache at the cave of Laussel in April 26, 2010, "Music At Rock Art Sites (Continued)". I also presented an example of flute-playing from Mesa Prieta in New Mexico in May 28, 2011, "The Flute-Playing Armadillo". There have also, of course, been numerous references to flute-players among columns on Ancestral Puebloan rock art (see cloud index below).


Dong Son Drum, Indonesia.
Note the sunburst in 
the center of the head.
Photo: Public Domain.


Dong Son Drum, Indonesia.
Note the sunburst in 
the center of the head.
Photo: Live Science

Now, an article in Atlasobscura.com by Natasha Frost presents us with a large number of painted images of Dong Son drums in Indonesia. "A Dong Son drum - - - is a bronze drum fabricated by the Dong Son culture in the Red River Delta of northern Vietnam. The drums were produced from about 600 BCE or earlier until the third century CE - - -. The drums, cast in bronze using the lost-wax canting method are up to a meter in height and weigh up to 100 kilograms (220 lb). Dong Son drums were apparently both musical instruments and cult objects. They are decorated with geometric patterns, scenes of daily life and war, animals and birds, and boats. More than 200 have been found, across an area from eastern Indonesia to Vietnam and parts of Southern China." (Wikipedia) These have been prized possessions and preserved carefully, and were regarded highly enough to become a common subject of rock art, probably by someone leaving a record of his wealth and importance.


                  Dong Son Drum        
               pictographs, Indonesia.
                Note the sunbursts.
            Photograph from Live Science.

These pictographs were discovered in caves on the small Indonesian island of Kisar, off the coast of Timor. "Home to just a few thousand people, it had never been the site of a full archaeological exploration before a recent expedition by researchers from the Australian National University in Canberra, despite being a key site in the historical international spice trade. The island is almost entirely surrounded by ancient coralline limestone terraces, which run parallel to the coastline. Over the centuries, the sea has worn shelters and caves into the terraces. Within these nooks and crannies, archaeologists found 28 galleries replete with amazingly well-preserved rock paintings, done by people dead for millennia." (Frost 2017)


Dog pictographs, Kisar, Indonesia.
Internet Photo, Public Domain

"The paintings themselves are tiny, barely four inches in height, and show dynamic scenes including boats, dogs, horses, and people often holding what look like shields, said Sue O'Connor, the lead archaeologist on the project. 'Other scenes show people playing drums,' she said in a statement, 'perhaps performing ceremonies.' These figures, painted in shades of ocher, burnt umber and russet-red, remain in extraordinary condition, despite being as much as 2,500 years old." (Frost 2017)



Lene Cece Rock Shelter, Photo
from O'Connor et al., Fig. 13, p. 14.

"Dong Son drums have been found on many of the islands of eastern Indonesia including Flores, Roti, Leti and Kei. Interestingly, in the last few years two Dong Son drums have been discovered in the Lautem District, not far from the rock-art sites in Timor-Leste discussed here (Oliveira 2015). Spriggs and Miller (1988) suggested that Dong Son drums may have been carried on exploratory maritime expeditions by elite traders wishing to establish client-patron exchange relationships in the islands, and given to cement alliance." (O'Connor 2017:14) In other words quid-pro-quo - I give you a gift that will enhance your standing and reputation in your community and you give me favorable trading preferences. These islands were an important link in the maritime spice trade so a good trading relationship was definitely the road to prosperity. This is apparently pictured in a boat painting in Lene Cece rock shelter in Timor-Leste. "Although most of the Kisar boat paintings are highly schematized, features of the large boat in Lene Cece shelter in Timor-Leste (Fig. 13) resemble those on the boats on the Dong Son bronze drums in having 'high prows which are vertical or raked back' (Akerman & Dwyer 2000:87). The prow appears to be carved to resemble a cockerel with long tail feathers. The Dong Son boats also feature warriors wearing feather headdresses and carrying weapons or ritual paraphernalia (Kempers 1988). The Lene Cece boat shows small human figures in X-ray within the boat, and up on deck warriors wearing elaborate headdresses. - - - The sun-ray motif - directly above the Lene Cece boat also closely resembles the sun-ray motifs which decorate the tympanums of Dong Son drums." (O'Connor 2017:11)

Although these Dong Son drums are being reported as items of ritual significance, they are also apparently tokens of wealth and importance, the family or individual that owns one would have enhanced status and public position. This suggests that the pictographs represent a record of someone's wealth and importance, public bragging rights - and, they could be played too.

NOTE: Some images in this posting were retrieved from the internet with 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 original reports at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:

Faris, Peter
2010 Music At Rock Art Sites?, March 28, 2010, https://rockartblog.blogspot.com/search?q=music

2010 Music At Rock Art Sites (Continued), April 26, 2010, https://rockartblog.blogspot.com/search?q=music

2011 The Flute-Playing Armadillo, May 28, 2011, https://rockartblog.blogspot.com/search?q=music

Frost, Natasha
2017 In Indonesian Caves, a Treasure Trove of Forgotten Ancient Paintings, December 15, 2017, https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/cave-art-indonesia-kisar-found

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dong_Son_drum

O'Connor, Sue et. al.
2017 Ideology, Ritual Performance and Its Manifestations in the Rock Art of Timor-Leste and Kisar Island, Island Southeast Asia, December 2017, Cambridge Archaeological Journal, Cambridge.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

INCORPORATION IN ROCK ART - SHAPE AND VOLUME:



Drinking reindeer, Les Combarelles,
France, www.donsmaps.com,
Public domain.

There is a phrase you often see in rock art papers nowadays - "incorporation." Basically, it refers to using a natural feature of the rock face as part of a composition. The most engaging example I know of is one I posted a column about on September 8, 2018, "The Drinking Reindeer of Les Combarelles."

      Drinking reindeer, Les Combarelles,
      France. Drawing, Peter Faris, 2019.

In this panel a reindeer engraved onto the cave wall has his head down and his tongue out lapping water from a small seep that originally exited the cliff face at that point. The composition includes both the created reindeer and the incorporated natural water seep.


Spotted horses, Pech-Merle, France.
Internet image, Public domain.

Another famous example is the spotted horse from Pech-Merle cave, France, where a rock projection the shape of a horse's head seemingly suggested that the large horse be painted in that position. In his book "Painted Caves" Andrew Lawson describes it as "overlapping figures of two horses filled and surrounded by spots and negative hand stencils. Note the diminutive head of the horse on the right, but the shape of the rock which might suggest a head with better proportions. This figure, 1.6m long, has provided an age estimate of 26,640±390 (uncal bp). Fine red paintings of a fish, indented circles, and bent thumbs also appear on the frieze." (Lawson 2012:133)
Lawson apparently sees the black portion of the horse on the right above and to the right of the front legs as the horses neck tapering up to a diminutive black head. I prefer to look at that as the black mane and forelock on top of the horses head which is represented by the painted rock projection (shaped like a horse head). I think this is also true of the horse on the left with a black mane and forelock over a somewhat indeterminate neck and head. Whether Lawson is correct, or my version is correct, it is the shape and volume of the wall projection that inspired the painting of the horse in the first place.


Polychrome bison ceiling, Altamira,
Spain. Internet image, Public domain.

Another commonly cited example of incorporation involves the great Polychrome Bison ceiling at Altamira cave. "the natural protuberances on the ceiling were employed for perspective and volume. Cracks were also used to represent outlines." (Bradshaw Foundation) Bumps on the stone ceiling of this gallery in Altamira were painted as bison, giving the animals roundness and three dimensions. "These conventions were used to best effect where they also utilized the natural contours and fissures of the ceiling. Thus, bosses were exploited to give volume to the bodies of the animals, while cracks and eminences were used to emphasize various anatomical features." (Lawson 2012:257) This represents incorporation of the surface relief of the rock face into the rock art - shape and volume again.


Bison, Portel, France, Thinking
with the Animals in Upper Palaeolithic
Rock Art, Georges Sauvet et al,
2009, p. 9.

A less known example that includes both the shape (as in Pech Merle) and a rock projection (as in Altamira), is found in Le Portel cave, France, where a bison is located on a rock projection the topside of which is defined by a crack that suggested the outline of his back. The shape of the rock projection suggested the body of the bison and its volume provides relief.

These three examples are relatively straightforward and easily defined. There are, however, many cases of rock art recording where incorporation is reported, but not so definitely proven. Advocates of the "S"-word (shamanism) often state that the rock face is a membrane between this world and the spirit world. In some cases, an anthropomorph or zoomorph on a rock face next to a crack in the rock is defined and explained as a figure that has just left the inside of the rock through the crack, however, unless the painting or pecking actually rounds the corner and continues inside of the crack there is actually no way to prove that the image and the crack are connected at all.

A recent example I saw in a paper published about Scandinavian rock art showed a number of images from a highly fractured cliff face. One image that was near a crack was touted by the authors as a highly significant example of  "incorporation" - the position of the crack was assumed to be included in the composition. Many other images with cracks were, however, ignored with no comment. Indeed, a couple of examples had cracks right through the image which were also not mentioned. This inconsistency cancels their credibility when designating the one example as "incorporation".

I am, by no means, denying that incorporation occurs in rock art, I cited a number of examples above. I do maintain, however, that it is reported much too loosely, without actual proof. The presence of a rock irregularity on the surface within a rock art composition, or a crack in the rock a panel is painted on, does not mean that it was ever intended to be an actual feature of the rock art. The examples I gave above are unmistakable - many others are not.

NOTE: Some images in this posting were retrieved from the internet with 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 original reports at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:

Bradshaw Foundation
http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/spain/altamire/cave_art/index.php

Lawson, Andrew J.
2012 Painted Caves: Palaeolithic Rock Art in Western Europe, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK

Sauvet, Georges, Robert Layton, Tilman Lenssen-Erz,
Paul Tacon & Andre Wlodarczyk,
2009 Thinking with Animals in Upper Palaeolithic Rock Art, Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 19:3

Saturday, October 26, 2019

CASA MALPAIS SERPENT EFFIGY - A LARGE STONE SCULPTURE IN ARIZONA:



An old post card image
of the Springerville
stone serpent.
Public domain.

Especially fascinating in the North American Native arts is a shortage of large scale stone sculptures when compared to other cultures. I have written three columns here on RockArtBlog in the past about relatively large scale stone carvingS: On June 30, 2009, I wrote "An Obelisk in Purgatoire Canyon, Southeastern Colorado", and revisited it on September 13, 2010 with "An Obelisk in Purgatoire Canyon, Southeastern Colorado, Revisited". Also on January 24, 2010, I wrote "The Bandelier Stone Lion Shrine - Life-Sized 3-D Stone Carving", These were essentially the only examples of large scale stone monuments (not geoglyphs or medicine circles) that I knew of.


Stone serpent in Casa Malpais
Museum. Photograph
by John Ruskamp.

I recently ran across references to this large carved stone effigy of a serpent, assumed to be Kolawisi or Palolokong in Springerville, Arizona. "The monument was found and mistreated as a plaything, yard ornament, and curiosity for many years until it was fixed into a secure metal base and housed in the Casa Malpais Archaeological Park and Museum." (Duran 2018)


Stone serpent in Casa Malpais
Museum. Photograph
by Angeline Duran.


In 2013, John A. Ruskamp, Jr. mentioned the large serpent effigy in his publication about what he identified as a Sun Dagger Shrine near Hooper Ranch Pueblo near Springerville.
"Years before the Field Museum's 1960-1961 archaeological excavations of the Hooper Ranch Pueblo a very large serpentine statue, embellished with a pair of carved eyes, nostrils, a "blow hole," and a slightly smiling mouth was removed from the site. The features of this massive ancient effigy are reminiscent of those found on effigies of the Great Water Serpent, Quetzalcoatl, in meso-America, and of the physical characteristics of the great North American water serpent god called "Kolowisi" by the Zuni people, and Palulukang by the Hopi, to which they directed their prayers for the blessings of rain and snow. For many years, this carved stone effigy was on public display outside of the Becker Mercantile Company in Springerville, Arizona, Certainly, the size of this statue indicates that it was very important to the ancient people who created it." (Ruskamp 2013:7) This is apparently now on display in the Casa Malpais Archaeological Park visitor's center and museum outside of Springerville.

Stone serpent in Casa Malpais
Museum. Photograph
by Angeline Duran.

Reference to this large stone serpent can be found online by John A. Russkamp, and Angeline Duran at the sites listed below in References.
I inquired with both of these people but I have received no answer from either of them. I also inquired of the Casa Malpais Museum and they referred me to David Williams of the local historical society.


Stone serpent in Casa Malpais
Museum. Photograph
by Angeline Duran.

In response to my inquiry the President of the local historical society, Dave Williams, stated that: "I only know (the) 'history' after it was placed in the yard of a  house on Main Street in Springerville. I was born in 1937 and as a child we used to climb on the statue. Somewhere I have seen a picture of the snake statue (before being placed in the yard) and in that picture there appear to be 2 - 3 pieces all very similar. I have no knowledge where the others may have gone. I understand that it is Hopi, the eyes and mouth are clearly visible. The White Mountain Historical Society received the statue from the Becker family (actually Margie Harper) and it was on display at the Historical Park. At some point in the mid-90s the snake portion was broken away from the sandstone base. About 3 years ago we had the snake portion of the effigy placed in the Heritage Center. The sandstone base still rests in the Town of Springerville storage area." (Williams 2019)


Palulukang wrestling with
a Koyemsi, Fewkes,
Hopi Katcinas, 1985,
Dover, cover picture.

I am here summarizing what I have been able to find out about this fascinating sculpture. If I can learn anything further I will pass it on to you in a subsequent posting. Also, If anyone has photos or knows anything else please send them to share on RockArtBlog.

NOTE: Some images in this posting were retrieved from the internet with a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize. For further information on this subject you should read the original reports at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:

Duran, Angeline
2018 Quetzalcoatl in North American Pueblos, July 21, 2018, https://theancientsouthwest.com/2018/07/21/quetzalcoatl-in-north-american-pueblos/

Faris, Peter
2009 "An Obelisk in Purgatoire Canyon, Southeastern Colorado", June 30, 2009, https://rockartblog.blogspot.com

2010 "The Bandelier Stone Lion Shrine - Life-Sized 3-D Stone Carving", January 24, 2010, https://rockartblog.blogspot.com

2010 "An Obelisk in Purgatoire Canyon, Southeastern Colorado, Revisited",September 13, 2010, https://rockartblog.blogspot.com

Ruskamp, John A., Jr., Ed.D.
2013 The Hooper Ranch Pueblo Sun Dagger Shrine Revisited - Revealing Greater Regional significance, https://www.academia.edu/5814900

Williams, David
2019 President of the White Mountain Historical Society, personal communication e-mail, September 18, 2019.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

SIGN AND GESTURE IN ROCK ART - PART 1: IMPLIED.


There are many rock art enthusiasts who try to read written messages in the shapes and relationships of the elements of a pictograph or petroglyph. I have generally been a skeptic on this, I see no element of writing in North American rock art.


Australian Aboriginal rock art.
Internet, Public Domain.


Hawaiian rock art,
Photo. Paul and Joy Foster.

There is, however, one facet of this question that I have to confess might in some few cases have some validity. I am referring to portrayals of gestures that might have meaning in a sign-based system of communication. Carol Patterson has done some work with Australian Aboriginal and Hawaiian rock art where she found meanings in arm and leg positions which strike me as plausible.


We are accustomed to finding petroglyphs of Kachinas in the American southwest. Some of them can be identified by their markings and shapes. Severin Fowles (2013) points out that the identity of a kachina is also carried in his gestures and motions. "The Kachina dance, to be sure, involves masks and costumes that can be hung on walls and treated like art in a conventional sense, just as the overall choreography can be diagrammed and analyzed as a kind of finished product. It is quite clear, however, that the fluid series of gestural movements are themselves the source of the dance's potency. It is the dancer-in-motion - indeed, the community-in-motion that both makes and is made by the 'art'." (Fowles 2013:71) Perhaps this gesture and motion could also be portrayed by the position of parts of the image in a panel of rock art.

"Each is distinguished not only by the painting and decoration of his mask and body, but also by his songs, his dance step, his call, and his bearing. One moves across the plaza with long swaggering steps, another dances lightly from place to place, while a third moves with stately dignity." (Kennard 2002:4) In other words the identification of a Kachina would involve recognition of motion (gesture) as well as visual appearance. "These differences in dance steps serve to distinguish one Kachina from another; they become as essential characteristics as the painting and decoration of a mask." (Kennard 2002:12)

The viewer, recognizing the imagery of the mask and costume, associates the motions that go along with it mentally. In the vernacular of modern art this would be called "performance art", the image is only a remaining vestigial record of the gestures/performance that were the point in the first place.


Shalako, stars, shield, and dragonfly,
Galisteo Dike, Comanche Gap,
New Mexico, Photo. Peter Faris.


Close-up of the Shalako,
Galisteo Dike, Comanche Gap,
New Mexico, Photo. Peter Faris.

On November 11, 2009, I posted a column in RockArtBlog titled Kachinas In Rock Art - The Shalako. In it I wrote the following about these fascinating beings. "One very distinctive example is the Shalako. Although they are not technically Kachinas, the Shalako dance in pueblo ceremonials like the Kachinas. Resembling giant birds, the Zuni Shalakos are up to ten feet tall. While dancing rhythmically, they clack their beaks. They dance till near sunrise. The tall, conical and long-necked form of the Shalako with their long beaks was probably derived from the Sandhill crane."



Shalako, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Photo. Peter Faris, 1988.

Rock art depictions of the Shalako can be dated back to the 14th century but its recent history is more complex. In her book Kachinas in the Pueblo World, Polly Schaafsma described the loss of much of the Kachina cult at Hopi. First through the efforts of the Spanish after their conquest of the southwest to eradicate native religions and supplant them with Christianity. This was conducted by the destruction of religious items and shrines, even religious leaders on occasion. Among Pueblo peoples this was manifested by burning Kachina masks, costumes and dolls, and outlawing the dances and ceremonies. Then in the nineteenth century Hopi was swept by smallpox epidemics which killed many of the elders who possessed the ceremonial knowledge necessary for the rites.

This was apparently the case with the Hopi Shalako. Its first recorded appearance at Hopi was in 1870 and its second was in 1893. At the 1893 reappearance a Hopi informant stated that their Shalako ceremony had not occurred for over 30 years. This Hopi Shalako was based on the Zuni Sio Shalako, but the ceremony was Hopi based upon reconstructions from memories. Schaafsma relates this story on pages 142 and 143 of her book Kachinas in the Pueblo World, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1994. She also related how the lost Hopi Shalako returned to Second Mesa through the efforts of the great Hopi painter Fred Kobotie who painted a reproduction based upon two tablitas he found in the basement of the New Mexico Museum of fine arts, and recognized them as belonging to the Hopi Shalako based on his memories of descriptions by his grandfather.


Zuni Shalako dance, 
Internet, Public Domain.


Shalako mask pictograph, Zuni,
Village of the Great Kivas,
New Mexico. Photo. Teresa Weedin.

Shalako depictions are found in rock art in the area of the Western Pueblos near both Hopi and Zuni, and are also found in the Rio Grande area. The examples shown here are petroglyphs of Shalakos from west of Albuquerque and from Galisteo dike east of the Rio Grande and south of Santa Fe, and a beautifully painted contemporary pictograph of Shalako from the panel of Kachina masks at the Village of the Great Kivas near Zuni." (Faris 2009)


Zuni Shalako, early 1900s,
p.138,Classic Hopi and Zuni
Kachina Figures, photo Andrea Portago,
Mus. of NM Press, Santa Fe.


Sia Salako, Zuni Shalako, p.102,
Hopi Indian Kachina Dolls,
by Oscar T. Branson, 1992.

The Shalako certainly have impressively distinctive shapes. "In the personization of these giants, the mask is fastened to a stick, which is carried aloft by a man concealed by blankets which are extended by hoops to form the body." (Fewkes 1985:66)

              
Shalako, Comanche Gap,
Galisteo Dike, New Mexico.
Photo. Peter Faris, 1988.

Seeing the motions of this giant, birdlike being, with its head gracefully bobbing and dipping high in the air, would be an unforgettable experience. And seeing the image (the petroglyph or pictograph) of this being inevitably recalls the accompanying sounds and motions. For me it always happened when my grandchildren watched big bird on Sesame Street.

NOTE: Some images in this posting were retrieved from the internet with 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 original reports at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:

Faris, Peter
2009 Kachinas In Rock Art - The Shalako, November 11, 2009, https://rockartblog.blogspot.com

Fewkes, Jesse Walter
1985 Hopi Katcinas, Dover Publications, Inc., New York

Fowles, Severin, and Jimmy Arterberry
2013 Gesture and performance in Comanche Rock Art, pages 67-82, in World Art 2013, Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, UK.

Kennard, Edward A.,
2002 Hopi Kachinas, Kiva Publishing, Walnut, CA.

Schaafsma, Polly
1994 Kachinas in the Pueblo World, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque

Saturday, October 12, 2019

IS THIS CHARLES DARWIN'S BEAR PICTOGRAPH?


- - Continued from last week - -


Found among Charles Darwin’s personal correspondence is this letter from Ft. Lyon, in southeastern Colorado. (letter no. 9466) The photograph mentioned in the letter has not been relocated and is so far unknown.

“From G. S. Anderson,
Fort Lyon C. T., U. S.
May 24th, 1874

Mr. Charles Darwin, F.R.S. & c,

Hon. Sir;
It is with a feeling of great diffidence that I forward you by this mail a photograph of a natural curiosity found near this post, in Lat 37o30N, Long. 103o20W., as I hesitate to intrude my ignorant curiosity on your valuable time.
The object in question is a very accurate representation of some animal not unlike the Grizzly Bear found hereabouts, except in the peculiar formation of the mouth & nose.
The image is painted—as it were—on a perpendicular face of a very soft grey sandstone rock, about 40 feet from its base & 38 feet from its top, but may be easily reached—to the level of the bottom of the picture—by climbing over the dèbris at the foot of the bluff.
The coloring matter appears to be iron (probably Fe3O4) and penetrates the rock to a depth of more than 1/2 inch.
The image is in length, from nose to tail, about 8½ feet; it was found here by the first white settlers who came to the country, & Indian tradition refers its origin to a most remote past. Among the Indians—who hold it in the highest veneration—it is called a “Bear”, & worshipped as such. The color is noticeably darkest near the shoulder, growing gradually lighter toward either extremity.
I have forwarded copies of the photo. to several scientific men in this country, & from a few have received acknowledgements. Prof. Henry of the Smith’n. Instn. suggested that it is a work of Indian art, but the color—which is the same as that with which the rock is in many places stained—seems to have withstood the action of the weather too well, & to have penetrated too deep into the rock to add confirmation to this theory.
Prof. Kendrick of the U.S. Mil. Acad, at West Point, thinks it a lusus naturæ.
I am Sir with great respect, | Your Most Obedient | & Humble serv’t. | Geo. S. Anderson | 2nd. Lieutn. Cav U.S. Army”
(Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9466,” accessed on 3 August 2019 - I wish to extend an extra thank you to Rosemary Clarkson of the Darwin Correspondence Project for her generous assistance with my inquiry.)
On June 3, 2009, I wrote in RockArtBlog “Charles Darwin’s Bear” in which I reported this correspondence and a conversation I had with Larry Loendorf about the identity of Charles Darwin’s Bear. We agreed that, because of the reported size, it was likely to be the large bear in the Picketwire Canyon. “This figure was prominent, had been publicized and discovered early on – its photograph had been printed in newspapers. Loendorf also pointed out that it was originally known as the “cinnamon bear” because rain runoff from the canyon rim had dyed it red with the red dust of the soil. This seems to match the description of it being “apparently ‘painted’ with red iron on the face of a soft rock.” (Loendorf 2009) Another resemblance is the fact that it is the “darkest near the shoulder, growing gradually lighter toward each extremity.”



Stero-view card of Purgatoire river bear
(sometimes known as "don't
deface the bear"). Photograph
Byron H. Gurnsey, 1874.

Some time later I received a correspondence from Russell A. Potter which included this stereoscopic view card, suggesting that it might be the same image. A little background research actually suggests that this might be true. The label on the back of the stereo card says it was made by a photographer named Byron H. Gurnsey. Gurnsey “operated a photographic studio in Sioux City, Iowa from about 1866 until he sold out in 1871.” (Ephriam 2015)

From 1872 until his death in 1880 Byron operated a photographic studio in Colorado Springs, specializing in scenes from the Rocky Mountains. 



The inscription on the back of the stereo card reads:

“Gurnsey’s
Rocky Mountain Views,
Published at Colorado Springs, Colorado,
Pike’s Peak Avenue. No. 99,
Photograph of a Bear on the Rock.
This great Natural Curiosity was discovered
about the year 1833 by some Voyageurs
and Trappers, and consists
of a distinct Photograph or Picture of a
Bear, impressed on the face of a
cliff of solid rock on the
Purgatoire River, 18 miles from
Las Animas, Colorado.
It is supposed to be an Electric Photograph.”

By “Electric Photograph” I believe he means an image burned onto the rock face by a lightning strike very near a bear standing by the cliff, in much the same way as the faint ghostly images of victims were found on some concrete surfaces in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bomb blasts.


A second version of the label exists which reads as follows:
"Gurnsey's
Rocky Mountain Views,
Published at Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Scenes on the Line of the Denver
& Rio Grande Railway.
Natural Photograph of a Bear
on the rocks of the Purgatoire River.
No. 99. 18 miles from Las Animas, Colorado."

Note that both versions of the card label state that the original image is along the Purgatoire River, also pointing to "Don't Deface the Bear" as the probable original.

Since Anderson sent the photo to Charles Darwin in 1874, and since we know that Gurnsey was living and photographing in Colorado from 1872 on, and since we now have a photograph of a large bear taken by Gurnsey, I believe it is reasonable to assume that Anderson did, indeed, send a copy of this stereo card to Charles Darwin, and that until other information surfaces we may safely assume (keeping in mind that this is still only circumstantial evidence) that this is indeed likely to be Charles Darwin’s Bear.


REFERENCES:

Anderson, G. S.,
1874 Personal Correspondence, From the Darwin Correspondence Project Archives: DAR 159:58, Cite As: Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9466,” accessed on 3 August 2019.

Clarkson, Rosemary,
2009 Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9466,” accessed on 3 August 2019

Ephriam,
2015 Byron H. Gurnsey, 1833-1889, Jan. 23, 2015, http://amertribes.proboards.com/thread/2206/byron-gurnsey-1833-1880

Saturday, October 5, 2019

CHARLES DARWIN'S BEAR - REVISITED:



"Don't Deface the Bear", Purgatoire
River Canyon, Colorado. Photograph
Peter Faris, June 1991.

In 1874, the great Charles Darwin received a letter with an accompanying photograph from a G. J. Anderson. This letter read as follows:

“From G. J. Anderson
Fort Lyon, C. T.  U. S. America
May 24th 1874
Mr. Charles Darwin, F.R.S. & c.
Hon. Sir;
It is with a feeling of great diffidence that I forward you by this mail a photograph of a natural curiosity found near this post, in Lat 37° 30’ N, Long. 103° 20’ W., as I hesitate to intrude my ignorant curiosity on your valuable time.
The object in question is a very accurate representation of some animal not unlike the Grizzly Bear found hereabouts, except in the peculiar formation of the mouth & nose.
The image is painted----as it were----on a perpendicular face of a very soft grey sandstone rock, about 40 feet from its base & 38 feet from its top, but may be easily reached----to the level of the bottom of the picture----by climbing over the debris at the foot of the bluff.
The coloring matter appears to be iron (probably Fe3O4) and penetrates the rock to a depth of more than ½ inch.
The image is in length, from nose to tail, about 8½ feet; it was found here by the first white settlers who came to the country, & Indian tradition refers to its origin to a most remote past. Among the Indians----who hold it in the highest veneration----it is called a “”Bear””, & worshipped as such. The color is noticeably dark near the shoulder, growing gradually lighter toward either extremity.
I have forwarded copies of the photo. To several scientific men in this country, & from a few have received acknowledgements. Prof. Henry of the Smith’n. Instn. Suggested that it is a work of Indian art, but the color----which is the same as that with which the rock is in many places stained----seems to have withstood the action of the weather too well, & to have penetrated too deep into the rock to add confirmation to this theory.
Prof. Kendrick of the U.S. Mil. Acad, at west point, thinks it a lusus naturae.
I am Sir with great respect, Your most obedient & Humble servt.
Geo. J. Anderson 2nd. Lieutn. Cav U.S. Army”

(Clarkson, Rosemary, 2009, Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9466,” accessed on 3 August 2019)

(Note: At that date the C.T. in the originating address would have stood for Colorado Territory. I have reproduced Anderson’s abbreviations and punctuations as accurately as my keyboard would let me.)

I first wrote about this in a column on June 3, 2009, titled “Charles Darwin’s Bear” in which I reported that I had conversed about this with Larry Loendorf and he and I agreed that, given the size, it was likely to refer to the great Picketwire “Don’t Deface the” Bear. The color of that bear is wrong, but Loendorf said that it used to be called the “cinnamon bear” so the color has apparently changed with age.


Actual location of the site
in Anderson's letter by his.
coordinates, Google Earth.

Now I do not have accurate enough maps to work out the exact distances but I believe that 37 deg. 30' North by 103 deg. 20' West places this site in the northeast corner of Las Animas County, Colorado.


Close-up of the actual location
of the site in Anderson's letter.
Google Earth.

My August 4, 2019, inquiry with Las Animas County got this response: "The lat. lon. location is North of Kim, CO, just west of Hwy. 109 in Las Animas County. It appears the property is owned by (name withheld for personal privacy.)" (Lucero 2019)

The bear in Purgatoire Canyon is 25 miles or so from the site of the exact coordinates reported, however, we have no way of knowing the accuracy that Anderson could have achieved in his calculations and, until we get better information I have to assume that Anderson could have been 25 miles off, after all he did not have GPS.  It would be of great interest, however, if someone would visit the site of the precise coordinates and see if there is a bear pictograph there. Bear pictographs are common in southeast Colorado, but not bear pictographs 8½ feet long as reported. Until proven otherwise I believe we will just have to assume that Charles Darwin's Bear is the large "Don't Deface the Bear" in the Picketwire (Purgatoire) River Canyon and that Loendorf was correct all along.

NOTE: Some images in this posting were retrieved from the internet with 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.

REFERENCES:

Anderson, G. S.,
1874 Personal Correspondence, From the Darwin Correspondence Project Archives: DAR 159:58, Cite As: Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9466,” accessed on 3 August 2019.

Clarkson, Rosemary,
2009 Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9466,” accessed on 3 August 2019

Faris, Peter,
2009 Charles Darwin’s Bear, June 3, 2009, RockArtBlog, https://rockartblog.blogspot.com/search/label/Darwin

Loendorf, Larry
2009  Personal communication.

Lucero, Paula,
2019 Personal communication.