Saturday, December 29, 2012

GAME BOARDS, CONTINUED:


Tlacuachero game board. From Games People Play, Barbara Voorhies,
p. 48, Archaeology Magazine, May-June 2012.

An article in the May/June 2012 issue of Archaeology magazine illustrated another possible use for groups of small holes. In this article Barbara Voorhies (Professor Emeritus, University of California, Santa Barbara) described discoveries at the site of Tlacuachero in the Mexican state of Chiapas which was inhabited between 5,050 to 4,230 years ago. The floors of some of the huts excavated had circular or oval patterns of holes in them that she identified as game boards. Voorhies source of inspiration for this identification came from the book Games Of The North American Indians, by Stewart Culin, originally published in 1907 as the Twenty-fourth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1902-1903, Smithsonian Institution, Washington. Voorhies explained that “Culin’s book pulled together ethnographic accounts showing that board games were played by societies across the area that is now Canada, the United States, and Mexico.”


Walapai game board, Fig. 279, p. 208, From: Culin, Stewart,
Games of the North American Indians, Vol. 1, Twenty-fourth
Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology,
1902-1903, Smithsonian Institution.

White Mountain Apache game board, Fig. 86, p.88, 
From: Culin, Stewart, Games of the North American
Indians, Vol. 1, Twenty-fourth Annual Report of the
Bureau of American Ethnology1902-1903,
Smithsonian Institution.

One category of games in the system of classification developed by Culin was “race games”, such as our modern children’s game of Candyland where the winner is the first to reach the final goal. “In race games, the winner is the first player to move his or her pieces to a goal – Candyland and Snakes and Ladders are modern versions of race games. The “boards” themselves were usually improvised arrangements of small stones. In places where stones were not easily available, people made their game boards by digging small holes. The Hualapai people of Arizona used a type of game board closely resembling the oval features at Tlacuachero.” (Voorhies 2012: 50)


Pecked holes in lava flow, Puako, Hawaii, Photograph: Ellen Belef, Sept. 2012.


Pecked holes in rock, PuuLoa, Hawaii, Photograph: Joe Belef, 2007.

I shall not go into details about how these games were played referring any interested parties to go to the original publication. Suffice it to say, however, the knowledge of the existence of these features, and the reasons for them, should suggest to us that there are other possible identifications that may be considered for circular, or oval, patterns of holes. These patterns of holes can be found in many locations among the rock art. I have illustrated two examples from among the photographs of Hawaiian rock art given me by Joe and Ellen Belef, but I have seen such patterns in many places in the American west. As I stated elsewhere these are often misidentified as piko stones no matter where they are found (including the American west). All too often rock art enthusiasts parrot a line such as “holes in a stone are meant to put a newborn’s umbilical cord in,” but even in Hawaii where piko stones really exist, not all patterns of holes in a rock may be correctly identified as piko stones.

So, in the future, while pondering the true nature of a pattern of holes in a rock surface I submit that we must also keep in mind the possibility that patterns of holes may have other purposes such as counting or for use as game boards. Remember humanity’s predilection for play.

Thank you again to Ellen and Joe Belef for sharing their Hawaiian rock art photographs with us all.

REFERENCES:
Culin, Stewart
1907    Games Of The North American Indians, Twenty-fourth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1902-1903, Smithsonian Institution.

Voorhies, Barbara
2012    GAMES PEOPLE PLAY, Archaeology Magazine, May/June 2012, pages 48 – 51.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

PIKO STONES, OR GAME BOARDS?




PuuLoa, Hawaii, Photograph Joe Belef, 2007. 


PuuLoa, Hawaii, Photograph Joe Belef, 2007.

On November 17, 2012, I put up a posting about Hawaiian Piko stones. These are stones with holes pecked into them that serve as receptacles for the umbilical cords of newborn infants, the belief being that spiritual benefits will accrue to the newborn because of this. Rock surfaces with pecked holes can be found worldwide, and, because of the recorded Hawaiian purpose for such holes they are often, and usually incorrectly, also interpreted as umbilical cord receptacles, Piko stones around the world. As I have stated before we just cannot take a piece of data from one culture and simply apply it to another culture without considerable supporting evidence. We cannot even assume that similar items from within the same culture all have similar uses.


Pohaku Ka Luahine, Moanalua valley, Honolulu.
Photograph Peter Faris,10-23-2010.


Pohaku Ka Luahine, Moanalua valley, Honolulu.
Photograph Peter Faris,10-23-2010.

Field sketch of Pohaku Ka Luahine, Moanalua Valley,
Oahu, Ancient Sites of Oahu, Van James
Bishop Museum Press,  p. 50.

On Dec. 1, 2010, I had posted a column about a rock art site on the Hawaiian island of Oahu that has a grouping of pits in its upper surface that are considered to be a game board, not a piko stone. This site, named Pohaku Ka Luahine, is found in Moanalua valley and consists of a large round boulder. It is densly pecked with lines and figures as well as the game board. I could not really distinguish the grid of pits of the konane game board on the top of the boulder. This is a checkers-like game played with black and white pebbles by Hawaiians and examples have reportedly been found with one hundred or more pits pecked into boulders. This particular boulder is quite eroded and given the dim light under the jungle canopy there were few options for visual clues from side lighting.If there was any patina on the boulder surface it was the same color and value as the rock itself because there was virtually no color difference to go by. Details were hard to see and really did not come through well in the photos at all. I have illustrated it with an obviously incomplete field sketch from the Bishop Museum which does not include many of the lines and images visible in the photograph of the boulder. This is, however, an instance of an attributed game board in rock art.

So, what are the examples in the photographs by Joe Belef, Piko stones, game boards, or something else? Notice that on the game board boulder the pits are arranged in rows in a grid pattern. Also, there are many other petroglyphs of figures, etc., on the Pohaku Ka Luahine. Examples of actual attributed Piko stones that I have seen did not have the pits arranged in a grid, and they had no other figures on them. By comparison, these examples then have to be classified as either, or both, or something else entirely, because they have additional figures but are not arranged in grid patterns. Interesting? 

REFERENCE:
James, Van
2010    Ancient Sites of O’ahu, Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, p.50

Thursday, December 20, 2012

ROCK ART VANDALISM - $1,000 REWARD:




This notice has been circulating recently, concerning vandalism to a rock art panel. Since time may be a factor in resolving this crime I am posting it immediately. If any of you in the area of Bishop, CA, can provide any information please give them a call.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

ROMANIAN CAVE ART:




 Charcoal rhinoceros, Coliboaia cave, Romania.
From: Zorich, Zach, Drawing Paleolithic Romania,
page 14, from Archaeology Magazine, January/February 2012.

The January/February 2012 issue of Archaeology Magazine contained an article, written by Zach Zorich, about the discovery of charcoal drawings in the Romanian cave of Coliboaia. John Clottes visited the cave in the Spring of 2010 and reported “about eight images that appear to have been drawn with pieces of charcoal.” One of the images is very clearly a rhinoceros, and others are described as depicting “horses or bears.” Some of the images have been damaged by scratching from the claws of hanging bats, and in places a layer of calcite has formed over the drawings, partially obscuring them. 



Charcoal drawing of a horse, Coliboaia cave, Romania.
From: Zorich, Zach, Drawing Paleolithic Romanian, p. 14,
from Archaeology Magazine, January/February 2012.

Clottes removed a small sample of charcoal from one of the drawings as well as collecting a small piece of charcoal from a ledge below that image for radiocarbon dating. The resulting reported dates place the drawing at about 32,000 years BP and the charcoal came in at about 35,000 BP.  Clottes stated “the Coliboaia dates are important because they prove that from the earliest times of cave art in Europe, people had the same cultural practices all over the continent.”

Planned future research at this site will include precise recording of the charcoal drawings by tracing them, as well as recording an unknown number of images that have been cut or scratched into the surface. I hope that Archaeology Magazine will follow up on that and show us what they find.

REFERENCE:
Zorich, Zach, Drawing Paleolithic Romania, p. 14, from Archaeology Magazine, January/February 2012.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

OUTLINED PETROGLYPHS, WAIKOLOA PETROGLYPH PRESERVE, PUAKO, HAWAII:





Petroglyph figure outlined with rocks. Waikoloa Petroglyph 
Preserve, Puako, Hawaii. Photo Ellen Belef, Sept. 2012.


Another petroglyph figure outlined with rocks. Waikoloa 
Petroglyph Preserve, Puako, Hawaii.
Photo Ellen Belef, Sept. 2012.



Another petroglyph figure outlined with rocks. Waikoloa 
Petroglyph Preserve, Puako, Hawaii.
Photo Ellen Belef, Sept. 2012..

An interesting phenomenon is found at Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve, Puako, Hawaii. Some of the petroglyph figures are fenced or outlined with a circle of small rocks. I must admit that I do not know the reason for this although a few possibilities come readily to mind. The ring of rocks could represent a kind of a fence that sets that particular image apart from the others. This could have been done by someone who identifies his or her own lineage with that particular figure. Or it could be intended to point out an important individual by separating his image from the general figures. Another possibility is that it is intended as a sort of memorial, a gift to the deceased, or as an offering as is sometimes seen in our culture by placing a small stone on a grave or sifting a handful of dirt on a grave. I also think that this has to be assumed to have been done from positive intentions (acts done from negative motivations would have been destructive such as spray painting or some other form of defacing or vandalism).

In any case, whatever the motive for this outlining of the petroglyph, this provides evidence that these figures are still relevant to at least some individuals. That someone is interacting positively with them. In other words, instead of being a mere historical curiosity, they are actually still a living part of the life of someone or someones. They should be respected and preserved for that, even if for no other reason.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

CHIPPED ROCK EDGES AT A WASHINGTON STATE VISION QUEST SITE:



Vision quest site and petroglyphs, Horsethief Lake State
Park, Washington. Photo: Peter Faris, 2000. Notice the
chipped edge of the rock face with the pictographs.

In the summer of 2000 I had the good luck and great privilege to be guided around Horsethief Lake State Park, in Washington State, by Dr. James Keyser, one of the great names in North American Rock Art studies. There is considerable Yakima polychrome painted style rock art in this area and it is also the site of numerous petroglyphs including the marvelous petroglyph known as Tsagaglalal, “She who watches”, which originally probably also included some paint.


Vision quest site and petroglyphs, Horsethief Lake State
Park, Washington. Photo: Peter Faris, 2000. Notice
the chipped edge of the rock face with the petroglyphs.

Along with considerable rock art, the vicinity of Tsagaglalal also contains some small rock shelters which seem to have been used as vision quest sites. The rock floors of these shelters show a considerable degree of butt-polish apparently acquired by frequent sliding in and out of place accompanied by long periods of sitting. The rock here is volcanic, apparently basalt, and naturally fractures in angular blocks. The rock shelters are located in low cliff and are the result of large blocks cracking loose and falling away leaving small, roughly rectangular openings. Many of the nearly right angled edges of the rock around these shelters have been chipped away in small flakes. Keyser suggested that the rock might have been chipped away for medicinal purposes because of the spiritual nature of the site (so near to Tsagaglalal). Additionally, the supposed vision quest shelters also usually contain petroglyphs as well.


Tsagaglalal (She Who Watches), Horsethief Lake
State Park, Washington. Photo: Peter Faris, 2000.
Native American beliefs in animism attributed a spirit presence to many of the physical features around them. According to Wikipedia animism “is a philosophical, religious or spiritual idea that souls or spirits exist not only in humans and animals but also in plants, rocks, natural phenomena such as thunder and lightning, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment.” The presence of Tsagaglalal would have added a strong spiritual attraction to the environment as well. I can picture that a young Native American undergoing a successful vision quest in this environment might well have wanted to take a chip of the rock with him, to include its power in his medicine bundle.


A pebble wedged into a crack on the cliff by a petroglyph.
Vision quest site and petroglyphs, Horsethief Lake State
Park, Washington. Photo: Peter Faris, 2000.

Another interesting phenomenon found in these rock shelters is the placement of small pebbles of stone into cracks in the rock face at these shelters, perhaps as some sort of offering. I think of this as the “Kilroy was here” motivation, the human urge to make some sort of visible change, to leave some record of their existence. Alternatively, the pebbles may have originally been jammed into the crack to hold some sort of organic offering in place that has since been lost to the elements.

Perhaps any study of a rock art location should include a much more detailed study of surrounding rock surfaces for such modifications as further clues toward the later interpretation of the purpose and significance of the rock art.

Note: I am deeply grateful to my friend Jim Keyser for taking the time and effort to guide me to these locations.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

EARLY KACHINAS IN ROCK ART?



#1 - Petroglyphs, North of Soccorro, Richard Colman, 2012


#2 - Mystery masks, North of Soccorro, Richard Colman, 2012.

One of the real fascinations of rock art in the American southwest is to try to match features of the faces or mask depictions in rock art to features of the kachinas of Pueblo religion. For instance, the face in the top center of photo #1 has the unique face painting found primarily in the Hopi Polik Mana (Butterfly maiden) (Colton 1959:48) and Salako Mana (Shalako maiden) (Colton 1959:47; and Fewkes 1985:Plate LVI).
Photo #2 shows a row of repeating faces (masks) identically portrayed with what looks like a floppy peaked hat on the head and a horizontal line painted across the middle of each face. While cursory examination of my reference books turned up a couple of kachinas with this sort of horizontal line across the middle of the face I could not find one with both that line and this distinctive headgear. Yet here it was important enough to the artist to repeat it identically three times. What did he have in mind?

These fascinating petroglyphs were photographed by Richard Colman at a site north of Soccorro, New Mexico. Richard has graciously given me permission to use these pictures (as well as others on occasion).
Richard is the source of the spectacular rock art photography in www.westernrockart.org/. Check out his site and share the wonder.

REFERENCES:

Colton, Harold S., Hopi Kachina Dolls, 1959, Univ. of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque

Fewkes, Jesse Walter, Hopi Katcinas, 1985, Dover Pub., New York

Saturday, November 17, 2012

HAWAII, ANOTHER PIKO STONE:




Piko stone, Pu'uloa petroglyphs, Volcanoes National
Park, Hawaii. Photograph Ellen Belef, March, 2007.

On January 26, 2011, I posted a column about a piko stone at the Kukaniloko Birthing Stones site, at Wahiawa, on the island of Oahu. This particular Piko stone is located in the Pu’uloa petroglyph field, in Volcanoes National Park, on the island of Hawai’I, on the lower slopes of Kiluaea volcano, and is another of the photographs given to me by Ellen Belef. 

In 1914 anthropologist Martha Beckwith recorded the following information in her field notes from informants about this location.

“Rode out to Puuloa on the line between Kealakomo and Apuki. Here is a large pahoehoe mound used as a depository for the umbilical cord at the birth of a child. A hole is made in the hard crust, the cord is put in and a stone is placed over it. In the morning the cord has disappeared; there is no trace of it. This insures long life for the child. Mrs. Kama, born in 1862, was a native of Kamoamoa. Her mother brought her cord there. She had 15 children and for each one at birth a visit was made to Puuloa. Another mound, on the southern border of Apuki, called Puumanawalea, was similarly used.”(Lee and Stasack 2000:87)

It should be stated that Beckwith cited other informants who essentially stated the opposite, that the cord had to stay in the hole overnight to insure long life and happiness for the child.

“Pu’uloa means long life, and that is why they chose Pu’uloa to deposit the piko of their children. “You make a puka (hole) by pounding with a stone, then in the puka you put the piko, then shove a stone in the place where the piko is placed. The reason for putting in that stone is to save the piko from the rats.” (Lee and Stasack 2000:87)

It is not that often that we can read direct, first person testimony about the reason for producing a rock art feature as in this case.

REFERENCE:

Lee, George, and Edward Stasack,
2000    Spirit of Place: Petroglyphs of Hawaii, Easter Island Foundation, Los Osos, CA.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

WAIKOLOA PETROGLYPH PRESERVE, PUAKO, HAWAII, SEPTEMBER 2012:


A family lineage? Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve,
Puako, Hawaii. Photo: Ellen Belef, September 2012.

   
A family lineage? Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve,
Puako, Hawaii. Photo: Ellen Belef, September 2012.

These photos are but two from a wealth of material generously shared with me by a friend, Ellen Belef, after her recent trip to Hawaii. They are from the Waikoloa Petroglyph Reserve, Puako, Hawaii. This is a petroglyph site where the images are carved on the surface of an ancient lava field, some dating back to the 16th century.

 “These petroglyphs, or stone inscriptions, were etched into the face of the mountain centuries ago. Featuring thousands of facsimiles of turtles, canoes, and other mysterious carvings, the Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve is one of the most fascinating ways to witness the unique culture of native Hawaii. The petroglyphs can be found along the Mamalahoa Trail, named for King Kamehameha's "Law of the Broken Paddle," a humanitarian law that has been enshrined into Hawaii's constitution.” (Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve, www.homeandabroad.com)

In both these images we can see groups of stick figures, many of them connected. The touching of the figures may represent actual relationships between the people portrayed. Some years ago Carol Patterson suggested that these images can be interpreted as intergenerational representations of family lineages. In a culture that we know was conscious of family descent and lineage this suggestion makes considerable sense to me as a possibility that deserves further consideration. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

PROFESSIONAL BIAS IN ROCK ART STUDIES:



Warrior petroglyph, Plains Apachean, Picture Canyon,
Comanche Grasslands, Baca County, Colorado.
Photo: Peter Faris, 1986.

As the archaeologist for Comanche Grasslands in southeastern Colorado stated at a rock art meeting back in the 1990s, “you have to understand – I am the professional”. She made this statement to a group of rock art researchers from varying backgrounds who had been studying the rock art of southeastern Colorado for many years. She made this comment when some of us challenged her statements that doing rubbings from rock art panels would not harm the images. When it came to rock art she could not have found her elbow with a hammerstone, but she was so blinded by conceit and professional bias that to her an art historian and an engineer who had been studying rock art for decades could not possibly know as much about it as an archaeologist who had not studied rock art at all.

A totally opposite sensibility was displayed by Linea Sundstrom who wrote in Talking With The Past: the Ethnography of Rock Art (Keyser, et al.  2006: 136-7) “I think a lot of us are trained to think that the only way to study anything is through “science”. Most of us have our degrees in anthropology and yet very few of us were required to take a course in history, art history, or historical theory. I suggest that this is our bias. We think we’re scientific and therefore unbiased, but instead we’re scientific and biased in that particular way. There are other ways to study the world.”

Lawrence Loendorf expressed a similar recognition of the situation when he wrote in Discovering North American Rock Art (2005: 7) “When it comes to studying rock art traditional archaeologists, especially those trained in the United States, are a curious lot. Although they might take a photograph or two at a newly discovered site, they prefer to ignore the site’s research potential. The nature of a rock art site itself may be part or the reason. Archaeologists take pride in their ability to make meticulous and complete records of everything they uncover during an excavation. When remains such as hearths are encountered, they are carefully removed and taken back to the laboratory for additional analysis. In contrast, rock art sites are fixed in the landscape rather than portable and must be recorded in situ.”

Another example of this sort of approach can be found in the voluminous work of James Keyser who, although trained as an archaeologist, has primarily focused on rock art and has made monumental contributions to what we know about it.

What Linea Sundstrom, Lawrence Loendorf and Jim Keyser have in common that has led them to this sensitivity is that although they are professional archaeologists, they have specialized in rock art studies during significant careers. I believe that such a concentrated focus has opened their eyes to the limitations of a traditional archaeology degree toward so many questions in rock art.

I submit that there are indeed a number of other disciplines that can provide insights into rock art and the creative processes that manufacture it. An art training is invaluable in understanding the materials and techniques of artistic production, and might also provide some insight toward the motivation behind artistic production. An education in comparative religion should also be valuable in understanding the motivation behind the creation of some rock art, and also its place in the culture and its rites. Finally, historians are not only encouraged, but expected, to extrapolate from a limited number of facts to a large conclusion which is applied to the history of a culture, and Art Historians perform the same role in analysis of the art of that culture, and in the case of rock art interpretation we are often/usually exrapolating from a limited number of facts.

In order to reach a proper understanding and appreciation of rock art, I submit that we can use the input and understanding of researchers from many disciplines. Not that any one of us will always have the correct answer, but we will at least have been open to potential insights that traditional archaeology, and any other single discipline, may have overlooked. We are all in this together.

REFERENCES:

Keyser, James D. George Poetschat, and Michael W. Taylor, editors,
2006    Talking With The Past: The Ethnography of Rock Art, Oregon Archaeological Society, Portland.

Loendorf Lawrence L., Christopher Chippindale, and David S. Whitely, editors,
2005    Discovering North American Rock Art, University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

EAGLE/STAR/RATTLESNAKE:

We rock art enthusiasts are generally very excited by an image that combines traits, and perhaps meanings. It illustrates the change of belief patterns wherein one or more separate ideas are melding into a new combined belief or idea.  On August 11, 2012, I posted a column about my belief that the origin of the Star Kachina (or Chasing Planet Kachina) was prompted by the appearance of Halley’s Comet and by the melding of the images of the eagle and a star.


Eagle/Star/Rattlesnake petroglyph, from West Mesa,
Albuquerque, N.M. Photo: Peter Faris, 1988.

This idea is taken further by one of my favorite petroglyphs from West Mesa at Albuquerque. This shows the eagle and star combined as before but in this example the combined image also serves as the head of a rattlesnake. While I have not found any references to this combined three-way image I would not be terribly surprised to hear of one in ancestral pueblo mythology. Indeed, the artist who produced this image must have had something in mind when it was being created, and what an interesting story it must be.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

ECHOES AT ROCK ART SITES - REVISITED:




Grand Gallery, Horseshoe Canyon, UT.
Photo: Peter Faris, 28 May 1992.

In the November 2012 issue of Discover magazine (p. 28-29) there is an article that revisits the subject of echoes at rock art sites. Written by Douglas Starr it brings in examples of echoes in constructed environments as well as natural ones. He tells about temples at Chavin de Huantar in Peru, and El Castillo built by the Mayans in Mexico producing echoes that may have been intentional components of ceremonies. Starr also cites Igor Reznikoff, and archaeologist at the University of Paris who studies echoes in the painted caves of Europe, and who has found correlations. "He (Reznikoff) and a colleague have mapped several caves and found that areas with the greatest resonance coincided with the concentration of artworks." 

Starr also discusses studies by Steven J. Waller, a biochemist from California, who has studied echoes at rock art sites. 

"In 1994 he conducted an acoustical survey of Horseshoe Canyon, a three-mile-long chasm in southeastern Utah decorated with eerie pictographs. Waller hiked the canyon, pausing at 80 locations to snap a noisemaker fashioned from a rat trap and record the echoes. After processing the results with sound analysis software, he found that five spots displayed powerful echo effects. Four corresponded to the locations of paintings that Waller had encountered. When he asked experts about the fifth, they explained that it, too, bore artwork, though the pictographs were not visible from the path he followed. Since then, Waller has repeated the experiment at hundreds of rock art sites around the world, almost always finding a correlation between image and echo. He speculates that ancient artists "Purposely chose these places because of sound."

Now, I would be the last to say that this might not be true. However, I don't think that we should rush to any conclusion. Horseshoe Canyon certainly does produce echoes at pictograph sites. Echoes are produced magnificently by those flat canyon walls. They are also wonderful places to paint images. I just cannot see how this proves any connection between the two, echoes and images. The best echoes are surely produced by large, gently curving walls like those of the Grand Gallery. Indeed curvature in the walls may focus the returned sound to certain spots like a parabolic microphone. These very same walls provide the best surfaces for serious painting, and there is indeed serious painting at the Grand Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon (see above). Of course there is a correlation, but is there a connection? I really do not see how we can prove that, and until someone does come up with a way to prove it I feel that this must remain an interesting speculation.

REFERENCE:
Douglas Starr, Echoes from the Distant Past, pages 28-29, Discover, November, 2012.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

NATIVE AMERICAN AND HISPANIC CROSS SYMBOLS:



Crosses, Freezeout Canyon, Baca County,
CO, Photo: Peter Faris, 1996.

The cross is a very common symbol in the rock art of the American Southwest. When it is just a simple set of crossed lines, one vertical and one horizontal, it is often assumed to represent the most commonly portrayed version of the Native American four-pointed star, as long as context does not contraindicate that.


FB Delgado signature, Signature Rock, Boise City,
OK. Photo: Peter Faris, June 12, 2006.

Crosses, Picketwire  Canyon, Las Animas 
County, CO. Photo: Dell Crandall.

Many other examples, however, embellish that basic crucifix with elaboration on the ends of the four arms. These are usually assumed to be variations of the Maltese cross and were probably created by Hispanic artists after the arrival of the conquistadores. The introduction of the Maltese cross to the American southwest by the Spanish entrada would have occurred after the 1540 expedition of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado into what is now New Mexico.
Maltese Cross, Wikipedia.

The Maltese cross, also known as the Amalfi cross, is identified as the symbol of an order of Christian warriors known as the Knights Hospitaller or Knights of Malta, and through them came to be identified with the Mediterranean island of Malta, of which it is a national symbol. . . The cross also forms the basic form for some Spanish orders such as the Order of Charles III or the Order of Isabella the Catholic. . . . The Royal and Distinguished Spanish Order of Charles III (Spanish: Real y Distinguida Orden Española de Carlos III) was established by the King of Spain Carlos III by means of the Royal Decree of 19 September 1771, with the motto Virtuti et mérito. Its objective is to reward people for their actions in benefit to Spain and the Crown. Since its creation, it has been the most distinguished civil award that can be granted in Spain, despite its categorization as a military order. (Wikipedia: 2012)

Thus, and not surprisingly, the form of a cross in rock art of the American Southwest can provide possible clues to not only the culture that created it, but also it possible date of creation. Not bad for two simple crossed lines.

REFERENCE:

Sunday, September 30, 2012

LOS PANTALONES:




Los Pantalones as seen on the cliff. Southeastern
Colorado. Photo: Peter Faris, 1998.

Every once in a while we run across an image in rock art that we just cannot imagine an explanation for. In my case one of these images is a panel in southeastern Colorado that was dubbed by Bill McGlone as Los Pantalones. This appears to be three figures, approximately life sized, wearing the pantaloons of a Dutch burger, and the figure on the left even appears to be smoking the long-stemmed clay pipe of the 1600s and 1700s. The right hand figure is considerably fainter than his two companions - see the close-up below.


Los Pantalones, contrast enhanced. Southeastern
Colorado. Photo: Peter Faris, 1998.

The three figures are faded/repatinated to the point of being somewhat difficult to make out suggesting some age, indeed, in my illustration I have had to push the contrast considerably to make the images stand out.

This is another example of rock art in which I just cannot conceive of an explanation. I leave it to all of you historians out there. What’s up with Los Pantalones?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

SHIELD IMAGES IN ROCK ART:


Pictograph Panel, Westwater creek, Utah. Photo: Peter Faris, 2001.
We all are aware that according to Native American testimony the imagery on a shield is thought to confer spiritual protection on the bearer. It may illustrate his spirit guide or a dream seen during a vision quest, but in any case the subject matter refers to the bearer’s power and sacred protection. The imagery on a shield is however, more than just a spiritual statement, it is an uniquely recognizable composition. No two shields are likely to have the same decoration as no two warriors could have had the same dream or vision.  That means that portraying the design on a shield is also making a reference to an identifiable person – in other words it is a portrait of sorts. There are a few known instances where one warrior presented or gifted his vision and the imagery referring to it to someone else (or sold it to someone else) and in these cases there would possibly be more than one, but these instances are relatively rare and probably known in their reference group so they still refer to known individuals.


Westwater Creek pictograph panel, right side. Photo: Peter Faris, 2001.


Westwater Creek pictograph panel, left side. Photo: Peter Faris, 2001.

The pictograph panel seen in the illustration is from the upper reaches of Westwater Creek in the Bookcliffs of Utah. The rock art appears to date from prehistoric through historic periods. The prehistoric is indicated by pedestrian shield figures and the historic is represented by later Ute equestrian warriors. On the left side of the illustration there are two pedestrian shield figures, and on the right side two shields are portrayed by themselves. In all of these instances the shields have unique decorative patterns on them. These would have belonged to four different, and identifiable, individuals, and members of the reference group of those individuals (his tribe or clan) would have recognized the pattern and known to who the shield belonged. In this fashion the shield can be seen as a shorthand reference to a particular individual, an identifying design. Those shields do not represent four anonymous warriors, they serve as a portrait of sorts for each of their owners, and the pictograph panel then could be seen as a portrait gallery, the place where notable individuals from that group are commemorated.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A POEM BY N. SCOTT MOMADAY:

Although rock art is not often thought of as a subject for poetry and creative literature, there is no reason that the subject we love should not also inspire creative efforts in literature. In my own small way I have attempted to write essays on various aspects of the subject for many years. To this end I want to share with you a poem written by someone with particular insight on rock art as seen from his heritage, N. Scott Momaday. A biographer of Momaday's recently wrote:
 "Navarre Scott Momaday was born in Lawton, Oklahoma and spent the first year of his life at his grandparents' home on the Kiowa Indian reservation, where his father was born and raised. When he was one year old, Scott's parents moved to Arizona. His father was a painter. His mother, who is of English and Cherokee descent, became an author of children's books. Both worked as teachers on Indian reservations when Scott was growing up, and the boy was exposed not only to the Kiowa traditions of his father's family but to the Navajo, Apache and Pueblo Indian cultures of the Southwest. Momaday early developed an interest in literature, especially poetry."

"To read Momaday’s poems from the last forty years is to understand that his focus on Kiowa traditions and other American Indian myths is further evidence of his spectacular formal accomplishments. His early syllabic verse, his sonnets, and his mastery of iambic pentameter are echoed in more recent work, and prose poetry has been part of his oeuvre from the beginning. The new work includes the elegies and meditations on mortality - but it also includes light verse and sprightly translations of Kiowa songs."

"WE HAVE SEEN THE ANIMALS – LASCAUX, by N. Scott Momaday

Lascaux Auroch.

For we have seen the animals
That linger in primordial tar,
Parade in step and intervals
That mark millennia, an arc

Of time beyond the reckoning
Whose hand has traced these living lines?
Whose mind has ventured past the thing
That mere mortality confines?

Horse, bison, auroch, bear, and deer,
Convene forever in the night,
Their ghosts, in old communion here,
Emerge in stark, forgotten light.

Or has their spirit thrived unseen,
Bled into earth and rock? –
In attitudes austere, serene,
Evincing myth, story, epoch."

Excerpted from Again the Far Morning by N. Scott Momaday, University of New Mexico Press. Reprinted in Ancient Meditations, New Mexico magazine, August, 2011, p. 37.

I cannot imagine saying it any better than that.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

CHIPPED ROCK EDGES AT A WASHINGTON VISION QUEST SITE:



Tsagaglalal, Horsethief Lake State Park, Washington.
Photo: Peter Faris, July 2000.

In the summer of 2000 I had the good luck and great privilege to be guided around Horsethief Lake State Park, in Washington State, by Dr. James Keyser, one of the great names in North American Rock Art studies. There is considerable Yakima polychrome painted style rock art in this area and it is also the site of numerous petroglyphs including the marvelous petroglyph known as Tsagaglalal, “She who watches”, which originally probably also included some paint.

Another Tsagaglalal, Horsethief Lake State Park,
Washington. Note chipped edges of rock.
Photo Peter Faris: July, 2000.

Along with considerable rock art, the vicinity of Tsagaglalal also contains some small rock shelters which seem to have been used as vision quest sites. The rock floors of these shelters show a considerable degree of butt-polish apparently acquired by frequent sliding in and out of place accompanied by long periods of sitting. The rock here is volcanic, apparently basalt, and naturally fractures in angular blocks. The rock shelters are located in low cliff and are the result of large blocks cracking loose and falling away leaving small, roughly rectangular openings. Many of the nearly right angled edges of the rock around these shelters have been chipped away in small flakes. Keyser suggested that the rock might have been chipped away for medicinal purposes because of the spiritual nature of the site (so near to Tsagaglal). Additionally, the supposed vision quest shelters also usually contain petroglyphs as well.

Native American beliefs in animism attributed a spirit presence to many of the physical features around them. According to Wikipedia animism “is a philosophical, religious or spiritual idea that souls or spirits exist not only in humans and animals but also in plants, rocks, natural phenomena such as thunder and lightning, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment.” The presence of Tsagaglalal would have added a strong spiritual attraction to the environment as well. I can picture that a young Native American undergoing a successful vision quest in this environment might well have wanted to take a chip of the rock with him, to include its power in his medicine bundle.

Pebble wedged in a crack. Horsethief Lake State
Park, Washington. Photo: Peter Faris, July 2000.

Another interesting phenomenon found in these rock shelters is the placement of small pebbles of stone into cracks in the rock face at these shelters, perhaps as some sort of offering. I think of this as the “Kilroy was here” motivation, the human urge to make some sort of visible change, to leave some record of their existence. Alternatively, the pebbles may have originally been jammed into the crack to hold some sort of organic offering in place that has since been lost to the elements.

Perhaps any study of a rock art location should include a much more detailed study of surrounding rock surfaces for such modifications as further clues toward the later interpretation of the purpose and significance of the rock art.

Note: I am deeply grateful to my friend Jim Keyser for taking the time and effort to guide me to these locations.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

TSAGAGLALAL - CASTORIDES (THE GIANT BEAVER) IN ROCK ART:


Castoroides ohioensis, the Pleistocene giant beaver,
compared to a modern beaver (Castor castor).

            Many experts believe that a people’s mythology and legends begin as tales of actual events passed down by being told and retold through the generations. Tale becomes myth at some point when the actual connections of memory between the living generation and the generations in the stories are lost. Such myths and legends can properly be classified as cultural fossils making the study of creatures of myth applicable to the study of the influence of fossils upon the belief of the people. Many tribes granted a prominent place in their mythology to the giant beaver, including; the Cree, Chippewa, Hidatsa, Jicarilla Apache, Algonquin, Cheyenne, and others, but perhaps the greatest number of beliefs and legends came from the Northwest Coast peoples.

            The giant beaver (Castoroides) had evolved during the Pleistocene in North America. In North America Castoroides ranged from Alaska to Florida, and was particularly abundant around the Great Lakes. It lived in lakes and ponds bordered by swamp, and had short legs with large webbed feet, suggesting that it was a powerful swimmer. Adults were as large as a black bear, probably reaching 200 kg. in weight and 2.5 meters in length.


Kiksadi pole, Wrangell, Alaska. The bottom figure is
Wishpoosh, the giant beaver. Photo Peter Faris, 2001.

Among people of the northwest coast giant beavers were important totem and ancestral animals. The Kiks’adi totem pole in Wrangell, Alaska, was carved about 1895 by William Ukas. It shows the crests of the Kiks’adi clan of the Stikine Tlinget including the crest of the giant beaver Killisnoo.

A Yakima story entitled “How the Coyote Made the Indian Tribes” sheds some interesting light on the origin of the Columbia River. A giant beaver had inhabited Lake Cle Elum on the eastern side of the Cascades. His name was Wishpoosh and he abused the people so that Coyote decided to help them. Coyote and Wishpoosh got into a fight in Lake Cle Elum and caused an earthquake which made a large hole in the lake, and it began to rain. Wrestling with each other and refusing to give in, Coyote and Wishpoosh rolled down the eastern slope of the Cascades to Kittitas valley, where the waters made a great lake. The combat continued on, Coyote and Wishpoosh, struggling with the waters rushing behind in their wake. They cut the channel for the Yakima River, created a second lake, and tore through Union Gap. The waters overflow this path and form another lake in the Walla Walla country. The fight then took an abrupt turn to the left and the Oregon-Washington border channel of the Columbia was made to the Pacific Ocean. This Yakima story is echoed in several other tribal traditions where only part of the sequence is mentioned; the Colville, Sanpoil, and Okanogan tribes all repeat parts of this story.

            In 1953 Ella Clark published a myth that she attributed to both Colville and Lake Indian Informants that credited Coyote with the creation of the Columbia River in its present configuration. In that myth Coyote ordered the four kinds of salmon to swim up the Columbia and made the beaver their chief. “The people of many tribes will come here to fish,” Coyote said to Beaver. “You will be chief over all of them. You must share the salmon with everyone who comes.”
Beaver drawn from Haida button blanket,
1890. Peter Faris, 2003.

            In Northwest Coast symbolism Beaver is identified by two main characteristics. Although Beaver always has ears and rounded nostrils, the two most identifying symbols are the tail and the two large incisor teeth. – The incisor teeth are close together and not pointed as are the canines of the bear or wolf. Many of these characteristics are illustrated by the beaver image drawn from a Kaigani Haida button blanket collected ca. 1890. Now in the collection of the Philbrook Art Center in Tulsa, OK, the image was made by sewing mother-of-pearl buttons on wool and flannel fabric.

Tsagaglalal (She Who Watches), The Dalles,
Washington. Photo: Peter Faris, 2000.

            South of Puget Sound there are a few carved sites on the lower Columbia that reflect the classic Northwest Style. A noteworthy example is the pecked and painted head of Tsagaglalal (She Who Watches), a legendary woman ruler who was turned to stone by Coyote. It is very skillfully pecked into basaltic rock above the Columbia River at the present site of The Dalles Dam. Remains of red paint on the rock suggest that the lines of many of the petroglyphs were originally filled with paint that has eroded away.

            Tsagaglalal overlooks the cemetery area of the Wishram Indian town of Nixlu’idix at The Dalles. This was a trading center which had attracted people from throughout the Columbia Plateau, and even farther. Traders came here in ocean-going canoes from southern Alaska, and northern California, and horse-men came from the Mandan villages in North Dakota. Trade flourished and tons of salmon and other goods changed hands in the trade fairs that attracted thousands of people each year. Lewis and Clark came to Nixlu’idix in October 1805 and recorded in their journals twenty large wooden plank houses, each home to three families. From April through mid-October the various species of salmon migrated upriver to their spawning grounds providing the Wishram with large quantities of fish. Clark recorded 107 stacks of dried salmon and estimated their total weight at over 10,000 pounds.

In a 1990 paper James Keyser wrote on possible interpretations of the Tsagaglalal petroglyph. “The ethnographic approach to interpreting this petroglyph has considerable historical depth. Before 1910 Edward S. Curtis reported the story of the ancient Wishram woman chief which is associated with the petroglyph. Coyote got to Nixlu’idix, the furthest upriver village and asked the villagers, “Are you living  well?”“You must ask our chief,” said the people, “she is living up there in the rocks.” “She sees everything that is going on.” So Coyote climbed up to her and said, “Soon the world is going to change and women will no longer be chiefs. You stay here and watch the people who are coming.” With that, Coyote threw her up onto the rim rock to watch from there forever (Keyser 1990: page S-3).

            Keyser relied on this ethnographic data for interpreting Tsagaglalal and, noting the proximity of the petroglyph to the above-mentioned cemetery, assigned a funerary interpretation to the image of Tsagaglalal. They may, however, be completely unrelated with the petroglyph predating the cemetery. In such a case the Wishram may have considered Tsagaglalal to have a funerary significance that had nothing to do with the idea behind its original creation.

            I believe that we need to go back to earlier mythologies and folk-memories to identify Tsagaglalal. In style the petroglyph is recognized as representing stylistic elements of Northwest Coast rock art. In Northwest Coast portrayals of Beaver the ears are rounded and the mouth is shown as slightly open with a square in the middle representing the beaver’s characteristic incisor teeth. Tsagaglalal also has these characteristics. Additionally, we have seen that among the mythologies of people of that area Wishpoosh the Giant Beaver was instrumental in creating the features of the landscape, particularly the Columbia River and many of its falls, rapids, and other features. I suggest that Tsagaglalal portrays the Giant Beaver, chief of all the salmon and thus the benefactor of the Wishram people who resided there and depended upon them for their living, looking out over The Dalles which it created, and which proved to be so vital to the fishing economy of the Wishram people who lived there.

REFERENCES:

Clark, Ella E.
1966    Indian Legends of the Northern Rockies, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

Keyser, James D.
1990    Tsagaglalal – She Who Watches: Rock Art As An Interpretable Phenomenon, Journal of Interpretation, Volume 14, Number 2.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A PROCESSIONAL CROSS IN GALISTEO BASIN ROCK ART?


I recently received this picture and comments from Richard Coleman concerning New Mexico rock art in the Galisteo Basin south of Santa Fe. 


Hispanic rock art image. Galisteo Basin, New Mexico.
Photo: Richard Coleman, August, 2012.

"During some additional explorations in the Galisteo Basin, near Santa Fe, NM; I came across of basalt "dike" on top of range of hills. The face is native american. The initials are dated 1901. The graphic in the middle: rancher brand, religious symbol, or ???
Richard Coleman."

The question involves the symbol in the center of the photograph. After looking at it for a while I felt I could hazard a guess as to what it represents. The Hispanic culture of that area has historically been very devout Catholic and we know that processions are a major factor in the public face of that belief. I believe that the symbol in question represents a carreta (cart or wagon) with a crucifix on it for just such a public procession. There may be some other good guesses out there, maybe you have seen it before? Let me know and send your pictures.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

HALLEY'S COMET AND THE ORIGIN OF THE STAR KACHINA:

The period around ca. AD 1300 was a time of upheaval in the Rio Grande valley area with the migration of Anasazi in from the four-corners area to the northwest, which was being abandoned due to drought.  Such periods of social change are often periods of intellectual change as well as people strive to adapt their beliefs and understandings to the new conditions.

In late summer AD 1301 there was a spectacular appearance of Halley's Comet in the skies. Other spectacular comet appearances that were recorded from about that time in European or Chinese records, or both, date from AD 1264, AD 1299, and AD 1337, but the AD 1301 appearance of Halley's Comet may have been the most spectacular. Descriptions indicate that its tail was impressively long, it is estimated to have subtended an angle of as much as 70º across the sky.



Hopi Nangasohu Kachina, Star or Chasing-Planet Kachina.
From Hopi Kachinas, Barton Wright, 1977, Northland Press,
Flagstaff. Four-pointed star painted on front of case mask,
and feathered ruff headdress representing eagle tail.


The Hopi Nangasohu Kachina, the Chasing Star or Meteor Kachina of Oraibi is pictured wearing a case mask with a big star across the front and a ruff of eagle feathers across the top.   This combines two related sky concepts into one: the star of the night sky and the eagle, beast god of the above. Both of these themes can be identified in rock art of the Anasazi and their merging can be followed in rock art of the upper Rio Grande. The Hopi word nanga means "to pursue" and sohu means "star." A beautiful figure, Na-ngasohu appears in the Bean Dance Procession and carries a bell in his right hand.  He wears a large eagle plume fan behind his head.


Galisteo, NM. Star Petroglyph with facial features, Eagle tail, and 
eagle's taloned legs added. This represents a fusion of the star theme
with the sky theme of the Eagle. Photo: Peter Faris, 1988.


The cruciform or four-pointed star is found throughout North America and innumerable examples are illustrated in rock art. These examples range from the simplest pair of crossed lines to more ornate examples, some with single or even double outlines. The variation developed by the Anasazi of the Rio Grande area portrays each arm of the star as a triangle with their bases coming together in the center as do the arms of our traditional five-pointed star. This center was often portrayed with a circle inside it which, in turn, was frequently converted to a simple face by the addition of marks representing two eyes and a mouth.

The added facial features imply personification, the star is not just a light in the sky - it is now a being. It would seem only natural to identify the star as a sky spirit and perhaps various star portrayals were considered by their creators to portray various spirits or deities from their pantheon.

With the important position that the eagle held among these sky-related beings it would only seem natural to find examples of stars combined with the characteristics of eagles.  Examples show the star with facial features and legs ending in eagle talons. Further examples add the eagle's tail and this is illustrated in petroglyphs from West Mesa at Albuquerque, NM, as well as from the Galisteo Basin. These final examples demonstrate that the integration of the Star theme with the Eagle is complete.



Star personage, Galisteo, NM. Photo: Peter Faris, Sept. 1988.

These images from the Albuquerque area are dated from the Pueblo IV period, ca. AD 1300 - 1540, and those from the Galisteo Basin are assigned to the post-ca. AD 1300 period. The fusion of the Star and Eagle concepts developed an image in which the star was portrayed with the tail of an eagle projecting upward, perhaps to illustrate the eagle in a stoop or a dive. This is virtually identical with the Hopi Nangasohu Kachina identified as the Chasing Star or Meteor Kachina and described above. Indeed the combination of the concepts of the stooping eagle and a star would very strongly suggest the appearance of a comet with its tail of light.
                                                                                                                                                                      


Galisteo, NM. Star-Kachina petroglyph.
Note Eagle tail headdress and star head.
Photo: Peter Faris

This suggests that the record preserved in the rock art of the Galisteo Basin and the upper Rio Grande area in New Mexico records the spectacular appearance of Halley's Comet in AD 1301, as well as its evolution into a specific sacred being among the kachinas of the Ancestral Puebloan pantheon, and its subsequent influence on their culture.