Saturday, July 12, 2014


Keyser, James D., David A. Kaiser, George Poetschat, and
Michael W. Taylor, 2012, Fraternity of War, Plains Indian
Rock Art at Bear Gulch and Atherton Canyon, Montana,
Oregon Archaeological Society Press Publication #21, Portland.

This is a truly remarkable book which presents an encyclopedic record of rock art in two locations in Montana. This 436 page volume was published by the Oregon Archaeological Society Press (volume 21) and was written by 14 contributing authors, edited by James D. Keyser, David A. Kaiser, George Poetschat, and Michael W. Taylor, with technical editing by John and Mavis Greer, and contributions by a handful of other people. Now I want to say up front that I do not personally know most of the people involved in this volume, but I wish I knew them all because they have to all be outstanding experts in their specialties, with James Keyser shepherding the process and setting his usual high standards.

The team or panel of rock art experts assembled to compile this material is truly impressive. Listed on the cover page are the writers, editors, and other contributors, comprising a who’s-who of expertise in rock art and archaeology.
Editors: James D. Keyser, David A. Kaiser, George Poetschat, Michael W. Taylor.
Technical Editors: John Greer, Mavis Greer.
Contributing Authors: James D. Keyser, David A. Kaiser, John Greer, Mavis Greer, George Poetschat, Carl M. Davis, Angelo Eugenio Fossati, Melissa (Ray) Gentry, Lisa F. Ripps, Melissa Greer, Mike Bergstrom, Sara Scott, Marvin Rowe, Amanda Derby.
Forward: Macie (Lundin) Ahlgren.
Technical Contributors: Susan Gray, Stephanie (Young) Renfro, Ray Baise.
Cover Design and Photographs: Michael W. Taylor.

Containing over 300 illustrations the Fraternity of War not only provides a detailed record of world class rock art, it provides a data base of the styles and periods of rock art from the area.

In the preface the authors state: “Bear Gulch and Atherton Canyon are already one of the most studied and extensively published rock art site complexes in North America, rivaling much better known locals such as Writing-On-Stone, The Dalles-Deschutes region of the lower Columbia River, The Coso Range, the lower Pecos River, and Chaco Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, and Barrier Canyon in the Southwest . . . we hope this report adds significantly to the discussion and study of Plains rock art. The number of shield bearing warriors, women, birds, weapons, and various warrior accoutrements composing the Ceremonial Tradition art at these sites far outstrips that from any other Plains site. In addition, though limited in number, the Biographic Tradition compositions at these sites add significantly to the repertoire of that art tradition across all of the Plains. Finally, there are several one-of-a-kind rock art images portrayed only at these sites, including a decorated hide robe, the Standing Bear and Hand of God shield designs, the wolf hat headdress, a trade blanket, and partisan-type lance heads derived from Spanish polearms. These images, and the few dozen others representing earlier styles and traditions, are sufficiently important that no future Plains rock art research will be conducted without reference to some of them. Accordingly, the profession of archaeology owes a major debt of gratitude to the Lundin and Melton families, who not only permitted access to their properties, but actively encouraged this research. ” (Keyser et al. 2012:xiii-xiv)

Shield bearing warrior figure, Bear
Gulch. Photograph by Mike Taylor.

The cover photograph of this book reproduces this beautiful polychrome panel from Bear Gulch, Montana. The white color in this figure is actually produced by scratching the surface of the rock, not by utilizing a white pigment (notice the additional white scratched figures as well). The red and black pigments are added to the surface of the rock. Faint black lines to the left and below the shield represent a feather bustle. These were cataloged on 185 shield bearing warriors at these sites and are considered to be representations of an aggressive buffalo bull's erect tail, conveying power and aggressiveness. (Keyser et al. 2012:133-4)

There is so much material in this volume that it constitutes, in itself, a reference library of Great Plains rock art. Clearly written, carefully cross-referenced, and full of citations, this book will be the go-to reference for many years to come. When I first heard of this book and decided to review it here for RockArtBlog I had no idea of the scope of the project I would be undertaking. Needless to say this is only the beginning and I anticipate many more postings over time about this wonderful book and material that it contains. On a five star scale for books this one has to be at least a full five and should perhaps be an eight or ten. Congratulations and thank you to the whole team for adding all of this knowledge to our field, and thank you as well to the Oregon Archaeological Society for making it possible.


Keyser, James D., David A. Kaiser, George Poetschat, and Michael W. Taylor
2012    Fraternity of War, Plains Indian Rock Art at Bear Gulch and Atherton Canyon, Montana, Oregon Archaeological Society Press Publication #21, Portland.

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