Saturday, July 2, 2016
PETROGLYPHS - INDIRECT VS. DIRECT PERCUSSION REVISITED - REVISITED AGAIN:
On may 14, 2016, I posted a column titled PETROGLYPHS - INDIRECT VS. DIRECT PERCUSSION REVISITED. In this I reported on experimental results published in 1999 by Jim Keyser and Greer Rabiega that addressed the question of indirect vs. direct percussion in the manufacture of petroglyphs. Their experiments proved that the use of a stone chisel between the rock face and the hammer stone allowed finer lines and better control in the finished petroglyph. My original denial of the concept (January 17, 2010, "Petroglyphs - Direct Vs. Indirect Percussion?") had been based upon commonly seen illustrations that show the artist holding a hammer stone in one hand and a chisel made of a flaked stone point on a wooden or bone shaft in the other, chipping away at the rock face to make a petroglyph. Keyser had rightly recognized that I was not considering the use of a smaller hard rock as a chisel stone between the hammer stone and the rock face, and apprised me of the published results of their experiments.
Figure 1, chisel stone found at
Horsethief Lake State Park,
Washington, by James Keyser, 2007.
A short time later Keyser again contacted me and provided me with a copy of a paper he had published in 2007, about finding just such a chisel stone at Horsethief Lake State Park, Washington. While not directly associated with any particular petroglyph there, he reported that it was in the vicinity of a grouping of petroglyphs. "The chisel stone, a small quartzite river pebble measuring 3.5 x 4 x 1.3 centimeters in maximum length, width, and thickness (Fig. 1), was found by me in the eroded foot trail used to access the main areas of rock art in the park during a visit there in 2007. Although not directly associated with a petroglyph, the tool was within a few meters of two different rock art loci at 45KL58, both of which contain a few petroglyphs, and not far distant from a third that also has petroglyphs." (Keyser 2007)
Figure 2, experimental chisel stone.
Keyser and Rabiega, 1999.
The previously reported experiments (above) conducted by Keyser and his co-investigator had prepared him to recognize something that most of us would probably have overlooked. "As soon as I picked it up I recognized it immediately as a chisel stone exactly like several (Fig. 2) that I and a colleague had produced in an experiment a decade earlier (Keyser and Rubiega 1999: 130-132)." (Keyser 2007)
While experimental archaeology such as the project Keyser reported in 1999 cannot prove that something was definitely done in a particular way, it can prove that something might have been done that way. This finding of the actual artifact, however, seems to seal the deal on it. Indirect percussion was sometimes used in the production of petroglyphs, especially when fine details were the goal.
Keyser closed his paper with the statement "As such, it should put to rest the argument as to whether at least some petroglyphs were, in fact, manufactured by this technique." It does for me Jim, and thanks again.
James D. Keyser,
2007, DIRECT EVIDENCE FOR THE USE OF INDIRECT PERCUSSION IN PETROGLYPH MANUFACTURE, p.25-27, INORA International Newsletter On Rock Art, www.bradshawfoundation.com,vol. 49.
Keyser, James D. and Greer Rabiega,
1999, Petroglyph Manufacture by Indirect Percussion: The Potential Occurrence of Tools and Debitage in Datable Context, Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, Vol.21, No. 1, pages 124 - 136.