Saturday, July 8, 2017


Pushing The Boundaries,
Front Cover

This volume is another rock art publication of the Oregon Archaeological Society (OAS), their 24th book, a remarkable contribution for such a group. This particular book covers a region in southeastern Oregon known as the Harney Basin, centered a couple of hundred miles south of Pendleton, and a transitional area between the Columbia Plateau and the Great Basin. Pushing the Boundaries: The Pictographs Petroglyphs of Oregon's Harney Basin, written by Don Hann and Daniel Leen adds a little-known area to the record, and covers this important region in great detail.

Harney Basin, Oregon. Photo:
used with permission of OAS.

Map of Harney Basin, Oregon.

As with other volumes published by the Oregon Archaeological Society this book is seriously scholarly, boasting 14 pages of references out of a 107 page total.

Harney Basin pictograph sites.
Photo: used with permission
of OAS.

The website of the OAS describes the volume with this statement:
"Archaeologists Daniel Leen and Don Hann have joined forces to create this interesting and scientifically important volume on the rock art of the Harney Basin in southeastern Oregon. Sitting at the cultural boundary between the Columbia Plateau and the Great Basin, the pictographs and petroglyphs of the Harney Basin have long captured the interests of both professional and avocational archaeologists. Hann, a U.S. Forest service Archaeologist and Leen, a well known archaeologist and artist, describe the major sites in detail, interpret the imagery, and explain that the ancient drawings and carvings are likely the work of groups from both the Columbia Plateau and the Great Basin who used the Harney Basin throughout at least the last 5,000 years.
Fortunately, Leen, one of the premier rock art recorders in the Pacific Northwest, spent two summers in the early 1980s carefully recording more than 40 Harney Basin sites. Hann's knowledge of Blue Mountains/Harney Basin prehistory, coupled with Leen's excellent tracings have produced a volume that will quickly become a classic for any student of western North American rock art." (

Figure 6, 35HA1372, panel4, p. 22.
Photo: used with permission of OAS.

The finely detailed black and white drawings by  that illustrate this volume are gems in their own right, although they are generally reproduced in small scale. Their detail and clarity make me hungry to see the full-scale originals. A considerable amount of information about the people who created the rock art is provided as well.

Plate 1, Harney Basin, Site 24,
Rattlesnake Rim. Photo: used
with permission of OAS.

"The people living in Harney Basin bay have included members of both Columbia Plateau and Great Basin ethnic groups tied together through bonds of marriage and trade. (Rhode 2012:4-10)" (p.81)
"The Great Basin group which inhabited Harney Basin in the early historic period was the Northern Paiute - Several distinct bands of the Northern Paiute lived here including the Wadatika, Hunipuitoka (Walpapi), and Koa'aga'itoka." (p.6)
"Plateau tribes that lived adjacent to Harney Basin in the southern Blue Mountains include the Western Columbia River Sahaptins (also known as the John Day Band, the Dock-Spus or erroneously the Tenino), Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla and Nez Perce Indians." (p. 7) 

Plate 2, Harney Basin, Site 24,
Rattlesnake Rim. Photo: used
with permission of OAS.

The authors found a cultural association with these groups and the style of the rock art as well as the media it was produced in.
"Harney Basin petroglyphs show clear affiliation with the Great Basin but local variation in design elements demonstrates influence from the Columbia Plateau." (p. 79)
"Harney Basin pictographs are associated with the Columbia Plateau. They fit clearly into Keyser's (1992:83) North Oregon Rectilinear Style." (p. 79)

To me, the striking quality of this book is that the authors present a detailed, scientific record and analysis of the rock art of the region without falling into the trap of trying to fit the material into any current fad espoused by pop rock art analysts. I think I only counted the "s-word" (shaman) once in the whole volume, and did not notice the word "neuropsychological" at all. This book definitely belongs in the library of any serious student of North American rock art.
Five star approval rating.

To purchase a copy of this, or any other of their excellent books, simply visit

8.5” x 11” 107 pages, 100 illustrations, two pages of color plates
ISBN #: 978-0-9915200-2-2 OAS Publication: #24. Price $15.00 plus $4.00 Shipping and Handling.


Hann, Don, & Daniel Leen
2017 Pushing the Boundaries: The Pictographs Petroglyphs of Oregon's Harney Basin, Oregon Archaeological Society Publication #24 ,

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