Saturday, April 21, 2018

DRONES ARE PROVIDING A USEFUL TOOL FOR RECORDING ROCK ART AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL FEATURES:




Newly discovered Paracas
geoglyphs, ancient-origins.com.
Public domain.

Exciting new discoveries in archaeological survey, and rock art recording, are being made possible by the development of video and photographic drones. Recent online articles in Live Science and National Geographic News have documented the use of drone photography to record inaccessible rock art panels and geoglyphs. In the coastal Peruvian desert near the Nazca lines a number of new geoglyphs have been discovered with drone imaging, and an enormous rock art panel in Venezuela was recorded by drone as well.


Newly discovered Paracas
geoglyphs, ancient-origins.com.
Public domain.

The story of the newly discovered geoglyphs in the Palpa province of Peru began in December 2014 "when the environmental organization Greenpeace placed a huge sign calling for renewable energy next to the Nazca hummingbird design National Geographic reported. Greenpeace didn't have permission to enter the World Heritage Site and ended up damaging it." (Geggel 2018)

"Following the incident (for which Greenpeace later apologized), Peru received a grant from the United States to help restore its archaeology by hiring Peruvian archaeologist Johny Isla, the Nazca Line's chief restorer and protector, National Geographic said. Given that not all of Peru's archaeological sites have been mapped from the air, Isla and Peruvian archaeologist Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, who co-discovered the new glyphs, partnered with Sarah Parcak, a space archaeologist and founder of the Laboratory for Global Observation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, to do so." (Geggel 2018)

"After winning the TED Prize in 2016, Parcak founded the GlobalXplorer initiative, which trains citizen scientists to analyze satellite imagery for archaeological sites and signs of looting. The platform's first project invited volunteers to look at satellite photos of Peru." (Greshko 2018)

                           

Newly discovered Paracas
geoglyphs, Public domain.

"Parcak uses aerial photography from drones and satellites to discover and examine archaeological sites. In Peru, Parcak's team used drones, which took images in 2017 that helped the archaeologists discover the new lines." (Geggel 2018) This innovative project used drone photography to make new discoveries in areas that were suspected of holding geoglyphs, in Venezuela drones were used to record rock art that was previously known, but was hard to reach or inaccessible.


Venezuelan mountainside petroglyphs
(computer enhanced),
nationalgeographic.com,
Public domain.

"Ancient rock art isn't always easy to reach, but a researcher in Venezuela has solved this challenge with a bit of modern technology. A camera - equipped drone that zipped across a rocky, watery landscape to photograph ancient artwork depicting people, cultural rituals and animals, a new study reports." (Geggel 2017)


Venezuelan petroglyphs
(computer enhanced),
www.ucl.ac.uk,
Public domain.

"The drone-recorded engravings, in addition to more accessible rock art along the Orinoco River in western Venezuela, are some of the largest rock engravings found anywhere in the world, the researcher said. One panel is more than 3,200 square feet (304 square meters) and has 93 engravings. Another engraving portrays a 98-foot-long (30 m) horned snake." (Geggel 2017)

"The engravings appear to date to pre-Columbian (before 1492) and colonial times (1492 to the 19th century), said the study's author Philip Riris, an archaeologist at University College London in the United Kingdom. Some may be up to 2,000 years old, he noted." (Geggel 2017)

So modern drone technology not only proved useful in discovering rock art, but also in photographing and recording it. Not bad.

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 originals at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:

Geggel, Laura,
2017 Ancient Rock Art Mapped in Amazing Detail, Revealing 100-Foot Snake, Live Science, December 11, 2017, https://www.livescience.com/61155-drone-maps-ancient-rock-art-venezuala.html

Geggel, Laura,
2018 Sprawling, 2,000-Year-Old Desert Carvings Show Up in Drone Photos,
Live Science, April 6, 2018, https://www.livescience.com/62238-new-nazca-lines-discovered.html

Greshko, Michael
2018 Exclusive: Massive Ancient Drawings Found in Peruvian Desert,National Geographic News, April 5, 2018, https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/04/new-nasca-nazca-lines-discovery-peru-archaeology/

nationalgeographic.com

www.ancient-origins.com.

www.ucl.ac.uk

Saturday, April 14, 2018

THE EARLIEST HUMAN DATE IN NORTH AMERICA SO FAR (PART TWO) - THE ROCK ART:


Beringia.
cs7.pikabu.ru,
Public domain.

In part one of this I presented the earliest human date - so far - in North America, obtained from human-made cut marks on a piece of a horse mandible dated to 24,000 years ago. This was recovered from excavations between 1977 and 1987 at Bluefish Caves in the Yukon, by archaeologist Jacques Cinq-Mars. This location is in the area defined as Beringia, the portions of the Bering Strait exposed during the last glacial maximum, and adjoining portions of Siberia, Alaska, and Canada that were not covered by glaciation. I closed that column with the statement - "but this is RockArtBlog - what does this have to do with rock art? Well, we know people make rock art, and people from 24,000 years ago might well have made rock art too. As Eamer stated Beringia is now "mostly underwater" but, in the portions remaining available to us there is the possibility of rock art as old as 24,000 years. What a find that would be, what might it look like?"

With the end of the Ice Age and the melting of the glaciers the portion of Beringia that is now the Bering Strait was submerged, but portions of the land on continental North America that had been exposed at that time (and included in the boundaries of Beringia) are still exposed, and it so happens there are examples of rock art on those portions that might give us clues to what Beringian rock art would have looked like.

To begin, I must confess that my sample is woefully small, but from a very wide area. I have samples of petroglyphs from Petroglyph Beach at Wrangell, Alaska, and a carved rock from Shemya Island in the Aleutians, a small rocky island way out by the western end of the Aleutian chain.


Petroglyph Beach, Wrangell, Alaska.
Peter Faris, August 2001.



Petroglyph Beach, Wrangell, Alaska.
Peter Faris, August 2001.


"Petroglyph Beach State Historic Site is an Alaskan beach and public historical site with the highest concentration of Native American petroglyphs in the southeastern region of Alaska. Located on the shore of Wrangell, Alaska barely a mile out of town it became a State Historic Park in 2000. At lease 40 petroglyphs have been found to date. The site itself is about 8,000 years old." (Wikipedia) The predominate motifs seem to be concentric circles and masks, although a few recognizable zoomorphs are found such as birds and an orca.


"Seal Stone", Shemya Island,
Alaska. Public domain.


Shemya Island, Alaska.
1944, Public domain.


Shemya Island is located 1200 miles west by southwest of Anchorage, Alaska. This very "small island is in the Near Islands group of the Semichi Islands chain in the Aleutian Islands archipelago. - It has a land area of 5.903 sq mi (15.29 km2) and is 2.73 miles (4.39 km) wide and 4.32 miles (6.95 km) long." (Wikipedia) An island that is this small would never have supported a large population, but prehistoric population did exist, and we have a carved stone to prove it. The "Seal Stone" (so-called for the resemblence of one end to the head of a seal) weighs approximately 250 pounds and was found on Shemya during World War II by an American airman who shipped it home on an Air Corps cargo plane. It has since been recovered and returned to the Museum of the North in Fairbanks, Alaska (McLain 2015). 


Seal stone, one analysis of motifs
(I disagree with most of these identifications
except the face, there are also faces
that he did not identify).
aleutianislandsworkinggroup.wordpress.com,
Public domain.

The carvings on the "Seal Stone" are very reminiscent of many of the petroglyphs found on Petroglyph Beach at Wrangell, consisting of circles and masks, suggesting that they were made by members of the same culture.

We find motifs in both examples of masks, and multiple circular elements, showing considerable similarity. Having two examples of similar rock art found in areas that were included in old Beringia, and 1200 miles apart, seems to indicate a widespread culture that might have once included the rest of Beringia. Unfortunately we do not have reliable dates for these petroglyphs and the only way of estimating dates that I can imagine would be by measuring the depth of the weathering rind in the carved lines and comparing that to the rind of an un-carved surface. This would be a destructive technique so we should eschew any such attempts. If the published estimate of age for the petroglyphs at Wrangell is correct, then their creation was much closer to the time of Beringian exposure than to the present. That could suggest that this common culture is, indeed, very old and may well date back to Beringia. I fear, however, that we may never know unless more rock art is discovered in datable contexts.

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 originals at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:

Eamer, Claire
2017 Archaeological Find Puts Humans in North America 10,000 Years Earlier Than Thought, January 13, 2017, https://www.hakaimagazine.com/article-short/archaeological-find-puts-humans-north-america-10000-years-earlier-thought

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

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

McLain, Allison Young,
2015 The Seal Stone Enigma, 16 March 2015, https://aleutianislandsworkinggroup.wordpress.com/tab/rock-art/

Saturday, April 7, 2018

THE EARLIEST HUMAN DATE IN NORTH AMERICA - SO FAR (PART ONE):



 

Yukon scene with close-up of
bone with cut marks inset.
ancientorigins.com.
Public Domain.

I have long been interested in the possibility as to whether any rock art exists created in Beringia by the first immigrants to North America. I can see no reason why they would not have created rock art, pretty much everybody else did in prehistoric North America.


Close-up of bone fragment
with cut marks.
umontreal.ca,
Public Domain.

Now, materials recovered from the Bluefish Caves in the Yukon between 1977 and 1987, by archaeologist Jacques Cinq-Mars have belatedly provided evidence that humans had arrived in North America 24,000 years ago. (Boissoneault 2017) "At the time Cinq-Mars and his team concluded that the Bluefish Caves showed evidence of occasional human use as much as 30,000 years ago." (Eamer 2017) - In part 1 I will present the early date, and in part 2 I will add some speculations about the rock art.




Fragment of horse mandible
from Bluefish Caves,
smithsonianmag.com
Public Domain.

Naturally, Cinq-Mars' early dates raised considerable controversy and disagreement, after all, back then we all knew that the Clovis people of 13,000 years ago were the first inhabitants of North America.

"The discord surrounding Cinq-Mars' discovery resulted in a portion of the collection never being thoroughly analyzed and researchers eventually lost interest. But now, 40 years after Cinq-Mars' initial discovery, it seems the archaeologist has been vindicated. Canadian scientists Lauriane Bourgeon and Ariane Burke, assisted by University of Oxford professor Thomas Higham, conducted a two-year re-analysis of the bones found in the Bluefish Caves, poring over 36,000 bone fragments held in a collection at the Canadian Museum of History and studying fragments that hadn't previously been taphonomically classified. After doing a thorough classification of the markings on the bones as made by natural forces or humans, they conducted radiocarbon dating of those they deemed to have been marked by humans. The earliest bone to show distinct human-made marks - a horse jaw, sawed by a stone tool that indicates the hunter was attempting to remove the tongue - dates to 24,000 years ago." (Boissoneault 2017)


Diagram of placement of the
horse mandible fragment,
umontreal.ca,
Public Domain.

"Recent genetic studies suggest that some ancient people rode out the hostile conditions of the Last Glacial Maximum in isolation in the relatively hospitable Beringia - a continent, now mostly underwater, that once spanned from Siberia to Canada's Mackenzie River - before moving deeper into North America when conditions improved. Archaeological evidence of their presence has been elusive, but the butchered bones of the Bluefish Caves might provide that missing link." (Eamer 2017) So if the cut marks are interpreted correctly, and if the radiocarbon dates are correct, people were in North America as far back as 24,000 years ago.


Tools from Bluefish Caves,
rperon1017blog.files.wordpress.com,
Public Domain.

The results of Cinq-Mars' excavation also provide evidence supporting the Beringia Standstill Hypothesis, the theory that during the last glacial maximum a population remained standing still in Beringia, cut off from moving further south by glaciation. "John Hoffecker, an archaeologist and human paleoecologist at the University of Colorado and proponent of the Beringia standstill hypothesis, agrees that the cut-marked bones are strong evidence of early human occupation. But what stunned him, he says, was a comment - taken from Cinq-Mars's original, unpublished notes - that stone tools were found in the lowest and oldest cave deposits. "As soon as I saw the information, I realized that there is a pretty solid case for the Last Glacial Maximum occupation 24,000 years ago."" (Eamer 2017)


But this is RockArtBlog - what does this have to do with rock art? Well, we know people make rock art, and people from 24,000 years ago might well have made rock art too. As Eamer stated above, Beringia is now "mostly underwater" but, in the portions remaining available to us there is the possibility of rock art as old as 24,000 years. What a find that would be, what might it look like? - To Be Continued.

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 originals at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:

Eamer, Claire
2017 Archaeological Find Puts Humans in North America 10,000 Years Earlier Than Thought, January 13, 2017, https://www.hakaimagazine.com/article-short/archaeological-find-puts-humans-north-america-10000-years-earlier-thought

Boissoneault, Lorraine,
2017 North America 10,000 Years Earlier Than We Thought, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/humans-may-have-arrived-north-america-10000-years-earlier-we-thought-180961957/

Saturday, March 31, 2018

WHO PAINTED THE MAMMOTHS?



Kapova.
www.donsmaps.com.
Public domain.


Mammoth, Public domain.

From the very beginning of cave art studies we have assumed that all cave paintings were made by Paleolithic Homo Sapiens. The splendid paintings of horses, aurochs, deer, and mammoths must have all been made by our ancestors living back at that time. But no one seems to have asked the question "could these have been painted by someone other than us?" Now, in his 2012 book Survival of the Beautiful: Art, Science, and Evolution, David Rothenberg has given us a direct - and unexpected - answer. It turns out that very presentable pictures of elephants can be painted by elephants, and I must therefore assume that very presentable pictures of mammoths and mastodons could have been painted by mammoths and mastodons.


Elephant painting.
www.mnn.com.
Public domain.


Elephant painting.
Public domain.

No less an investigator than Desmond Morris, the great naturalist, has delved into this subject for the Daily Mail. Morris visited an elephant sanctuary in Thailand where he observed elephants painting pictures of elephants, flowers, and trees. These pictures are eagerly snatched up by tourists and the proceeds of the sale help support the elephant sanctuary. These elephants hold a paintbrush in their trunk and, dipping it into paint, then create the image on paper held on a heavy easel, but it could just as easily be painted onto a rock surface.


Paya painting and elephant.
Public domain.


www.i.dailymail.co.uk.
Public domain.

Now it may be that many of the images of mammoths and mastodons found in caves are in locations that elephants could not have gotten to because of small, narrow passages, low ceilings, etc., and in those instances we can credit homo sapiens with the images. However, if the access was otherwise unimpeded I believe that we have to allow for the possibility of non-human creativity in these cave paintings, at least on April Fool's Day. 

NOTE: 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 originals at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:

Morris, Desmond,
2009    Can Jumbo Elephants Really Paint?, 21 February 2009, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/articcle-1151283/Can-jumbo-elephants-really-paint-indtrigued-stories-naturalist-Desmond-Morris-set-truth.html.


Rothenberg, David
2012    Survival of the Beautiful: Art, Science, and Evolution, Bloomsbury Pub., London.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

CAVE ART AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF LANGUAGE?




Lascaux cave, France.
www.scienceheather.com,
Public domain.

The old idea that rock art was produced in places influenced by the presence of echoes has resurfaced in a new manifestation. "For years, researchers have known that rock artists didn't paint their bison, bears, lions and other images in random locations. Art tends to show up on places where echoes in rocky grottos and caves bounce back to listening human ears. That suggests there's something about the acoustical landscape of caves that may have inspired or focused ancient artists. Archaeologists have even used the pattern as a way to find new cave art" (Fessenden 2018)

"Inspired by this pattern, MIT linguistics professor Shigeru Miyagawa and a team of researchers from Tokyo and Brazil came up with an idea. What if cave art represented a way that early humans tried to communicate about the sounds they heard by visually representing what the echoes sounded like." (Fessenden 2018)

I have written elsewhere (March 10, 2010, Echoes at Rock Art Sites, and October 14, 2012, Echoes at Rock Art Sites - Revisited) about my skepticism toward this theory. Rock art is generally produced on the smoothest,flattest, surfaces available, exactly the same surfaces that produce the best echoes. Yes, rock art and echoes often go together, but that is a coincidence, not evidence of an intentional relationship. Many years ago, at the Grand Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon, Utah, I observed a strange young man running around tapping on the rocks in front of the rock art panel and recording the resulting echoes (he was inordinately proud of his mallet which he explained was made from elk antler). Indeed, I have been at rock art sites which produce marvelous echoes, the Grand Gallery being one, but I am still skeptical about there being an intentional correlation. How many wonderful rock art sites do not produce strong echoes?

Perhaps, as Miyagawa posited, there are some cave paintings meant to visually represent what echoes sound like. (Fessenden 2018) But that is certainly not what most of them are about.


Chauvet cave, France. 
www.sacred-texts.com,
Public domain.

"Some specific features of cave art may provide clues about how our symbolic, multifaceted language capabilities evolved, according to a new paper co-authored by MIT linguist Shigeru Miyagawa." (Dizikes 2018)

"A key to this idea is that cave art is often located in acoustic "hot spots," where sound echoes strongly, as some scholars have observed. Those drawings are located in deeper, harder-to-access parts of caves, indicating that acoustics was a principal reason for the placement of drawings whithin caves. The drawings, in turn, may represent the sounds that early humans generated in those spots." (Dizikes 2018)

"In the new paper, this convergence of sound and drawing is what the authors call a "cross-modality information transfer," a convergence of auditory information and visual art that, the authors write, "allowed early humans to enhance their ability to convey symbolic thinking." The combination of sounds and images is one of the things that characterizes human language today, along with its symbolic aspect and its ability to generate infinite new sentences."  (Dizikes 2018)


Rouffignac cave, France.
Public domain.

"Cave art was part of the package deal in terms of how homo sapiens came to have this very high-level cognitive processing," says Miyagawa, a professor of linguistics and the Kochi-Manjiro Professor of Japanese Language and Culture at MIT. "You have this very concrete cognitive process that converts an acoustic signal into some mental representation and externalizes it as a visual" Cave artists were not just early-day Monets, drawing impressions of the outdoors at their leisure. Rather, they may have been engaged in a process of communication." (Dizikes 2018)

The last couple of sentences above shows how dangerous it can be for someone to make statements about something that he knows nothing about. The idea that Monet was not aware that he was engaged in the process of communication displays a depth of ignorance about art in general, and Monet's impressionism in particular, that throws all of the other assumptions about art's role in this theory into doubt. Monet approached his Impressionism in very much the same way that a scientist approaches his subject. Monet was studying, and trying to reproduce, the effects of light on various surfaces, and then convey that effect to the viewer. That cave art was "part of the package deal in terms of how homo sapiens came to have this very high-level cognitive processing" is obvious, and should not have to be spelled out.


Chauvet cave, France. 
www.wikipedia.com,
Public domain.

On May 21, 2016, I wrote on RockArtBlog, in Rock Art, and the Development of Intelligence, that "the creation of this rock art not only signaled a certain level of cognitive development, it actually contributed to that development, and the different types of creations made different contributions to that development." (Faris 2016) A recent study had proven that the process of making stone tools actually led to changes in the brain that could be seen in brain circuitry scans, and I postulated that the same process would be found in the creation of rock art. Indeed, as the creation of different types of tools caused different changes in the brain, so too would the creation of different types of art.
"The results of our own imaging studies on stone toolmaking led us recently to propose that neural circuits, including the inferior frontal gyrus, underwent changes to adapt to the demands of Paleolithic toolmaking and then were co-opted to support primitive forms of communication using gestures and, perhaps, vocalizations. This protolinguistic communication would then have been subjected to selection, ultimately producing the specific adaptations that support modern human language." (Stout 2016:35)
In other words, like any muscle in the human body, these abilities would be improved by using them. The process of doing so actually enhanced the brain in a way that increased these abilities. Some of the assumptions in Miyagawa's theory would seem to bear this out, that producing cave art was a vital step in the cognitive development of homo sapiens. In this, I agree that Miyagawa got some of this right, but notice that Stout's study did not mention echoes.

So to cut to the chase, did the selection of sites for rock art have anything to do with echoes heard in caves? Probably - in some cases. Did the production of rock art have anything to do with cognitive development in early homo sapiens? Definitely. Is all rock art dependent upon the acoustic properties of its location for meaning? Definitely not.

NOTE: 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 originals at the sites listed below.


REFERENCES:

Dizikes, Peter,
2018 New Study Links Ancient Cave Art Drawings and the Emergence of Language, February 22, 2018, https://scitechdaily.com/new-study-links-ancient-cave-art-drawings-and-the-emergence-of -language.

Faris, Peter,
2016 Rock Art, and the Development of Intelligence, May 21, 2016, https://rockartblog.blogspot.com.

Fessenden, Marissa
2018 Did Cave Acoustics Play a Role in the Development of Language? February 26, 2018, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/did-cave-acoustics-play-role-art-and-language-180968252/

Stout, Dietrich
2016    Cognitive Psychology: Tales of a Stone Age Neuroscientist, pages 28-35, Scientific American, Volume 314, Number 4, April, 2016.



Saturday, March 17, 2018

ORCA GEOGLYPH REDISCOVERED AND RESTORED IN PERU:



Orca geoglyph, Palpa, Peru.
thehistoryblog.com
public domain. 

A wonderful geoglyph of what what has been identified as an orca has been found and restored in the Palpa region of southern Peru, near the famous Nazca Lines.
"Archaeologists rediscovered a giant geoglyph of a killer whale, etched into a desert hillside in the remote Palpa region of southern Peru, after it had been lost to science for more than 50 years. The 230-foot-long (70 meters) figure of an orca - considered a powerful, semi-mythical creature in ancient Peruvian lore - may be more than 2,000 years old, according to the researchers. They said it may be one of the oldest geoglyphs in the Palpa region, and older than those in the nearby Nazca region, which is famous for its vast collection of ancient ground markings - the Nazca Lines - that include animal figures, straight lines and geometrical shapes." (Metcalfe 2017)

However, in a strange and ironic twist, its discoverer first located it in Bonn, Germany, and then later relocated it on the ground in Peru. "Archaeologist Johny Isla, the head of Peru's Ministry of Culture in Ica province, which includes the Palpa and Nazca valleys, explained that he saw a single photograph of the orca pattern for the first time about four years ago. He'd seen it while researching studies of geoglyphs at the German Archaeological Institute in Bonn." (Metcalfe 2017)


Nazca pottery orca stirrup
jar, www.wikiwand.com
- public domain.

"The photograph appeared in an archaeological catalog of geoglyphs printed in the 1970s, which was based on research carried out in Palpa and Nazca by German archaeologists in the 1960s, Isla said. But the location and size of the orca geoglyph were not well-described in the catalog, Isla told Live Science in an email. As a result, he said, the glyph's whereabouts in the desert hills of the Palpa Valley, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) south of Lima, were by then unknown to local people or scientists." (Metcalfe 2017)

"After returning to Peru, Isla looked for the orca geoglyph on Google Earth and then on foot. "It was not easy to find it, because the [location and description] data were not correct, and I almost lost hope," he said. "However, I expanded the search area and finally found it a few months later," in January 2015." (Metcalfe 2017)


Nazca pottery orca stirrup
jar, Larco Museum, Lima,
Peru - public domain.

This orca is therianthropic, with a human arm under the lower jaw on the left side. This is a symbol that is common on Nazca pottery. It turns out that many Nazca representations of killer whales possess these humanoid arms, often clutching trophy heads. The number of its fins is also a discrepancy. An actual killer whale has one dorsal and two ventral fins, as well as a tail that ends in a horizontal triangular shape. The geoglyph has five fins showing, three dorsal and two ventral (and there should be a matching pair of ventral fins on the opposite side). Additionally, its tail is notched as if somewhat divided. What these differences might have represented mythologically to the people of that time we probably cannot know.


NOTE: 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 originals at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:

Larco Museum, Lima, Peru.

Metcalfe, Tom
2017   2,000 Year Old Killer Whale Geoglyph Found in Peru Desert, November 28, 2017, https://www.livescience.com/61035-ancient-killer-whale-geoglyph-peru.html?utm_source=1s-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20171128-1s.

thehistoryblog.com

www.wikiwand.com

Saturday, March 10, 2018

ANCIENT SAUDI GUEST ARTISTS-IN-RESIDENCE?



Two camels, The Camel Site,
Saudi Arabia. Public domain,
ancientorigins.com.

In university art departments there is a common practice known as the artist-in-residence. This is usually a working artist brought in from outside the university for a term to provide the students a good example of a working artist as well as broaden their range of experience.


The Camel Site, Saudi 
Arabia. Public domain,
nytimes.com.

"In 2016, archaeologists discovered a site in what appears, at first glance, to be the middle of nowhere. There isn't much else around for miles: the surrounding desert is bleak and inhospitable. Which is why archaeologists were surprised to find at least 11 carved dromedary camels protruding from stones at what they call 'the camel site.' The international team of archaeologists has now published their analysis of the site in the Cambridge journal Antiquity." (Hugo 2018) At first glance, these relief carvings, apparently done by someone who came from somewhere else, reminded me of artists-in-residence.

Map of location,
dailymail.co.uk

"The archaeologists studying the weather-beaten "Camel Site in Al Jawf, a province in northwest Saudi Arabia near Jordan, suggest the sculptures are a facet of broader Arabian tradition that was probably influenced by the Parthians (ancient Iranians) and nomadic Nabateans from preceding centuries." (Schuster 2018) Because of the location most of the severe erosion of the images would have been caused by the abrasion of wind-blown sand. This style of relief carving was certainly common in parts of the Middle East at this time, but such reliefs were not common in Saudi Arabia, making the possibility that they originated with foreign travelers more likely.


The Camel Site, Saudi
Arabia. Public domain,
nytimes.com.

"The somewhat eroded statues are tentatively dated at around 2,000 old, give or take a century or more, according to a collaboration between the French National Center for Scientific Research and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage reported this week in the Cambridge journal of Antiquity." (Schuster 2018)



The Camel Site, Saudi
Arabia. Public domain,
nytimes.com.

Given the facts that the style of carving is uncommon in the Saudi Arabia of the time, that the location of the carvings is a likely rest stop along a caravan route, and that the subjects (beasts of burden) would be most common among caravans, the conclusion that they source of the carvings was caravaneers is inescapable. Two other animals that are portrayed may be horses or donkeys, other beasts of burden that may have accompanied caravans.


 The Camel Site, Saudi
Arabia. Public domain,
nytimes.com.

My artist-in-residence analogy above is not really applicable for there were probably no permanent residences, or art departments. Based upon what can be seen today the location was probably a temporary stop along a caravan route.  However, the fact that it would have taken considerable time and effort for some of the carvings suggests that something more was involved.
"Some of the sculptures were so high up the rock that they must have required ropes or scaffolding. They had journeyed for miles and carved deep lines in the rock to depict their traveling companions. However, as (the) rocky spot is along a caravan route, the camel site could have been a resting place where travelers created images and reliefs of their four-legged friends (which) carried them and their goods from place to place." (Hugo 2018)

Perhaps the caravans left a cache of water and/or other supplies at this spot for their return trip, and one or more attendants may have stayed behind to safeguard it. To pass the time they may have done the carving. In any case, the images now provide clues to aspects of life in this part of the world 2,000 years ago.

NOTE: 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 originals at the sites listed below.


REFERENCES:

ancientorigins.com

dailymail.co.uk

Hugo, Kristin
2018 Ancient Rock Carvings Discovered in Saudi Arabia Hint at Artists From Faraway Lands, February 14, 2018, https://www.yahoo.com/news/ancient-rock-carvings-discovered-saudi-163342930.html

nytimes.com

Schuster, Ruth
2018 2,000 Year Old Life-Size Camel Art Found In Heart of Saudi Arabian Desert, Feb. 13, 2018,  https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/MAGAZINE-2-000-year-old-life-size-camel-art-found-in-heart-of-saudi=arabian-des-1.5812024