A Rebuttal to Steven J. Manning's 'The Fugitive-Pigment Anthropomorphs of Eastern Utah: A Shared Cultural Trait Indicating a Temporal Relationship'
I was recently made aware of a 2003 publication by Steven J. Manning (see references below) in which he speculated upon a type of Fremont petroglyphs found in large numbers over the region of northwestern Colorado, northeastern Utah, and southwestern Wyoming. These are seemingly incomplete anthropomorphs, and Manning devoted 116 pages to the thesis that all of the images had originally been created by partial pecking and also by painting with paints compounded with fugitive pigments.
Manning's thesis is relatively simple but also sweeping: "The existence of fugitive pigments also explains why some anthropomorphs appear to be incomplete. The missing features were once present as painted images, however, since the paint no longer exists, the features also no longer appear to exist." - - - "In eastern Utah, hundreds and possibly thousands of anthropomorphs were created using fugitive pigments and these techniques. These images are unique, and therefore they constitute a unique class." (Manning 2003:63)
In other words the absence of visible pigmentation on a petroglyph proves his thesis, that originally they were painted with fugitive pigments. Here Manning is using a negative to try to prove a positive. In regards to this I doubt that any comprehensive scientific examination has been conducted that indicates that fugitive pigments were ever present in all of Manning's "hundreds and possibly thousands" of examples. Any number of scientific techniques could be applied to determine the absence or presence of chemical compounds that once formed a component of fugitive pigments.
"Evidence of absence is evidence of any kind that suggests something is missing or that it does not exist. Per the traditional aphorism, "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence", positive evidence of this kind is distinct from a lack of evidence or ignorance of that which should have been found already, had it existed. In this regard Irving Copi writes: In some circumstances it can be safely assumed that if a certain event had occurred, evidence of it could be discovered by qualified investigators. In such circumstances it is perfectly reasonable to take the absence of proof of its occurrence as positive proof of its non-occurrence.— Copi, Irving, Introduction to Logic (1953), p. 95" (Wikipedia 2016)
"Fugitive Pigment Materials - One likely possibility is that the images were created with organic pigments or dyes, i.e., those from plant sources. These pigments, because of their greater solubility in water, would be more readily removed by erosion than mineral pigments. The creators of these figures may have chosen to use organic pigments instead of the more permanent mineral pigments because vegetable dyes were more readily available than mineral pigment or were available in a greater variety of colors. Rieske (2000) notes that at least 60 plants are used by the Hopi and Navajo to create dyes for various uses." (Manning 2003:63)
In attributing the disappearance of these pigments solely to the effects of rain (in a desert) Manning seems to have totally missed the more destructive effects of light on organic pigments. Museum artifact and exhibit personnel have long known that high levels of light exhibit a deleterious effect upon the integrity of organic materials, especially the ultraviolet component of the spectrum which fades colors and can break down the molecular structure of fugitive pigments. The elements of the fugitive paint could perhaps be detected with x-ray fluorescence spectrometry and settle this question once and for all. (Note: I missed mentioning this process myself in my 1987 paper so I can claim no high ground for overlooking this important factor in the disappearance of fugitive pigments).
Indeed, there are many instances of anthropomorphic figures in northeastern Utah that combine pecking and pigments. A large number of these are to be found at Cub Creek, the subject of my paper Post-Classic Vernal Abstraction: The Evolution of a Unique Style in Late Fremont Rock Art in Dinosaur National Monument, Utah. (Faris 1987)
Had Manning actually read my material he would have seen this discussion of the characteristics of style as it relates to the Cub Creek figures. "All of the figures in this study are petroglyphs, carved into the rock, and display varying degrees of finish. Some are rather carefully incised and others are the result of crude battering. Additionally, traces of paint remaining on a few figures indicate that at least some of them were painted as well as carved into the rock. The extent of the original use of paint can no longer be determined because erosion has removed all but isolated fragments of it. In any case, as we are investigating stylistic evolution, not trying to reconstruct the original appearance of the figures, we can be satisfied with the clues remaining to us. As style defines the manner of portrayal of an image it is, in effect, an outward manifestation of the artist' attitude toward how the image should appear and is generally a constant throughout the process of producing the image. The result is that stylistic differences can be recognized even in fragments of a work of art. A common example of this is the procedure of classifying ceramics on the basis of the design on broken shards where a few lines suffice to identify the style and thus its provenance. Whether the figures with which we (are) concerned are completely carved, or the remaining carved portion represents only the basis framework that was finished with painted details, the stylistic differences are readily apparent in the varying stages of completeness the care of the finish, the overall form and the use of line and area." (Faris 1987:29) Notice, I recorded the presence of paint in some of the images and inferred its use in other images which no longer display remaining paint.
"Other sets of images with superimposition verify this observation. These instances demonstrate the existence of a developmental sequence in the creation of these images This succession appears to have progressed from
painted anthropomorphs made entirely of fugitive pigment, to fugitive-pigment anthropomorphs with a few pecked features, to fugitive pigment
anthropomorphs with elaborately pecked-out features. The elaborate anthropomorphs created at the end of the developmental sequence include nearly full-body outlines. One of the characteristics of these later images
is that hands and forearms are not outlined." (Manning 2003:63)
This is where he begins to dispute my sequence of the creation of anthropomorphs which I stated begin as fully pecked anthropomorphs of the Classic Vernal Style and progressively abstract with the sequence at Cub Creek in Dinosaur National Monument.
He is also proposing that this covers a much vaster area. I did not state that my thesis applied to all rock art from this period throughout the region, I was, in fact, referring only to the anthropomorphs at the Cub Creek site, a few dozen at best (although it is possible that this process could be detected in other areas as well). You begin to run into trouble when you apply the same assumptions to "hundreds or possibly thousands" of examples from peoples distributed over a very large area.
Additionally, I based portions of my study on the Robert Jordon Burton's 1971 Master's thesis: The Pictographs and Petroglyphs of Dinosaur National Monument.
"In chronological sequence Burton found that the abstracted Cub Creek anthropomorphs were generally the latest Fremont images to be found in the monument and that the group displayed the characteristics of the Classical Vernal Style (which) preceded them in date of origin. He assumed that they date from within the timespan of ca. A.D. 1000 to A.D.1150 plus or minus 50 years established by Breternitz (1965:142, 1970: 162-163) for Fremont occupation of Dinosaur National Monument. Recognizing that major changes in the style of portraying anthropomorphs at a relatively rapid rate Burton (1971) inferred a "cultural florescence" For the Fremont people in Dinosaur National Monument.
The development of the Classic Vernal Style probably was spurred by the introduction of agriculture to the area and the development of the Uintah Fremont culture. A major change from the monumental and naturalistic tendencies of the Classic Vernal Style would imply a corresponding technological and cultural change in that society (Burton's cultural florescence). In this case the major cultural change that led to the development of this abstracted variation of the Classic Vernal Style anthropomorphs was probably the abandonment of agriculture and a return to the hunter/gatherer mode of existence. Burton reports an absence of long-term occupation sites in the Cub Creek area dating from the later Fremont period and suggested that the abstracted anthropomorphs were thus produced by a mobile rather than a sedentary culture. He additionally points out that the later simplified and abstracted figures probably required less time and effort to produce and would thus seem more suited to people who were just passing through rather than living nearby on a permanent basis." (Faris 1987:29-30)
Burton's comments about the stylistic and cultural change happening concurrently parallel examples from Art History in which realistic art styles are progressively abstracted by cultural changes occurring over time. The best known example would probably be the progression, beginning in the late 18th and early 19th century in Western art, of Neo-classicism evolving through Romanticism to Impressionism, Expressionism, Cubism and Post-Impressionism, ending up as the so-called Abstract art of the mid-20th century. As the culture changes over time the old standards of stylistic convention become increasingly irrelevant and the art begins to change to suit new attitudes and beliefs.
"Ferris (1987, 1989) likewise failed to understand that these, and other images, were once painted with fugitive pigment. For example, he stated, "These figures are frontal views of the human torso, lacking such appendages as arms, legs, and genitals, and consisting of such elements such as eyes, mouth, necklace, belt etc." (Ferris 1989:53). Furthermore, he stated: "These figures, are in fact, simplified and abstracted versions of the Classic Vernal Style anthropomorphs." (Ferris 1989:53). Despite Ferris' certainty, in reality, these images are, or were, fully constructed stylized human figures, likely with all the normally associated appendages. The "abstractions" are simply the pecked-out features of fugitive pigment
anthropomorphs. Likely, the most significant of Ferris' conclusions appear in the following statement. The progression of figure abstractions carved into the cliff at Cub Creek represents a sequence of step-by-step simplifications, beginning with the typical Fremont anthropomorph and preceding serially through progressively abstracted versions. The elements of each figure consist of a limited number of details of body, clothing and adornment such as facial features, necklace and ear pendants and belt or sash. These elements are combined into figure portrayals in much the same way that words as parts of speech are combined into sentences. In the manner of a poet who seeks artistic effect by varying the sequences of the works, the Fremont artists of Cub Creek experimented with varying arrangements of the elements that make up the figure. With time, these figure portrayals evolved from their original type to the final stage, which is represented by the triple figure (figure 6) (Ferris 1989: 53). [Ferris' Figure 6 is printed upside-down in this reference, see Figure 25B here] Ferris' sequence is exactly the opposite of what superimposition indicates actually occurred. The anthropomorphs progressed from no pecked-out features, to simple pecked-out features, to elaborate pecked-out features. So rather than progressing from complex forms to less simplified abstract forms, the sequence was from simple forms to complex forms, which is what anthropological studies indicate usually happens in progressive series. In reality then, the anthropomorphs shown in Figure 25B are likely near the middle of the developmental or cultural sequence, not at the end. Ferris' other conclusions in the paragraph above are therefore also incorrect." (Manning 2003:81-82)
Had Manning actually read my 1987 publication instead of just adding it into his bibliography to pad his references he would have seen the following where I acknowledge the presence of paint on the figures.
"Additionally, traces of paint remaining on a few figures indicate that at least some of them were painted as well as carved into the rock. The extent of the original use of paint can no longer be determined because erosion has removed all but isolated fragments of it." (Faris 1987:29) And again: "Whether the figures with which we (are) concerned are completely carved, or the remaining carved portion represents only the basis framework that was finished with painted details, the stylistic differences are readily apparent in the varying stages of completeness the care of the finish, the overall form and the use of line and area." (Faris 1987:29)
I have been unable to find in Manning's paper any evidence backing up his claims that the figure progression began with the simple and proceeded to the complex, other than the one superimposed pair of figures at Cub Creek. He apparently bases his whole rebuttal on a pair of superimposed figures that he (p. 80 and 81) has decided represent differing time periods and that the one he identifies as older is the simpler example and the newer one is more complex and complete. "Figure 29 is also from Cub Creek. This is another rare image. There are two fugitive pigment anthropomorphs in the photograph. One is superimposed over the other, which in itself is not rare; however, in this instance, the last image created is not pecked as nearly all of them are; it is entirely abraded. The drawings in Figure 29 depict the two different images. Obviously something important occurred here." (Manning :80-81)
Superimposition of petroglyphs is a tricky thing and I have known many examples of superimposed images where original assumptions about the order in which they were created proved wrong under careful scrutiny. Even assuming that Manning is correct in this assumption, taking this then as a rule that can be applied to his "hundreds and possibly thousands of anthropomorphs" is taking a huge leap. What if the order is actually the opposite? Could not the image that Manning is assuming came first - the pecked image - actually have been done last? They could even have been done in the order he assumes without overturning my assumptions. Perhaps the crude image is the worst thing that an accomplished earlier artist created and the more sophisticated image which Manning states overlies it is the greatest thing that the generally more inferior later artist created.
Without obvious differences in patina for both images (and Manning makes no mention of this) I will have to reserve my right to disagree. Remember, my theory was based on the fact that these Cub Creek anthropomorphs were created during a period of cultural decline for the Fremont people of the area and archaeological evidence suggests that they were abandoning the area at the end of the period. Cultural decline and abandonment seldom lead to the kind of increasingly sophisticated artistic development that Manning seems to believe is represented by his reversal of my proposed order of the creation of the anthropomorphs at Cub Creek
Finally, in an attempt to undermine my credibility further Manning notes that one of the illustrations in my 1989 publication that he quoted from was printed upside down (thereby implying that I did not know the correct orientation of the petroglyphs). This is indeed the case. I had made numerous requests to the editors of that book for a chance to proofread my chapter but I was not given an opportunity. The misprinting of that illustration was solely on them, and indeed, had Manning read the material he cites he would have seen that in my 1987 publication that particular petroglyph group was shown correctly. The 1989 publication is also the source of Manning's misspelling of my name, the editors of the 1989 publication inexplicably spelled it "Ferris" although two of the three knew me personally. Indeed, Manning also applies the incorrect spelling of my name to my 1987 paper (which did have my name spelled correctly) that he also cited, leading me to question whether or not he actually read the material (or understood it).
So, Mr. Manning, whether my conclusions are "incorrect" or not will be decided in the future by scientific studies, not by your overblown claims and assumptions.
(Note: I have omitted a few secondary references referred to in quotations above.)
Burton, Robert Jordon
1971 The Pictographs and Petroglyphs of Dinosaur National Monument, Master's Thesis, University of Colorado, Boulder.
1987 Post-Classic Vernal Abstraction: The Evolution of a Unique Style in Late Fremont Rock Art in Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, p. 28-41, Southwestern Lore, Vol. 53, No. 1, March 1987.
Faris, Peter (misspelled as Ferris in the original publication)
1989 Aspects of Design in Uinta and San Rafael Fremont Rock Art, pages 47-57, Rock Art of the Western Canyons, edited by Jane S. Day, Paul D. Friedman, and Marcia J. Tate, Colorado Archaeological Society Memoir Number 3, Denver Museum of National History and Colorado Archaeological Society. Johnson Publishing, Boulder, Colorado.
Manning, Steven J.
2003 The Fugitive-Pigment Anthropomorphs of Eastern Utah: A Shared Cultural Trait Indication a Temporal Relationship, Utah Rock Art, Volume 23, p. 61-177.