Saturday, October 31, 2020

NEWLY DISCOVERED ZAPOTEC ROCK ART AND RUINS:


Newly discovered Zapotec carving, Cerro de Pena, Santa Cruz Huehuepiaxtla, Mexico. Online photo, BBC.

Recently discovered ruins and rock art in southwestern Mexico have been attributed to the Zapotec culture and are offering new insights into their lives and society.

“An astonishing discovery has been made on top of a mountain in Mexico. Archaeologists and locals have been exploring a site where previously unknown Zapotec ruins and carvings have been found. The Zapotec ruins date back 2500 years and are providing new insight into an important culture in Mesoamerica before the coming of the Conquistadors.

The discovery was made by local people from the village of Santa Cruz Huehuepiaxtla, which is in Puebla State in south-west Mexico. This area of the country is rich in historic ruins and archaeological sites. The finds were made on the summit of Cerro de Pena mountain at a height of 6000 feet (1,828.8 meters).” (Whelan 2020) The site of the newly discovered ruins is a two and a half hour climb up a rocky path above the village.


Newly discovered Zapotec glyphs, Cerro de Pena, Santa Cruz Huehuepiaxtla, Mexico. Online photo, BBC.

The Zapotec people were reading and writing, doing mathematical and astronomic calculations, and building complex stone cities at roughly the same time as the Classical civilizations of the Old World.

“Jose Alfredo Arellanes, from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), says 87 glyphs, or symbols, have been found so far. Mr. Arellanes says initial investigations suggest a ceremonial area, flanked by temples and the homes of the rulers, would have been located at the top of the mountain. The archaeologist thinks the site would have also had seven pyramids and a court to play pelota, a game in which players used their hips to propel a rubber bell through stone hoops.


Newly discovered Zapotec stele, Cerro de Pena, Santa Cruz Huehuepiaxtla, Mexico. Online photo, BBC.

Puebla is an area rich with archaeological ruins but locals said they were proud to have led archaeologists to this latest finds. Experts are still analysing the finds but said the site could have been built by people belonging to the Zapotec civilization, also known as the ‘Cloud People’, which originated in the area 2,500 years ago and had a sophisticated architecture and style of writing based on glyphs.” (BBC 2020) These findings seem to indicate that the Zapotec culture possessed virtually all of the main recognizable elements of later Mesoamerican cultures.


Newly discovered Zapotec stele closeup, Cerro de Pena, Santa Cruz Huehuepiaxtla, Mexico. Onine photo, BBC.

“The Zapotec civilization (The People” c. 700 BC - 1521AD) was an indigenous pre-Columbian civilization that flourished in the Valley of Oaxaca in Mesoamerica. Archaeological evidence shows that their culture originated at least 2,500 years ago. The Zapotec archaeological site at the ancient city of Monte Alban has monumental buildings, ball courts, magnificent tombs and grave goods, including finely worked gold jewelry. Monte Alban was one of the first major cities in Mesoamerica. It was the center of a Zapotec state that dominated much of the territory which today is known as the Mexican state of Oaxaca.” (Wikipedia)

These new discoveries are 168 miles closer to Mexico City than the type site of Zapotec, Monte Alban, and suggests that the Zapotec area of influence may have been larger than had been previously thought. I find it exciting that these new discoveries  just seem to keep coming.

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 original reports at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:

BBC Staff, Mexico Archaeology: Pre-Hispanic Ruins Found On Mountaintop, 24 July 2020, BBC, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-53498110

Whelan, Ed, 2020 Astonishing Zapotec Ruins and Carvings Found in Mexico, 25 July, 2020, www.ancient-origins.net

Wikipedia, Zapotec civilization, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zapotec_civilization

Saturday, October 24, 2020

NEWLY DISCOVERED PARACAS CAT GEOGLYPH WAS LITERALLY UNDERFOOT:


Newly discovered and restored Paracas cat geoglyph, Peru. Internet photo, public domain.

The extensive geoglyphs in the Nazca valley of Peru, known as the Nazca lines were created by the removal of rocks covered with dark desert varnish leaving a lighter colored sandy soil beneath. The passing of millenia and natural erosion processes would tend to make these fade from view, especially if the image had been created on a hillside.

These famous Nazca lines are notoriously difficult to see. At ground level you can only see a small portion of whatever is around you, and you are not allowed to wander around freely among the images. In general the only satisfactory views are either from chartered airplane or from one of the viewing platforms providing a higher vantage point. One of these viewing platforms is on the small hill that sports the cat image. “Archaeologists came across the faded feline outline while conducting maintenance work at the UNESCO heritage site.” (May 2020) Proposed work to upgrade the path led to a closer look that identified the degraded geoglyph on the side of the hill. Upon a closer look workers identified the image of the cat, literally underfoot.


Newly discovered and restored Paracas cat geoglyph, Peru. Photo ancient-origins.net.


Relaxing cat, internet photo, public domain.


Newly discovered and restored Paracas cat     geoglyph, Peru. Photo ancient-origins.net.

“The Nazca lines, a Unesco World Heritage site, is home to designs on the ground - known as geoglyphs - created some 2,000 years ago. Scientists believe the cat, as with other Nazca animal figures, was created by making depressions in the desert floor, leaving coloured earth exposed. The cat then went unnoticed until plans were recently drawn up for a new path leading to an observation platform. The platform would have provided a vantage point for visitors to see many of the other geoglyphs.” (BBC 2020)


Newly discovered and restored Paracas cat geoglyph, Peru. Internet photo, public domain.

These geoglyphs were made possible by the special nature of the surfaces of the desert ground on the Nazca plain. A light colored soil is pretty much covered with very dark rocks stained by desert varnish. To create an image all the people needed to do was move some of the rocks aside to expose the light soil. However, over the ±2,000 or so years since the cats creation the wind had removed some of the soil and wind and earthquakes may have moved some of the rocks back to obscure the lines. Luckily the restoration process is fairly simple for these images. Once again the dark rocks are moved to the side exposing the lighter colored substrate beneath the rocks. 


Paracas woven textile cats. Internet photos, public domain.

“People created the giant cat figure between 2,500 and 1,800 years ago, according to the chief archaeologist for the Nazca Lines site, Johny Isla. He told Spanish news agency Efe that the cat looks very similar to cat motifs on textiles from the Paracas culture, which flourished in the area between 500 BCE and 200 CE - centuries before the Nazca culture, which usually gets the credit for most of the valley’s geoglyphs.” (Smith 2020)


Pampas Cat, leopardus colocola, Cincinnati Zoo. Public domain.

Since the Precolumbian Americas had no domestdicated cats, this animal represented a natural wild cat species found in the area. "Wild pampas cats, slightly larger than modern house cats, prowled the fields of the Paracas, attacking rodents and insects feeding on a wide array of cultivated crops." (Spivak 2020) Paracas farmers undoubtedly recognized the favor that these felines were doing them in controlling rodent numbers. An agricultural people in such an extreme environment would have been extremely aware of the loss of food to rodents, and they must have felt that wild cats, if not gods themselves, were sent by the gods to help the people. The artist in charge was obviously very familiar with these cats, however, to catch the relaxed pose so convincingly. The longitudinal and crosswise markings on the tail of the geoglyph subtly indicate the natural markings of the pampas wild cat.

Cats were a familiar subject matter to the Paracas people with many examples found in their pottery and weaving, attesting to their importance in the culture. 



Paracas pottery cats, internet photos, public domain.

This wonderful cat is now restored and should be good for another 2,000 years.

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 original reports at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:

May, Tiffany, October 19, 2020, 2,000-Year-Old Cat Etching Found at Nazca Lines Site in Peru, https://www.nytimes.com

Smith, Kiona N., October 19, 2020, A giant cat picture was just discovered among the Nazca Lines, https://arstechnica.com

Spivak, Deborah, July 8, 2020, A Paracas Textile Tribute to Cats, Cloth, and Death, Saint Louis Art Museum, https://www.slam.org

Staff writer, October 1-8, 2020, Large 2,000-year-old cat discovered in Peru’s Nazca lines, BBC News.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

MISSISSIPPIAN HAND-AND-EYE SYMBOL, PART TWO:

This is part two of the two-part examination of the hand-and-eye motif of the Mississippian cultures of the American midwest, illustrating further examples of the motif in various artifacts, not rock art. In ceramics and other media it seems almost ubiquitous.

The eye in the middle of the palm of the hand is a fascinating and evocative image, the eye peering out from the middle of the hand. This is a combination of two of the anatomical details that define our humanity; the expressiveness of the eye, and the sensitivity and dexterity of the human hand. The hand-and-eye theme is also found on other artifacts from many of the Mississippian- influenced cultures. 

The Moundville Disc - “engraved circular palette with hand-and-eye motif and intertwined rattlesnakes. Moundville, Alabama, A.D. 1300 - 1450,” Alabama Museum of Natural History, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. Fig. 1, P. 167, Steponaitis and Vernon, 2004.



Willoughby Disc, Moundsville, Alabama. 
Peabody Museum of Art and Ethnology, Harvard University.

We can also look at the theme of the hand-and-eye motif in other media. One well-known example of the theme is found on The Moundsville Disc, also known as The Rattlesnake Disc, and engraved circular palette with the hand-and-eye motif enclosed within two intertwined serpents, made on fine sandstone and measuring 31.9 cm in diameter. Rattles can definitely be seen on the serpents providing the identification as rattlesnakes. These palettes were possibly used in rituals serving as the mixing surface upon which medicines and supernaturally powerful mixtures were prepared. "The two serpents carved on the Moundville disk are intertwined to form an ogeelike portal that surrounds a hand-and-eye motif. Currently, the hand-and-eye motif is interpreted as one of the portals or doorways to the Path of Souls." (Reilly 2004:130) If the mixtures had any hallucinogenic properties the identification of this theme with a portal to another level of being makes sense. Also illustrated is a second palette, known as "The Willoughby Disc" with a double hand-and-eye motif on it, also found near Moundsville, Alabama.

Examples on pottery are fairly common. This illustrated example was recovered near Mobile, Alabama.

Bottle with ogee and hand-and-eye motif, Alabama, near Mobile. A.D. 1400-1500, ceramic, 15.9 cm. High. Harvard University, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Fig. 9, p. 212, Townsend, Richard F., 2004, Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand.

Another example is on this potsherd from Moundsville, Alabama.

Potsherd with hand-and-eye motif from Moundsville, Alabama. Online photo Wikimedia.

Other examples found in Mississippian culture are artifacts known as oblong pendants.

Oblong pendant with rayed circle, ogee, and hand-and-eye motif, Moundville, Alabama.  A.D. 1250 - 1500, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of the American Indian. p. 175, Fig. 14, Townsend, Richard F., 2004, Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand.

These oblong pendants were a lapidary specialty of artisans at Moundville. “Fashioned from thin stone of uniform thickness, these pendants were shaped, polished, and engraved to represent standard symbols. In most though not all cases the material of manufacture is a blood-red, fine-grained ferruginous stone. - - - This design’s original prototype is an older Mississippian motif consisting of a human scalp stretched on a frame.” (Steponaitis and Knight 2004: 176) Presumably they would be worn on a cord as a pendant for important ceremonial occasions, although there have also been suggestions that they may have served as palettes for grinding herbal concoctions for use in these ceremonies. Examples have also been found that were made out of native copper, a valuable material which also had ceremonial implications.

From Dorcas Miller, 1997, Stars of the First People, p.237, Fig. 11.9, Pruett Publishing Co., Boulder, CO. 

These hand-and-eye symbols are thought by many researchers to refer to the hand constellation of Native American cosmography, which itself is thought to represent the portal or doorway to the Path of Souls to the afterlife (the Milky Way). The hand constellation is comprised of the lower half of the constellation that we identify as Orion. Our designated belt of Orion represents the wrist of the hand constellation and Orion’s sword represents the thumb of the hand constellation. The star Rigel, which we identify as Orion’s left foot is the tip of the index finger in the hand constellation, and Eridanus is the tip of the little finger of the  hand constellation.

Whatever its original meaning the hand-and-eye motif is a compelling and truly fascinating image and there must be more of these examples in rock art from the regions that were inhabited by Mississippian cultures still to be found. I look forward to seeing more of them.

NOTE: I wish to again express my gratitude to Dr. Michael Fuller for his generous sharing of photographs and information that helped me with this paper.

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 original reports at the sites listed below.

PRIMARY REFERENCES:

Miller, Dorcas, 1997    Stars of the First People, p.237, Fig. 11.9,Pruett Publishing Co., Boulder, CO. 

Reilly, F. Kent, III, 2004 People of the Earth, People of the Sky: Visualizing the Sacred in Native American Art of the Mississippian Period, pp. 125-138, in Townsend, Richard F., general editor, and Robert V. Sharp, editor, Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand: American Indian Art of the Ancient Midwest and South, Art Institute of Chicago and Yale University Press, New Haven.

Steponaitis, Vincas P, and Vernon J. Knight, Jr., 2004 Moundville Art in Historical and Social Context, pp. 166 – 181.  in Townsend, Richard F., general editor, and Robert V. Sharp, editor, Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand: American Indian Art of the Ancient Midwest and South, Art Institute of Chicago and Yale University Press, New Haven.

Townsend, Richard F., general editor, and Robert V. Sharp, editor, 2004  Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand: American Indian Art of the Ancient Midwest and South, Art Institute of Chicago and Yale University Press, New Haven.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

MISSISSIPPIAN HAND-AND-EYE SYMBOLS:



Mississippian Hand - and - eye symbol. After an engraved artifact from Moundsville, Alabama.

We have all seen many examples of hand prints in petroglyphs and pictographs, from all over the world, but there is a variation of that theme, the hand-and-eye motif of the Mississippian cultures of North America. I recently received some wonderful photos of the Rocky Hollow rock art site in Missouri, from Dr. Michael Fuller (http://www.profmichaelfuller.com/rocky-hollow--23mn1-.html), and one panel includes the fascinating Mississippian symbol of the Hand-and-Eye motif.

It is quite probable that my personal fascination with this theme goes back to my very early childhood introduction to First Nations art of the North American Northwest Coast in the Burke Museum at the University of Washington in Seattle. In this sophisticated and complex art figures are often filled with eyes representing joints and other body parts, somewhat similar to the eye in the middle of the hand Mississippian motif. Whatever the case, I do find it fascinating, and the discovery (or at least confirmation) of another example is exciting.


Rocky Hollow Site, Missouri, Photograph Prof. Michael Fuller, 2020.

Close-up photograph showing eye in hand, Rocky Hollow Site, Missouri, Photograph Prof. Michael Fuller, 2020.

Eichenberg field drawing, 1944, note "eye" labeled in the middle of the hand.


Diaz-Granados, Carol, and James R. Duncan, 2000 The Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Missouri, University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa. Note the label "eye" has been removed from this version.

In describing his discovery at the Rocky Hollow site Fuller stated “the open hand petroglyph with red pigment immediately catches the eye when you approach the site. In the palm of the hand, I see the faint outline of an eye; this feature appears in a 1944 drawing of the panel (Eichenberger 1994:Plate XV), but was not recorded in the drawing of the panel (Eichenberger 1994: Figure 8). This interpretation was not made by other investigators who probably see the design in the palm of the hand as a natural damage or flaw in the rock. The hand-and-eye motif was used during the Mississippian Period (AD 900-1450) on shell artifacts from Spiro Mound (in Oklahoma) and at the Three Hills Creek Petroglyph Site (23WA17022) in Missouri. Reilly (2004:130) noted that the hand-and-eye motif is interpreted “as one of the portals or doorways to the Path of Souls”; a more detailed discussion of this concept was published by Lankford (2004:212) where he suggests a link between the motif and the “Hand” constellation which is called Orion in the European vocabulary of the sky. (Fuller 2020)” Interestingly, Diaz-Granados Duncan, had used Eichenberger’s drawing of this panel in her 1993 thesis which showed the shape in the middle of the hand with the label “eye” written in it, but when she reproduced it in her 2000 publication the label “eye” had disappeared.


Hand-and-Eye, cluster 7-A, Three Hills Petroglyph Site, MO., photoraph Michael Fuller.

Other rock art examples of the Hand-and-eye motif, although fairly rare, are known to exist. One example, also photographed by Dr. Michael Fuller, is seen at the Three Creek Hills site, also in Missouri. Dr. Fuller stated (2020, personal communication) that he saw a second example of the Hand-and-Eye motif in a photograph taken by the landowner but that he has not seen the actual second petroglyph at that location (both the Rocky Hollow site and the Three Creek Hills site are on private land and in rough country).


James L. Murphy, Tycoon Lake Petroglyph Site, Gallia County, Ohio.

A couple of other sites containing images proposed to be examples of the Hand-and-Eye motif are found at Tycoon Lake, in Ohio, and at The Jeffer’s Site in southwest Minnesota. I have serious reservations about both of these. With the example at Tycoon Lake, Ohio, there is indeed a hand and an oval shape that is vaguely eye-like, but it is on the wrist of the hand, not in the palm. While I cannot say what it represents, it certainly does not give the sense of being an actual example of the Hand-and-Eye motif,


Jeffer's Petroglyph site, Minnesota.

And with the example from the Jeffer’s Site in Minnesota all of the necessary traits are visible but in a very strangely distorted image, and there is no other rock art at the Jeffer’s site that displays any Mississippian cultural traits. I cannot go along with calling this an actual example of the Hand-and-Eye motif either.

Examining the images I find a roughly even number of left hand and right hands based upon which side of the hand the thumb is found. One uncertainty comes in trying to decide whether these images represent and eye on the palm of the hand or the back of the hand (which would affect the thumb position in the image). Most seem to be images of the palm of the hand, but the image I used at the top of the page shows fingernails on the fingers indicating that this is the back of the hand, so I think we must conclude that there is not a firm rule about how this motif is illustrated in that respect.

Next week in Part Two of this I will add some examples of the Mississippian Hand-and-Eye motif in other media.

NOTE: I wish to thank Dr. Michael Fuller for permission to use his photographs and information from his website in this paper.

Other 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 original reports in the references listed below.

PRIMARY REFERENCES:

Diaz-Granados Duncan, Carol Anne,

1993 The Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Missouri: A Distributional, Stylistic, Contextual, Functional, and Temporal Analysis of the State’s Rock Graphics, Vol. I and II, Copyright Carol Anne Diaz-Granados Duncan, Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri.

Diaz-Granados, Carol, and James R. Duncan

2000 The Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Missouri, University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa

Fuller, Michael

2020 Rocky Hollow Site (23MN1), http://www.profmicAhaelfuller.com/rocky-hollow--23mn1-.html

Murphy, James L.

Date unknown, A Probable "Hand-and-Eye Petroglyph, Gallia County, Ohio, Ohio Historical Society.

SECONDARY REFERENCES:

Eichenberger, J. Allen

1944  Investigations of the Marion-Ralls Archaeological Society in Northeast Missouri, Missouri Archaeologist 9.

Lankford, George E.

2004 World on a String: Some Cosmological Components of Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, in Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand: American Indian Arts of the Ancient Midwest and South, Art Institute of Chicago.


Saturday, October 3, 2020

ANIMALS IN ROCK ART - DOGS IN THE SOUTHWEST:

Black and white dogs, Fremont culture, Brown's Park, CO, Photo Peter Faris, 1987.

Many domesticated animals have variegated colors and patterns not displayed by their original wild ancestors. This is thought to have originally arisen accidentally while traits like tameness were being sought, but once patterns occurred they also became desired traits. My interest in how dogs are portrayed in rock art was sparked back in the 1980s by a Fremont pictograph in Brown’s Park, northwest Colorado, which shows two canines with black and white patterning, in other words their coats indicated domesticated dogs, not coyote or wolf.

“Dog remains in early Southwestern sites suggest that dogs played many roles in both life and death. Dogs - either whole or in part - were buried, occasionally with humans. This treatment may mean they were pets; hunting companions, or ritual offerings. Isolated bones, discarded in trash areas, some burned or with cutmarks, suggested that some dogs were eaten by prehistoric peoples. Dog bones were sometimes made into awls and other tools, and perforated dog teeth were used as pendants.” (Taylor, et al. 2008:3)

“The list of functions that dogs served in Pueblo villages presents an interesting dichotomy. They tended to be viewed simultaneously as superior animals and inferior humans. Dogs acted as guardians, hunting companions, bed warmers, field protectors, and probably, on occasion, ritual guardians for shamans. They also ate leftover food in cooking areas and cleaned up the latrines. Clearly dogs played an important role in controlling disease.” (Taylor, et al. 2008:4)


Mummified small black and white dog, White Dog Cave, Arizona, Archaeology, Vol. 63, No.  5, Sept.-Oct. 2010.

The importance of dogs to some ancient peoples of the American Southwest is illustrated by the cases of dogs found buried with people as offerings or to accompany them to the afterlife. “Some of the best examples of associated dog burials from the Southwest were discovered at White Dog Cave by Guernsey and Kidder (1921) in a Basketmaker II period cave near Kayenta, Arizona. Cist 23 contained a woman wrapped in furs inside two joined woven bags buried with a high number of exceptional grave goods including baskets, grass and squash seeds, digging sticks, pinon nuts, an atlatl, and a  chipped piece of quartzite. When the baskets covering the body were removed, it was revealed that a small, black and white terrier-sized dog was interred by her left side. Within the same feature was an adult male buried in a similar manner with a larger white and tan, long-haired dog approximately the size of a collie (Guernsey and Kiddr 1921). The remains had been naturally mummified due to the sandy burial location in a high and windy cave, causing desiccation but protecting them from the typical environmental forces that decay soft tissues. Later radiographic analysis by Fugate (2010:93-4) showed the larger dog was male - and approximately 1.5 years old. The smaller dog was female and estimated to be eight months old (Fugate 2010).” (Semanko 2020:24) I am particularly interested in the black and white dog because of examples found in rock art.


Barrier Canyon Archaic culture. Temple Mountain Wash, Emory County, UT. Photo Peter Faris, October 2002.

Barrier Canyon Archaic culture. Horseshoe Canyon, Canyonlands, Wayne County, UT, Photo Don I. Campbell, 16 May 1984.


Barrier Canyon Archaic culture.  Photo James Doss.

The Archaic people of Utah and northwestern Colorado who we know as Barrier Canyon, dating from between as early as possibly 7,000 BCE to the early centuries AD, frequently include dogs in their rock art. While we cannot be sure that some are not coyotes or wolves, one example from Temple Mountain Wash in Emory County, Utah, shows a black and white dog accompanying a group of people.

Another pictograph, this one from Brown’s Park, in northwestern Colorado, shows two black and white dogs (top of page). This panel is attributed to the Fremont culture by association with typical Fremont rock art all around it. In that area the Fremont culture is usually dated from A.D. 200 to about A.D. 1300. Remember that varicolored coat patterns are usually assumed to also indicate a domesticated animal. I like to think that at this place and time a Fremont artist placed a record of his favorite dogs.


Rock Art in a caveate, Mortendad canyon, NM, Photo Peter Faris, 2003.

An interesting pair of quadrupeds that possess the characteristics of dog images are found inscribed through the smoke-blackened wall of a caveate in Mortandad Canyon, Santa Fe County, New Mexico. These are of Pueblo III provenance (1150 to 1360 CE) or possibly early Pueblo IV (1350 - 1600 CE). They are shown as having spotted coats, but their relatively short tails, lack of claws, and lack of triangular ears suggest dog, not spotted feline. 


Petroglyph Park, Albuquerque, Bernal County, New Mexico. Photo Peter Faris, September 1988.

This petroglyph is found in Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, New Mexico. The images here were created predominately by Pueblo III (1150 to 1360 CE) or possibly early Pueblo IV (1350 - 1600 CE) peoples.Dogs had a major role in mythology. Polly Schaafsma’s description of this particular dog petroglyph ties it to its spiritual role. As previously noted, in Mesoamerica the inherent morning star/evening star duality of Venus is also expressed via Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli and Zolotl, respectively. Xolotl, a denizen of the underworld whose name translates as “twin,” god of double things, is the god of the ball game and has the form of a dog, lightning, and celestial fire. This dog-headed aspect of Quetzalcoatl sacrificed the gods themselves to nourish the newly created fifth sun, an act related to the creation of the present world. In other versions, Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl replaces Zolotl as executioner. In Pueblo rock art canines pictured with paired stars or with star-faced serpents may be Southwestern statements of the canine aspect of this symbolic complex. The dog with a lightning tail beside a star-faced snake in a petroglyph near Albuquerque, New Mexico, is particularly suggestive. The role of Zolotl, the lightning dog, in the emergence has been compared with that of the Zuni War Twins, who in certain emergence accounts bring humankind out of the underworld by penetrating the earth with lightning arrows..” (Schaafsma 2001:147) 

In some cultures the dog is a trickster, in others a protector, but universally the contributions of the dog to humans was known and respected. As a friend, protector, helpmate and resource to the First Nations people, these dogs earned their place in the rock art record, and we are the richer for it.

NOTE: For further information on this subject refer to the References listed below. Some photographs in this paper were found on the internet in searches for public domain material. If they are not intended to be public domain I apologize and will be happy to provide citation information if it is provided.

REFERENCE:

Schaafsma, Polly

2001 Quetzalcoatl and the Horned and Feathered Serpent of the Southwest, pages 138 – 149, in The Road To Aztlan: Art From A Mythic Homeland, edited by Fields, Virginia M., and Victor Zamudio-Taylor, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles.

Semanko, Amanda Leigh, B.S.

2020 Prehistoric Southwest Dogs: A Case Study From Kipp Ruin, May 2020, M.S. thesis, Anthropology Department, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Taylor, Tobi, Alan Ferg, and Dody Fugate,

2008 Dogs in the Southwest, Archaeology Southwest, Vol. 22 No. 3, Center for Desert Archaeology, Tucson.

SECONDARY REFERENCE:

Fugate, Dody

2010 Pueblo Dogs: The Oldest Companions, in Threads, Tints, and Edification: Papers in Honor of Glenna Dean, edited by Emily J. Brown, Karen Armstrong, David M. Brugge, and Carol J. Condie, pp. 91-100, Archaeological Society of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

EXTINCT ANIMALS IN ROCK ART - MADAGASCAR’S SLOTH LEMUR:


Photo of Madagascar cave wall with pictographs, upper right. Internet photo - Public Domain.

One of the most exciting things about rock art is that it can serve as a window on the past, a way to see things that no longer exist, whether it be the lifeways of ancient peoples, or ancient creatures that those people portrayed that are now extinct.


Photo of panel, and field drawing. Internet photo - sci-news.com.

“An international team of scientists has discovered stylistically unique ancient drawings, including the only known prehistoric depiction of a now-extinct giant sloth lemur, on the walls of a rock shelter in western Madagascar. The drawings were discovered by Dr. David Burney from Hawaii’s National Tropical Botanical Garden and his colleagues from the United Kingdom, Madagascar and the United States in Andriamamelo Cave near the small village of Anahidrano.” (Prostak 2020)


Close-up photo of Sloth Lemur. Internet photo - sci-news.com.

“The diversity of lemurs was greater in the past - much greater. Where Africa has its gorillas and Borneo and Sumatra their orang-utans, Madagascar had its giant sloth lemurs (Archaeoindris fontoynonti), which weighed up to 244 kg and were the size of male gorillas.” (Van der Geer 2017)


Sloth Lemur skull (Archaeoindris fontoynontii), Internet photo wikipedia.com - Public Domain.

“The sloth lemurs (family Palaeopropithecidae) are a group of extinct giant lemurs that includes four genera. The common name can be misleading, as these creatures were not closely related to South American sloths. As the name implies, sloth lemurs were designed for treetop living, with long arms and legs, limber joints and hook-like hands and feet. These adaptations allowed them to be adept at both leaping and climbing.” (Prostak 2020)



Artist's conception of the Madagascar Sloth Lemur. Illustration by Roman Uchytel, prehistoricfauna.com.

“Limited scansoriality has been postulated for the gorilla-sized Archaeoindris which has been likened to a ground sloth. However, its very high femoral neck-shaft angle and other highly derived postcranial features which are shared only with Palaeopropithecus, suggest more committed arboreality.” (Godfrey and Jungers 2003:256) (NOTE: Scansorial is defined as capable of, or adapted for, climbing.}

As to the presumed ancient creation of these images we must remember that Madagascar is one of the last places on earth that humanity accomplished the extinction of the native megafauna. “A few may have succumbed only very recently. A specimen of Palaeopropithecus ingens from Ankilitelo in southwest Madagascar was recently radiocarbon-dated at 510-80 PB. Confidence limits on this date include the historical period.” (Godfrey and Jungers 2003:257) So, although the Madagascar Sloth Lemur is indeed extinct, that does not mean the rock art is ancient because the extinction of this animal apparently happened during the early historic period.

While it would be truly exciting to have this turn out to represent the extinct animal that has been designated, I do have a couple of problems with stating that this definitely is a representation of Madagascar’s extinct sloth lemur. First, not one of the authors of the paper has rock art experience or publications in their past that I could determine. Second, although the image in question does look very like a sloth hanging upside down, that pose is almost universally accepted by students of rock art to indicate that the pictured animal is deceased, not a sloth hanging from a tree limb. And if it is not a sloth lemur, but instead a dead quadruped, a great age for this petroglyph is not as likely.  I therefore feel that positively identifying this image as Madagascar’s extinct sloth lemur is really going out on a limb.

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 original reports at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:

Godfrey, Laura, and William Jungers,

2003 The Extinct Sloth Lemurs of Madagascar, Evolutionary Anthropology 12:252–263 (2003)

Prostak, Sergio,

2020 Researchers Find Unique Ancient Rock Drawings of Extinct Sloth Lemur, Sept. 7, 2020, http://www.sci-news.com/archaeology/sloth-lemur-drawing-08820.html

Van der Geer, Alexandra

2017 The Late Survival of Madagascar’s Megafauna, Sept. 22, 2017, https://beta.capeia.com/paleobiology/2017/09/22/the-late-survival-of-madagascars-megafauna

SECONDARY REFERENCE:

Burney, David A. et al.

2020 Rock art from Andriamamelo Cave in the Beanka Protected Area of western Madagascar, Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, published online May 26, 2020; doi:10.1080/15564894.2020.1749735

Monday, September 14, 2020

BASQUE ROCK ART:

Horses, Atxurra cave, Diego Garate.



Vandalism in Axturra cave,
and paleolithic image after
processing photograph.
By Diego Garate.

When I first became interested in rock art back in 1978 we were living in Grand Junction, Colorado, an area with access to the magnificent rock art of western Colorado and eastern Utah. In an interesting connection to this report I remember that the results of the previous Federal Census had just been released and the largest minority population in Grand Junction at that time was ethnic Basques, supposedly because of sheepherders who had come over from the Old World to work, and then stayed.


Fish petroglyph, Gipuzkoa cave, Northern Spain. Photo from arkeobasque.

The study of the magnificent art of the painted caves in Europe, centered on France and Spain, has tended (predominately for nationalistic reasons) to ignore the area in between, the Basque-inhabited regions of northern Spain. The Basques were (are) often seen as less cultured, a somewhat more primitive people living in a wild, mountainous land at the western end of the Pyrenees.


Map of the Basque region, northern Spain.

The painted cave of Altamira is in Cantabria, Spain, and the Basque territory is nestled between Cantabria and the southern French centers of cave art. The Basque Autonomous Community (7,234 km square) consists of three provinces, specifically designated "historical territories": Alava (capital: Vitoria-Gasteiz, Biscay (capital: Bilbao), and Gipuzkoa (capital: Donostie-San Sebastian). This, the Basque territory provides a continuous region connecting the centers of French cave art with the Spanish. We are now beginning to learn that the art is continuous as well, with the discovery of magnificent Paleolithic painted caves in the Basque region by archeologist Diego Garate and others. (It should be noted as well that there is a Basque population in the southern French region.


Bison, Askondo cave, photo from arkeobasque.


Indeed, the Basques may have inhabited this area since the stone age, their origins lost in the mists of time. “Since the Basque language is unrelated to Indo-European, it has long been thought to represent the people or culture that occupied Europe before the spread of Indo-European languages there. A comprehensive analysis of Basque genetic patterns has shown that Basque genetic uniqueness predates the arrival of agriculture in the Iberian Peninsula, about 7,000 years ago. It is thought that Basques are a remnant of the early inhabitants of Western Europe, specifically those of the Franco-Cantabrian region. Basque tribes were mentioned in Roman times by Strabo and Pliny, including the Vascones, the Aquitani, and others.” (Wikipedia)



Horse panel, Ekain Cave, Internet photo Public Domain.


        Closeup of horse panel, Ekain Cave,

            Internet photo Public Domain.

Legends of the Basque people themselves talk about people who only knew tools of stone. “The jentilak ('Giants'), on the other hand, are a legendary people of the high lands and with no knowledge of iron. Many legends about them tell that they were bigger and taller, with a great force, but were displaced by the ferrons, or workers of ironworks foundries, until their total fade-out.” (Wikipedia)

We know that the inhabitants of France are probably not direct descendants of the creators of the art, and the same goes for the bulk of Spain. It does appear, however, that the inhabitants of the Basque region are probably genetically related to the creators of the Paleolithic cave art. Could it be that the people who are today discovering and studying the Paleolithic art of the Basque territory, are the direct descendants of the people who produced it originally?

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 original reports at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:

Arkeobasque

2015 Recent Advances In Paleolithic Rock Art In Basque Country (2010-2015), 28 April 2015, arkeobasque.wordpress.com

Cowie, Ashley

2020 40,000-Year-Old Cave Art Fills Basque Country Void, 13 March 2020, www.ancient-origins.net

Garate, Diego

2018 Solving A Riddle About The Dawn Of Art, 16 Jan 2018, www.sapiens.org

Schuster, Ruth

2020 Ancient Art Found In Basque Country Changes Understanding Of Prehistoric Society, 12 March 2020, www.haaretz.com

Wikipedia

Basques, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basques

Basque Country (greater region), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basque_Country_(greater_region)