Saturday, January 16, 2021

UNDERWATER ROCK ART - PART 2, ROCK ART IN THE PROCESS OF BEING SUBMERGED:

The major factor in natural coastal rock art submersion is climate change, the warming of the earth by the addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. “Global mean sea level has risen about 8-9 inches (21 - 24 centimeters) since 1880, with about a third of that coming in just the last two and a half decades. The rising water level is mostly due to a combination of meltwater from glaciers and ice sheets and a thermal expansion of seawater as it warms. In 2019, global mean sea level was 3.4 inches (87.61 mm) above the 1993 average - the highest annual average in the satellite record. From 2018 to 2019, global sea level rose 0.24 inches (6.2 millimeters).” (Lindsey 2020) Sites that currently lie just a few inches to a few feet above mean sea level will inevitably become submerged as rising waters continue to creep up year by year.


View of Alta fjord, Norway. Photo Ralph Frenken, 2012, from Donsmaps.com


Alta fjord, Norway, Googleearth, Don Hitchcock, Donsmaps.com.

One rock art site listed by Tiwary (2014) is the Alta Fjord site in Norway which, although currently exposed, he expects to be submerged by rising sea-levels. “The World Heritage Rock Art in Alta is a rich cultural monument consisting of several carvings and paintings localized in the inner parts of Altafjord in Finnmark, Norway. The rock art in Alta was made over a period of time from 4200 B.C. to 200 A.D. After a few years it may get submerged into the sea.” (Tiwary 2014)


Alta fjord rock art, Norway. Internet photo, whc.unesco.org.


Alta fjord, Norway. Photo Ralph Frenken, 2012, From Donsmaps.com.

“The Alta site is at the head of the fjord, and is very well protected from the swells of the Norwegian Sea. The depth of the fjord increases rapidly from about 60 metres close in shore to more than 400 metres further out in the fjord. It was used as an anchorage by the German battleships Tirpitz and Scharnhorst in 1943 during WWII.” (Hitchcock 2019)

“At the end of the last ice age, the land ‘rebounded’ after the bulk of the ice melted, and so this part of Norway slowly lifted by a process known as isostasy. The ice sheet reached its greatest extent and thickness 20,000 years ago, and most melting occurred between 16,000 and 10,000 years ago. This uplift did not stop when the ice had melted, it continues to this day.” (Hitchcock 2019)

This isostasy will be competing with the sea-level rise caused by global warming, but the projections for sea-level rise suggest that it will win the competition and that the Alta petroglyphs are eventually as doomed as the other sites I have listed.


Waianae coast, Oahu, Hawaii. Online photo from LiveScience.


Waianae coast, Oahu, Hawaii. Internet photo, Public Domain.


Waianae coast, Oahu, Hawaii. Internet photo, Public Domain.


Waianae coast, Oahu, Hawaii. Internet photo, Public Domain.


Waianae coast, Oahu, Hawaii. Internet photo, Public Domain.


Waianae coast, Oahu, Hawaii. Internet photo, Public Domain.

There are many other rock art sites that sit near sea level that will become underwater rock art  sites with continued sea-level rise. One site is a recently discovered petroglyph site on Hawaiia’s Waianae coast on Oahu. “Archaeologists from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and the U.S. Army have been working together to record and document the petroglyphs; which now number at least 17 figures.” (Sci-News 2016) The figures stretch over sixty feet of beach. These figures are on the beach and were covered by sand until recently and, depending on wave action and storms, may be covered again. A few inches of sea-level rise, however, will submerge them.


Petroglyph Beach, Wrangell, Alaska. Photo Peter Faris, August 2, 2001.


Orca petroglyph, Wrangell, Alaska. Photo                    Peter Faris, August 2, 2001.

Another major petroglyph site which will inevitably be covered by sea-level rise is Petroglyph Beach at Wrangell, Alaska. Produced by the Tlingit people it is representative of much of the rock art on the northwestern coast of North America.


Bird petroglyph, Wrangell, Alaska. Photo Peter Faris, August 2, 2001.

  
Mask petroglyph, Wrangell, Alaska. Photo                     Peter Faris, August 2, 2001.

“While Tlingit rock art (especially petroglyphs) may sometimes have been made to attract the salmon, the figures include clan crests, ancestors, mythological figures and sailing ships, as well as symbols of wealth or victory. Tlingit rock art may, like the elaborate totemic figures on poles and house screens, serve as illustrations of important events, mythic or historical, in the clan traditions and so bear witness to the achievements, wealth, or supernatural powers obtained by the clan ancestors.” (De Laguna 1990:215) Of the rock art at Petroglyph Beach, the figures are pecked and carved into basalt boulders on the beach. Many of them seemingly consist of masklike faces, but the famous orca there is undoubtedly a clan figure as described above. Again, if left as they are, a foot or two of sea level rise will submerge almost all of them.

Undoubtedly many other locations like this exist. It has not been my intention to present a complete catalog of threatened rock art sites, but to present a different angle to rock art conservation, one not commonly considered. Next week I will discuss some rock art sites that are underwater as a result of human, not natural, activity.

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.

Additionally - I wish to express my gratitude to Dr. Sachin Tiwary for his permission to quote his study as well as reproduce images from it.

REFERENCES:

De Laguna, Frederica, 1990 Tlingit, pp. 203-228, in Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7, Northwest Coast, Wayne Suttles, editor, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

Hitchcock, Don, 2019, Norwegian Rock Art - Alta Fjord, Don’s Mapshttps://www.donsmaps.com/norge.html

Lindsey, Rebecca, 2020, Climate Change: Global Sea Level, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), https://www.climate.gov

Staff, 2016 400-Year-Old-Petroglyphs Found on Hawaii Shoreline, Ausust 11, 2016, www.sci-news.com

Tiwary, Sachin Kr., 2014 Underwater Rock Art: In Global Context, En Rupestreweb, http://www.rupestreweb.info/underwaterrockart.html

Saturday, January 9, 2021

UNDERWATER ROCK ART - PART 1, NATURALLY DROWNED ROCK ART:

Post-glacial sea level rise, Wikipedia.

The idea for his column originated with the concept of rising coastal water levels as global ice-melting caused by climate change continues. Some shoreline rock art will be lost as water levels rise. This has been happening for many millennia with gradual warming of the earth, but the newly emerged phenomenon of human-cause climate change has accelerated the problem significantly. According to Wikipedia, “since the last glacial maximum about 20,000 years ago, the sea level has risen by more than 125 metres (410 ft), with rates varying from less than a mm/year to 40+ mm/year, as a result of melting ice sheets over Canada and Eurasia. Rapid disintegration of ice sheets led to so called ‘meltwater pulses’, periods during which sea level rose rapidly. The rate of rise started to slow down about 8,200 years before present; the seal level was almost constant the last 2,500 years, before the present rising trend that started at the end of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th." (Wikipedia)

The implication of this is that many rock art sites that were originally on dry land are now submerged. Or, to restate this from the other way, because of past sea level rise there are possibly now huge numbers of rock art sites to be discovered offshore, underwater.


Traverse Bay, Michigan, Photo Mark Holley, 2015.


Traverse Bay, Michigan. Internet photo, Public Domain.


        Traverse Bay, Michigan. Internet                       photo, Public Domain.

One, which has been reported at Grand Traverse Bay (Michigan), in Lake Michigan, is called the “Stonehenge of the Great Lakes.” There, some forty feet underwater are a number of upright stones forming a partial circle, with what appears to be a mammoth carved on one of the stones (Puiu 2017). The discovery was made in 2007 and reported by Mark Holley, a professor at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City (Hardy 2015).

Some examples have been published in Tiwary’s 2014 paper “Underwater Rock Art: In Global Context” (see references). Tirwary’s paper deals with the aspect of Marine Archaeology that he calls ‘underwater rock art.’ “It refers to those rock art sites which had existed on the coastal plains or on the fringes of water bodies which in due course of time got submerged into the waters due to various reasons, the cause of which may be natural such as changes in the earth’s crust and the subsequent raise of the water level or even Man-made such as due to modern developmental projects. So this specialized field of Rock Art Studies deal with those paintings which already got submerged or on the verge of submersion and analysis its various problems such as the causes of submersion (if natural), it’s preservation and conservation problems, methods adopted for its exploration and documentation, etc.” (Tiwary 2014)


Farne Islands, Northumberland, UK. Photos Ben Burville, 2007, internet photo.


Farne Islands, Northumberland, UK. Photo Ben Burville, 2007, from Tiwary.

Tirwary’s first example is a gridlike pattern found on a rock underwater in the Farne Islands, Northumberland, UK, by a diver named Ben Burville. “During February, 2007 Mr. Ben Burville noticed some interesting carving on the rock about 20ft (7m) underwater off the Farne Islands in Northumberland. - One thing should be noticed is that the site is a few miles off shore and no sign of human activity can be seen in the area. It is at the base of a rock formation that forms part of the Outer Farnes. The rock seems to be the same as the local rock in the same vicinity. - An explanation for the absence of patina marks on it has been given in the following way. As the rock has been covered by sand for most of the time, the sand may have scoured the stone and if the marks had been buried in enough sand, it might have stopped oxygen getting to the stone to cause patination. It mbe possible during glacial episodes sea levels were up to more than 139m below present day sea level. Most of the southern North Sea was dry land so it is feasible that rock art could have been done on land and now it is below sea level. It all depends on the date of the work.” (Tiwary 2014) (A short video of this can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kP7BeNVVBM0)


Cosquer Cave elevation. Wikipedia.



Cosquer Cave, France. Photos Bradshaw Foundation.

One famous location where we can assumed there once was rock art but it is now underwater is the entrance to Cosquer Cave. “In July 1991 Dr. Jean Clottes, an English teacher (Honorary President of the French Prehistoric Society, Scientific Advisor for Prehistoric Art, Director of Prehistoric Antiquities) and a deep sea diver Henri Cosquer discovered paintings and engravings in a cave beneath the sea near Marseilles (France) on the Mediterranean coast. The gallery slopes up for about 360 feet under water before reaching a huge chamber that partly remained above the sea where many prehistoric paintings and engravings are preserved on the walls.” (Tiwary 2014) Based upon our knowledge of other Paleolithic painted caves I think we can assume that rock art would have originally been distributed throughout the whole of the original cave, meaning that much rock art was probably located in the 360 foot sloping gallery before it was flooded by rising sea levels.


Underwater Rock Art, Melanesia. Photos Christophe Sand, from Tiwary.


Closeup of underwater Rock Art, Melanesia. Photos Christophe Sand, from Tiwary.

Another location of rock art that had been apparently created on the shore but is now submerged in the sea is found in the South Pacific. “Recently most archaeological research program in Island Melanesia had been concerned with first settlement sites having rock art. About 3000 engravings had been noticed on the sea shore and some are now submerged in the sea.” (Tiwary 2014)

These are only a few in what must be a much larger number of submerged rock art sites, with many waiting to be discovered. Not only has rock art been submerged by sea-level rise, some rock art has been inundated by human hydrological projects. Dams, in particular, have covered large numbers of pictographs and petroglyphs under water. This will be the subject in part two of this exploration.

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.

Additionally - I wish to express my gratitude to Dr. Sachin Tiwary for his permission to quote his study as well as reproduce images from it.

REFERENCES:

Hardy, Mike, 2015 Great Lakes Stonehenge, November 27, 2015, https://thumbwind.com

Puiu, Tibi, 2017 Stonehenge-Like Structure Found Under Lake Michigan, January 26, 2017, https://www.smescience.com

Tiwary, Sachin Kr., 2014 Underwater Rock Art: In Global Context, En Rupestreweb, http://www.rupestreweb.info/underwaterrockart.html

Wikipedia, Past Changes in Sea Level, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_level_rise

Saturday, January 2, 2021

COLOMBIAN ROCK ART CLAIMED TO DEPICT EXTINCT MEGAFAUNA:


     Serranía La Lindosa pictographs, online                     image, Public Domain.

In Colombia, the discovery of a huge concentration of rock art has been announced.


Serranía La Lindosa pictographs, online image, Public Domain.

“A research team published the description of tens of thousands of ice age paintings, many apparently depicting extinct megafauna, discovered in a remote region of the Amazon forest. The paintings cover almost 8 miles (12 km) of a cliff face making it one of the largest rock-art sites on the planet. The site of the discovery, the Serranía La Lindosa, sits deep in the rebels-controlled Columbian rainforest. The discovery by a British-Colombian team of archaeologists was made last year - - ." (Bressan 2020) Serranía La Lindosa translating roughly as beautiful mountains.


     Serranía La Lindosa pictographs, online                     image, Public Domain.

According to a preliminary survey,"there are several tens of thousands of images covering the rocks smoothed by fluvial erosion. The images include animals like fish, turtles, lizards and birds, as well as people dancing and holding hands, among other scenes and abstract symbols.” (Bressan 2020)

The team that carried out the research was bi-national and consisted of Jose Iriarte and Mark Robinson from the University of Exeter, Gaspar Morcote-Rios and Jeison L. Chaparro-Cardenas from the Universidad Nacional de Columbia, and Francisco Javier Aceituno from the Universidad de Antioquia. (University of Exeter) The team worked in a region that had been closed until recently because of fighting between Colombia governmental troops and FARC guerillas.

“This is one of the largest collections of rock art found in South America. The recorded drawings, likely first made around 12,600 and 11,800 years ago, are on three rock shelters on hills in the Colombian Amazon. The paintings, identified during landscape surveys, also depict geometric shapes, human figures, and handprints, as well as hunting scenes and people interacting with plants, trees, and savannah animals. The vibrant red pictures were produced over a period of hundreds, or possibly thousands, of years. Some are so high, and inaccessible, special ladders crafted from forest resources would have been needed and they would have been obscured from view for anyone visiting the rock shelter.” (University of Exeter 2020)

The images include geometric shapes, anthropomorphs, and zoomorphs, among others, but what most interests me here are the pictures of animals that appear to illustrate extinct megafauna from the Paleolithic period.


Megatherium and baby, Marcote-Rios et al, 2020.


Megatherium reconstruction, online image, Public Domain.

“There are drawings of deer, tapirs, alligators, bats, monkeys, turtles, serpents, and porcupines, as well as what appears to be Ice Age megafauna. These now extinct animals are depicted in rock art in Central Brazil, but experts believe these drawings are more realistic. There are depictions of creatures resembling a giant sloth, mastodon, camelids, horses, and tree-toed ungulates with trunks. These native animals all became extinct, probably because of a combination of climate change, the loss of their habitat and by hunting by humans.” (University of Exeter 2020)


Extinct horse (Hippidion), Marcote-Rios et al, 2020.


       Hippidion reconstruction, online image,                      Public Domain.

By all accounts a spectacular find, and a rock art site of major importance. The problems, however, begin when we look at the supposed images of the Ice Age megafauna supposedly depicted. "Potential ice-age megafauna species displayed in the pictographs include a giant ground sloth with its young, a mastodon, a prehistoric relative of the elephant, an early horse (Hippidion?) walking alongside an unidentified camelid, maybe of the genus Paleolama, and a long necked, three toes ungulate with a trunk, maybe Zenorhinotherium or Macrauchenia." (Bressan 2020)



Proposed paleolama pictograph, Marcote-Rios et al, 2020.


        Paleolamareconstruction, online image,                    Public Domain.

“We started seeing animals that are now extinct. The pictures are so natural and so well made that we have few doubts that you’re looking at a horse, for example. The ice-age horse had a wild, heavy face. It’s so detailed, we can even see the horse hair. It’s fascinating.” (Alberge 2020)


Proposed mastodon pictograph, Marcote-Rios et al, 2020.


        Mastodon reconstruction, online image,                      Public Domain.

The sloth is actually fairly convincing as well as the extinct horse. The pictographs look very much like the actual creatures. The other animals identified may or may not actually be accurate. The "mammoth," the "Paleolama" and the "Zenorhinotherium or Macrauchenia" strike me as much more of a guess than a distinct identification.


Proposed Zenorhinotherium or Macrauchenia pictograph, Marcote-Rios et al, 2020.


       Macrauchenia reconstructions (hairy and shorthaired), online image, Public Domain.

It is always exciting to find a record that illustrates extinct animals, and this discovery, because of its large scale, provides a wealth of new possibilities for research. While some of the illustrations of extinct creatures are easy to identify, others take a little more imagination. All in all though, this is a world class, major discovery.

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:

Alberge, Dalya, 2020, “Sistine Chapel of the Ancients” rock art discovered in remote Amazon Forest, 29 November 2020, The Guardian.

Bressan, David, 2020, A Treasure Trove of Rock Art Depicting Extinct South American Megafauna Discovered in Amazon Forest, https://www.forbes.com

University of Exeter, 2020, Newly Discovered Amazon Rock Art Shows the Rainforest’s Earliest Inhabitants Living With Giant Ice Age Animals, December 1, 2020, https://phys.org/news/2020-12-newly-amazon-art-rainforest-earliest.html

Saturday, December 26, 2020

2020 C.R.A.P. AWARD - DNA PICTURED ON A COSMIC EGG:


Cosmic egg with DNA carved on it.

I am pleased to announce the coveted 2020 C.R.A.P. (Certifiable Rock Art Prevarication) AWARD. This award is given out once a year by RockArtBlog to the most egregious example of Certifiable Rock Art Prevarication (CRAP). The winner this year goes to a well-known fringie and Atlantis researcher Peter Daughtry for discovering a cosmic egg with a picture of DNA carved on it. Daughtry is touted by Graham Hancock, author of “Magicians of the Gods,” previously commemorated on RockArtBlog for his discovery of an extinct toxodon carved on a monolith at Tiahuanaco, Bolivia, (Faris 2019) which must surely lend to his credibility.

“Found by British researcher and author of ‘Atlantis and the Silver City’ Peter Daughtrey, the intriguing object composed entirely out of stone was found in Algarve, Portugal and is believed to date back over 7,000 years. Its peculiar characteristics - like the design of what seems to be the double helix of DNA - makes this ‘cosmic’ egg one of the most intriguing objects found to date. Interestingly, the double helix model wasn’t found until 1953. The obvious questions we need to ask - if it is in fact the Double helix of DNA - is how sugh a symbol could exist on a stone egg that some say was carved approximately 7,000 years ago.” (Ancient Code) This remarkable discovery was made near the town of Silves in the Algarve region of Portugal.


Now housed at the Lagos Museum in Algarve, Spain.

“Archaeological finds have shown that the double spiral is an artistic motif routinely found on a variety of ancient artifacts. Sometimes it is represented as two snakes wrapping around each other or a common stalk, like in the case of Herme’s staff, known as a caduceus, meaning herald’s staff. What boggles the mind is the fact that modern science refuses to make the connection between this archaic symbol and the stuff that makes us who we are - DNA.” (ufoholic)

“Daughtry is convinced this is no coincidence or the result of artistic expression falling down on convergent designs. Furthermore, he believes the proximity of Silves to the Straight of Gibraltar and the Pillars of Hercules might warrant a possible connection to Atlantis. In all truthfullness, if there ever was an ancient civilization that possessed the power to peek inside a cell’s nucleus, the Atlanteans would be a safe bet.” (ufoholic)

So what is a cosmic egg anyway? Many religious creation stories from cultures around the world include a creation by hatching from a cosmic egg. “The concept was figuratively re-adapted by modern science in the 1930s and explored by theoreticians during the following two decades. Current cosmological models maintain that 13.8 billion years ago, the entire mass of the universe was compressed into a gravitational singularity, a so-called ‘cosmic egg’ from which it ‘hatched’ - expanded to its current state following the Big Bang.” (Wikipedia)

So now, in order to give full and proper credit to Peter Daughtry’s discovery we need only believe in mystical cosmic eggs, the lost continent of Atlantis, and that 7,000 years ago these Atlanteans knew about the structure of DNA.

Who better to discover a cosmic egg with a picture of human DNA on it than a man who writes books about the lost continent of Atlantis? Aren’t we lucky that it turned out to have human DNA on it when it created the universe. Who knows what we would have turned out to be if it had something else pictured on it?

And for this momentous discovery, RockArtBlog awards Peter Daughtry and his ‘cosmic egg with DNA pictured on it’ the 2020 C.R.A.P. Award - congratulations.

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:

Ancient Code, Does this 7,000-year-old ‘Cosmic Egg ‘depict the earliest illustration of DNA?, https://ancient-code.com

Faris, Peter, 2019, Extinct Animals in Rock Art - the Tiahuanaco Toxodon, February 16, 2019, https://rockartblog.blogspot.com/search/label/Tiahuanaco.

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

Saturday, December 19, 2020

MERRY CHRISTMAS

 

WE HAVE GATHERED TO

WISH YOU A

VERY MERRY

CHRISTMAS 2020    

FROM RockArtBlog   

 



 

 Have a very Merry


 Christmas, 

A Happy New Year's

 Eve, 

and all the best in


 2021.

 

5,000 year old pictographs of a family, Egyptian Sahara desert. Photo: Marco Morelli, after LiveScience.com

Saturday, December 12, 2020

HALLUCINOGENS AND ROCK ART - TOBACCO AND DATURA IN THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST:

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

For quite some time the question of whether the production of rock art was sometimes influenced by the use of hallucinogenic plants has been debated. In recent years discoveries in the American Southwest have cast light on this question and provided an answer of “Yes, the production of rock art was sometimes influenced by the use of hallucinogenic plants.”


Distinctive triangle pattern, from Pastino, 2015.

“Over a swath of the Chihuahuan Desert stretching from Carlsbad to Las Cruces, at least 24 rock art panels have been found bearing the same distinctive pictographs: repeated series of triangles. Hallucinogenic plants were found growing beneath the triangle designs, including a particularly potent species of wild tobacco and the potentially deadly psychedelic known as datura.” (Pastino 2015)


Coyote tobacco (Nicotiana attenuata), Internet photo from Wikipedia.

For years Dr. Lawrence Loendorf has noted the presence of coyote tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata, growing at rock art sites. “Nicotiana attenuata is a species of wild tobacco known by the common name coyote tobacco. It is native to western North America from British Columbia to Texas and northern Mexico, where it grows in many types of habitat.” (Wikipedia) This species of tobacco is considerably stronger in some of the alkaloids that can affect the human brain, and Loendorf realized that the ancient artists my have been purposely growing it for use in trancing at the same ceremonial sites that sport the rock art.


Datura growing in Canyon de Chelley, Arizona, Photo Peter Faris, 2001


Closeup of Datura blossom, Wikipedia.

Another plant commonly noticed at rock art sites is Datura. “Although opinions have varied greatly, the home of the entire genus is likely Mexico or Central America.” (Sorenson and Carl Johannessen 2009:189)

Malotki (1999) agrees, stating that: “In addition to Datura, among the hallucinoganic plants available to Pastyle people (Palavayu anthropomorphic style) within the confines of northeastern Arizona, were Indian tobacco (Nicotiana trogonophylla), Four o’clock (Mirabilis multiflora), and the mushroom species psilocybe (Psilocybe coprophilia) and fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) (Hevly, personal communication 1998). Of these, Datura appears to be the most qualified to have served the ancient hunters and gatherers in their exploitation of hallucinogens and conscious-altering agents.” (Malotki 1999:115-6 )

“Researchers believe that the plants may be a kind of living artifact, left there nearly a thousand years ago by shamans who smoked the leaves of the plants in preparation for their painting.” (Pastino 2015)

“I think almost certainly that they’re trancing on this stuff,’ said Dr. Lawrence Loendorf, president of the archaeological firm Sacred Sites Research, of the ancient artisans. ‘I think there’s a real good chance they’re using tobacco in large enough amounts that they’re going into altered states of consciousness, and I think that’s how [the hallucinogenic plants] are getting there. They’re getting to those sites because they were used for special ceremonial purposes.’” (Pastino 2015)


Pinwheel cave, California. internet photo, phys.org.

So up until now we have had convincing, but only circumstantial evidence of the use of hallucinogens in the creation of some rock art in the American southwest. The question has now been answered with apparent certainty by the discovery of a number of chewed fibrous quids in southern California’s Pinwheel Cave, that, when analyzed, proved to be the remains of datura (chewed, presumably for trancing) in conjunction with a pictograph of what appears to be an unfolding datura blossom.


Red pinwheel pictograph, Pinwheel cave, California. Photo Devlin Gandy.

“The cave gets its name for a large, red, pinwheel-shaped drawing on its ceiling; some archaeologists have hypothesized it represents a genus of the psychoactive flower Datura. The flower contains the alkaloids scopolamine and atropine, which are considered an entheogen - a psychoactive compound used in a spiritual context. The Chumash people of Southern California called the experiences triggered by ingesting Datura “sacred dreams,” according to Jim Adams, a pharmacologist at the University of Southern California who spent 14 years studying sacred Chumash Datura ceremonies.

When David Robinson, an archaeologist at the University of Central Lancashire, and his colleagues began to excavate the site in 2007, they found chewed remnants of plant materials - also known as quids - pushed into cracks in the ceiling of the cave. Initial attempts to extract DNA from the quids came up short. But now, a combination of new chemical analyses and electron miscroscopy has positively identified the plant as Datura, the teams reports today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ‘I was like, ‘Wow, we found the smoking gun of hallucinogens at a rock art site,’’ Robinson says.” (Schultz 2020)


Datura blossom opening, Wikipedia.

So now we have not only a pictograph that seems to represent the spiral arrangement of a partially opened datura blossom, we also have physical remains of datura chewed by humans and then carefully pushed into cracks in the ceiling of the cave - in other words, treated specially, and found in close conjunction with the image. This would seem to be an open-and-shut case.


Signal Hill, Tucson, Arizona, Photo Jack and Esther Faris, 1990.


Squash blossom or Datura, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo Peter Faris,  1988.

On November 1, 2014, I posted a column titled Hopi Clan Registers As A Rock Art Lexicon For The Southwest - Squash Blossoms. In this column I suggested that petroglyphs of flowers found in Petroglyph Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and at Signal Hill, Tucson, Arizona, were perhaps meant to represent squash blossoms. It appears that now I have to add the possibility that these images may represent Datura blossoms. Squash blossoms have ceremonial uses for Puebloan peoples and must have as well for Ancestral Puebloan peoples. Now we have confirmation that Datura has been related to rock art (at least in that one instance) I feel that I must also accept the possibility that these petroglyphs of flowers could represent Datura as well.

NOTE: Some images in this column 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:

en.wikipedia.org, Nicotiana attenuata, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noctiana_attenuata

Faris, Peter, 2014, Hopi Clan Registers As A Rock Art Lexicon For The Southwest - Squash Blossoms, November 1, 2014, https://rockartblog.blogspot.com/2014/11/hopi-clan-registers-as-rock-art-lexicon.html

Malotki, Ekkehart, 1999, The Use of Hallucinogenic Plants by the Archaic-Basketmaker Creators of the Rock Art of the Palavayu, Northeast Arizona: The Case for Datura, in American Indian Rock Art, Volume 25, Steven M. Freers, editor, American Rock Art Research Association, 1999, pp. 101-120.

Pastino, Blake, 2015, Hallucinogenic Plants May Be Key to Decoding Ancient Southwestern Paintings, Expert Says, December 31, 2015, https://westerndigs.org.

Schultz, David, 2020, Californian Cave Artists May Have Used Hallucinogens, Find Reveals, 23 November 2020, https://www.sciencemag.org

Sorenson, John L., and Carl L. Johannessen, 2009, World Trade and Biological Exchanges Before 1492, iUniverse Inc., New York.