Saturday, July 25, 2015


 Rock art at Basin and Range Nat. Monument.
Photograph from

 Rock art at Basin and Range Nat. Monument.
Photograph from

 Rock art at Basin and Range Nat. Monument.
Photograph from

The examples of rock art shown here, and many, many more, were called "Bull Crap" by House Natural Resources Committee Chair Rob Bishop, who represents Utah's first Congressional District.

Rep. Rob Bishop, 1st.
Congressional District, Utah.

Reported by the staff of Native News Network on July 13, 2015, the story reads:

WASHINGTON - House Natural Resources Committee Chair Rob Bishop, dismissed the historical value of Native American artifacts as a basis for establishing national monuments last Friday (July 10, 2015), as first reported by Greenwire in a story about President Obama's designation of three new national monuments:

"There is nothing that Obama did today that had anything to do with antiquity," Bishop said. "There are criteria for using the act. There is nothing Obama announced that had anything to do with the criteria."

Utah's First Congressional
District. Wikipedia.

When he was asked about the Native American artifacts at the Basin and Range National Monument site in Nevada, including cave paintings, he said, "ah, bull crap. That's not an antiquity."

Ranking committee member Raul M. Grijalva released the following statement in response.

"The natural and cultural resources protected by these designations are, in fact, antiques; species and trees and rocks and cave paintings and beautiful landscapes are all quite old. We want them to remain antique, House Republicans want them to become extinct."

"Grijalva thanked and congratulated President Obama earlier today for his designations of Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument in California, Waco National Monument in Texas, and Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada."

When we are faced with such staggering ignorance and insensitivity what can we do but keep trying to preserve the beauty and knowledge. Don't give up the cause. Perhaps we who feel strongly about the cause of protecting rock art should consider boycotting all businesses in Utah's First Congressional District in protest, but that would also hurt the many innocent citizens and voters there who value preservation and rock art, like all the great members of the Utah Rock Art Research Association. I hope that they will express their disapproval of Rep. Bishop's statements and opinions, perhaps at the ballot box?



Saturday, July 18, 2015


The question of tools and materials used to create rock art has received another fascinating contribution with the discovery of a small piece of flat rock with a red ocher pigment on it from a rock shelter in northern KwaZuluNatal province in South Africa that had been occupied by humans during the Middle Stone Age, from roughly 77,000 to 38,000 years ago. An analysis of it found casein, a protein from milk, mixed with the pigment. Casein has long been used as a binder in paint, and the milk itself would provide the liquid vehicle to mix the paint in. Indeed milk paint is a category of do-it-yourself paint that has a long history and it is still sometimes used to give furnishings an antique look. Casein is also a popular binder in glues, being an important component in many white carpenter's glues. A report in the online science journal PLOS/one, and picked up by, reported the discovery and analysis recently.

Stone flake with milk paint, Sibudu, South Africa.
University of Colorado Museum, Boulder, Colorado.

"The researchers, led by Paolo Villa, a curator at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, first found casein, a protein found in milk, in a smear of reddish paint on the edge of a stone. The milk would have helped the powder of ochre bind together into a paste that people may have used to paint stone, wood or their bodies. The researchers figured that the mixture was paint, rather than adhesive because milk doesn’t stick that strongly unless the proteins are mixed with lime and heated." (Fessenden 2015:1)

"Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, proteomic and scanning electron microscopy with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM/EDS) analyses of residue on a stone flake from a 49,000 year-old layer of Sibudu (South Africa) indicate a mixture of ochre and casein from milk, likely obtained by killing a lactating wild bovid. Ochre powder production and use are documented in Middle Stone Age South African sites but until now there has been no evidence of the use of milk as a binder. Our analyses show that this ochre-based mixture was neither a hafting adhesive nor a residue left after treating animal skins, but a liquid mixture consisting of a powdered pigment mixed with milk; in other words, a paint medium that could have been applied to a surface or to human skin. The significance of our finds also lies in the fact that it establishes the antiquity of the use of milk as a binder well before the introduction of domestic cattle in South Africa in the first millennium AD." (Villa et al 2015:1)

Milk is seemingly a good choice for mixing paint because it combines the vehicle with a very effective binder for the resulting paint. It is interesting that this was so long before the domestication of cattle, and acquisition of the milk would have depended upon hunting or trapping a lactating bovid. Visit these sites for the complete story of this fascinating discovery.


Fessenden, Marissa
2015    In South Africa, People Painted with Cow Milk Long Before They Domesticated Cattle,, July 9, 2015.

Villa, Paola, Luca Pollarolo, Elaria Degano, Leila Birolo, Marco Pasero, Cristian Biagioni, Katerina Douka, Roberto Vinciguerra, Jeannette J. Lucejko, and Lyn Wadley,
2015    A Milk and Ochre Paint Mixture Used 49,000 Years Ago at Sibudu, South Africa, PLOS One (online journal), June 30, 2015.

Saturday, July 11, 2015


View of Fate Bell Shelter, Seminole Canyon
State Park, Val Verde County, TX.
Photo: March 2004, Peter Faris.

Among other aspects of the fascination in rock art is the material question or physical aspect of their presence, especially the tools and materials used to create them. I make special note of any reports of tools and materials I come across - especially the pigments used in pictographs. Some evidence of this came from excavations in the wonderful Fate Bell rock shelter, in Val Verde County, Texas.

Fate Bell Shelter-2, Val Verde County, TX.
Photo: March 2004, Peter Faris.

“The Pecos River style paintings utilized a number of colors in highly interesting combinations. Depending upon which subdivision of the style they belong to, one color was often used to outline another, and alternating lines of color are common. A dark red was the most frequently used color, and next in descending order of frequency were black, light red, yellow, orange, and white. The red, orange, and yellow shades were obtained from ocher, the black appears to be carbon, and the white was derived from clay.” (Newcomb 1967:41-42)

Fate Bell Shelter, Seminole Canyon
State Park, Val  Verde County, TX.
Photo: Teresa Weedin, February 1995. 

The 1930s excavation of Fate Bell Shelter produced samples of the paint that were used to create the pictographs. “At depths of 26 and 32 inches, against the wall of the shelter, at the 145-foot line from the south, were uncovered two unusual pieces of limonite, or yellow ochre. The one from a depth of 26 inches was broken and shattered at the edges of the break, but is about 14 inches long. It is triangular in cross-section and comes to a point at each end. Two other features of interest are: (1) the bottom side is flat, while the other two sides are slightly convex; (2)one side has four shallow grooves, or depressions, running lengthwise. The grooves are about one-fourth inch wide and suggest wear by a fiber brush, the edge of a pebble, or the end of a round stick. The other bar is of the same shape, slightly smaller, and without grooves. The presence of pictographs of a mustard-yellow color would indicate that these bars of ocher of the same color, were to be used as paint.” (Pearce 1933:55)

Bar of yellow ocher, Fate Bell Shelter,
Val Verde County, Texas, p. 50,
Pearce and Jackson, 1933.

“In addition to the two shaped bars of ocher, one lump of orange-colored ocher and ten lumps of various sizes of red ocher, or hematite, were found.
Among the rubbish was found a charcoal “pencil” that showed unmistakable signs of use.” (Pearce 1933:56)

It is not that common to find samples of the paint used in pictograph sites. The only other location I know of is Shield Cave in Glenwood Canyon, Eagle County, Colorado, which I wrote about in “Ochre Pigments In Pictographs,” December 26, 2011. I know there must be many other sites where paint materials have been found along with the pictographs they were used in the creation of, I just cannot personally recall any. This is quite unlike the case with petroglyphs where the hammerstones used to create them are fairly common on the ground in their locations. In any case, in a field where so much has to depend on opinion and interpretation, it is a joy to once in a while find actual factual data and evidence to examine.


Newcomb, W. W., Jr.
1967    The Rock Art of Texas Indians, Paintings by Forrest Kirkland, University of Texas Press, Austin and London.

Pearce, J. E., and A. T. Jackson,
1933    A Prehistoric Rock Shelter In Val Verde County, Texas, Anthropological Papers of the University of Texas, Vol. 1, No. 3, Bureau of Research in the Social Sciences, Study No. 6, University of Texas, Austin.

Saturday, July 4, 2015


View of Special Collections department, Pueblo City-County
Regional Library, Pueblo, Colorado. Photograph: Tammi Moe,
Librarian-Archivist, June, 2015.

On Monday and Tuesday, June 1 and 2, 2015, the Colorado Rock Art Association (CRAA) archives were moved from the Anthropology Department of Colorado State University (CSU), in Fort Collins, Colorado, to the Special Collections Department of the Pueblo City-County Library District, in Pueblo, Colorado.

 The CRAA Archives were established at the Laboratory of Public Archaeology in the Anthropology Department at Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, Colorado, in May 2006. Dr. Jason LaBelle was the academic representative of the Anthropology Department involved in the agreement and he assisted with oversight and provided facilities until the materials were picked up on June 1, 2015. Jason, thank you for all your help and encouragement. It would not have been possible without you.

The original donation to the CRAA Archives consisted of all of the rock art related material from the estate of Dr. William (Bill) Buckles, of Colorado State University, Pueblo. Changing conditions at CSU, including the need to reclaim space led CRAA and CSU to agree on relocating the archives and members of the CRAA Board of Directors began to search for an alternative location. 

View of Special Collections department, Pueblo City-County
Regional Library, Pueblo, Colorado. Photograph: Tammi Moe,
Librarian-Archivist, June, 2015.

The Special Collections and Museum Services Department of the Pueblo City-County Library District, in Pueblo, Colorado, stepped up and offered to provide space and to assume management of the collections, and the material was delivered to them on June 2, 2015. There are some reasons why this is a better solution for housing the material in the collection. First, as a public library, it offers considerably better access to the collections than a university department did. Second, with professionally trained archive personnel they can take better care of materials and do a better job of accessioning and cataloging. Third, the archive is much nearer the concentration of rock art in southern Colorado and so, will be more relevant, and; fourth, the Pueblo City-County Library already housed the rest of the written material and correspondence from the estate of Dr. Bill Buckles, so his material will now be reunited.

View of Special Collections department, Pueblo City-County
Regional Library, Pueblo, Colorado. Photograph: Tammi Moe,
Librarian-Archivist, June, 2015.

The loading, transportation, and unloading of the archives material was done by many people including Dr. Jason LaBelle, Robert Rushforth (CRAA President), Bev Goering, Teresa Weedin, Betsy Weitkamp, Robert and Cecilia Tipton, Peter Faris, and Kathryn Adams and a couple of volunteers from the Pueblo Archaeological and Historical Society, John Norton and Carla Hendrickson. Thank you to all of the people who were involved in this effort. I also wish to express my gratitude to Maria Tucker, Manager of Special Collections and Museum Services of the Pueblo City-County Library District, and Tammi Moe, Librarian-archivist, who will be assuming responsibility for oversight of the archive collections.

View of Special Collections department, Pueblo City-County
Regional Library, Pueblo, Colorado. Photograph: Tammi Moe,
Librarian-Archivist, June, 2015.

The material will not be available for a period of time while they sort and catalog their new acquisitions, but then will be housed under better conditions and will be much more valuable to students and the public for study and research.