Saturday, December 30, 2017


On December 4, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Orders reducing Bear's Ears National Monument in size as well as reducing Grand Staircase-Escalante in size, both in Utah. In his speech he lied that his actions were taken "to protect the land" and "according to the wishes of the Native American tribes."

Bear's Ears rock art,
Dept. of Interior,
Public domain.

I was hoping that this year I would be able to go on to another subject, but President Trump made that impossible, so, for his Executive Order which removes protection from thousands of archaeological sites and rock art panels I am awarding President Donald J. Trump the coveted 2017 CRAP (Certifiable Rock Art Prevarication) award.

Map of Bear's Ears reduction,
Stephanie Smith, Grand
Canyon Trust. Public domain.

Here is how he wants to "protect the land." This map, by Stephanie Smith of the Grand Canyon Trust shows the proposed reduction in area for Bear's Ears. It is a reduction of 85% "to protect the land." Grand Staircase-Escalante is to be reduced by half.

Map of Grand Staircase-Escalante
coal resources, Stephanie Smith,
Grand Canyon Trust. Public domain.

The second map, also by Stephanie Smith of the Grand Canyon Trust illustrates the reason for this action. It illustrates the coal resources of the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument that Trump's reduction in are will free up for strip mining. Just imagine what that will do to these beautiful lands, to say nothing about what burning all that coal will add to climate change.

Bear's Ears rock art, Salt
Lake City Tribune,
public domain.

For these reasons I am disgusted to be able to award President Donald J. Trump the 2017 CRAP award from - congratulations.

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. 


Salt Lake City Tribune.

U.S. Dept. of the Interior.

Saturday, December 23, 2017




FROM RockArtBlog

Decorating the Christmas Tree in Old New Mexico.

Jornada Mogollon, ca. 900 - 1500 AD.

Photo: Paul and Joy Foster, Three Rivers, New Mexico.

Saturday, December 16, 2017


Image made with finger markings.
Mona Island, Puerto Rico.
 Public Domain.

On September 17, 2016, I posted a column about Taino rock art discoveries on Mona Island, Puerto Rico titled Caribbean Rock Art - Puerto Rico. Now, an article in Live Science by Dan Robitzki on November 6, 2017, outlines discoveries of further rock art on Mona Island. In his article "On An Uninhabited Caribbean Island, A Trove Of Pre-Columbian Art", Robitzki wrote "to analyze the cave drawings, the archaeologists took x-rays and used (radio) carbon dating. They were surprised to find that all of the artwork discovered in about 70 winding caves predated Christopher Columbus arriving in the Americas."(Robitzki 2017)

Mona Island, Puerto Rico.
 Public Domain.

The newly discovered petroglyphs include a large percentage of anthropomorphs. "Many of the drawings on the cave walls, some of which depict religious and ceremonial symbols - animals, faces wearing headdresses, and various designs dotted the cave wall - were made using simple techniques, such as rubbing or scraping into the rock walls. Because the cave walls were coated with a softer surface, rubbing or scraping at the surface revealed a different-colored mineral beneath." (Robitzki 2017)

"Other images in the caves were made with advanced paints that varied based on the unique components of each cave, according to the research. These paints contained varied levels of charcoal, bat droppings, plant gums, different minerals like iron and plant material from native trees like Bursera simaruba, also known as the turpentine tree. The researchers concluded that the paintings were likely prepared in advance, and then charcoal from torches were likely added to the artwork afterward." (Robitzki 2017) I fear that I draw a different conclusion here. It sounds to me as if the ingredients are highly random and depended upon whatever the painter could pick up in the location.

Mona Island, Puerto Rico.
 Public Domain.

""Most of the pre-colonial pictographs are in very narrow spaces deep in the caves, some are very hard to access, you have to crawl to get to them, they are very extensive and humidity is very high but it is extremely rewarding," Victor Serrano, an archaeology doctoral candidate from the University of Leicester who worked on the research, said in a statement. "Because the indigenous people of Mona Island were wiped out by European invaders, physical and cultural analysis of the new cave paintings are one way people can learn about what they were like and how they lived. Because the art found in the Mona caves are so well preserved, researchers may glean new insight into the lifestyle of a lost culture."" (Robitzki 2017) In other words, the people are long gone, but we might be able to understand a little of their culture by studying the rock art.

Mona Island, Puerto Rico.
 Public Domain.

Mona Island, Puerto Rico.
 Public Domain.

The Taino people barely survived Spanish civilizing. "The Taino became nearly extinct as a culture following settlement by Spanish colonists, primarily due to infectious diseases. The first recorded smallpox outbreak in Hispaniola was either in December 1518 or January 1519. This smallpox epidemic killed almost 90% of the Native Americans who had not already perished. Warfare and harsh enslavement by the colonists also caused many deaths. By 1548, the Taino population had declined to fewer than 500. Starting in about 1840 there have been attempts to create a quasi-indigenous Taino identity in rural areas of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. This trend accelerated among the Puerto Rican community in the mainland United States in the 1960s. At the 2010 U.S. census, 1,098 people in Puerto Rico identified themselves as Puerto Rican Indian, 1,410 identified as Spanish American Indian, and 9,399 identified as Taino. In total, 35,856 Puerto Ricans considered themselves Native American." (Wikipedia)

NOTE: Images in this posting were retrieved from the internet in 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 this report you should read the original at the site listed below.


Robitzki, Dan
2017    On An Uninhabited Caribbean Island, A Trove Of Pre-Columbian Art, November 6, 2017, Live Science, 

Saturday, December 9, 2017


 Petroglyphs and hieroglyphs
 at Wadi Amera, Egypt.

When I was an Art History student we were taught that Egyptian history basically began with the Pharaoh Narmer, who united Egypt and reigned as the first historic Pharaoh. This early Egyptian history is now being clarified by new discoveries. Carvings found at Wadi Ameyra, in the Sinai Desert, date back to over "5,000 years ago, possibly by mining expeditions sent out by early Egyptian Pharaohs, say the archaeologists who discovered them." (Jarus(A) 2016) Petroglyphs of many ships and animals have been found, as well as early hieroglyphic inscriptions. The team was led by Pierre Tallet, a professor at the University of Sorbonne.

"About 60 drawings and hieroglyphic inscriptions, dating back around 5,000 years have been discovered. - Carved in stone, they reveal new information on the early pharaohs. For instance, one inscription the researchers found tells of a queen named Neith-Hotep who ruled Egypt 5,000 years ago as regent to a young Pharaoh named Djer. Archaeologists estimate that the earliest carvings at Wadi Ameyra date back around 5,200 years, while the most recent date to the reign of a Pharaoh named Nebre, who ruled about 4,800 years ago." (Jarus(B) 2016) Wadi Ameyra is on a route in the Sinai to Egyptian copper and turquoise mines, and sometime after the rule of Nebre the route was changed bypassing this location.

Neith-Hotep's name is represented
by the image at the top of this
illustration which resembles a palm 
tree beside a building.

Egyptologists have long known of Neith-Hotep's existence, but believed that she was married to the Pharaoh Narmer. The inscriptions at Wadi Ameyra suggest, however, that she was not Narmer's wife, but ruled as a regent at the beginning of the reign of Djer. (Jarus(B) 2016)


A ship petroglyph at Wadi Ameyra.

Several of the petroglyphs at Wadi Ameyra show ships. "On three of these boats, the archaeologists found a "royal serekh," a pharaonic symbol that looks a bit like the facade of a palace. The serekh looks "as if it were a cabin on the boats, Tallet said. In later times, boats were buried beside Egypt's pyramids including the Giza pyramids. The design of the boats depicted at Wadi Ameyra "are really archaic, much older than those found beside the pyramids, Talley said." (Jarus(B) 2016.

There is a great deal more to be learned from rock art about the earliest history of Egypt. Art informing life, rock art as history!

NOTE: Images in this posting were retrieved from the Internet with a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on these reports you should read the originals at the sites listed below.


Jarus, Owen
2016(A)   5,000-Year-Old- Hieroglyphs Discovered in Sinai Desert, January 19, 2016,

2016(B)    Early Egyptian Queen Revealed in 5,000-Year-Old Hieroglyphs, January 19, 2016,

Saturday, December 2, 2017


When I first became interested in studying rock art our only way at hoping to have any success at aging was by using comparative methods. Researchers would look for overlapping images to set up a sequence of styles, and compare the images to artifacts in collections looking for stylistic comparisons. This was reasonably successful for relatively recent rock art produced by people who were well represented in museum collections, but was of no use for older material. Now, an exciting story from Australia illustrates how sophisticated we are becoming in dating rock art.

16,000-year-old yam-like
motif. Kimberley rock art,
Western Australia.

A team of researchers in Australia have dated more than 200 rock art sites in northwest Kimberley, and the results indicate that the earliest examples date back to the Paleolithic. The time depth of occupation in Australia has long been known although the earliest dates are still being pushed back as new research adds data, but this early dating of rock art now means that Australians were making art as early as some of the cave art in Europe.

A team of researchers with the Australian Research Council used a number of different dating techniques, but one of the most interesting (and perhaps unique) relied on "optically stimulated luminescence, dating sand grains in fossilized mud wasp nests that had been built over the ancient images." (  2016)

"Accelerator mass spectrometry was also used to date the carbon in the wasp nests and spots of beeswax found on the images. June Ross of the University of New England said that the oldest image in the study, "a perfectly preserved yam-like motif painted in mulberry colored ochre on the ceiling of a deep cavern," was dated to more than 16,000 years old." (  2016)

Kimberley rock art,
Western Australia.

The project depended upon the cooperation of aboriginal Australian people as well. "Chair of the Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation Cathy Goonack said the rock art brought visitors from all around Australia, and around the world to the Mitchell Plateau. "They want to look at our art and hear our stories; now we've got a good science story that we can tell people as well. We'll use this information to help us look after our art," she said."" ( 2016)

I used the word unique above, not in the sense that the techniques are so unusual, but that the application of optically stimulated luminescence to sand grains in mud wasp nests, and accelerator mass spectrometry to beeswax found on a pictograph surface seems to me to be inventive and creative. Such dedicated studies might well serve as an example for much of the rest of the world.

NOTE: For further information on these reports you should read the originals at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:, Sept. 1, 2016

Staff Writers,
2016    Researchers Date "World's Earliest Rock Art" in WA's Kimberley Region, August 31, 2016,