Saturday, April 21, 2018

DRONES ARE PROVIDING A USEFUL TOOL FOR RECORDING ROCK ART AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL FEATURES:




Newly discovered Paracas
geoglyphs, ancient-origins.com.
Public domain.

Exciting new discoveries in archaeological survey, and rock art recording, are being made possible by the development of video and photographic drones. Recent online articles in Live Science and National Geographic News have documented the use of drone photography to record inaccessible rock art panels and geoglyphs. In the coastal Peruvian desert near the Nazca lines a number of new geoglyphs have been discovered with drone imaging, and an enormous rock art panel in Venezuela was recorded by drone as well.


Newly discovered Paracas
geoglyphs, ancient-origins.com.
Public domain.

The story of the newly discovered geoglyphs in the Palpa province of Peru began in December 2014 "when the environmental organization Greenpeace placed a huge sign calling for renewable energy next to the Nazca hummingbird design National Geographic reported. Greenpeace didn't have permission to enter the World Heritage Site and ended up damaging it." (Geggel 2018)

"Following the incident (for which Greenpeace later apologized), Peru received a grant from the United States to help restore its archaeology by hiring Peruvian archaeologist Johny Isla, the Nazca Line's chief restorer and protector, National Geographic said. Given that not all of Peru's archaeological sites have been mapped from the air, Isla and Peruvian archaeologist Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, who co-discovered the new glyphs, partnered with Sarah Parcak, a space archaeologist and founder of the Laboratory for Global Observation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, to do so." (Geggel 2018)

"After winning the TED Prize in 2016, Parcak founded the GlobalXplorer initiative, which trains citizen scientists to analyze satellite imagery for archaeological sites and signs of looting. The platform's first project invited volunteers to look at satellite photos of Peru." (Greshko 2018)

                           

Newly discovered Paracas
geoglyphs, Public domain.

"Parcak uses aerial photography from drones and satellites to discover and examine archaeological sites. In Peru, Parcak's team used drones, which took images in 2017 that helped the archaeologists discover the new lines." (Geggel 2018) This innovative project used drone photography to make new discoveries in areas that were suspected of holding geoglyphs, in Venezuela drones were used to record rock art that was previously known, but was hard to reach or inaccessible.


Venezuelan mountainside petroglyphs
(computer enhanced),
nationalgeographic.com,
Public domain.

"Ancient rock art isn't always easy to reach, but a researcher in Venezuela has solved this challenge with a bit of modern technology. A camera - equipped drone that zipped across a rocky, watery landscape to photograph ancient artwork depicting people, cultural rituals and animals, a new study reports." (Geggel 2017)


Venezuelan petroglyphs
(computer enhanced),
www.ucl.ac.uk,
Public domain.

"The drone-recorded engravings, in addition to more accessible rock art along the Orinoco River in western Venezuela, are some of the largest rock engravings found anywhere in the world, the researcher said. One panel is more than 3,200 square feet (304 square meters) and has 93 engravings. Another engraving portrays a 98-foot-long (30 m) horned snake." (Geggel 2017)

"The engravings appear to date to pre-Columbian (before 1492) and colonial times (1492 to the 19th century), said the study's author Philip Riris, an archaeologist at University College London in the United Kingdom. Some may be up to 2,000 years old, he noted." (Geggel 2017)

So modern drone technology not only proved useful in discovering rock art, but also in photographing and recording it. Not bad.

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 originals at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:

Geggel, Laura,
2017 Ancient Rock Art Mapped in Amazing Detail, Revealing 100-Foot Snake, Live Science, December 11, 2017, https://www.livescience.com/61155-drone-maps-ancient-rock-art-venezuala.html

Geggel, Laura,
2018 Sprawling, 2,000-Year-Old Desert Carvings Show Up in Drone Photos,
Live Science, April 6, 2018, https://www.livescience.com/62238-new-nazca-lines-discovered.html

Greshko, Michael
2018 Exclusive: Massive Ancient Drawings Found in Peruvian Desert,National Geographic News, April 5, 2018, https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/04/new-nasca-nazca-lines-discovery-peru-archaeology/

nationalgeographic.com

www.ancient-origins.com.

www.ucl.ac.uk

Saturday, April 14, 2018

THE EARLIEST HUMAN DATE IN NORTH AMERICA SO FAR (PART TWO) - THE ROCK ART:


Beringia.
cs7.pikabu.ru,
Public domain.

In part one of this I presented the earliest human date - so far - in North America, obtained from human-made cut marks on a piece of a horse mandible dated to 24,000 years ago. This was recovered from excavations between 1977 and 1987 at Bluefish Caves in the Yukon, by archaeologist Jacques Cinq-Mars. This location is in the area defined as Beringia, the portions of the Bering Strait exposed during the last glacial maximum, and adjoining portions of Siberia, Alaska, and Canada that were not covered by glaciation. I closed that column with the statement - "but this is RockArtBlog - what does this have to do with rock art? Well, we know people make rock art, and people from 24,000 years ago might well have made rock art too. As Eamer stated Beringia is now "mostly underwater" but, in the portions remaining available to us there is the possibility of rock art as old as 24,000 years. What a find that would be, what might it look like?"

With the end of the Ice Age and the melting of the glaciers the portion of Beringia that is now the Bering Strait was submerged, but portions of the land on continental North America that had been exposed at that time (and included in the boundaries of Beringia) are still exposed, and it so happens there are examples of rock art on those portions that might give us clues to what Beringian rock art would have looked like.

To begin, I must confess that my sample is woefully small, but from a very wide area. I have samples of petroglyphs from Petroglyph Beach at Wrangell, Alaska, and a carved rock from Shemya Island in the Aleutians, a small rocky island way out by the western end of the Aleutian chain.


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



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


"Petroglyph Beach State Historic Site is an Alaskan beach and public historical site with the highest concentration of Native American petroglyphs in the southeastern region of Alaska. Located on the shore of Wrangell, Alaska barely a mile out of town it became a State Historic Park in 2000. At lease 40 petroglyphs have been found to date. The site itself is about 8,000 years old." (Wikipedia) The predominate motifs seem to be concentric circles and masks, although a few recognizable zoomorphs are found such as birds and an orca.


"Seal Stone", Shemya Island,
Alaska. Public domain.


Shemya Island, Alaska.
1944, Public domain.


Shemya Island is located 1200 miles west by southwest of Anchorage, Alaska. This very "small island is in the Near Islands group of the Semichi Islands chain in the Aleutian Islands archipelago. - It has a land area of 5.903 sq mi (15.29 km2) and is 2.73 miles (4.39 km) wide and 4.32 miles (6.95 km) long." (Wikipedia) An island that is this small would never have supported a large population, but prehistoric population did exist, and we have a carved stone to prove it. The "Seal Stone" (so-called for the resemblence of one end to the head of a seal) weighs approximately 250 pounds and was found on Shemya during World War II by an American airman who shipped it home on an Air Corps cargo plane. It has since been recovered and returned to the Museum of the North in Fairbanks, Alaska (McLain 2015). 


Seal stone, one analysis of motifs
(I disagree with most of these identifications
except the face, there are also faces
that he did not identify).
aleutianislandsworkinggroup.wordpress.com,
Public domain.

The carvings on the "Seal Stone" are very reminiscent of many of the petroglyphs found on Petroglyph Beach at Wrangell, consisting of circles and masks, suggesting that they were made by members of the same culture.

We find motifs in both examples of masks, and multiple circular elements, showing considerable similarity. Having two examples of similar rock art found in areas that were included in old Beringia, and 1200 miles apart, seems to indicate a widespread culture that might have once included the rest of Beringia. Unfortunately we do not have reliable dates for these petroglyphs and the only way of estimating dates that I can imagine would be by measuring the depth of the weathering rind in the carved lines and comparing that to the rind of an un-carved surface. This would be a destructive technique so we should eschew any such attempts. If the published estimate of age for the petroglyphs at Wrangell is correct, then their creation was much closer to the time of Beringian exposure than to the present. That could suggest that this common culture is, indeed, very old and may well date back to Beringia. I fear, however, that we may never know unless more rock art is discovered in datable contexts.

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 originals at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:

Eamer, Claire
2017 Archaeological Find Puts Humans in North America 10,000 Years Earlier Than Thought, January 13, 2017, https://www.hakaimagazine.com/article-short/archaeological-find-puts-humans-north-america-10000-years-earlier-thought

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

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

McLain, Allison Young,
2015 The Seal Stone Enigma, 16 March 2015, https://aleutianislandsworkinggroup.wordpress.com/tab/rock-art/

Saturday, April 7, 2018

THE EARLIEST HUMAN DATE IN NORTH AMERICA - SO FAR (PART ONE):



 

Yukon scene with close-up of
bone with cut marks inset.
ancientorigins.com.
Public Domain.

I have long been interested in the possibility as to whether any rock art exists created in Beringia by the first immigrants to North America. I can see no reason why they would not have created rock art, pretty much everybody else did in prehistoric North America.


Close-up of bone fragment
with cut marks.
umontreal.ca,
Public Domain.

Now, materials recovered from the Bluefish Caves in the Yukon between 1977 and 1987, by archaeologist Jacques Cinq-Mars have belatedly provided evidence that humans had arrived in North America 24,000 years ago. (Boissoneault 2017) "At the time Cinq-Mars and his team concluded that the Bluefish Caves showed evidence of occasional human use as much as 30,000 years ago." (Eamer 2017) - In part 1 I will present the early date, and in part 2 I will add some speculations about the rock art.




Fragment of horse mandible
from Bluefish Caves,
smithsonianmag.com
Public Domain.

Naturally, Cinq-Mars' early dates raised considerable controversy and disagreement, after all, back then we all knew that the Clovis people of 13,000 years ago were the first inhabitants of North America.

"The discord surrounding Cinq-Mars' discovery resulted in a portion of the collection never being thoroughly analyzed and researchers eventually lost interest. But now, 40 years after Cinq-Mars' initial discovery, it seems the archaeologist has been vindicated. Canadian scientists Lauriane Bourgeon and Ariane Burke, assisted by University of Oxford professor Thomas Higham, conducted a two-year re-analysis of the bones found in the Bluefish Caves, poring over 36,000 bone fragments held in a collection at the Canadian Museum of History and studying fragments that hadn't previously been taphonomically classified. After doing a thorough classification of the markings on the bones as made by natural forces or humans, they conducted radiocarbon dating of those they deemed to have been marked by humans. The earliest bone to show distinct human-made marks - a horse jaw, sawed by a stone tool that indicates the hunter was attempting to remove the tongue - dates to 24,000 years ago." (Boissoneault 2017)


Diagram of placement of the
horse mandible fragment,
umontreal.ca,
Public Domain.

"Recent genetic studies suggest that some ancient people rode out the hostile conditions of the Last Glacial Maximum in isolation in the relatively hospitable Beringia - a continent, now mostly underwater, that once spanned from Siberia to Canada's Mackenzie River - before moving deeper into North America when conditions improved. Archaeological evidence of their presence has been elusive, but the butchered bones of the Bluefish Caves might provide that missing link." (Eamer 2017) So if the cut marks are interpreted correctly, and if the radiocarbon dates are correct, people were in North America as far back as 24,000 years ago.


Tools from Bluefish Caves,
rperon1017blog.files.wordpress.com,
Public Domain.

The results of Cinq-Mars' excavation also provide evidence supporting the Beringia Standstill Hypothesis, the theory that during the last glacial maximum a population remained standing still in Beringia, cut off from moving further south by glaciation. "John Hoffecker, an archaeologist and human paleoecologist at the University of Colorado and proponent of the Beringia standstill hypothesis, agrees that the cut-marked bones are strong evidence of early human occupation. But what stunned him, he says, was a comment - taken from Cinq-Mars's original, unpublished notes - that stone tools were found in the lowest and oldest cave deposits. "As soon as I saw the information, I realized that there is a pretty solid case for the Last Glacial Maximum occupation 24,000 years ago."" (Eamer 2017)


But this is RockArtBlog - what does this have to do with rock art? Well, we know people make rock art, and people from 24,000 years ago might well have made rock art too. As Eamer stated above, Beringia is now "mostly underwater" but, in the portions remaining available to us there is the possibility of rock art as old as 24,000 years. What a find that would be, what might it look like? - To Be Continued.

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 originals at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:

Eamer, Claire
2017 Archaeological Find Puts Humans in North America 10,000 Years Earlier Than Thought, January 13, 2017, https://www.hakaimagazine.com/article-short/archaeological-find-puts-humans-north-america-10000-years-earlier-thought

Boissoneault, Lorraine,
2017 North America 10,000 Years Earlier Than We Thought, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/humans-may-have-arrived-north-america-10000-years-earlier-we-thought-180961957/