Sunday, November 25, 2018


View of Gobekli Tepe temple excavation,,
Public Domain.

I am writing this as an introduction to the remarkable phenomenon of Gobekli Tepe. I have no intention to make this any more than a simple introduction, in hopes of inspiring you, my readers, to dig in to the subject yourselves. Gobekli Tepe will reward your efforts.

Pillar with relief sculpture,
birds and boar,,
Public Domain.

"Gobekli Tepe, Turkish for "Potbelly Hill", is an archaeological site in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, approximately 12 km (7 mi) northeast of the city of Sanliurfa. The tell has a height of 15 m (49 ft) and is about 300 m (980 ft) in diameter. It is approximately 760 m (2,490 ft) above sea level. The tell includes two phases of use believed to be of a social or ritual nature dating back to the 10th - 8th millennium BCE. During the first phase, belonging to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA), circles of massive T-shaped stone pillars were erected - the world's oldest known megaliths. More than 200 pillars in about 20 circles are currently known through geophysical surveys. Each pillar has a height of up to 6 m (20 ft) and weighs up to 10 tons. They are fitted into sockets that were hewn out of the bedrock." (Wikipedia)

Gobekli Tepe, pillar carved
with arms and a belt,,
Public Domain.

The main site of Gobekli Tepe consists of a series of circular constructions as described above. Remarkably, each one was apparently used for some time and then buried, with a new circular construction built for use. Four of the circular constructions have been excavated with a probably 16 more still to be investigated. Indeed, T-shaped stone pillars have reportedly been found on a number of other hilltops in the region indicating the possibility that the phenomenon of Gobekli Tepe was widespread. (Wikipedia)

Lion and boar on a pillar
at Gobekli Tepe,,
Public Domain.

Gobekli Tepe is classified as a Pre-Pottery Neolithic A Period site, and "is a series of mainly circular and oval-shaped structures set on the top of a hill. Excavations began in 1995 by Prof. Klaus Schmidt with the help of the German Archeological Institute. There is archeological proof that these installations were not used for domestic use, but predominately for ritual or religious purposes. Excavations and geo-magnetic results revealed that there are at least 20 installations, which in archeological terms can be called a temple. Based on what has been unearthed so far, the pattern principle seems to be that there are two huge monumental pillars in the center of each installation, surrounded by enclosures and walls, featuring more pillars in those set-ups." (

Three-dimensional lion
carved on a pillar,,
Public Domain.

It is these pillars which we are concerned with here in RockArtBlog. They are remarkably carved with low relief images and symbols, some have three-dimensional animals, and human appendages making them stylized standing human figures. They comprise a remarkable collection of stunning early art.

Dating of the various layers has given a range of dates from 9130 - 7370 BCE (Wikipedia), with the largest and most ornate constructions tending to be from the earlier period. This means that 12,000 years ago, before humans had invented farming or pottery, the people of Gobekli Tepe were carving stone, building temples, and sculpting stone figures. Most of the stone carving is in relief, but a few examples are three-dimensional. All-in-all they comprise an incredibly sophisticated complex from a very early period.

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.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018


Panel from Borneo cave,
handprints at top right,
banteng at lower left.

As more and more discoveries are made around the world it becomes increasingly obvious that the only thing special about the cave art in Europe is that it has been studied much more than elsewhere. Increasing attention to rock art in other parts of the world are now challenging all previous assumptions about who, what, and where was first. In other words our cultural-centric biases are showing.

"A 40,000-year-old painting of a mysterious, wild cow-like beast discovered in a Borneo cave is the oldest human-made drawing of an animal on record. The discovery indicates that figurative cave art - one of the most significant innovations in human culture - didn't begin in Europe as many scientists thought, but rather in Southeast Asia during the last ice age." (Geggel 2018)

"Previously, the oldest known animal painting in the world was an approximately 35,400-year-old babirusa, or "pig-deer," on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi." (Geggel 2018)

Banteng on panel from Borneo cave,

"A limestone cave in eastern Borneo features a reddish-orange painting of a horned animal, possibly a type of wild cattle that may have been found on the island at the time. The painting dates to at least 40,000 years ago, concludes a team led by archaeologist Maxime Aubert of Griffith University in Southport, Australia. This creature represents the oldest known example of a painted figure anywhere in the world the scientists report online November 7 in Nature." (Bower 2018)

Male banteng,., 
public domain.

A species of wild cow known as the banteng (Bos javanicus) still lives in the forests of Borneo and this image might represent the banteng, or an unknown prehistoric relative. In the banteng the horns are considerably larger on the male, as seen in this cave painting.

"The same cave walls contain two hand outlines framed in reddish orange pigment that were made at least 37,200 years ago, and a similar hand stencil with a maximum age of 51,800 years. Age estimates rest on analyses of uranium in mineral deposits that had formed over and underneath parts of each cave painting. Scientists used known decay rates of radioactive uranium in these deposits to calculate maximum and minimum dates for the paintings." (Bower 2018)

"The researchers collected calcium-carbonate samples from the Kalimantan cave drawings so they could do uranium-series dating - a technique made possible by radioactive decay. When rainwater seeps through limestone, it dissolves a small amount of uranium, Aubert told Live Science. As uranium decays, it turns into the element thorium. By studying the ratio of uranium to thorium in the calcium carbonate that is coating the cave art, researchers determined how old the initial coating was, he said." (Geggel 2018)

This is a good hard dating for these images, something not always available for rock art.

Handprints from Borneo cave,
red-orange are earlier, the
darker ones are later.

"The team proposed that the prehistoric artworks can be divided into at least two chronologically distinct phases of art production. The first phase is characterized by hand stencils and large figurative paintings of animals that are reddish-orange in colour." (Brumm 2018)

"Hand stencils also characterize the later phase, but these stencils (and associated images) tend to be dark purple ("mulberry") in colour." (Brumm 2018)

The recently dated images from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, and now these even earlier dates, should put to rest our old assumptions of cultural imperialism. Just because the rock art in Europe was found first, and studied the most extensively, does not mean that the Paleolithic Europeans were culturally more advanced. Indeed, with these new dates from the other side of the world it looks like we have some catching up to do.

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.


Bower, Bruce,
2018 Like Europe, Borneo Hosted Stone Age Cave Artists, November 7, 2018,

Brumm, Adam,
2018 Borneo Cave Discovery: Is the World's Oldest Rock Art in Southeast Asia?, November 8, 2018,

Geggel, Laura,
2018 World's Oldest Animal Drawing, Discovered in Borneo Cave, Is a Weird       Cow Beast, November 7, 2018, oldest-figurative-cave-art.html

Saturday, November 10, 2018


A supposed alignment of
the stars in the belt of the
constellation Orion with the
peaks of the Giza pyramids
in Egypt.

This is not strictly speaking about rock art, but it is such an egregious example of New Age fringie thinking that I felt I had to say something about it.

I recently ran across an article with this reference (Shreya below) about the pyramids of Giza Plateau in Egypt being aligned with the stars of the belt of the constellation Orion. Now, while we all know that ancient peoples would have seen the sky and probably picked out patterns in it just as we do, some of the supposed "ancient knowledge" about this is pretty weak. We have a whole cabal of New Agers and spiritualists who pretty much make up "ancient knowledge" out of the whole cloth. I decided to look a little deeper into this knowing that in ancient Egypt there actually was a body of sky knowledge.

A modern star chart of
the constellation Orion.

"In ancient Egypt, the stars of Orion were regarded as a god, called Sah. Because Orion rises before Sirius, the star whose heliacal rising was the basis for the Solar Egyptian calendar, Sah was closely linked with Sopdet, the goddess who personified Sirius. The god Sopdu, was said to be the son of Sah and Sopdet. Sah was syncretized with Osiris, while Sopdet was skyncretized with Osiris mythological wife, Isis. In the Pyramid Texts, from the 24th and 23rd centuries BC, Sah was one of many gods whose form the dead pharaoh was said to take in the afterlife." (Wikipedia)

"The pyramids named Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure are aligned with the stars (Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka) of the Orion belt (a constellation in the night sky). No one knows, till date(?), how the Egyptians could have achieved this feat of aligning the pyramids with the celestial bodies. Orion was not even named till 2,000 years after the pyramids were made but it is believed that the constellation was linked with Osiris God of Rebirth, by the Egyptians." (Shreya 2018)
This is such a wonderful example of  New Age fringie thinking that I had to pass it along to you. Let's begin with the phony photograph illustrating it - Oh, the wonders of PhotoShop! This picture is phony. I am not versed in astronomical mathematics, but even I can do a few simple calculations that prove this. 

First, by my simplistic measurements off of a star chart the belt of Orion subtends approximately 3˚  (degrees) of arc, and measuring off of a map of the Giza Plateau from peak to peak the distance between the outer two pyramids is 900m. So for this photo with the stars of Orion's belt so perfectly aligned to the peaks of the pyramids to work, the peaks of the two outer pyramids have to be 3˚ apart too. If each 3˚ of the arc is 900m then the circumference of the full circle is 108,000m. This give us a diameter of the circle at 34,394.90m (d=C/n), and half of that is the radius, the viewing point at which the pyramids would appear to subtend 3˚ of arc is the center. This radius comes to 17,197.45m (56,422 feet), or 10.7 miles. Do you really believe that the pyramids of Giza look that large and impressive from almost eleven miles away? 

Well, you say, the picture could have been taken with a telephoto lens from that far away and the peaks of the two outer pyramids would be 3˚ of arc apart just like Orion's belt. Then I have to ask you what brand of telephoto lens the ancient Egyptians used, and if you actually think you have an answer for that then we have nothing more to discuss.

Diagram showing that
there is no alignment.

Then we have the question of their supposedly perfect alignment. I went back to my star chart and map of the Giza plateau and drew lines from the stars through the peaks of the pyramids and to a viewing point, and they don't line up properly. You can change the size of the spread of the stars or its angle (remember Orion moves through the sky and its angle changes), but you cannot change the relative distances between the stars, or the pyramid peaks, and no matter how you try to adjust it, they will never line up.

Hancock, Graham, Magicians of
the Gods, 2015, page 504.

For some reason, Graham Hancock, in his 2015 book Magicians of the Gods, decided to throw in with this nonsense as well. He sees it as supporting his premise of ancient knowledge lost to our modern age. I find his explanation (Hancock 2015:504) no more convincing than the others, indeed, the fact that he sees it as more proof of his claims of ancient lost knowledge argues very effectively against this theory in my opinion. (I will not quote him here but will refer you to his book if you are interested in pursuing this theory).

So, this story is just more of the New Age fringie fiction which is so unfortunately common in our anti-scientific society. And admittedly, my crude analysis above is based upon my own gonzo astrophysical calculations, and I would welcome a more scientific and accurate analysis, but until that occurs I will stand by my conclusions.

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.

The hieroglyphics were provided by as a translation for "bullshit". As always, one-on-one translations will be incorrect because their word would not have necessarily a direct equivalent for our word.

I will welcome the help of any mathematician or astrophysicist who would like to refine my crude calculations and examples. Send them to me and I will be happy to post them here on


Hancock, Graham
2015 Magicians of the Gods, St. Martin's Press, New York.

2018 Pyramids Were Constructed 1000s of Years Ago but Some Facts About Them are Still Astonishing, August 14, 2018,

Saturday, November 3, 2018


Ach Valley carved mammoth
Public domain.

There is an old piece of advice that states "if you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all." This is obviously very good advice for human interaction, but there are circumstances where erroneous or dangerous ideas are being passed on, that I believe must be called out for what they are. I have recently been writing a series of columns about the theories of Dr. Michael Rappenglueck, who identifies star charts in Paleolithic art. I have tried to patiently point out what I think are the flaws in his reasoning and shown how I disagree with his conclusions. This example, however, is even shakier than the others.

The Ach Valley Tusk is a piece of mammoth ivory, recovered from Geißenklösterle Cave near Ulm, Germany, that has a human figure carved into one side and a series of 86 pits or notches cut into the other. Rappengluek identified the human figure as a star map representing the constellation Orion.

Constellation Orion star chart,,
Public Domain.

"Orion is a prominent constellation located on the celestial equator and visible throughout the world. It is one of the most conspicuous and recognizable constellations in the night sky. It was named after Orion, a hunter in Greek mythology. Its brightest stars are Rigel (Beta orionis) and Betelgeuse (Alpha orionis), a blue-white and a red supergiant, respectively.
The earliest depiction that has been linked to the constellation of Orion is a prehistoric (Aurignacian) mammoth ivory carving found in a cave in the Ach valley in West Germany in 1979. Archaeologists have estimated it to have been fashioned approximately 32,000 to 38,000 years ago. The distinctive pattern of Orion has been recognized in numerous cultures around the world, and many myths have been associated with it." (

Constellation Orion, NASA,
Public Domain,

Writing on, Peter Christoforou, explained the proposition. According to Christoforou "Dr. Michael A. Rappengluck is well respected in academic circles, and has a solid grounding in both astronomy and the history of astronomy. In fact, Dr. Rappengluck holds an advanced degree in the History of Astronomy from the University of Munich, and he has served as the President of the Society of Archaeaoastronomy in Germany." (Christoforou 2018)

"According to research published by Dr. Rappengluck, the figure must be Orion, since the slim waist of the figure corresponds to the Belt of Orion, and the sword he sees hanging from the waist of the figure is easy to see in the real constellation. Moreover, Dr. Rappengluck is at some pains to point out that the figurines' left leg is somewhat shorter than the right leg, just as it is in the constellation. Therefore, the figure on the ivory fragment is Orion the Hunter." (Christoforou 2018) I feel I should take this opportunity to point out that the writer Peter Christoforou has gone out of his way to be fair to Rappenglueck, even if he is not convinced of the carving's identity as Orion (and I urge you to read his whole paper at the address below) he has given all the arguments, pro and con.

The usual arguments still apply, but in this case a couple of new ones come into play as well. First, thousands of bone, ivory, and antler carvings were recovered from Geißenklösterle Cave but this is the only one that portrays a constellation? To make this argument Christoforou pointed to a carving of a bison. "This figuring of a bison shows some simple bas-relief in addition to faint details like horns and a beard, despite the fact that it measures only 25.5mm x 14.5 mm x 6 mm, which is comparable to the dimensions of the human-like figure of the putative Orion star map. The original carving is housed in the Wurttemberg Landesmuseum, Stuttgart.
While the existence of this particular carving (the bison) does not prove anything beyond the fact that it shows exquisite workmanship, it is significant that neither Dr. Rappenglueck, nor any other archeaoastronomers have suggested that the figure represents the constellation Taurus, or any other constellation. Of course, this does not prove that the Orion carving is not a star map, but the point is that only one artifact from among the thousands recovered from the cave is taken to represent a constellation. By all accounts, this is rather strange considering the sheer amount of artifacts that could be taken as star maps, or representations of the objects/patterns in the night sky." (Christoforou 2018)

The other obvious problem is, of course, the sword that Rappenglueck sees hanging from the figure's belt, and that identifies him as Orion. Is it really like all the other known Paleolithic swords to be so convincing? Oh wait, what's that you say, there are no Paleolithic swords? What was I thinking of?

Another issue is the fertility connection that Rappenglueck imbues this carving with. Remember the 86 notches on the back of the carving? "The average length of human gestation is 280 days, or 40 weeks." (www.betterhealth.vic) Rappenglueck noted that if you subtract the 86 notches from the number of days in a year you have a number that is very close to the average length of modern human pregnancy. (The only references I have been able to find about the length of pregnancy in the Paleolithic period assume that it was the same as today).
"The reverse side of the Orion carving is dotted with 86 notches, which Dr. Rappanglueck claims is a "birth calendar". According to Dr. Rappenglueck, if one subtracts 86 from the number of days in a year (365), one arrives at the average human gestation period, which is around 279 days, or nine months, gave or take a few days either way. Nevertheless, this implies that the Aurignacian culture could count, that they knew how many days there were in a year, and that they understood and practiced basic arithmetic." (Christoforou 2018)

I am going to give them some benefit of the doubt here - I assume that the Aurignacian peoples could count. I find it inconceivable that they would have reached such cultural heights and overlooked counting. I even assume that they could understand and practice simple basic arithmetic. I am less convinced that they knew the number of days in a year - 12 moons, yes, but the actual number of days in a year, I don't know. This, however, makes no difference. What kind of pregnancy calculation is made by subtracting 86 days from the end of a year, when you don't know at what point the year started (when the pregnancy began)?

"Moreover, Dr. Rappenglueck also claims that the 86 notches on the carving represent the number of days that one of Orion's principal stars, Betelgeuse, is visible, thus forming a link between the sky gods and human fertility." (Christoforou 2018)

This last statement is particularly confusing because the truth is that Betelgeuse is visible all year except for June and July when they are in the sky during daylight hours. "In the Northern Hemisphere, beginning in January of each year, it can be seen rising in the east just after sunset. By mid-September to mid-March (best in mid-December), it is visible to virtually every inhabited region of the globe, except for a few research stations in Antarctica at latitudes south of 82˚. In May (moderate northern latitudes) or June (southern latitudes), the red supergiant can be seen briefly on the western horizon after sunset, reappearing again a few months later on the eastern horizon before sunrise. In the intermediate period (June-July) it is invisible to the naked eye (visible only with a telescope in daylight) - - . " (

All in all, this Orion figurine is the most egregious of Rappenglueck's claimed identifications of Paleolithic star maps, and I find it totally unbelievable.

NOTE: The pictures in this posting were retrieved from the internet with a search for public domain images. If they were not meant to be public domain please contact me and I will give full credit.


Christoforou, Peter
2018 Is the Ach Valley Tusk-fragment an Ancient Star Map?, March 2, 2018,