Saturday, January 26, 2019


Recovered image of a deer,
white lines reproduced on the
computer generated image,
Grottes d'Agneux II,

Back in the 1980s I was contacted by a small tech startup company that was developing what they presented as new technology for imaging. Essentially, their work involved taking a number of high definition photographs of a site and then performing magic in a computer that turned them into a three dimensional image that could be used among other things, for taking precise measurements. They were looking to develop new markets and wanted me to guide them to some archaeological sites. I countered by offering to take them to some rock art sites, and they accepted although not fully enthusiastically. I think they pictured themselves working at places like Mesa Verde, but, with me, they ended up in the Picketwire River Canyon south of La Junta, Colorado, recording two different petroglyph sites. I had it in mind that what they had been promoting to me might be useful for things like analyzing superimposition, and bringing out details that might be difficult to see from just one angle. I never found out because after our return to home I never heard from them again, and never even got a response to my inquiries. My guess is that they were less than successful. I bring this up as an introduction to the following subject.

Scientists have recently recovered the engraved images of a horse and a deer from one of two caves known as Grottes d'Agneux in eastern France. The images on the walls of Agneux II had been totally obscured with layers of names, initials, and graffiti left by visitors from the 16th to 19th centuries.

"Scientists with the university (of Tubingen) in Germany and researchers from Spain recently used scanning technology to peer through graffiti layers, reconstructing carved prehistoric images of a horse and a deer buried underneath. After scans revealed the figures, the scientists reconstructed the artwork with image-processing software." (Weisberger)

Although the articles I have seen so far do not mention the specific technology I suspect that the work was done with a laser scanner. I can imagine a process like Lidar should be quite effective.

Having recovered the images "then, they used charcoal found in the caves in order to determine the age of (the) drawings. Using carbon dating, researchers determined that both pieces are approximately 12,000 years old and belonged to the Upper Palaeolithic period." (Bashir)

Modern technological developments are allowing almost miraculous new techniques in analysis, imaging, and recording. This might truly be the golden age of rock art studies.

NOTE: The image in this posting was retrieved from the internet with a search for public domain photographs. If this image is 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.


Bashir, Hira
2018 Prehistoric Cave Art Found Hidden In Graffiti, November 16, 2918,

Weisberger, Mindy
2018 Ice Age Cave Art Found Under Layers of Centuries-Old Graffiti, November 15, 2018,

Saturday, January 19, 2019


Reproduction of the supposed
map mural of Catalhoyuk.

On April 30, 2016, I posted a column titled "Ancient Map Preserved In A Mural Of Volcanic Eruptions At Catalhoyuk". (Faris 2016) This was about a wall mural at Catalhoyuk which appears to record not only a map of the town, but, in the distance, a possible volcanic eruption.

Remains of the map mural of
Catalhoyuk still on the wall,, Public Domain.

Now there are allegations that James Mellaart forged many of the murals and artifacts supposedly recovered from Catalhoyuk. Writing for LiveScience, Owen Jarus (March 12, 2018) stated "A famed archaeologist well-known for discovering the sprawling 9,000-year-old settlement in Turkey called Catalhoyuk seems to have faked several of his ancient findings and may have run a "forger's workshop" of sorts, one researcher says.

James Mellaart, who died in 2012, created some of the "ancient" murals at Catalhoyuk that he supposedly discovered; he also forged documents recording inscriptions that were found at Beykoy, a village in Turkey, said geoarchaeologist Eberhard Zangger, president of the Luwian Studies Foundation. Zangger examined Mellaart's apartment in London between Feb. 24 and 27, finding "prototypes," as Zangger calls them, of murals and inscriptions that Mellaart had claimed were real." (Jarus 2018)

Different reports on this are somewhat confusing as they conflate his supposed counterfeit murals at Catalhoyuk with other subject areas. For instance the documents supposedly recording Luwian inscriptions are scrambled into the Catalhoyuk  murals. These are actually two discrete subjects from two different time frames. Catalhoyuk, "was a very large Neolithic Chalcolithic proto-city settlement in southern Anatolia which existed from approximately 7500 BC to 5700 BC, and flourished around 7000 BC." (Wikipedia) The Luwians were Indo-European immigrants who migrated into Anatolia with the first evidence of their presence dating to circa. 2000 BC. (Wikipedia) Since there seem to be questions and charges being made agains Mellaart on both subjects the issues have become intertwined.

I will pass on the Luwian questions, I am not an epigrapher and have no intention or interest of getting involved in the thorny thickets of translating unknown languages. I am, however, an art historian and questions of the possible counterfeiting of the murals at Catalhoyuk interest me greatly. As I said above I have previously cited this in RockArtBlog concerning one mural that has been interpreted as a map of Catalhoyuk with a volcano erupting in the distance.

Further complicating the question is the fact that Eberhard Zangger is somewhat controversial on his own for theories he has espoused, and also that his charges have not been published in peer-reviewed journals, but in the press. All-in-all this is a subject that will need to be watched closely. Undeniably James Mellaart did make discoveries that rocked archaeology. However, he was also involved in more than one controversy during his life, and now these charges have cast doubt on a new area of his accomplishments.

NOTE: Images in this posting were obtained 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.


Faris, Peter
2016 Ancient Map Preserved In A Mural Of Volcanic Eruptions At Catalhoyuk, April 30, 2016,

Jarus, Owen,
2018 Famed Archaeologist 'Discovered' His Own Fakes at 9,000-Year-Old Settlement, March 12, 2018,


Saturday, January 12, 2019


Newspaper Rock, San Juan
County, Utah. Photograph
Peter Faris, September 2018.

On October 1, 2018, I posted a column titled Public Access/Public Servants/Responsiveness/and Responsibility, an editorial about my attempt to visit the rock art of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, in Montezuma County, Colorado on September 24, 2018. I was refused access by Marietta Eaton, the Monument Manager, who was totally uncooperative with my hopes to be able to bring some of its rock art to RockArtBlog. (Ironically, as recently as May 2018 they were advertising an Artist-in-Residence program which was supposed to provide access to all of its cultural resources including rock art to the winning artists)

Newspaper Rock, San Juan
County, Utah. Photograph
Peter Faris, September 2018.

Instead, a very helpful young lady at the Monument Visitor Center referred me to Newspaper Rock, in San Juan County, Utah, and gave me a map to the site. I had been to Newspaper Rock before, but it was nearly forty years ago, so I took the opportunity to revisit it. Back around 1980 you had to find the site on your own, now there are signs and a parking lot for visitors, a paved trail, and a large slab of flat rock turned into an improvised viewing platform, and they have put a fence around it to suggest to visitors that they stay back. In other words Utah's response to visitors is the polar opposite from that of Eaton and the Canyons of the Ancients. And, while not mitigating in any way my anger and disgust at the policies of Canyons of the Ancients, a visit to Newspaper Rock is always worthwhile, and it was a lot like reconnecting with an old friend.

Newspaper Rock, San Juan
County, Utah. Photograph
Peter Faris, September 2018.

Newspaper Rock is west of the midpoint between La Salle Junction and Monticello, Utah, off of State Highway #211. It is open for visitation like most Utah sites, and nowadays has a nice paved parking area. (Back when I first visited there it was dirt roads and parking lot). 

Interpretive sign,
Newspaper Rock, San Juan
County, Utah. Photograph
Peter Faris, September 2018.

The panel itself is behind a fence to demark the area that visitors are asked to stay out of, and it is accompanied by an explanatory sign with the following explanation: "Newspaper Rock Archaeological Site:
Newspaper rock is a petroglyph panel etched in sandstone that records approximately 2,000 years of early human activity. Prehistoric peoples, probably from the Archaic, Basketmaker, Fremont and Pueblo cultures etched on the rock from B.C. tom to A.D. 1300. In historic times, Ute and Navajo people, as well as European Americans made their contributions.
In interpreting the figures on the rock, scholars are undecided as to their meaning or have yet to decipher them. In Navajo, the rock is called "Tse' Hane'" (Rock that tells a story).
Unfortunately, we do not know if the figures represent storytelling, doodling, hunting magic, clan symbols, ancient graffiti or something else. Without a true understanding of the petroglyphs, much is left for individual interpretation. Newspaper Rock is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Please continue to preserve it." (Utah Parks sign at Newspaper Rock).

The petroglyphs themselves are pecked through a coating of patina that is literally blue-black over most of the surface and so even fairly old images show up spectacularly, making for great photography. If you are ever in that area you should make a point of visiting it, it is well worth the few extra miles.