Friday, June 28, 2019


On June 27 I received an anonymous comment concerning my June 21, 2014 posting DINOSAURS IN ROCK ART? - THE HAVASUPAI CANYON HADROSAUR. In it I discuss the discoverer's belief that he had found the image of a hadrosaur dinosaur, and how new knowledge of their bearing and posture (among other things) makes that impossible (aside from their disappearance 65 million years before humans). This comment, from Unknown, states "although it is true we believe them to have walked or run with their tails horizontal as a counter weight so to speak. It is every but as likely that they would have used their tails to sit, reach something higher up or as a defensive posture, as postulated by the discoverer. Your argument that it is definitive proof as a hoax because the depiction shows him standing upright is both inaccurate and disengenuine."
An online dictionary I consulted defines disengenuine as "unworthy, fake, or deceptive" and the comment was sent to me by Unknown. In other words Unknown is calling me a liar. Well, Unknown, you actually have a reasonable point in your comment about the posture of hadrosaurs and I would have liked to discuss it with you. It is the policy of RockArtBlog to reply to all comments that I receive from people who give me names and e-mail addresses to reply to. You, however, like most of the people whose comments are meant to be insulting, provided neither. So, Unknown, you are a coward, and I can give you no credit for what strikes me as a small, but good, point in what might have been an interesting discussion.

Saturday, June 22, 2019


Romualdova cave, Croatia.

As time goes by we are learning more and more about the capabilities of our ancestors. Some time back we were told that only the very early Europeans had achieved levels of cultural sophistication that led to producing the beautiful Paleolithic cave art. The accumulation of more factual knowledge is teaching us that the capabilities of early people everywhere were pretty much the same, and the continued search for rock art is turning up examples from places that were once thought to be barren. This is certainly the case in India as I have written previously, and now we are learning of the first known cave art on the Balkan peninsula.

Bison, Romualdova cave, Croatia.
             Photo: Dr.Aitor Ruiz-Redondo                     

"An international team, led by an archaeologist from the University of Southampton and the University of Bordeaux, has revealed the first example of Palaeolithic figurative cave art found in the Balkan Peninsula. Dr. Aitor Ruiz-Redondo worked with researchers from the universities of Cantabria (Spain), Newfoundland (Canada), Zagreb (Croatia) and the Archaeological Museum of Istria (Croatia) to find the paintings, which could be up to 34,000 years old.
The cave art was first discovered in 2010 in Romualdova Pećina (Romuald's cave) at Istria in Croatia, when Darko Komšo, Director of the Archaeological Museum of Istria, noticed the existence of a red colour in a deep part of the cave." ( 2019)

Ibex, Romualdova cave, Croatia.
             Photo: Dr.Aitor Ruiz-Redondo         

This discovery led to detailed examination of the cave and documentation of the new discoveries. "The paintings were documented inside Romualdova Pećina, a deep cave extending to a depth of 360 feet (110 meters) along a canyon-like estuary known as the Limski Kanal. During the Upper Paleolithic period, Europe would have been colder than it is today and sea levels were lower. So anyone who took shelter in Romualdova Cave would have looked out onto a river that flowed toward a vast, fertile plain (where the Adriatic Sea is today)." (Gannon 2019)

Anthropomorphs, Romualdova
                       cave, Croatia.
              Photo: Dr.Aitor Ruiz-Redondo

Figures discovered so far have been interpreted as a bison, and ibex, and possible anthropomorphs, and excavation of the cave floor below the paintings has provided a flint tool, and ochre crayon, and charcoal. "Radiocarbon dating of these objects show an estimated age of around 17,000 years ago and other indirect data suggest the paintings date to an even earlier period - at around 34,000-31,000 years ago. Further research will be conducted in order to establish the precise age of the rock art." ( 2019) The older dates are estimated based upon the styles of the images themselves, as well as archaeological evidence found elsewhere in the cave. The younger age is a radiocarbon date obtained from the charcoal. (Gannon 2019)

These new examples of Paleolithic cave art illustrate that human talent is universal, and suggest long range cultural contacts so very long ago. It is truly exciting to imagine what is still to be learned.

NOTE: Images in this posting were retrieved from the internet with a search for public domain photographs. If 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 original reports at the sites listed below.


2019 Photos: First Prehistoric Figurative Cave Art Identified In Croatian Cave By Archaeologists, April 11, 2019,

Gannon, Megan,
2019 The First Cave Art From The Balkans May Date Back 30,000 Years, April 11, 2019,,65209-cave-paintings-discovered-croatia.html

Saturday, June 15, 2019


Cakallar volcano from SE Turkey.
Credit Erdal Gumus.

I have often expressed my conviction that some rock art would have been made to record remarkable events in the lives of the people, and one remarkable event would certainly be the eruption of a volcano. I have previously written columns about three claims of records of volcanic eruptions. The earliest, on February 27, 2016, titled A Claimed Volcanic Eruption Pictured In Rock Art, about claims that a cave painting in Chauvet Pont-d'Arc, France, recorded an eruption from 37,000 BP, and the second, on April 30, 2016, titled Ancient Map Preserved In A Mural Of Volcanic Eruptions At Catalhoyuk, speculating about an eruption in Turkey in ca. 7,500 BCE.

The third was my attempt to stick a pin in a bogus interpretation of the panel at Petroglyph Point in Mesa Verde National Park as including an illustration of a volcanic eruption. This was posted on May 7, 2016, titled Geology In Rock Art - A Volcanic Eruption At Petroglyph Point?, Mesa Verde - Not By A Long Shot, answering a claim in the 1999 book Odyssey of the Pueblos, by William M. Eaton.

Now a new report is claiming that an eruption of a volcano named Cakallar was recorded in a cave painting about a mile and a quarter from the volcano and has been dated to 4,700 years ago. Dating of the volcanic residue was accomplished with two different techniques. "The first of the dating techniques the researchers used measured uranium and thorium's decay into helium to calculate the age of small zircon crystals retrieved from the site. The second method, meanwhile, tracked radioactive chlorine levels that indicate how long the volcanic rocks had been situated near the Earth's surface. Together, this analysis places the Cakallar eruptions around 4,700 years ago." (Geggel 2019)

False color photo of one
of the footprints.

The area came to the attention of the science world in 1968 when workers at the site of a nearby dam noticed well-preserved tracks in the volcanic ash deposits. "Small prints at the site indicate that these ancient people used walking staffs and were accompanied by an unknown species of Canis, a genus that includes wolves, coyotes and dogs, the researchers added." (Geggel 2019)

Enhanced photograph of the panel,

The footprints and the rock painting are assumed to date from roughly the same time and are credited to the same culture. "According to both the study and Turkish archaeology news site Arkeolojik Haber, the artwork in question is known as the Kanlitas rock painting. Found just 1.24 miles away from the footprints, the ocher drawing depicts a cone-shaped structure topped by a crater-like elipsis. A thick line below the cone could show lava flow and falling rocks, while scattered lines surrounding the painting's focal point could represent volcanic vents." (Solly 2019)
Reconstruction of the painting.

Did you notice what happened here? In the report, the researchers used the phrases "could show" and "could represent", while in the headlines about it most of the articles are much more positive as in the "Rock Art and Footprints Reveal How Ancient Humans Responded to Volcanic Eruption" from To my way of thinking we see way too much of this sort of thing in rock art analysis and interpretation. This may mean, and that might mean, so together they definitely prove that - - - - - -. Possibilities are not proof. Using possibilities as evidence you can only achieve a possible conclusion.

While this is all certainly possible, I must say that I am not convinced. I see what they are saying but it is not very convincing. I just sort of think that the artist 4,700 years ago could have drawn a much more convincing mountain. I guess I will just have to keep looking for volcanoes in rock art.

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 original reports at the sites listed below.


Faris, Peter
2016 A Claimed Volcanic Eruption Pictured In Rock Art, February 27, 2016,

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

2016 Geology In Rock Art - A Volcanic Eruption At Petroglyph Point, Mesa Verde? - Not By A Long Shot,

Geggel, Laura
2019 Ancient People Watched a Volcano Erupt. This May Be Their Illustration of It, May 31, 2019,

Solly, Meilan
2019 Rock Art and Footprints Reveal How Ancient Humans Responded to Volcanic Eruption, June 4, 2019,, https:/

Saturday, June 8, 2019


A section of the carved frieze,
Roc-aux-Sorciers, France.

Although we often think of the cave paintings in Europe as a collection of individual images, there are instances of larger overall compositions. At Angles sur l'Anglin, in Vienne, France, is the remarkable art of Le Roc-aux-Sorciers. "The history of discoveries at Roc-aux-Sorciers begins in 1927, when Lucien Rousseau discovered the Paleolithic habitation and identified it as mid-Magdalenian in its culture. He began excavations in the Cave Taillebourg and recovered an engraved stone in which Henri Breuil detected the representation of a mammoth. Some years later, Suzanne de Saint-Mathurin became aware of Rousseau's article and decided to explore further, hoping to find some incised plaquettes like those from the cave at Lussac-les-Chateaus, also in Vienne. Assisted by her friend Dorothy Garrod, she carried out a decade of intensive campaigns between 1947 and 1957, and followed more sporadically until 1964." (Wikipedia)

Roc-aux-Sorciers frieze presented
as a single, unified composition.

Discoveries of relief carvings and paintings ensued and has now presented us with truly spectacular decoration. Archaeologists and prehistorians now tend to interpret the carvings in the two portions of Roc-aux-Sorciers as a single frieze, combining the various panels as if they are one composition.

Overlapping figures of woman
and bison, Roc-aux-Sorciers.

Many of these figures are carved in deep relief with considerable overlapping.
"Starting from the left, the first panel has a pair of bison looking in the same direction, the female behind the male. The second panel consists of two horses going in opposite directions, the left one with its head gracefully turned toward the other, which is grazing. Above them is a bison, lying down.
The third panel has the most extraordinary theme: a close group of three life-size women, side by side, represented from the armpit level down to their ankles. They form a magnificent trio, like the Three Graces." (Desdemaines-Hugon 2010:141)

Horse, Roc-aux-Sorciers, France.
Internet, Public Domain.

"The Roc-aux-Sorciers Frieze:
During their early excavations Saint Mathurin and Garrod found numerous fragments of stone decorated with rock engravings or carvings of animals - several of them painted - that had fallen from the ceiling and walls of the Taillebourg chamber. The discovery of these petroglyphs was followed in 1950 by another find, this time in the second niche known as Abri Bourdoin. Here, they uncovered the bas-relief of a horse still on a wall at the rear of the chamber. Further examination led to the discovery of a huge 18-metre (60 feet) frieze of relief sculptures, featuring bison, horses, ibexes, felines, as well as several carved reliefs of female nudes, in the style of venus figurines such as the Venus of Laussel (c. 23,000 BCE)." (

Lion, Roc-aux-Sorciers, France,
Internet, Public Domain. 

"Combined with the fragments found at Cave Taillebourg, the discovery of the frieze led archeologists and prehistorians to see Cave Taillebourg and Abri Bourdoin as producing a single work of prehistoric art, divided into two sections. In total, they believe the frieze was about 30 metres in length: 18 metres (still almost intact) at Abri Bourdoin; about 12 metres (now collapsed and in fragments) in Cave Baillebourg. It contained a total of 34 figures, including: 7 horses, 8 ibexes, 6 bison, 1 reindeer, 4 felines, 1 unidentified animal, 4 anthropomorphic heads, and 5 stylized female figures." (

the "Three Graces."

Diagram of that panel, the
three female figures in red.

The most famous portion of the composition is a grouping of three female figures familiarly known as the Three Graces. "The first woman to have been produced was probably the one in the middle, since its silhouette was designed in close correlation with the morphology of the rock. The artist first conceived the figure mentally by integrating the nature of the volumes of the wall before beginning the work. This is particularly visible in the use of a natural cavity to represent the very marked opening of the pubis. The legs are missing (they were found in Magdalenian levels during the excavation by S. de Saint-Mathurin). Her belly is round, the navel open, and one breast was lightly engraved and shown to the side. Her arms and hands and her face were not depicted. The second woman is located just to the left of the first. Being juxtposed, the two figures were probably made to be seen together. Her belly, which was made round by the subtle use of volume and by adding a curved line between the pubis and navel (possibly the pigmentation line that marks the bellies of pregnant women), means that this woman is probably pregnant. The hops are wide and the line of the buttocks and thighs also resemble those of a pregnant woman. Her face is not shown, and nor are the arms, hands or feet. Her body was thus depicted from the ankles to the upper body, and hence it is not only the trunk of a woman, but an incomplete figure. The third woman is slightly off to the right were the rock was visibly flat. This shape of rock was most probably sought to represent a flat body without a round belly. The nature of the wall gives the female body a flat volume that contrasts with the body volume of the other two women. The proposed reading of this figure is that it is a woman at a different stage of pregnancy, perhaps a woman depicted after childbirth. Her belly is flat, and she is represented from the front. She has no arms and no face." (Fuentes 2016:8-9)

Three Graces, from Piraeus,
by Sokrates the Boetian
sculptor, 470 BCE,
These remarkable sculptures actually remind me of the Greek carvings that they were named after, as well as the carvings from the triangular pediments under the gable of the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens, and nowadays known as the Elgin Marbles, a little in their style, and a great deal in the feeling they impart. The Elgin Marbles were installed on the Parthenon in 432 BCE (and carved over the few preceding years). Preceding the Elgin Marbles by a few years is the Three Graces by Sokrates the Boetian sculptor dated to ca. 470 BCE. Radiocarbon dating of sediments in Roc-aux-Sorciers has "narrowed the date to about 14,000 - 12,000 BCE." ( This gives the Roc-aux-Sorciers carvings considerable primacy in ranking of accomplishments in art.

Three Graces reproduction,
Imperial Roman, 1st - 4th cent.
Internet, Public domain.

I cannot quite agree with the interpretation that the Roc-aux-Sorciers carvings represent a single composition. With the number of overlapping images there is considerable carving of new lines through old images implying that this was done over a period of time. The amount of work suggested by its size and complexity suggests a considerable period of time - but it is wonderful whatever the truth behind it.

NOTE: An excellent web site with a lot of information and great illustrations from Roc-aux-Sorciers can be found at Don's Maps (see References below). 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 original reports at the sites listed below.


Desdemaines-Hugon, Christine,
2010 Stepping-Stones: A Journey Through the Ice Age Caves of the Dordogne, Yale University Press, New Haven.

Fuentes, Oscar
2016 The Social Dimension of Human Depiction in Magdalenian Rock Art (16,500 BP - 12,000 cal BP): The Case of the Roc-aux-Sorciers Rock Shelter, Quaternary International,

Saturday, June 1, 2019


Cherokee inscription,
Manitou Cave, Alabama.
Internet, Public Domain.

We now know that writing was invented numerous times in human history, but very seldom do we get to know exactly who invented a writing system and exactly what their original creation was.

"Back in the 18th century, when tribes such as the Cherokee were a subject of study by white settlers, the natives in turn were amused by the "talking leaves" they possessed. They could communicate and transmit messages, a skill that to the people unfamiliar with the concept of an alphabet, or reading and writing, seemed more like magic. There were many members of the Cherokee who were against their society's assimilation with the white people and tried to prevent it in many different ways, mostly by emphasizing the importance of their own cultural elements." (Radeska 2018)

Cherokee syllabary, Sequoya.
Wikipedia, Public Domain.

"Nobody did as much as the man known as Sequoyah. Observing and analyzing the newcomers and their "talking leaves," Sequoyah decided that creating a system that would allow his people to communicate and transmit their own stories and messages might help prevent the assimilation and the loss of Cherokee culture. Hence, he invented the Cherokee syllabary with which to write the Cherokee language. This was one of the two times in recorded history when a pre-literate person created and original and efficient writing system." (Radeska 2018)

"It took Sequoya 12 years to finish the work he started in 1809. At first, he had been ridiculed and insulted. Even his wife was said to have burned his initial work as she believed it was some form of witchcraft. But the man didn't give up." (Radeska 2018)

"Although he first experimented with logograms, his final product resulted in a system of 86 symbols, each representing a syllable. He studied the Greek, Latin, and Cyrillic alphabets and even borrowed a few symbols from them, but the sounds and representations of each in the Cherokee syllabary hs no similarity. When Sequoya finished his project, he had to find a way to present it to his people, who were very skeptical at first and couldn't see the importance of his work." (Radeska 2018)

"Sequoyah's first student of his new linguistic system was his six-year-old daughter, Ayokeh (in some places mentioned as the daughter of his brother-in-law). He taught her the system of reading, and then went to the Indian Reserves in the Arkansaw Territory, where he found local leaders, the first people he needed to convince. Sequoyah asked each one of them to tell him a word, which he wrote down. Then he called Ayokeh to read what he had written. His tactic turned out to be convincing, and he got permission to teach the syllabary to more people." (Radeska 2018)

Viewing Cherokee inscriptions,
Manitou Cave, Alabama., Public Domain.

Now a team has identified and deciphered inscriptions found in a cave in Alabama written in the Cherokee script. "Inside Manitou Cave in modern Alabama, nineteenth-century Cherokees carried out sacred ceremonies, recording their activity on the walls using (the) Cherokee syllabary, a system invented in nearby Willstown by Cherokee scholar Sequoyah. Through collaboration between modern Cherokee scholars and Euro-American archaeologists, the authors report and interpret - for the first time - the inscriptions in Manitou Cave. These reveal evidence for secluded ceremonial activities at a time of crisis for the Cherokee. Pressures from the surrounding white populations disrupted the Cherokee ancient lifeways, culminating in their forcible relocation in the 1830s along the Trail of Tears." (Carroll et al 2019:519)

Although there are extensive examples of partial words and symbols in the Cherokee script on the walls throughout the cave "we focus on two areas within the cave where Cherokee inscriptions are extensive and where their meanings can be translated. The first area is more than 1.5km into the cave's main passage, the second approximately 300m from the cave entrance. Each area contains multiple inscriptions, and one inscriptions in the deeper area includes a written date. Associated with these inscriptions are signatures, one of which is a name that appears twice in the cave and which significantly enhances the historic importance of the site. All of the inscriptions in the two areas concern ceremonial and/or spiritual matters; they were probably made in the seclusion of the cave and were not intended for general audiences." (Carroll et al 2019:524)

"One inscription on a wall deep inside the cave, translates as, "leaders of the stickball team on the 30th day in their month April 1828." (Bower 2019)

"Other inscriptions on a ceiling near the caves entrance may be religious messages to Cherokee ancestors or other supernatural beings. The script is written backward, likely because it was intended to be read by residents of what they Cherokee considered to be a spirit world reachable only via Manitou Cave, the researchers say." (Bower 2019)

I am certainly not a scholar of the Cherokee language or writing but I have a problem matching some of the symbols in inscriptions retrieved from the internet with characters in the Cherokee syllabary I found on Wikipedia. Perhaps I am just failing to recognize the backward characters, or perhaps some of the inscriptions contain ligatures. The paper by Carroll, Cressler, Belt, Reed, and Simek does not mention any ligatures in the inscriptions but I find myself wondering if any of the characters are indeed ligatures. "In hand writing, a ligature is made by joining two or more characters in atypical fashion by merging their parts, or by writing one above or inside the other." (Wikipedia) I will have to leave that determination to the experts.

In any case these discoveries provide a fascinating look at a painful period of history, and underscore the importance of some historic inscriptions to our understanding of past events.

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 original reports at the sites listed below.


Bower, Bruce
2019 Newly translated Cherokee cave writings reveal sacred messages, April 16, 2019,

Radeska, Tijana
2018 How Sequoyah, inspired by "talking leaves," invented the Cherokee writing system, Feb. 24, 2018, https:/

Carroll, Beau Duke, Alan Cressler, Tom Belt, Julie Reed, and Jan F. Simek
2019 Talking Stones: Cherokee Syllabary in Manitou Cave, Alabama, Antiquity, Vol. 93, Issue 368, p. 519 - 536.