Saturday, September 19, 2020

 A SHORT EDITORIAL: Once again, I cannot reply to anonymous comments, if you wish to initiate a communication you will need to give me an address to respond to.  

Monday, September 14, 2020

BASQUE ROCK ART:

Horses, Atxurra cave, Diego Garate.



Vandalism in Axturra cave,
and paleolithic image after
processing photograph.
By Diego Garate.

When I first became interested in rock art back in 1978 we were living in Grand Junction, Colorado, an area with access to the magnificent rock art of western Colorado and eastern Utah. In an interesting connection to this report I remember that the results of the previous Federal Census had just been released and the largest minority population in Grand Junction at that time was ethnic Basques, supposedly because of sheepherders who had come over from the Old World to work, and then stayed.


Fish petroglyph, Gipuzkoa cave, Northern Spain. Photo from arkeobasque.

The study of the magnificent art of the painted caves in Europe, centered on France and Spain, has tended (predominately for nationalistic reasons) to ignore the area in between, the Basque-inhabited regions of northern Spain. The Basques were (are) often seen as less cultured, a somewhat more primitive people living in a wild, mountainous land at the western end of the Pyrenees.


Map of the Basque region, northern Spain.

The painted cave of Altamira is in Cantabria, Spain, and the Basque territory is nestled between Cantabria and the southern French centers of cave art. The Basque Autonomous Community (7,234 km square) consists of three provinces, specifically designated "historical territories": Alava (capital: Vitoria-Gasteiz, Biscay (capital: Bilbao), and Gipuzkoa (capital: Donostie-San Sebastian). This, the Basque territory provides a continuous region connecting the centers of French cave art with the Spanish. We are now beginning to learn that the art is continuous as well, with the discovery of magnificent Paleolithic painted caves in the Basque region by archeologist Diego Garate and others. (It should be noted as well that there is a Basque population in the southern French region.


Bison, Askondo cave, photo from arkeobasque.


Indeed, the Basques may have inhabited this area since the stone age, their origins lost in the mists of time. “Since the Basque language is unrelated to Indo-European, it has long been thought to represent the people or culture that occupied Europe before the spread of Indo-European languages there. A comprehensive analysis of Basque genetic patterns has shown that Basque genetic uniqueness predates the arrival of agriculture in the Iberian Peninsula, about 7,000 years ago. It is thought that Basques are a remnant of the early inhabitants of Western Europe, specifically those of the Franco-Cantabrian region. Basque tribes were mentioned in Roman times by Strabo and Pliny, including the Vascones, the Aquitani, and others.” (Wikipedia)



Horse panel, Ekain Cave, Internet photo Public Domain.


        Closeup of horse panel, Ekain Cave,

            Internet photo Public Domain.

Legends of the Basque people themselves talk about people who only knew tools of stone. “The jentilak ('Giants'), on the other hand, are a legendary people of the high lands and with no knowledge of iron. Many legends about them tell that they were bigger and taller, with a great force, but were displaced by the ferrons, or workers of ironworks foundries, until their total fade-out.” (Wikipedia)

We know that the inhabitants of France are probably not direct descendants of the creators of the art, and the same goes for the bulk of Spain. It does appear, however, that the inhabitants of the Basque region are probably genetically related to the creators of the Paleolithic cave art. Could it be that the people who are today discovering and studying the Paleolithic art of the Basque territory, are the direct descendants of the people who produced it originally?

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.

REFERENCES:

Arkeobasque

2015 Recent Advances In Paleolithic Rock Art In Basque Country (2010-2015), 28 April 2015, arkeobasque.wordpress.com

Cowie, Ashley

2020 40,000-Year-Old Cave Art Fills Basque Country Void, 13 March 2020, www.ancient-origins.net

Garate, Diego

2018 Solving A Riddle About The Dawn Of Art, 16 Jan 2018, www.sapiens.org

Schuster, Ruth

2020 Ancient Art Found In Basque Country Changes Understanding Of Prehistoric Society, 12 March 2020, www.haaretz.com

Wikipedia

Basques, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basques

Basque Country (greater region), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basque_Country_(greater_region)

Saturday, September 12, 2020

EARLIEST ART IN THE BRITISH ISLES?


One of the engraved plaquettes, Photo BBC.

On July 26, 2020, I posted a column titled This Rock Art In Wales May Be Britain’s Earliest about an early petroglyph discovered in a cave in Wales. Since then another site has been announced that challenges the cave in Wales as the earliest art in Great Britain. Whereas the petroglyph in Wales has been dated to from 12,000 to 14,000 BP, the new find has been tentatively dated to the Magdalenian period, 17,000 to 12,000 years ago. (Wikipedia) This site, discovered on the island of Jersey, is known as Les Varines, St. Saviours. At this location “ten fragments of  engraved fine-grained flat stones were recovered during different seasons of field excavations between 2014 and 2018.” (Bello et al. 2020) 


Scene of excavation team, Photo BBC.

“Stone plaquettes make up a significant proportion of Magdelenian mobiliary art. Plaquettes are flat pieces of stone used as a support for engraving on at least one surface. They are rarely larger than 300 mm in maximum dimension and common materials used include sandstone, limestone and schist, though organic examples on flat bone (scapulae) are also known. They are typically engraved with figurative animals or abstract ‘signs’, which can reflect a range of artistic skill.” (Bello et al. 2020)  


Close-up of engraved grooves. Internet photo Public Domain.

Such plaquettes are quite common in Magdalenian site deposits. “In France, about 1,100 stone plaquettes were found at Enlene cave. On the Iberian Peninsula, over 5,000 stone plaquettes were uncovered at Parpallo cave in Spain and over 1,500 were found at the open air site of Foz do Medal Terrace in Portugal.” (Sci-News Staff 2020) While it is tempting to assume that the engraved stones were propped up against cave walls as items of art decorating the living areas of the people, there is no indication of that. Some of these pieces, however, may have been part of a stone floor or pavement laid in the area where they were found, whether before or after engraving is not known.

“Specimens LVE4607 a and b were examined in order to determine the rock type and its minerology. The rock is an aplite comptised predominantly if inter-grown fine-grained crystals of albitic feldspar and quartz, with ver minor amounts of muscovite and biotite micas, the latter seen as black sub-millimetre clot-like aggregates dispersed sparsely throughout the aplite. Minor chlorite is also associated with biotate. The rock is texturally homogeneous and has an overal ‘sugary’ aspect, with a thin ( 1mm) white lightly-weathered surface overlying blue-grey and white aplite. The incised lines are seen on these surfaces, which in places have fresh aplite exposed as contrasting bluish-grey patches.” (Bello et al. 2020) Aplite is a rock that is chemically and mineralogically very much like granite, but the grains are much finer.

The dating, while exciting, is somewhat soft as it represents comparative analysis instead of any sort of hard scientific testing. “Precision for dating the site comes from the typological analysis of the lithic assemblage, which is dominated by narrow backed bladelets. Such assemblages predate the Cepoy phase of the Final Magdalenian, suggesting that Les Varines site is broadly contemporaneous with the classic northern Magdalenian sites of the late sixteenth and the first half of the fifteenth mellennium BP such as Gonnersdorf (Germany), Pincevent and Etiolles (France). It is also potentially predates the Magdalenian of mainland Britain as this lacks backed bladelets and displays chronologically later, derived features.” (Bello et al. 2020)


Interpretations of some of the possible compositions by S. Bello.

The researchers carefully examined ten pieces that had various markings engraved into the surface. “The designs consist of straight lines more or less in parallel and longer, curved incisions. The two types of mark were probably produced by the same tools, in short succession - perhaps by the same engraver. Co-author Dr. Silvia Bello, from the Natural History Museum, said: ‘Many of the lines, including the curved, concentric designs, appear to have been made through layered or repeated incisions, suggesting that it is unlikely that they resulted from the stones being used for a functional purpose.’ She told BBC News that most were ‘of abstract nature (simple intersecting lines), however, some fragments seem to depict zoomorphic representations (horses, mammoths, a bovid and possibly a human face).’” (Rincon)

So the question remains - what is the earliest art in Britain? Is this it, or will we see other candidates appear? I am expecting new candidates. It truly seems as if there is no end to interesting discoveries.

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.

REFERENCES:

Bello, Silvia M. et al.

2020 Artists on the edge of the world: An integrated approach to the study of Magdalenian engraved stone plaquettes from Jersey (Channel Islands), PLos One 15 (8): e0236875; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone/0236875

Faris, Peter,

2020 This Rock Art In Wales May Be Britain’s Earliest, https://rockartblog.blogspot.com/search/label/Wales

Rincon, Paul, Science editor,

Earliest art in the British Isles discovered on Jersey, BBC.com

Sci-News Staff,

2020 15,000-Year-Old Abstract Art Found in Channel Islands, Sept. 2, 2020,http://www.sci-news.com

Wikipedia,

Magdalenian, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magdalenian

Saturday, September 5, 2020

NEWLY DISCOVERED ROCK ART IN IRAN:



New Iranian rock art site is at the top of the hill. Online photo D. Sigari.

This rock art site (PMB001) in north-eastern Iran was discovered by archaeologists in 2015, and recorded in August 2016. Although new to the scientific community, the site had been well known to locals who consider it to be sacred and frequently leave small offerings there. Local worshippers believe that the U-shaped images are the hoofprints of the horse of the prophet Imam Reza. (Sigari et al. 2017:1)

“Pilgrims had for years left offerings by the volcanic stone and had started to build a small temple around it. But it was only recently, in 2015, that archaeologist Mahmoud Toghrae discovered the site and began documenting the rock art.” (Suruque 2017)


Rock art panel and remains of partial shrine wall. Online photo D. Sigari.

No date estimates for the rock art have been published as yet. “There is a lot of debate when it comes to rock art in Iran to know whether we can attribute certain engravings to one period or another. We have a dating problem, because the same figures were represented, at different points in time from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. Probably the PMB001 area was settled at different periods, and the rock art represents all these phases. But without more excavations conducted at the site we can’t say for certain what the chronology is.” (Suruque 2017)


Close-up of panel detail. Online photo d.ibtimes.co.uk.

One possible clue to the age of some of the symbols is represented by three bladed weapons called “axes” by the authors who believe that they represent a type of weapon used in the Chalcolithic (Copper Age) or Bronze Age. They relate these to a nearby site that was occupied during that period. “The location of PMB001 permits sweeping views across the Mashhad Plain, including Tappeh Nadery, which is visible at a distance of 11km. This site is an artificial hill preserving a long-term archaeological sequence, from the Chalcolithic to the Parthian period, testifying to continuous occupation of the region. If subsequent dating of the axes represented at PMB001 points to the Bronze Age, this may indicated some type of link between the two.” (Sigari et al. 2017:2-4)


Tracing of panel. D. Sigari and M. Toghrae.


“The Chalcolithic or Copper Age is the transitional period between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. It is taken to begin around the mid-5th millennium BC, and ends with the beginning of the Bronze Age proper, in the late 4th to 3rd millennium BC, depending on the region.” (Wikipedia) In any case, the fact that this panel was still believed sacred by locals testifies to its many millennia of relevance to modern inhabitants of the area. Rock art can seemingly remain relevant to different people throughout time.

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 and provide them. For further information on these reports you should read the original reports on the references listed below.

REFERENCES:

Sigari, Dario, Mahmoud Toghrae, and Hassan Basafa

2017  Newly Discovered Rock Art Sites in Balandar, Mashhad Province, North-Eastern Iran, Antiquity, Vol. 91, Issue 357, June 2017.

Suruque, Lea

2017  Iran: Rock Art from Unknown Ancient Civilization Discovered on Sacred Volcanic Stone at Top of Mountain, 30 May 2017, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk

Wikipedia

Copper Age State Societies, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copper_Age_state_societies


Saturday, August 29, 2020

PLEISTOCENE ROCK ART IN EGYPT:

              

Aurochs, Qurta, Egypt. Internet photo, Public Domain.

Although art historians know that Egyptian art goes back a long way we are not really accustomed to thinking about seeing Paleolithic art there, but that will have to be reevaluated based on findings at Qurta, Egypt.

“The rock art discovered close to the village of Qurta on the east bank of the Nile is closer in style to European cave art, as seen at Lascaux in France, than to Egypt’s more typically stylized representations.” (World Archaeology 2012)


Aurochs, Qurta, Egypt. Internet photo, Public Domain.

“Located in the higher parts of the Nubian sandstone scarp bordering the Nile floodplain, the petroglyphs are hammered and incised naturalistic-style images of wild animals. So far, 185 individual figures have been identified, more than three quarters of which are aurochs (Bos primigenius), followed by birds, hippopotamuses, gazelle, fish, and hartebeest, with some indeterminate creatures (‘monsters’ or hybrids), and several highly stylized representations of human figures.”  (World Archaeology 2012)


 
                  Aurochs, Qurta, Egypt. Internet photo, africanrockart.org.

It not only turns out that there is Pleistocene art in Egypt including many images of aurochs (Bos primigenius) - indeed, some scientists propose that the aurochs evolved in North Africa, radiating out from there to become the different regional sub-species known in the paleontological record - but these images have now been dated.


              Aurochs, Qurta, Egypt. Internet photo, africanrockart.org.

“The deposits covering the rock art, in part composed of wind-blown sediments, were dated using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) techniques. This method determines the time elapsed since the buried sediment grains were last exposed to sunlight, thereby establishing at what date these areas of the rock art panels were covered over. The result gave us a minimum age of c. 25,000 calendar years – providing solid evidence that this is, indeed, Pleistocene Age artwork, the oldest graphic activity ever recorded in the whole of North Africa. It also makes it more or less contemporaneous with European art from the last Ice Age, as at Lascaux and Altamira caves.” (World Archaeology 2012)


               Aurochs, Qurta, Egypt. Internet photo, Public Domain.

This is not, however, a solid date for when the images of aurochs were created, only for when the windblown sand deposits covered it. “These OSL results give us a date for when the rock art was buried – its true age may be much greater. It is clear that some of the buried drawings were already considerably weathered before they became covered by sediment. - That would make the Qurta rock art more or less contemporaneous with Early Magdalenian and Solutrean art as known from the Upper Palaeolithic Western Europe. Further fieldwork in 2011 led to the discovery of several more buried petroglyphs, offering additional dating opportunities, using both OSL and other techniques. Whether or not it will be possible to push back the minimum age of the rock art still further remains to be seen - our research is ongoing.” (World Archaeology 2012)

So much of our picture of prehistory is based upon what we think we know from archaeological discoveries, but that only casts light on where the discoveries were made. The more we learn about other parts of the world the more we realize how far off the mark our early assumptions really were, and how much more exciting evidence is yet to be discovered in other places.

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.

REFERENCES:

Clayton, Julie,

2020 Nile Rock Art is at Least 15,000 Years Old, July 29, 2020, https://heritagedaily.com

TARA

Back to Life? The Aurochs in African Rock Art, Trust for African Rock Art (TARA), https://africanrockart.org/aurochs-african-rock-art/

World Archaeology,

2012 Egypt: The Aurochs of Qurta, May 28, 2012, Current World Archaeology, Issue 53, https://www.world-archaeology.com

Saturday, August 22, 2020

A SHORT COMMENT:

 You will notice that I have modified the format or RockArtBlog again. Ever since Blogger made the last round of gratuitous changes I have been struggling with this. The font got too big with virtually no way to make adjustments. I am trying the next smaller size font for a while to see if this is more satisfactory.

IMAGINARY CREATURES IN ROCK ART, THE MER-CARIBOU REVISITED - THE QUINAULT MER-DEER:

 

So-called Eskimo Monster Petroglyph. Source unknown.

While reading a completely different theme I unexpectedly ran across this reference to the mer-caribou image that I posted on April 11, 2020 in a column titled IMAGINARY CREATURES IN ROCK ART - THE INUIT MERCARIBOU. The posting was about a drawing of a petroglyph that I had found years ago online with the name Eskimo Monster. In that column I confessed that with the passage of time (and a couple of moves) my documentation had disappeared so I could not state where I got the image in the first place.

So imagine my surprise when I ran across an unmistakable reference to a like creature from Quinault tribal mythology. The Quinault are a Northwest Coastal tribe residing on the Olympic peninsula in Washington north of the town of Humptulips (that’s right, Humptulips, look it up). Of course where the Quinault live no caribou will be found so their version of the creature will feature the deer found in their area, the Olympic Blacktail.

Olympic Blacktail deer, Internet photo outdoorlife.com, Public Domain.

“Olson (1936:167) has a brief description of a mythological sea serpent in his monograph on the Quinault, but this being is in many respects different from the two-headed serpent (it is described as a “water monster with a head like a deer, but a long body like a snake’s, with feet near the head).” (Van Eijk 2001:188) And with the substitution of Blacktail deer for caribou this is a perfect description of the image originally labeled Eskimo Monster.

This suggests that belief in the Mer-caribou, or Mer-deer, is much more widespread than I knew back on April 11. I repeat I do cannot name the location of the so-called “Eskimo monster” the fact that it was named Eskimo suggests that it originated in the arctic, and the distance from the Arctic Circle to the Quinault reservation is approximately 1,300 miles. So this belief spans pretty much the whole Pacific Northwest coast. I will be happy to hear about other reports of this creature if anyone finds them.

Hypothetical Quinault Mer-deer, drawing by the author.

So here you have my simplified version of the Quinault variation of the Mer-caribou – the Mer-deer. Although we know these creatures are imaginary I will remind the reader that for the indigenous people who possess these beliefs these creatures are real. As with the belief in UFOs in our culture, while most individuals would not claim they had seen it themselves, they either knew someone, or had heard of others who claimed to have seen them – I have never seen a UFO, but I know someone.

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.

REFERENCES:

Van Eijk, Jan P.

2001 Who Is Súnułqaz'?: A Salish Quest, Anthropolog ((ical Linguistics, Summer, 2001, Vol. 43, No. 2, pp. 177-97.

SECONDARY REFERENCES:

Olson, Ronald L.

1936 The Quinault Indians, University of Washington Press, Seattle.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

GROTTE de CUSSAC, FRANCE, A DECORATED CAVE WITH HUMAN BURIALS:

Human remains in Grotte de Cussac, 
France. Photo N. Aujoulat et al.

A rare, and very interesting, case of human burials in a decorated cave in Europe is represented by the Grotte de Cussac.

Grotte de Cussac was “discovered in September 2000, in the south-western Dordogne region” (Visual Arts Cork). “However, unlike previously examined caves, the Grotte de Cussac cave has more than 800 stylized engravings of animal and human forms that were created between 25,000 and 30,000 years ago.” (Cowie 2020)

                   Human remains in cave bear nests, Grotte de Cussac, France. Photo ancientorigins.net. 

In this cave human remains have been deposited in cave bear wallows (depressions or nests for hibernating cave bears) dug in the clay floor of the cave. These are apparently secondary depositions of remains, not primary burials.

“The cave’s human remains appear to represent one of very few associations of parietal works and human burials in Paleolithic Europe. At least five people, four adults and a teenager, were deposited in the cavities, with bones dated by Carbon 14 measurement to approximately 25,000 years in age.” (Wikipedia)

We need to be very careful here in stating that there is an association between the human remains and the rock art in the cave. Especially since a lack of human remains in most other decorated caves in Europe suggests that the cultures of that time and place did not do that sort of thing (however this is not to say that the clan/group that lived in the area of Grotte de Cussac did not). What we can say definitively is that there is an association between the human remains and the hibernation nests of cave bears, which suggests an association with the cave bears themselves. Perhaps (and this is admittedly a stretch) the people saw the cave bear’s hibernation and awakening as a return to life from death and placed their loved one’s remains in the bear’s nest to attempt to resurrect them.

“The human remains are divided between three sectors of the downstream branch network. The bones occupy the bottom of bear wallows dug in clay soil, and are distributed over 100 m, with the first located 175 m from the current entry. None of them is directly associated with an engraved panel. A fourth concentration of bones was found recently in a lair of bears at the foot of the Grand Panel. They have not yet been examined, and it is not known if they are human or animal remains.” (Hitchcock, translated from Aujoulat et al.  2018)  The identification of this fourth concentration of bones will be very interesting.

“The human remains – had been deliberately placed in former bear hibernation nests (long after the bears stopped using the cave), a practice which hadn’t been documented before. In two of the sites, the bear nests (which form hollowed areas on the cave floor) show signs of being covered with red ochre before the remains were placed there. There is also evidence the bodies had been arranged in a particular way, and moved after death. In some instances, the remains of more than one individual are intermingled.” (University of Wollongong)

Horses, Grotte de Cussac, France. Internet photos; bison - Ministry of Culture; horses - www.hominides.com.

“The use of red ochre in the ancient Cussac Cave burials demonstrate symbolic behavior in deep-prehistory and so does the otherworldly cave art. In addition to these ritualistic aspects of the burials in most of the studied depositions, ‘no crania were present but teeth were,’ indicating the crania were deliberately taken, which is thought to have been an act of ‘looking after the deceased.’  However, even with all these answers a set of more complex questions has arisen. – Why were only these six individuals buried in the Grotte de Cussac cave? And why had only teenagers and adults been buried, but no children? And perhaps the biggest question: Where on earth is everyone else that died around the cave 25,000 and 30,000 years ago?” (Cowie 2020)  Notice this 2020 report mention six burials without specifying whether it refers to burial sites or individual human remains, so this perhaps represents further discoveries since the previously cited sources were published. Another report modifies this somewhat. “The only cranium present out of a minimum number of six individuals belongs to the complete skeleton in Locus 2, which possibly represents the first ‘phase’ of the complex funerary behavior.” (BurDen 2018)


Mammoth and rhino, Grotte de Cussac, France. Internet photos; Mammoth - ifrao.com, Rhino - Donsmaps.com.

The cave art itself is also somewhat unique consisting of a large number of engravings of images of animals and a number of humans. All in all the Grotte de Cussac seems to represent an outlier when compared to other decorated caves in the region with petroglyphs instead of paintings, the presence of a number of human figures, and the presence of the burials. I will attribute the seeming confusion or contradictions in the various reports to the fact that the French government is exceedingly protective of this cave. Very little study has been allowed and then under very strict conditions – probably a good thing.

Female figure, Grotte de Cussac, France. Internet photo donsmaps.com.

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.


REFERENCES:

Bur.Den.

2018 Bur.Den. Researchers Involved in Groundbreaking Study of Gravettian Funerary Behavior in the Cussac Cave, Dordogne, June 18, 2018, https://burpph.wordpress.com/

Cowie, Ashley

2020 Grotte de Cussac And The Mystery Of The Cave Bear Nest Burials, 17 June 2020, https://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/grotte-de-cussac-0013869

Hitchcock, Don

2018 Cussac Cave - Grotte de Cussac, 3 September 2018, https://donsmaps.com/cussac.html

University of Wollongong

2020 French Cave Reveals Secrets of Life and Death From The Ancient Past, June 16, 2020, https://phys.org/news/2020-06-french-cave-reveals-secrets-live.html

Visual Arts Cork

Cussac Cave Engravings, http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/prehistoric/cussac-cave.htm

Wikipedia

Grotte de Cussac, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grotte_de_Cussac


SECONDARY REFERENCES:

Aujoulat, N., Geneste J., Archambeau, C., Delluc M., Duday, H., Gambier, S.,

2002   La grotte ornée de Cussac - Le Buisson-de-Cadouin (Dordogne): premières observations, Translation Don Hitchcock, available at https://donsmaps.com/cussac.html

Saturday, August 8, 2020

OLDEST SUPERNOVA RECORDED IN KASHMIR?

- - - And to continue in an astronomical vein, a report about a supposed supernova recorded in a petroglyph in Kashmir - - -.


Petroglyph panel at Burzahom, Kashmir, India. Photograph IGNCA (Indira Ghandi National Center for the Arts).


It seems like an ordinary hunting scene with an archer drawing a bead on a stag deer that has already been speared by another hunter who has his dog with him, until you notice that there are two Suns in the sky overhead. Could there have actually been an occasion where two suns were shining in the sky. "Scientists say this is likely what happened back in 3600 BC. Astrophysicist Mayank Vahia and his colleagues at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research believe a rock painting (actually a pecked petroglyph) found in what is today part of the Kashmir region of south Asia is the oldest record of a supernova and likely the oldest sky chart ever drawn. The artwork shows two bright objects in the sky, with figures of animals and humans underneath." (Akshat 2018:1)

Diagram of panel.


The question is about the “two bright objects” delineated in the sky of this panel. “An interesting discovery made at Burzahom was a carved stone slab that shows two hunters hunting a stag, while twin suns shine in the sky. The presence of two similar suns in the sky is a mystery. Some researchers believe that the Neolithic artists depicted two suns to indicate the duration of the hunt (e.g. two days), while a far more exotic theory has been proposed by a team of astronomers who believe that the scene represents the ancient night sky with the two suns actually representing the moon and a supernova, while the hunters and the animals represent constellations like Orion and Taurus.” (Holloway 2014) This supposition is assuming that the location in the night sky of the supernova is being indicated by the inclusion of the figures as recognizable constellations that are being referenced. Here we again run into the erroneous assumption that the Neolithic peoples of the Vale of Kashmir would have seen the same figures (Orion and Taurus) in the arrangement of stars that we do, and what about the other hunter and their dog, what constellations do they represent.

Panel superimposed on a star chart representing it as constellations.

"Vahia needed to understand why someone would draw two bright objects in the sky. It couldn't be two suns because we have and have always had only one. It couldn't be the sun and the moon, because although it's possible to see both objects in the sky at the same time, a full moon can never appear so close to the sun. (From Earth, we see the moon as 'full' when it's on the direct opposite side [of] the planet as the sun.) The only remaining explanation, Vahia figured, was a supernova: if one exploded relatively nearby our solar system (hundreds or few thousands of light years away), it could shine as bright as the sun or the moon." (Akshat 2018:2)


Remnant of supernova HB9. Photograph mysteriousuniverse.org.

The petroglyphs are found at the Burzahom archaeological site in Kashmir Valley in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. "The two objects in the rock appear to have the same brightness and appear side-by-side, ruling out the theory that they might depict the Sun and moon. Vahia believes that one of the orbs could be the moon, while the other may be an extremely bright supernova which rivaled the brightness of the moon." (Tingley 2018) If this is indeed a portrayal of a supernova it is likely one labeled Supernova HB9 which supposedly lit up the night sky with a degree of brightness comparable to that of the moon.

While this is a possibility I would like to suggest a variation of the older interpretation that says that the two bright orbs represent the duration a hunt Instead of a hunt lasting two days it may be that they represent the same sun which has changed its position in the sky during the course of a hunt that was much less than two days in length. If, for instance, the two bright orbs represent the sun having transcended an arc of roughly 35o – 40o degrees in the sky it would mean a hunt that lasted three to four hours, which seems more reasonable than two days for any competent hunters.

Of course at this remove in time and distance we have no way of being sure about this, but isn't it an intriguing question?

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 this you should read the original reports at the sites listed below.


REFERENCES:

Akshat, Rathi,

2018 5,000-Year Old Rock Art Found In India Is Likely The Oldest Depiction Of A Supernova, January 7, 2018, https://qz.com/india/1171320/5000-year-old-rock-art-is-likely-the-oldest-depiction-of-a-supernova


Holloway, April,

2014 Protection Sought for Mysterious Neolithic Site of Burzahom, 20 June 2014, https://www.ancient-origins.net


Hrishikesh Joglekar, M. N. Vahia, Aniket Sule,

2006 Oldest Sky-Chart With Supernova Record, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, http://www.tifr.res.in/~vahia/oldest-sn.pdf


Tingley, Brett,

2018 Ancient Indian Petroglyph Depicts Mysterious Twin Suns in Earth's Skies, January 17, 2018, https://mysteriousuniversi.org/2018/01/ancient-indian-petroglyph-depicts-mysterious-twin-suns-in-earths-skies


Saturday, August 1, 2020

A POSSIBLE COMET RECORDED AT CABORCA, SONORA, MEXICO:


Petroglyph at Caborca, Sonora, Mexico.
Photograph Margaret Berrier, 1993.

Comets have always fascinated humans whether seen as good omens or evil portents. As I am writing this Comet Neowise (C/2020 F3) is overhead in the evening sky under the Big Dipper. A sight like this would have been even more impressive to people in a dark sky with no light pollution centuries ago. I recently received a picture from Margaret Berrier of a petroglyph panel near Caborca, in Sonora, Mexico, which appears to include a possible comet image.

Comet Neowise, Northern Arizona, July 18, 2020, from Flagstaff, AZ. Photograph Austin Young, online image.

Margaret is an independent rock art researcher who lives in New Mexico and took the photograph in 1993. Indeed, the panel can be interpreted to show a comet passing a crescent moon. The rock art is attributed to the Trinchera Tradition, which is dated to between 750 and 1450 CE, with a range extending from the Gulf of California into northern Sonora. (Wikipedia) These people certainly were stone workers. Their culture is named Trinchera (trenches) after the rock terraces that they created up hillsides, believed to be used for residential areas as well as possibly agriculture (although why the name is not Terrazza for terraces escapes me).

Trincheras at Cerro De Trincheras, online photograph from www.swvirtualmuseum.com.

"Contemporaneous with the Hohokam of the river valleys of southern and central Arizona were pottery-making cultures adapted to the desert province of the Papagueria of southern Arizona and northern Sonora. A distinctive complex known as the Trincheras culture was centered in the Magdalena and Altar valleys of northern Sonora, the name Trincheras being derived from the terraced hillsides or 'fortified' hills that are the most obvious architectural feature of these sites. These desert groups probably had roots in the Cochise and their cultural systems reflect different adaptive responses to the local environment. Subsistence in the dry Papagueria was based primarily on hunting and gathering." (Schaafsma 1980:99)

What relationships existed between Trincheras and Hohokam has been argued at length. Some consider Trincheras to be a manifestation of a "Desert Hohokam" complex while others deny any relationship at all. (Schaafsma 1980:100)

"The last view, however, is not borne out by the rock art. Shared petroglyph elements and stylistic traits throughout the entire area suggest that all the various populations, including the Hohokam, were in communication and participated in shared ideas. One of the prime mechanisms for this interaction may have been the shell trade from the Gulf of California. The Trinchera people themselves were the major suppliers of shell for the more northerly Hohokam and such a trade would have been an important means of facilitating direct communication with the north." (Schaafsma 1980:101)

As we now know there was considerable south-north contact between the cultures of the desert southwest, especially commercial contact and trade.

"The rock art of the Trincheras culture is less well known than that of the Hohokam. Nevertheless, petroglyphs are fairly common in the Magdalena-Altar riverine region. - - -Design elements consist of anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, and geometric figures in the Hohokam style. On Cerro las Trincheras, the first of these sites to be so named, are representations of quadrupeds, spirals, and other abstract designs, both curvilinear and rectilinear. From Caborca and a Trincheras site near La Nariz east of Sonora, Lumholtz (1912) illustrates further Hohokam-like designs - again spirals, a set of frets, lizards with  the typical central bulge, and a pattern of interlocking scrolls." (Schaafsma 1980:101)

"Differences between the Trincheras petroglyphs of Sonora and the Arizona Hohokam lie primarily in the degree of refinement in design and in technical matters, the Sonoran figures generally excelling in these aspects." (Schaafsma 1980:101)


Petroglyph at Caborca, Sonora, Mexico. Photograph Margaret Berrier, 1993.

This panel, which includes a possible comet image, also shows an orb which can be interpreted as a crescent moon (a comet would be seen, of course, in the night sky). All-in-all this seems a fairly reasonable assumption. Which comet would be represented, on the other hand, is probably impossible to determine. During the time span of the Trinchera complex there are historical records from other cultures of comets appearing and we can guess it was possibly one of those.

For instance in 837 AD, Halley's comet approached as close as 3.2 million miles to the Earth, its tail stretching some 60 degrees across the sky (this is 1/3 of the distance across the sky from horizon to horizon). This appearance was recorded in annals in China, Japan, Germany, and the Byzantine empire. Halley's also was recorded subsequently in 989, 1066, 1145, 1222, and 1301 AD. (Wikipedia)

The 1066 AD appearance of Halley's comet is probably the source of the painted comet image above the Peñasco Blanco trail in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico (Faris 2010) and as the most impressive on record is probably a logical candidate for the inspiration of this Trinchera petroglyph.


NOTES: Thank you to Margaret Berrier for sharing this interesting photograph as well as permission to use it.

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.

REFERENCES:

 

Faris, Peter

2010   Halley's Comet Pictured in Chaco Canyon, November 20, 2010, https://rockartblog.blogspot.com/search/label/Halley%27s%20comet.

Schaafsma, Polly

1980   Indian Rock Art of the Southwest, School of American Research, Santa Fe, pp. 99-101.

Wikipedia,

History of Sonora, https://en.wikipedia.org

Halley's Comet, https://en.wikipedia.org


Sunday, July 26, 2020

THIS ROCK ART IN WALES MAY BE BRITAIN'S EARLIEST:



Gower Cave, in Wales, Britain.
Photograph: Bradshaw Foundation.

A petroglyph discovered in a cave in Wales by an archaeologist from the University of Bristol has been proposed as the earliest petroglyph in Britain. "The chance finding by Dr. George Nash from the University's Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, of a reindeer wall engraving in a South Wales cave could be Britain's oldest example of rock art dating more than 14,000 years ago. Dr. Nash discovered the faint scratchings of a speared reindeer while visiting the Gower Peninsula Caves near Swansea in September 2010. The drawing is believed to have been carved by a hunter-gatherer artist in the Ice Age." (Heritage Daily 2011) 

"In the 1950s, Cambridge University undertook an excavation there and found 300-400 pieces of flint and dated the occupation of the cave to between 12,000-14,000 BC. This drawing appears to have (been) engraved by an artist using his or her right hand as the panel on which it is carved is located in a very tight niche." (Heritage Daily 2011)


Gower Cave panel, Wales, Britain.
Photograph Bradshaw Foundation.

This image was previously cited as an example of Handedness in rock art (see Handedness in Rock Art published in RockArtBlog on June 6, 2020) because its location and orientation suggest that it had to have been created by a right-handed artist.

Gower Cave, Wales, Britain.
Image digitally highlighted.
Internet photo - Public domain.

"Until the 13th century, wild herds of reindeer could be found roaming freely in Scotland until the species was hunted to extinction. Reindeer became extinct in the UK about 800 years ago because of hunting, the vikings are thought to have hunted them - but also due to climate change." (McNeish 2019)

Gower Cave, Wales, Britain.
Drawing of panel. Internet
photo - Public domain.

"The discovery of a cervid, probably an engraved reindeer, was made on a vertical panel inside a discrete niche northeast of the main gallery. This almost hidden engraving is the first possible evidence of Pleistocene rock art in Wales and only the second discovery of rock art in Britain of this period. Along with this figure are a number of other engravings awaiting evaluation and a possible area of applied hematite that may be contemporary with the reindeer engraving. If this is the case this will be the first evidence of painted rock art in the British Isles." (Nash 2011: 151)

The important message to be taken from this is to never give up on finding more rock art. This cave had been visited by archaeologists and students since the 1950s, yet this one image was still waiting, undiscovered, for Dr. Nash on this particular day. Who knows what else will still turn up?


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.

REFERENCES:

McNeish, Cameron  -  2019 British Reindeer guide: species facts and where to see in the UK, Countryfile, Nov. 11, 2019, https://www.countryfile.com/wildlife/12-things-you-never-knew-about-reindeer/

http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/british_isles_prehistory_archive/gower_peninsula_south_wales/images.

Heritage Daily -  2011 Archaeologist's Chance Discovery May Be Britain's Earliest Example of Rock Art, https://www.heritagedaily.com/2011/08/archaeologist%e2%80%99s-chance-discovery-may-be-britains-earliest-example-of-rock-art/7067

Nash, George, Peter Van Calsteren, and Louise Thomas  -  2011 Marks of Sanctity? Discovery of Rock Art on the Gower Peninsula, South Wales, Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture, Vol. 4, Issue 2, July 2011, pp. 149-154