Saturday, August 29, 2020



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,

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,

“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.


Clayton, Julie,

2020 Nile Rock Art is at Least 15,000 Years Old, July 29, 2020,


Back to Life? The Aurochs in African Rock Art, Trust for African Rock Art (TARA),

World Archaeology,

2012 Egypt: The Aurochs of Qurta, May 28, 2012, Current World Archaeology, Issue 53,

Saturday, August 22, 2020


 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.



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, 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.


Van Eijk, Jan P.

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


Olson, Ronald L.

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

Sunday, August 9, 2020


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 

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 -

“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 -, Rhino -

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

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.



2018 Bur.Den. Researchers Involved in Groundbreaking Study of Gravettian Funerary Behavior in the Cussac Cave, Dordogne, June 18, 2018,

Cowie, Ashley

2020 Grotte de Cussac And The Mystery Of The Cave Bear Nest Burials, 17 June 2020,

Hitchcock, Don

2018 Cussac Cave - Grotte de Cussac, 3 September 2018,

University of Wollongong

2020 French Cave Reveals Secrets of Life and Death From The Ancient Past, June 16, 2020,

Visual Arts Cork

Cussac Cave Engravings,


Grotte de Cussac,


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

Saturday, August 8, 2020


- - - 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

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.


Akshat, Rathi,

2018 5,000-Year Old Rock Art Found In India Is Likely The Oldest Depiction Of A Supernova, January 7, 2018,

Holloway, April,

2014 Protection Sought for Mysterious Neolithic Site of Burzahom, 20 June 2014,

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

2006 Oldest Sky-Chart With Supernova Record, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research,

Tingley, Brett,

2018 Ancient Indian Petroglyph Depicts Mysterious Twin Suns in Earth's Skies, January 17, 2018,

Saturday, August 1, 2020


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

"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.



Faris, Peter

2010   Halley's Comet Pictured in Chaco Canyon, November 20, 2010,

Schaafsma, Polly

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


History of Sonora,

Halley's Comet,