Saturday, April 17, 2021

POLYDACTYLISM IN ROCK ART - BEAR PAW PRINTS, PART 2:


8-toed bear paw print, probable Fremont petroglyph, Nine-Mile Canyon, UT. Photograph Paul and Joy Foster.

Back to the subject of polydactyly in bears and bear paw prints; I have written previously about Marie Wormington's comments to me about a Fremont burial of a man with six toes that she had excavated. She related him to Native American beliefs that personal differences, mental or physical, can point to spiritual significance. That a person with six digits might have been thought special, and so, celebrated in rock art. I have long assumed the same thing for bears. Since one of the most significant things about a bear are his claws, the way to portray a significant bear, a legendary, mythical, or spiritual bear, might be to enhance the claws.


6-toed bear paw print, probable Fremont petroglyph, Nine-Mile Canyon, UT. Photograph Paul and Joy Foster.


7-toed bear paw print (top), probable Fremont petroglyph, along Green River, UT. Photograph Paul and Joy Foster.

There are many Fremont representations of polydactyl bear tracks. The Fremont culture is defined by an interesting group of traits found throughout northwestern and western central Colorado and much of Utah. “Think about a people who made clay figurines with shuttered eyes, staring at us from a distant past and then think about the Fremont. They inhabited the eastern Great Basin and western Colorado Plateau from approximately 650 to 1250 A.D., roughly a thousand years ago. They planted corn, irrigated their fields, and utilized wild foods with ingenuity. In many way, the Fremont correspond with the Anasazi. But in many ways they do not.” (Madsen 1998:IX)


Polydactyl Ute bear tracks representations may be found in western Colorado and eastern Utah in the area dominated by the historic Ute people. The bear is of great significance to Ute peoples. The Bear Dance is the preeminent Spring social event for the various bands of the Ute. Given that significance, the bear track would be expected to be a common component of their rock art.


7-toed bear paw print, Ancestral Puebloan, El Morro National Monument, New Mexico. Internet photo, Public Domain.

For the Ancestral Pueblo people the bear is the animal deity of the West. “From the Pueblo standpoint there is a polarity in the nature of Bear that accounts for much of his role. Physically he is much like a man, but symbolically he relates to the supernatural and is often a god.” (Tyler 1975:184)

To these physical resemblances are added similarities of disposition, in that the bear is subject to sudden moods, to joyousness and clowning, or to melancholy and surliness. While a lion always behaves like a lion, a bear is entirely unpredictable. In food habits a black bear would prefer to be a man if he were given a choice. He will strip corn from a field, or eat cooked foods with relish, or he will gather roots and berries and vary these with all variety of game. - - - Probably no other animal is attended by such widespread ritual attention; bear ceremonialism accompanies the animal wherever he is found.” (Tyler 1978:184-5)


6-toed bear paw print, Ancestral Puebloan, Upper Sand Island, Bear's Ears National Monument, UT. Internet photo, Public Domain.

Bear is also given considerable significance as an animal that can bestow knowledge on healing. The bear’s feeding on plants and digging up roots reminded observers of gathering “medicine” plants.


6-toed bear paw print, Ancestral Puebloan, Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photograph Paul and Joy Foster.

“For many North American tribes, bears were also important as shamans’ spirit helpers. As part of the circumpolar emphasis on bear ceremonialism (cf. Hallowell 1926), bears were accorded significant shamanic power becaust they are the most ‘human of known animals’. They often stand and walk upright - especially when surveying an unknown situation and beginning an offensive charge - and they use their paws like human hands to manipulate objects. Their tracks look much like human hand and foot prints, and their skeletons are remarkably human like.” (Keyser and Poetschat 2015:156-7)

So yes, bear polydactylism is very much a theme in rock art from all over the American west. The bear as an animal was of tremendous import to the indigenous peoples of these areas, both practically and spiritually, throughout prehistory and down to the present. I see  a number of motives in this for the portrayal of extra claws on bears. Remember that in the tribes of North American First Peoples physical and mental differences were not usually seen as making the possessor less, but often more in the case of spiritual significance. In the spiritual world the bear with extra claws would be a bear of greater spiritual power. If my spirit animal were a bear I would want to picture him as important and dominant as possible, thus the extra claws. In the practical world a bear hunter who survived conquered a polydactyl bear could feel he had mastered something more important than a normal five-toed bear. That enhanced his reputation. Of bear as a healer, a polydactyl bear would be a greater healer, etc.

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:

Cole, Sally J.1987, An Analysis of the Prehistoric and Historic Rock Art of West-Central Colorado, Cultural Resources Series Number 21,  Bureau of Land Management, Colorado.

Keyser, James D, and George Poetschat2015, Seeking Bear, The Petroglyphs of Lucerne Valley, Wyoming, Oregon Archaeological Society Press, Portland

Madsen, David B.1989, Exploring the Fremont, Utah Museum of Natural History, University of Utah Occasional Publication No. 8

Tyler, Hamilton A.1975, Pueblo Animals and Myths, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

SECONDARY REFERENCES:

Hallowell, Irving A.1926, Bear Ceremonialism in the Northern Hemisphere, American Anthropologist, 28:1-175

Saturday, April 10, 2021

POLYDACTYLISM IN ROCK ART - BEAR PAW PRINTS, PART 1:


12-toed bear paw prints, Sieber Canyon, Mesa County, Colorado. Photograph Peter Faris, 23 August 1981.

As I have written elsewhere on the question of polydactyly (polydactylism) in human hand and foot prints in rock art, we also find instances of polydactylism in bear paw prints. Polydactyly is “the condition of having more than the normal number of fingers or toes.” (Webster) Early on in my studies of rock art I noticed that many bear paw prints showed extra toes and claws. I wondered why this might be and have now pondered it for over four decades.

In approaching this question the first thing I want to know is the possibility of an actual bear showing polydactyly. The answer to this is a definite yes. A simple online search for animal polydactyly found hundreds of references to this; mostly among cats (the so-called Hemingway cat), but also for dogs, bovines, camelids, reptiles, and even a kangaroo. So the question of possible polydactyly for a bear had to be answered yes. 


Six-toed bear foot, Facebook photograph, Wade Lemon Hunting.


Six-toed bear track in snow, in Yosemite, California. Internet photograph, Seth Horstmeyer. (it is just possible that this one is a double print made by a normal five-toed bear stepping in the same spot twice).


Six-toed bear paw print, Okanagan, British Columbia, Photograph, 2012, Adam Konanz, provided by Sean Coogan, University of Alberta.

Then I ran across a photograph online of a bear’s hind foot with six toes on a Facebook page for “Wade Lemon - Hunting Guide”. Additionally, photos of bear tracks showing six toes provide extra proof of the existence of polydactyly among bears. Other proof was found online with pictures of bear paw prints in snow showing six toes. So now we have proof that bears too can be subject to polydactyly.


12-toed bear paw prints, Sieber Canyon, Mesa County, Colorado. Photograph Peter Faris, 23 August 1981.

I have written before about Marie Wormington’s comments to me about a Fremont burial of a man with six toes that she excavated. She related him to Native American beliefs that personal differences can point to spiritual significance. That a person with six digits might have been thought special and so celebrated in rock art. I have long since assumed the same thing for bears. Since one of the most significant things about a bear might be considered to be his claws, the way to portray a significant bear, a legendary or mythological bear, would be to enhance the claws. Thus we find a pair of bear paw petroglyphs in Sieber Canyon, Mesa County, Colorado, by a Fremont artist with twelve claws on each paw. That is a very significant bear. There are many Fremont representations of polydactyl bear tracks.


DeBeque Canyon, Mesa County, Colorado. Uncompaghre style.
Photograph by Paul and Joy Foster.

“The bear possesses a number of qualities that have led most Native Americans to regard it with great reverence. Although recognized as an animal and a supernatural being, it also shares many traits with humans. Perhaps most important is that it sometimes walks upright and flat-footed. Its front paws are much like human hands in the way they rotate and grasp things. The bear is omnivorous, consuming roots, berries, corn, and also many kinds of animal prey; it is thus both a hunter and a gatherer. While many animals are predictable in their behavior patterns, bears seem to have a repertoire of moods similar to people ranging from playful to violent.” (Olsen 1998:111)

“The powerful bear paw, with its formidable claws, serves as a clan or ceremonial symbol for many tribes, and is also used in medical treatments and for magic. In prehistoric times, the strong canine teeth and the claws of bears were worn as amulets and ornaments and bear cubs were sometimes given ceremonial burials.” (Olsen 1998:112)


Six-toed bear paw print, Rock Creek Pictograph Site, Montana. Used with permission of Mavis Greer.

Seven-toed bear paw print, Indian Cave Site, Montana. Used with permission of Mavis Greer.

Mavis Greer (1997) illustrated bear paw prints showing polydactyly, from two different sites in Central Montana. One painted at site 24LC33 (Rock Creek pictograph site) has a pad 42 cm. long and six claws 10 -20 cm. long. The other is at 24CA347 (Indian Cave) is a red forefoot paw print with seven toes. (Greer 1997:91) These are located in the region historically associated with the Blackfeet and Gros Ventre peoples.




Polydactyl bear paw print, Pictograph Cave, Billings, Montana. Photograph Peter Faris

Another polydactyl bear paw print can be found at Pictograph Cave, Billings, Montana.


Keyser and Poetschat, 2015, Seeking Bear, fig.33, p.44.


Uncompaghre style, Keyser and Poetschat, 2015, Seeking Bear, fig.30f, g & h, p.42.

In southwestern Wyoming, Keyser and Poetschat show a bear with very detailed toes and claws and a three-track trackway behind him with the same detailing of toes and claws. "The three-track sequence leading to the largest bear shows tracks exactly like those of the bear's own paws and has a right-left-right sequence." (Keyser and Poetschat 2015:45). One of the right paw prints, however, is given six toes and claws while the others, like the bear's paws, only show five. They assign these images to the Uncompaghre complex (probably the farthest north this style has penetrated). Uncompaghre complex rock art had previously been assumed to be pretty much confined to west-central Colorado and a small portion of adjacent Utah, a region dominated by the Uncompaghre Mesa. Given the great care and detail that went into the creation of these bear tracks I have to assume that the one track shown with six toes is done purposefully, although I do not presume to know what that purpose is.


Uncompaghre style bear petroglyph, Keyser and Fossatti, Fig. 4, p. 17.

An additional six-clawed bear from southwestern Wyoming is pictured in Keyser and Fossati’s 2014 study of the Gateway Site in the Green River Basin. This bear has three normal five-toed paws depicted and with its right front paw bearing six claws.


Uncompahgre style bears, Grand Mesa, Colorado. From Sally Cole, 1987, Fig. 33, p. 109.

An interesting example from the Grand Mesa, Mesa County, Colorado, of a polydactyl bear was shownby Sally Cole (1987). Two headless bears are seen with a single six-toed rear paw print between them. The bears have pecked pits where their claws would be indicated and the lower bear has six small pits on the edge of its left hind foot.

This column will resume next week with a continued look at polydactyl bears and bearpaw prints in part two.

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:

Cole, Sally J.1987, An Analysis of the Prehistoric and Historic Rock Art of West-Central Colorado, Bureau of Land Management Cultural Resource Series, number 21, Denver.

Coogan, Sean2013,  A Six-Toed Paw Print, International Bear News, Summer 2013, Vol. 22, No. 2.

Greer, Mavis1997, Bear Imagery in Central Montana Rock Art, in American Indian Rock Art, Volume 23, Steven M. Freers, Editor, American Rock Art Research Association, pp. 85-94.

Keyser, James D., and George Poetschat2014, Seeking Bear: The Petroglyphs of Lucerne Valley, Wyoming, Oregon Archaeological Society Press Publication #23, Portland.

Keyser, James D., and Angelo Eugenio Fossati2014, Pecked Petroglyphs at the Gateway Site: The Uncompahgre Style in the Green River Basin, The Wyoming Archaeologist, Vol. 58(2), Fall 2014

Lemon, Wade2018, Crazy 6-Toed Bear! What’s Your Thoughts?, 7 June 2018, Facebook.com

Olsen, Sandra L.1998, Animals in American Indian Life: An Overview, pp. 95 - 118, in  Stars Above, Earth Below: American Indians and Nature, Marsha C. Bol, editor, Robert Reinhart Publishers, Niwot, CO.

Websterhttps://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polydactyly

Thursday, April 1, 2021

EXTINCT ANIMALS IN ROCK ART - THE NAUGA:

A group of naugas. Dinwoody style petroglyphs, Fremont County, Wyoming. Photograph Peter Faris, September 1992.

Rock Art researchers have long referred to images of animals in rock art to try to picture what extinct animals might have looked like. Perhaps the best known examples of this are the aurochs and paleolithic horses of Europe so beautifully illustrated in the European painted caves.

Nauga. Internet photograph, Public Domain.

One extinct animal that is frequently found pictured in the Dinwoody style rock art of northwestern Wyoming is the nauga. The facts of the extinction of the nauga are quite mysterious and hard to discern. Based upon their large mouth full of sharp teeth I assume that they were carnivorous and may have almost extinct with the demise of the megafauna at the end of the Pleistocene that they depended on for food. It would appear, however, that a relic population must have survived in northwestern Wyoming because of their appearance in the Dinwoody Style rock art of that region. These must have survived on the bison that were so numerous. This rock art was produced by the Shoshonean residents of that area.


Nauga petroglyphs, Dinwoody style, Legend Rock, Hot Springs County, Wyoming. Photographs Peter Faris, September 1992.

It is well known that the US Government attempted to reduce the free Native American population on the Great plains by encouraging the over-hunting of the bison that they depended on to force them onto designated reservations. The over-hunting of the bison also led to the extinction of the naugas who depended upon them for food, as well as forcing the Native Americans onto reservations.


      Nauga petroglyphs, Dinwoody style,    Torrey Lake Canyon, Fremont County,         Wyoming. Photograph Peter Faris,                           September 1998.

The US Government has tried to cover up this shocking genocide by promulgating this phony cover story. “Naugahyde is an American brand of artificial leather. Naugahyde is a composite knit fabric backing and expanded polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic coating. It was developed by Byron A. Hunter, senior chemist at the United States Rubber Company, and is now manufactured and sold by the corporate spin-off Uniroyal Engineered Products, LLC. Its name, first used as a trademark in 1936, comes from the name of Naugatuck, Connecticut, where it was first produced. It is now manufactured in Stoughton, Wisconsin.” (Wikipedia)

But who knows what might still be found in the backcountry of Yellowstone. I urge cryptozoologists and other interested parties to conduct a detailed survey of the remaining wildlife in Yellowstone National Park. The much mistreated nauga might just be still there, holding on to life - I would suggest starting as soon after April 1 as possible.

NOTE: An image in this posting was retrieved from the internet with a search for public domain photographs. If any of this image is not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on this reports you should read the original report at the site listed below.

REFERENCE:

Wikipedia, Naugahyde, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naugahyde