Archive for Rock Art

Paradigm Shifts, Rock Art Studies, and the “Coso Sheep Cult” of Eastern California

Revised and Updated:

By Alan P. Garfinkel, Ph.D. 

December 2014

 

Originally published in: North American Archaeologist, Spring 2007 Edition

Alan P. Garfinkel, Ph.D.

Principal Archaeologist

UltraSystems Environmental

agarfinkel@ultrasystems.com

avram1952@yahoo.com

 

Founder and Director

California Rock Art Foundation

http://www.californiarockart.org

 

http://www.dralangarfinkel.com

 

 

ABSTRACT

One of the more spectacular expressions of prehistoric rock art in all of the Western Hemisphere is the petroglyph concentration in the Coso Range of eastern California.  These glyphs have played a prominent role in attempts to understand forager religious iconography.  Four decades ago, Heizer and Baumhoff (1962) concluded that Great Basin petroglyphs were associated with hunting large game and were intended to supernaturally increase success in the hunt. Similarly, in their seminal work Grant et al. (1968) concluded that the desert bighorn sheep drawings of the Coso Region bolstered the “hunting magic” hypothesis.

However, this hunting magic hypothesis has become increasingly marginalized by a prevailing view that considers most rock art as a nearly exclusive, expression of individualistic shamanistic endeavor.1  This paper explores comparative ethnologic and archaeological evidence supporting the hunting magic hypothesis.

I place this explanatory framework in a fuller context based on a contemporary understanding of comparative hunter-gather religion and the complexity of forager symbolism.  The paper argues that the preponderance of Coso images are conventionalized iconography associated with a sheep cult ceremonial complex.   This model is not entirely inconsistent with models interpreting the Coso drawings as metaphoric images correlated with individual shamanic vision quests. A synthetic framework applying both models is suggested. 

 

Introduction

Four decades ago, Heizer and Baumhoff 2 concluded that Great Basin petroglyphs were associated with the hunting of large game.  This “hunting magic” hypothesis was based on the distribution of rock art sites found along game migration trails.  The researchers posited that the primary animal being hunted was the bighorn sheep.  In their work on the Coso Range drawings, Grant et al.3 concluded that the realistic sheep drawings bolstered that hypothesis (Figure 1).

Yet over the years the hunting magic model has not fared well.  At best, this interpretation has lost “traction” and is currently classified as an “out-of-favor” theory4.  The hypothesis has become increasingly marginalized by researchers worldwide5 and has been replaced by a prevailing view that most rock art is a nearly exclusive expression of shamanism6.

Any concept that purports to account for all, or even most rock art of a given style or motif, I would argue, is inherently suspect.  One would expect to find that different sets of environmental, cosmological, religious, artistic, and social factors influenced the creation of rock art at various times and places.  Nevertheless, the manner in which hunting magic has been specifically framed does not provide a clear and full picture of the context and implications of that particularly important model.  Such treatment minimizes the role that ritual and symbolism plays in animistic hunter-gatherer societies7.   It also implies a rather monolithic notion of the eclectic manifestations of ritual behavior identifying them under a singular and somewhat ambiguous term of “shamanism” 8.

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Figure 1.  Location of Coso Range rock drawings.  The largest petroglyph concentrations are located within the named canyons identified on the map.  Boundary of the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station and location of the station within the state of California is depicted on the inset map.  The concentrations of Coso rock art are found excusively on the North Rase.  The North and South Range of the China Lake Installation makes up an area containing over 1 million acres.

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Not always the male

By Carl Bjork

At a crime scene, the investigator will always ask the question, “who” perpetrated the offense. And, to answer the question you must discover the “why.” What is the motivation; is it cultural or survival, or perhaps the dictates of the mores of the people? When we discover a crime scene; is there a “crime” committed, what or who has decided that an offense or violation took place? Was the evil deed the results of an action by a male or a female? Have we forgotten in our patriarchal world of today that there are females? Did females carve and paint petroglyphs and pictographs? The answer is, yes!

To understand the role of the female or the male and their “authority” to carve the rocks and paint the symbols in the caves, we will have to discover their role in the society that they live. Do “all” members of the society share equal authority; can each person regardless of social status carve the rocks? The answer is, no!

History as we know it, or more correctly, how a history has been taught to us and what we believe history to be because of our life education, we will never know the real answer. It is problematic to know the truth, so-called “rock art” is not a written language using an alphabet or any other system of symbols to create words that are orally and verbally spoken. There are no tomes of written knowledge; hieroglyphs may come close because we find it carved and painted on walls in ancient temples and tombs, not that far distance from what we find in many locations throughout the world. Many petroglyphs in the State of Nevada easily match carvings found on ancient walls along the Nile River.

Where do we find the answer, do we trust the archeologist even though we can use science to date the site where the rock art is located, is there a valid connection between the dating of the organics in the soil and the carvings? Did the carvings come first from an ancient time and the use of the site at a later date, or did the site activity come first and the carvings were a part of the use of the site? Both answers are no doubt correct. That is the answer that I received over the past forty or so years that I have asked the question, “who and why” at the site and location of the rock-art. What was the motivation, the same question an investigator asks at the scene of a crime?

You will discover the answer regarding the debate for what gender was carving and painting the petroglyphs and paintings within the indigenous community. Even today petroglyphs are carved by those given the authority and taught by the elders. Within the Northern Paiute community of the Great Basin area of the western United States there are members of the tribal group that have been selected and given the “authority.” Many given the authority are female. It is a special honor to be selected for the authority, and the teachings of the sacred medicine knowledge.

Cupules, the small round-shaped dimpled petroglyphs (25-38 mm in diameter) are only created by females. When cupules are in spatial relationship with a rock art site, the site location is “female” and usually the males within the indigenous community are forbidden from visiting the site or knowing of the sacred female knowledge. At “male” sites it is also forbidden for females to visit; even on death if those without the authority enter a site. Most rock art sites are off-limits to those without the authority in the community. Even today, sacredness and knowledge are closely guarded by those in position of power and leadership. Many societies throughout the world are considered “matriarchal” as are the Hopi and Dine’ (Navajo) Tribes. The grandmother elders are highly respected and honored…the keepers of the traditional knowledge.

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Children of Ammon

By, Carl Bjork

http://home.comcast.net/~carlbjork/

 

Morning –  Were the people who carved the rocks in southwest Nevada the Children of Ammon or the Moab people?  Here is something to play with, no doubt way out on this line of thought.  But it is worth the consideration.  Ever hear of the People of Moqui; the Pueblo people that lived in southern Utah?  Can we stretch Moqui from the many spellings of Molech/Molik?  Please, leave out the religious context from this idea, and look at it as a movement of people; not to judge “their” culture.  No doubt there are many stories and legends that tell of a similar movement of people.  Many thanks for your insight and comments.

Pahrump%20area%20petros%2001[2]

(king). The fire-god Molech was the tutelary deity of the children of Ammon, and essentially identical with the Moabitish Chemosh. Fire-gods appear to have been common to all the Canaanite, Syrian and Arab tribes, who worshipped the destructive element under an outward symbol, with the most inhuman rites. According to Jewish tradition, the image of Molech was of brass, hollow within, and was situated without Jerusalem. “His face was (that) of a calf, and his hands stretched forth like a man who opens his hands to receive (something) of his neighbor. And they kindled it with fire, and the priests took the babe and put it into the hands of Molech, and the babe gave up the ghost.” Many instances of human sacrifices are found in ancient writers, which may be compared with the description of the Old Testament of the manner in which Molech was worshipped. Molech was the lord and master of the Ammonites; their country was his possession, (Jeremiah 49:1) as Moab was the heritage of Chemosh; the princes of the land were the princes of Malcham. (Jeremiah 49:3; Amos 1:15) His priests were men of rank, (Jeremiah 49:3) taking precedence of the princes. The priests of Molech, like those of other idols, were called Chemarim. (2 Kings 23:5; Hosea 10:5; Zephaniah 1:4)

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An Ancient “Boat” in Native American Rock Art?

by Carl A. Bjork.

 

Originally published in Ancient American Magazine Issue #45

 

Southern California’s “Painted Rock” is among the relatively few surviving examples of ancient pictoglyphs created by the Chumash people before their extinction through contact with diseases contracted in the early 17th Century. Respected even by the rapacious Spaniards as “civilized Indians,” the Chumash were physically set apart from other Native Americans by their facial hair (most Indians were beardless) and occasionally fair complexions. They were also skilled mariners, and sailed tomols, or well-made boats somewhat resembling Viking ship-building practices, up and down the Pacific coast, even venturing as far as the off-shore islands of San Miguel and St. Nicholas.

Carl3

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Remarkable Monuments of Southern Alberta

by Warren W. Dexter, FES, DFFMES, Elkhart, Indiana

 

Originally published in The Midwestern Epigraphic Journal, Volume 17, Number 1, 2003

 

HODO or DOLMEN

Just west of the WRITING ON STONE PROVINCIAL PARK in southern Alberta, Canada is located a wonderfully positioned DOLMEN appearing like a lighthouse that can be observed for miles.  It is high above the Milk River, named in 1805 by the Lewis and Clark expedition as they were passing up the Missouri River where the Milk River enters because of the coloring of the Milk River with sand sediment.

The DOLMEN was originally a HODO made into  DOLMEN by fracturing a hole in the center of the base by humans.  This can be observed from the up-stream side and shows that it is not an opening made from erosion.  At the same time at the level just to the left we see what looks like three pillars.  This is a carved form instead of an inscribed form of the name (B-L) of the ancient god BAAL in the ancient alphabet (vowelless) OGAM.  There are only two places that I have found the name of the God BAAL in this alphabet engraved as on this Pillar (bar relief), the other being on Etruscan burial hut urns in western Italy.

This is one of the two reasons that I assume that this DOLMEN was purposely made as a memorial to the Canaanite God BAAL.  The second reason is on a site about ten miles up stream on the Milk River, 65 ft. high above the river on a bluff stands the so-called OGAM PILLAR with two sculptured heads.

 

OGAM PILLAR

The Ogam Pillar site is located about 15 miles east of the town of Milk River in southern Alberta, Canada.  It is on a bluff 65 feet above the MIlk River which arises on the eastern border of Glacier National Park in the state of Montana and flows north across the Canadian border then parallel to the border and reenters the United States to join the Missouri River in eastern Montana.  It is 625 miles long.

This site has several different stories, and they are in TWO different forms.  One is the ancient OGAM (vowelless) inscribed alphabet that tells the story of the flyway of the birds which is the philosophy of the ancient 6 to 4th century BC priests of the Etruscans of western Italy.  This pillar is located on the flyway of the birds going north to their breeding grounds. “When the birds fly to the west of the pillar the omen is for wars and famines, but when the birds fly east of the pillar the omen is for good weather and huge crops.”

The second is in the form of sculpture.  There are two (2) HEADS sculptured in different forms to portray not only different individuals but their cultures, and by positioning them one above the other showing their position of command.  The head above the OGAM inscription is that of a person who looks like a Roman because of the large nose which the Romans inherited from the Etruscans, their predecessors in Italy.  The second head at the extreme left is that of an African negro-type who quite possibly was the leader of the sailors who brought the expedition to this destination.

Vandals disfigured the head on top of the OGAM PILLAR so that when I photographed it on my return trip in 1998 it was unrecognizable.  It seems that the local establishment and Indians want only their interpretation of history to be considered.  They have even tried to exclude any further photography of sites in this area.

The two people in the photograph are (l-r) Ronald Bair and Lawrence Halmrest, local explorers from southern Alberta.  The latter was my guide to this location.  Sometime previously the Glenbow Museum & Archives in Calgary, Alberta hired three supposed specialists to evaluate the inscriptions along the Milk River which they did and wrote reports about their finds.  It so happened that the two most important sites, the “DOLMEN” and the “OGAM PILLAR” were ignored.

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Ancient Inscriptions in Montana

by, Warren W. Dexter   Originally published in Ancient American Magazine – Issue #54.

 

 

An unusual site is located just West of Writing on Stone Provencal Park, in Alberta. There, the Milk River starts at the eastern edge of Glacier National Park, in Montana, then flows north across the Canadian border, traveling parallel to the border before it returns to the U.S., joining the Missouri River in Eastern Montana.

 

 

Dexter2

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Semiotic Relationships and Rock Art Sites

home.comcast.net/~carlbjork

 

By Carl A. Bjork

 

 

If we are to debate or discuss, or to develop a general theory about the symbols and possible semiotic relationships found at rock art sites, we must delineate and set boundaries on the definition or meaning of rock-art. I will use “rock art” to describe what is commonly called petroglyphs and pictographs, carvings and paintings found on rock faces, in grottos and caves, cliffs, or any other geological formation. A rock art site would be a geographical location where one would find a geological formation containing rock art. Within my simplistic definition, rock art site could be a single, rock art-covered boulder in a meadow or a narrow sandstone canyon with hundreds of paintings.

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Exploring America’s Earliest Rock Art

 

 

Exploring America’s Earliest RockArt 

by

JackSteinbringUniversity of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Ripon College

 

The recent discovery that the Winnemucca Petroglyph Site (Fig. 1)

Fig 1

 

fig.1

fig.1

in Nevada may date to as early as 14,800 years ago has prompted a review of other instances of early rock art in North America. The Winnemucca Site contains deeply eroded petroglyphs including panels of what appear to be randomly produced cupules.

Cupules, in general, have been assigned an early context throughout the world, including North America where Parkman (2007: 1) has viewed them in early contexts, as well as reminding us that cupules have been produced in modem times in California where they are part of fertility rituals. Thus, it becomes critical that physical evidences of antiquity be established.

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“Red Paint” Pictographic Panels West of Beaver, Utah

Scientific Results and Summation on the “Red Paint” Pictographic Panels Situated West of Beaver, Utah on the “Roberts” Property

By, Stephan B. Shaffer BS MA

President:
The We Nooch Society.
Research Archaeology/Preservation
wenooch.org
ancienttreasurehunter.com

ssgoldenpath@yahoo.com

 

Observations were conducted on two panels at the property of the Roberts family. One section of land owned by the family was initially obtained under the Homestead Act.

Panel #1

S1S2

This panel has two different time lines attached to it. The photo at top was a later addition to the overall panel. The photo above is much older by at least 200 years. Meanings vary from tribe to tribe but individual characters can have the same meanings.

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Ancient Asiatic Writing in North America

ANCIENT ASIATIC WRITING IN NORTH AMERICA

By, Dr John Ruskamp

For centuries, researchers have been debating if, in pre-Columbian times, meaningful exchanges between the indigenous peoples of Asia and the Americas ever occurred. Periodically, over the past 250 years knowledgeable sinologists and oceanographers have written positively on this topic, yet, so far, no conclusive proof has been put forth establishing such trans-Pacific contact as a historical event.

Now in a published research manuscript Dr. John Ruskamp provides previously unrecognized and compelling new epigraphic evidence, in the form of ancient North American Chinese rock writings that he has identified interspersed among otherwise Native American petroglyphs and pictographs, establishing that in pre-Columbian times literate Asians did indeed traverse the Pacific Ocean to North America, shortly after 1150 BC. Read more