Tag 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.

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(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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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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The Angeles National Forest Mystery Rocks

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THE ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST MYSTERY ROCKS

Written by Christopher Nyerges
www.ChristopherNyerges.com

Posted by Rick Osmon

On Halloween day in 2001, I was leading a birthday outing for a 10 year old boy and his friends at the 3000 foot level of the Angeles National Forest.  We were getting late, so I led them down into the stream so we could make soap from the yucca leaves. It was a spot where I would never ordinarily go.  As the boys and I made our yucIMG_0034ca soap, my gaze was drawn to the back side of a large, 10 foot wide boulder with unusual markings on it.  There were two large horizontal cleavages and numerous markings across the cleavage that bore an uncanny resemblance to ogam.
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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