BLOG: To Become Visible

Category
  • Ghosts, Souls, Spirits – and the Numen

    Souls and ghosts are separate entities and again are sharply distinct from spirits. -Leslie Spier [1]

    With “a transition from the material to the psychical point of view… three dimensions become two as the perspective of nature, flesh, and matter fall away, leaving an existence of immaterial, mirrorlike images, eidola. We are in the land of the soul.” -James Hillman [2]

    Verne Ray’s 1939 synthesis discussed and compared what and how spirits, souls, and ghosts were felt and responded to among the indigenous peoples of cultural area he calls the Plateau of northwestern America. [3]

    Ray characterizes spirits as forms of power, which may assume animal, or anthropomorphic forms. The spirit does not reside in the human body, yet the soul is the “animating force in the body.” p 83. When the body dies and decays there is a separation of the soul from the body. “The soul becomes transformed into a ghost and continues to exist.” He adds: “unless it immediately goes to the land of the dead.” (p. 84). Leslie Spier’s 1930 Klamath Ethnography was a source for the distinctions he discusses. [1]

    Robert David also draws on Spier’s work. [4] David claries the relationship for the Klamath. Spirits manifest as animals, as natural elements, or as “anthropomorphic beings.” They dwell in natural places. The soul is in the body, near the heart. As an animating breathe of life, all creatures have souls. (P 19) When a person dies, the soul separates and departs for the land of the dead. He says ghosts are souls returning from the land of the dead and, transformed as beings, are generally dangerous and feared. p 19. He emphasizes, following Spier, “Spirits, souls, and ghosts all play different roles in Klamath-Modoc cosmology.”

    How do we think-with rock-art images when the original intent or purpose has been obscured by time, weathering, and cultural change? This question came to mind as I last month I studied carvings on cliff in the Deschutes River Canyon. [5] Wondering… Are these figures? Do they represent? If so, what, and how?

    Among a variety of carvings on various cliffs, at one site eleven figures appear with human-or-animal-like attributes. These images float. They do not seem to represent persons or corporeal beings, rather dream or myth images. This group of unusual carved images locate approximately equidistant between the traditional tribal territories the Klamath peoples in south central Oregon and The Dalles on the Columbia River. Is there a connecting link or thread? A relationship to Plateau tribal culture? I don’t know. I am also not aware whether this group of carvings have been described or studied. (Note 1)  As is usual with petroglyphs, in the absence of reliable dating and known cultural affiliation or influences, discerning the intention or sequence is not possible.

    To extend this thinking-with, I turn to James Hillman, an archetypal psychologist working from the western tradition. Ray and David articulate too through a western lens, citing ethnologists, notably Spier, to arrive at the namings: spirit, soul, ghost. Hillman points out “shadow images … fill archetypal roles: they are personae, masks, in the hollow of which is the numen.” [6]  He encourages us, citing Jung, to look to the “significance of archetypal contents.” Hillman’s numen, as an animating or divine essence, infuses these realms and offers a useful concept as it reveals the depth of how human consciousness may apprehend the invisible.

    SOURCES 
    [1] Leslie Spier. 1930. Klamath Ethnography. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnography, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 1-338. p.100 (cited by Ray 1939 p. 78)
    [2] James Hillman, 1979. The Dream and the Underworld. Harper & Row. p. 51
    [3] Verne Ray. 1939 Cultural Relations in the Plateau of Northwestern America. Fredrick Webb Hodge Anniversary Publication Fund, Vol. III.
    [4] Robert David. 2012. The Landscape of Klamath Basin Rock Art. UC Berkeley. pp. 18-19.
    To complement David’s work about the Klamath Basin, and to compare with the culture of the Modoc Plateau, see Verne Ray. 1963. Primitive Pragmatists: The Modoc Indians of Northern California. University of Washington Press.
    [5] About Central Oregon's Wild River Wilderness:  Oregon Natural Desert Association
    [6] James Hillman. 1979. The Dream and the Underworld. Harper & Row. p. 60-61
    Note 1: The Lorings (1982) provide a good summary of two other sites in the canyon of the middle Deschutes River in Jefferson County: Site 68, Peninsula, and Site 69, Steelhead Falls.

  • Ancient Rock Art = Today’s News

    Today’s Herald and News (Klamath Falls) newspaper’s Outdoor section featured a rock art story about my research and photos with a focus on Lake County.  

    Lacey Jarrell, the H&N’s award-winning environmental reporter, attended last month's Desert Conference in Bend and contacted me. I recommended she talk too with Eric Ritter, the BLM archaeologist in Redding who’s done a lifetime of fine work.  Always interesting to see how a reporter kindly, and asutely in this instance, extracts a story from all your carefully honed and nuanced wisdom… aka ramblings. 

    For story and photos: Ancient Gallery

  • Traversing the Oregon Badlands

    Where else can you leave one of the microbrew centers of the West, drive half an hour and hike right into an official Wilderness? Well, Bend to the Oregon Badlands.  Where else can you traverse a dry river that during the wetter years of the Pleistocene was a rushing river cutting a gorge and narrow canyons through the basalt. Millennia of churning water also ground hollows, often called tinajas in desert areas, which can hold water long after the a seasonal river disappears.  These modest water catchments were an attractive, even essential, water source for desert dwellers and travelers.  And places where painted or carved symbols or signs may appear.

    One such rock painting is located on an oval rock face near bedrock tinajas in a Dry River slot canyon in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness, east of Bend.  Though now faded, the simple design is precise, even poised.  Whether marker, a prayer, a signal of gratitude, or perhaps recognition of the power of place, I delighted in the beauty of this quiet congruence.

    Note: This general area, along the Dry River Trail, is known as the Bombing Range, due to its use as a gunnery and, yes, bombing range in WW II.  Big Bad Lands. This pictograph place is thus so named in the Lorings’ compilation as site 83. There is another rock painting locale a few miles to the southeast within the upper Dry River Canyon (Lorings’ site 84), on adjacent, non-Wilderness BLM lands. 

    About the Badlands:  ONDA -  an organization instrumental is the 2008 designation of Oregon Badlands Wilderness by the then-do-something-good US Congress. 

    Below, tinaja in canyon's basalt near Dry River rock paintings

  • Held still and moving through time

    As we look with rock art, how do we experience the multiple dimensions? Perhaps start with this from Edward O. Wilson

    “The basic goal of activity mapping is to connect all of the processes of thought – rational and emotional; conscious, preconscious, and unconscious; held still and moving through time – to a physical base.” [1]

    I find this provocative and expansive in a way that challenges me to see-with and perchance open re-cognition. Wilson’s statement references mapping brain activity. It suggests to me a wider landscape of attention.

    When we see an apparent two-dimensional human-made image it is always already in the third dimension of material and place.  Though flattened and abstracted by the photograph, we can yet imagine this textural and spatial dimension.  Further, “held still and moving through time” introduces the fluidity of the fourth dimension – from the action of making to the changes of the stone and its environment, with the possibilities of subsequent markings and narratives.  “Connecting all the processes … to a physical base.”

    The image below: From a rim edging a seasonal lake-playa in the High Lakes region of Lake County, Oregon. Click for Album

    [1] Edward O. Wilson.  “On Free Will.”  Harper’s Magazine, September 2014, 49-52.

  • Desert Conference and Petroglyphs

    The 27th Desert Conference, September 19-20, in Bend, Oregon, presents speakers, panel discussions, and gatherings to provide a deeper understanding of the high desert of the Great Basin and beyond. A focus Oregon Natural Desert Association's event will be the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act and its future.  

    As an invited panelist, I will present, “The Places and Placings of Petroglyphs in southeast Oregon,” with a focus on the rock art of three places within the Owyhee Canyonlands, Owyhee River, and Hart-Warner High Lakes. 

    Downloadable now, the powerpoint of this presentation on southeast Oregon petroglyphs is an 8 MB pdf of 40 slide-pages with photographs, maps, and references: Beauchamp Desert Conference Sep2014r.pdf

    In June, Owyhee Canyonlands featured a blog post from rockartoregon.com: Rock Art in Owyhee.

  • Chocolate-colored basalt and other impasses

    Ruiz and Pereira recently lamented the “arbitrary naming” to describe color in rock art, such as “wine-coloured red.” They also viewed the scales (including IFRAO’s) and charts used by rock art researchers as limitations and at an impasse. [1]

    Why is this important?  Well, they say, to create better understanding and to assist preservation.  All for the good.

    Still, as the science of color in rock art inevitably advances with digital technology, it seems to me this is a sweetly fitting moment to recall Heizer and Baumhoff’s 1962 call for further research in “determining the importance of chocolate –colored basalt in providing proper surfaces for inscribing petroglyphs.” This basalt was, in their opinion, an ideal material. [2]

    Plew described a similar distribution pattern in SW Idaho.  Many petroglyphs occurred in areas where chocolate-colored basalt was available and where it was “limited or absent, few petroglyphs occurred.” [3]

    So, may I offer – as an album of boulders from Rabbit Rim - an indulgence of petroglyphs on richly-patinaed, chocolate-colored basalt? Best viewed with a cup of wine-coloured refreshment in hand.  All with fond remembrance to the subjectivity of “human differences/acumen in identifying colour.” [1]

    NOTES

    [1] Juan F. Ruiz and José Pereira. 2014. The colours of rock art. Analysis of colour recording and communication systems in rock art research.  Journal of Archaeological Science. Vol 50 (Oct 2014): 338–349.

    The authors propose, “a reliable solution for recording of the colours of rock art, ” with the aim to “ produce an objective description of colour are essential to describe rock art colour in an accurate and reproducible way, even in complex recording environments such as open-air rock art sites. Human differences/acumen in identifying colour will always lead to subjective and potentially non-repeatable identification in the field.” (348)  Pereira’s Digital Heritage website offers a rich portal into this realm:  www.jpereira.net

    [2] Robert Heizer and Martin Baumhoff. 1962. Prehistoric Rock Art of Nevada and Eastern California. University of California Press, Berkeley.  Of course, the term “chocolate–colored basalt” did not originate with H&B, though it’s likely they first applied it to rock art.  Indeed, the San Francisco Theological Seminary, built in the 1890s just across the Bay from Berkeley, was constructed of “stone of a chocolate-colored basalt.”  SFTS remains a distinctive 14-acre complex and is a favored setting for weddings.

    [3] Mark G. Plew. 1996. "Distribution of Rock Art Elements and Styles at Three Localities in the Southcentral Owyhee Uplands". Idaho Archaeologist, 19(1), 3-10.

  • What is an image?

    This rock painting is an image, faded, now barely discernible.  But where does the image begin?  And, where does it end?  In this case the image is not simply the lines of red ochre forming a design. It is also the distinct, slender triangle of basalt pointing downward.  It is the crevices that set apart this sculptural form.  By extension it is the surround, the place, image embodied as narrative relationship, moving inward and out.

    Image is an elusive word for concepts used by many to denote a range of meanings.  I will go with James Elkins who said, in The Domain of Images, for his purposes, “an image is patterns on surfaces, taken in by the eye.” He adds, an image is the same as a “visual artifact.” [1]

    The second image at work here is the photograph, another pattern on a surface. The diverse images in the album display selected framings of this singular rock painting.  Some with modifications of contrast and coloration to help “see-again” the painted image. The painter saw, made, lived in, and understood a context very different than I as I stood before it.  And very different than the one you view on the screen, as a digital rectangle. Together, the images tell a story in the present pointing to a time past and implying time forward.  Now it’s your story.

  • The Geometrical Act of Grounding

    The life of the desert lives by adapting itself to the conditions of the desert … And so it happens that those things that can live in the desert become stamped after a time with a peculiar desert character … The struggle seems to develop in them special characteristics and make them, not different from their kind; but more positive, more insistent.  John C. Van Dyke

    The recognition of gravity prepares the geometrical act of grounding, making the ground ready to raise screens to other forces: light, wind and rain.  Ãlvaro Malo

    To other forces: Stone, Gravity, and Barren Valley petroglyphs

    [1] John C. Van Dyke, The Desert: Further Studies in Natural Appearances. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999. [2] Ãlvaro Malo, A desert land ethic: aesthetic research, 2003.

  • Out There and the Right to Look

    The “right to look”… is not a right in the sense of human rights… it is the claim to a subjectivity that has the autonomy to arrange and rearrange the relations of the visible and the sayable. [1]

    The beauty of public lands, the greatness of the commons in the old and fine sense, is the access with implied respect. Anyone who has sought out and discovered rock art often crisscrosses modified terrains, channeled and dammed waterways, fences and gates, wild and domestic animals, and replaced or erased plant communities. In the BLM and National Forest lands of Oregon and Northern California, I am continually reminded every chunk of land is managed and has been or is being modified in some way.

    I can look and do so.  And in so doing and in looking, see strange things. This is encompassed within the experience of being out there.  It provokes arrangement of the visible and the sayable.  Then, arriving near a bramble-sheltered rim with a petroglyph facing east, or studying a deeply carved boulder on a slope near a waterway, looking deepens. 

    Petroglyphs from four locales in SE Klamath and SW Lake counties are pictured – and included with a few along-the-way looked-at crossings.  [1]  Nicholas Mirzoeff. 2014. “Visualizing the Anthropocene.” Public Culture 26, no. 2: 213-232.

  • Non-Rock-Art Visibilities: Missings

    Non-Rock-Art section under the Visibilities tab has been created.  The primary focus of this website is Rock Art Oregon.  I will continue to avidly pursue this intent. And, from time to time, I will add collections of images representing my interests in public art and cultural messagings in public places.

    Missings is a project that interprets loss and yearning through photographing the portrait photos on  Missing Pet posters found tacked onto utility poles.  

    Click for a recent Eugene Weekly article:   LOST: Douglas Beauchamp captures the poetry in missing pet fliers  Appreciation to Reporter Bryan Kalbrosky, Art Editor Alex Notman, and Art Director Todd Cooper for including this story in EW's Annual Pets Issue.

    To view the three initial sets:   Missings   (Feline &  Canine & Texts)

    Photo:  “Sophia & "White Paws" - answers to both”   (2013)

  • Mysterious…

    Mysterious… when we know little, when we confront an unknown.  Often I become skeptical when a sentence or a title begins with mysterious.  Yet it is the word that emerges when I discovered this spring these two images as happenstance from separate threads of my research. How can this be, I thought as I looked, then studied the designs.

    The first - a sketch of a sloping rock on the edge of river gorge in central India by Mr. Rivett-Carnac, an officer of Britain’s Bengal Civil Service. The drawing was one aspect of his investigations and published in the 1877.  The second - a photograph I recorded in April during a journey in the Owyhee River Canyon in eastern Oregon. 

    The stone in India has 291 cup-marks, two of which have circles, arrayed in near vertical and slightly curving parallels.  The Owyhee boulder has similar number of cup-mark pits, similarly arrayed. It has one cup-pit with a circle.  It is striking that these complex arrays are each distinctive from other design-clusters among the thousands I have viewed and studied.  Yet exhibit a powerful resonance with each other.

    To see a large version, click on the image below, you arrive at the Cup-Dot-Pit page, then zoom in.  May you enjoy the mystery!  (Noting, these two images are for visual comparison and are not to scale.) Your Comment – and insight – is welcome; please use the above tab.

  • What is an anthropomorph?

    Appearing to represent a human? Human-like in form? Human in spirit form? Does the commonly used term “Anthropomorph” reveal or distract?   I suggest the term misleads.  Forms indicating human-figure-like attributes reflect action, a place-specific performance understood as event. Perhaps “Action Figure” is a better way to characterize this presence.  Dashing figure, birthing woman, shaman, guardian, enemy, ghost, phantasm, or spectral being - all offer a presence, move as bodies through the animated life-world, heavy or ephemeral, actual or imagined, from the past toward futures uncertain.  

    Consider these six Action Figure images from a single extended basalt rim running north-south in the Hart Warner Uplands of southeastern Lake County.

  • Ways to Apprehend

    The eye that sees the things of today, and the ear that hears, the mind that contemplates or dreams, is itself an instrument of antiquity equal to whatever it is called upon to apprehend … and perhaps … we are aware of … time in ways too difficult and strange for the explanation of historian and zoologist and philosopher.  -Edward Thomas, writing in 1909 [1].

    Typical of many sites in arid juniper-and-sage basalt uplands in the northern Great Basin, Long Lake is a seasonal shallow lake pan, or playa, bordered on its western edge by a basalt rim, outcrops, and tumbled boulders. Within a six-to-eight mile radius of this place, dozens of other sites hold thousands of petroglyphs spanning many social and environmental phases. Long Lake, a rich and well-regarded rock art location, is located on public lands (BLM) between Warner and Guano valleys, and north of highway 140. (Caution: make sure you have a solid vehicle, lots of water, and optionally, a way to reach the highway by phone or foot.)

    Photographers and researchers during recent decades have recorded and studied this terrain, its places, stones, and images, with a variety of approaches and understandings.  However, the immensities – and intensities –  elude.  In part I think because boundaried and linear frameworks can’t contain the cyclic fusing of time and space.  An observer may choose to look, then see.  Further, may participate.  Then, hopefully, with a mind’s eye equal to the apprehension.

    [1] Edward Thomas, The South Country (1909), in the chalk hills of southern England, as cited by Robert MacFarlane in The Old Ways : A Journey on Foot (2012).

    Petroglyphs from two of the smaller lake rims north of Long Lake June 2014.

  • Global Warming and a millennium moment

    What with the World Cup and the (further) disintegration of Iraq, is it surprising “…many Americans perceive global warming as a relatively distant threat” according to a recent Yale study.

    Still, time flows on, kind of like a soccer game or a war.   Since the end of the last ice age in Oregon’s Northern Great Basin, 12000-14000 years ago, animals, plants, and peoples have been affected by oscillating changes in rain, airflow, heat, and cold.  Another variable: volcanic and other geologic activity.

    The darkly patinaed markings on this boulder are thousands of years old, likely 6000 years of more.  The bright symbol is more recent, perhaps created in the last 500-2000 years.   The boulder is near the Owyhee River, which this year is significantly below its historic average flow.  With global warming, how will the life of this canyon, the presence of this boulder, change in the next few centuries, in future millennia?

    Owyhee River Petroglyphs 

  • Cups, Circles, and Golf Links

    In the universal language of simple forms, the circle (or the sphere) signifies both that which transcends man and remains beyond his reach (the sun, the cosmic totality, ‘God’), and also that which, at its own sub-lunar level, related to germinations, to the maternal, to the intimate.  -Jacques Cauvin [1]

    Where the (lava) surface is smoother, mysterious petroglyphs were carved… in this historic setting, the Kings' Course has been called a surreal golf experience.  -Waikoloa Beach Resort [2].

    One may say that we seek with our human hands to create a second nature in the natural world. -Cicero, 45 BCE

    Wooler Golf Club extends along the gentle sloping north side of Dod Law, a hill dome a few miles south of the Scottish border in north Northumberland, England.  Uphill from the golf links is the crest of Dod Law, the highest part of Doddington Moor [3]. During the Neolithic, beginning about 6000 BP, was a time when marking stone with rock-art became a common expression in Northumberland. Fell sandstone outcrops in highland areas attracted hunters and the first herders.  For photos:  Dod Law album

    Waikoloa Beach Resort’s two golf courses, near the South Kohala coast on Hawaii’s Big Island, surround the ‘Anaeho’omalu petroglyphs, now called the Waikoloa Petroglyph Reserve. Carving of petroglyphs began about 1000 BP on the horizontal and open pāhoehoe lava flows and was most intensive during the 14th to the 16th centuries. Bulldozing for the golf courses and artificial lakes in the 1970s-1980s eradicated at least half of the estimated 9000 petroglyphs encompassed within the original three-acre lava field. [4] For photos:  ‘Anaeho’omalu/Waikoloa album

    The two rock-art sites have in common a predominance of abstract markings almost all of which are cups, circles, and variations on circular elements, though spirals are absent from both sites. Both sites have "enclosure" designs, straight or curved grooves surronding other elements, usually cups. Yet it goes beyond motifs. Georgia Lee's observation, writing about Hawai’I Island, could easily apply as well to the rock-art of Northumberland. Indeed, it seems to me it is so clearly said it offers worthwhile insight when considering most sites:

    It is place and place marking, more so than the petroglyphs themselves, that are of significance.  Thus the petroglyphs gained significance in the association with place; and in the process of being marked, the significance of the places themselves heightened, inscribed with the powers that made then special in the first place. There is dialectic here, a re-enforcing rhythm that enables place to speak through symbol and symbol to speak through place. [5]

    References

    • [1] Cauvin, Jacques. 2000. The Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agriculture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p.132. Cited by Richard Bradley. 2012. In The Idea of Order: the Circular Archetype in Prehistoric Europe. 
    • [2] http://www.waikoloabeachgolf.com/kings-course
    • [3] Dod Law, Main panel: http://rockartmob.ncl.ac.uk/main/d/   
    • http://rockart.ncl.ac.uk/panel_detail.asp?pi=35
    • http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/era/section/panel/overview.jsf?eraId=53
    • [4] Lee, Georgia, and Edward Stasack. 1999. Spirit of place the petroglyphs of Hawaiʻi. pp.56-64. 
    • [5] Lee, Georgia.  2002.  "Wahi Pana: Legendary places on Hawai ‘i Island." In Inscribed Landscapes: Marking and Making Place.  pp 79-92.  Edited by Bruno David and Meredith Wilson. University of Hawaiʻi Press.

    Below: (1) Dod Law (Main Panel A) and (2) ‘Anaeho’omalu (Waikoloa Petroglyph Reserve.)

  • Cups and Rings and Meanderings in North Northumberland

    The label Cup-and-Ring belies the textured complexity of carvings on the open-air stone outcrops in northern England. The tradition in north Northumberland, bordering Scotland, began about 6000 years ago and is estimated to have continued in various contexts for 2000 years.  Numerous glacially smoothed horizontal surfaces and earthfast boulders of the Fell Sandstone bear deeply carved abstract markings.  Many are cups, or cups-and-rings, some with a radiating series of concentric circles.  These may be solitary or, more often, combined with grooves, channels, ducts, basins, and boundaried shapes.

    The compelling boulder on the hill at Old Bewick pulled me toward it.  When I asked Aron Mazel about rock art in England, knowing I sought some country rock-art days as part of a planned trip to London, he said Northumberland.  One look at a photo of Old Bewick told me I needed to go there.  Plus Bewick means bee farm.

    A hill walk, generously guided by Roy Kennard, proved to be humbling and far too brief to grasp the depth of the natural and cultural histories of the place and its peoples. With this respect, I offer a few observations and photographs, augmented by selected references to a sampling of the extensive informed (and passionate!) sources.   (In a subsequent post I will consider nearby sites: Dod Law, Chatton Hill, Ketley Crag, and Weetwood Moors, all inspiring.)

    A historical note: John C. Langlands became the tenant of Old Bewick farmstead in 1823.  He recognized the hill’s “sculptured rocks” as ancient and is regarded as their discoverer. He died in 1874 and is buried at the Old Bewick Trinity Church. A member of the Berwickshire Naturalists’ Club, he read a paper in 1866 titled “History and Natural history of Old Bewick,” which a Club historian, John Stuart, writing Langlands’s remembrance in 1876, commends “as a model of cautious statement and careful research.”  Stuart continues, “After these mysterious figures had become, as it were, fashionable and the subject of general interest, many students were drawn to visit them, and these pilgrims cannot but recollect the zeal and interest exhibited by Mr. Langlands, who was the unfailing guide on these occasions.”

    Today the Old Bewick Farmhouse, near the western base of the hill, is an exquisite B&B lovingly restored and graciously hosted by Barry and Catherine Lister

    References

    "British prehistoric rock-art in the landscape." Stan Beckensall. 2002. In European landscapes of rock-art, George Nash & Christopher Chippindale, eds.  p.39-70.  For the last 10 years Stan Beckensall has worked with Dr Aron Mazel, director of the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies at Newcastle University. Beckensall’s 30 years research and discoveries formed the base for the excellent website http://rockart.ncl.ac.uk

    Art as metaphor: The prehistoric rock-art of Britain. Aron D. Mazel, George Nash, and Clive Waddington, eds. 2007. 

    "Cup and ring marks in context." Clive Waddington. 1998. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 8:29-54.

    Rock Art & Ritual: Mindscapes of Prehistory. Brian A. Smith & Alan A. Walker. 2011.

    Rock art and the prehistory of Atlantic Europe: signing the land. Richard Bradley. 1997.

    Weblinks:

    http://rockart.ncl.ac.uk

    http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/era/

    http://www.themodernantiquarian.com

    Old Bewick Northumberland - Photos May 2014.

  • Hole in the Ground: Way of Water through Stone

    The Hole in the Ground petroglyphs occur, according to Luther Cressman (1937), “in an isolated spot … in the tortuous Owyhee Canyon.”

    The truly wild-and-scenic Owyhee River winds north through the southern heart of the Malheur County in the southeast corner of Oregon, east of the Steens, the Trout Creek, and Oregon Canyon mountain ranges, until its impoundment as Lake Owyhee just shy of its confluence with the Snake River at today’s Idaho border.

    The watery series of confluences and “tortuous” turnings carving through volcanic uplands reflect the Owyhee River's compelling pathway in use by animals and peoples for thousands of years.  The petroglyphs, always near water, reflect in part the rich sequences of cultures of the peoples who traversed this terrain for millenia.  

    Hole in the Ground, as is true of most extensive sites in SE Oregon, is not a single site or discrete place, rather it extends with varying degrees of concentration along the river for a number of miles. Neither Cressman nor the Lorings (1983) visited the site.  Both relied on photographs of earlier visitors to produce their published line drawings of some of the images at the locale with the densest and most diverse concentration. Cressman included an entire page of sketches and the Lorings illustrated thirteen panels. 

    The photo below and this album focuses on this site.  (Photographs April 2014 by Douglas Beauchamp.)  See NOTES following the photo.  

    NOTES

    Many thanks to Bill Crowell for his goodwill and insight during trip planning mode and for his valuable historical research on the Hole in the Ground Ranch, once owned by his god-parents and today a BLM-managed site.  

    1. Loring published in 1967 two photographs of panels by Horace Arment of Ontario in Screenings 16:2.  Portland: OAS.

    2. Myrtle Shock’s research is valuable regional background: 2002. Rock art and settlement in the Owyhee uplands of southeastern Oregon. Diss. University of Pittsburgh. 2007. A Regional Settlement System Approach to Petroglyphs; Application to Owyhee Uplands, Southeastern Oregon. In Great Basin Rock Art: Archaeological Perspectives. Angus R. Quinlan, ed. University of Nevada Press. (Chap 6:69-91.)

    3. Vale BLM has over the years surveyed and mapped cultural resource locations, including petroglyph sites along the Owyhee River near Hole in the Ground, but does not provide information to the public

     4. At the Watson site, a few miles downriver and south of the upper Lake Owyhee reservoir, the Bureau of Reclamation (Snake River office) in 2009-2012, under the leadership of archaeologist Jennifer Huang, conducted extensive second–phase documentation  of hundreds of petroglyph boulders.  Keo Boreson offers excellent overviews of Watson:  2007. The Study of a Rock Art in Southeastern Oregon in Great Basin Rock Art, noted above.  2012. Shield figure petroglyphs at the Watson Site, southeastern Oregon in Festschrift in honor of Max G. Pavesic.  Journal of Northwest Anthropology. Memoir no. 7

    5. For the archaeology of this region, check some of the technical reports from the Department of Anthropology, Washington State University - though unfortunately petroglyphs are ignored as landscape or cultural features.

  • The Wallula Stone Abides

    Jorge Otero-Paulos recently noted, “preservation has looked at art to expand the aesthetics of memory, cultural trauma, historicity, and temporality.” [1]

    It is impossible to show the entire two facets of this boulder as it sits within the closely-installed, tall iron fence's lurking surround. The Wallula Stone is somewhat irregular, so there is no single perspective that can capture it. A magnificent massive fragment of basalt column tumbled from the cliffs of Wallula Gap, or perhaps arriving from upriver, as a local erratic, during the ice age. Then carved.  And, now, far from its mother river. 

    The reflective light of the morning sun illuminates the hard basalt’s deeply patinaed surface with a soft sheen, the ancient polish of the stone itself, natural or human made, from wind, water, perhaps rubbing hands.

    As now placed, its sheer mass is visually constrained, gridded by the fence and memorial enclosure. However, it is protected and honored.  It's surprising the stone or its carvings show little noticeable modern disfigurement. Well, except for the anchored-in bronze plaque, which the Tribes left in place [2]. Odd, had not the railroad fellows hoisted it on a flatcar in 1910 (the tracks were happily nearby), it may have been submerged in the mid-1950s under a hundred feet of water, inundated by the McNary Dam’s Lake Wallula!  

    [1] Jorge Otero-Paulos defines preserved artworks as “transitional cultural objects … for looking back at our immediate future from the point of the view of a distant future … a temporal expression … as the future anterior.”   (“Remembrance if Things to Come, ”ArtForum, April 2014:115-116.)

    [2] A ten-ton monolith, originally located on the Columbia River near Wallula Gap on the Oregon border, the Wallula Stone was displayed in outdoor courtyard of Portland City Hall from 1910 until 1996. The basalt petroglyph boulder became the centerpiece of the newly constructed Nix-Ya-Wii Warriors Memorial of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, in Mission, Oregon, on July 26, 1996.

  • Matters of this Place called Earth

    Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change. -IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri, March 2014. The effects of climate change, with rising global temperatures, already being felt across the globe, will likely be "severe, pervasive, and irreversible" in the years to come, impacting agriculture, human health, and water supplies across all continents, oceans, and ecosystems. (UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released March 2014)

    ... At the eastern tip of the backwater of Lake Celilo, the Columbia River impoundment by the Dalles Dam, basalt cliffs rise out of the still water. If you stand on the cliff’s edge, on the Washington shore, you will look south and east at the downriver face of the John Day Dam. Power lines lacing through looming gray lattice towers rise and fall conveying the river’s captured power to distant places. White, tri-bladed wind turbines form their own turgid lines of ascent and descent along all the receding ridges up and down the wide river plain flattened by ice age floods.

    This particular cliff-place, with its basalt block columns, offers the largest accumulation of “bear paw” petroglyphs on the Columbia, an estimated 150-180. [1]

    Two realities about these petroglyphs occur after careful viewing. There are very few petroglyphs of any other design at this site.  And: an enticing range of design variations on the “paws” motif is found here.   What this may mean is purely speculation and conjecture, meaning we simply don’t know. However, I will suggest whatever the glyphs-makers’ specific intents, this site was and is a place of power. If so, the irony is readily apparent. Power - accumulated, distilled, concentrated - moves far and wide. As the animal abides.

    It is entirely possible, should human systems collapse in the not-too-distant future, and the concrete abutments, towers, turbines fall silent, the animal markings will move from the stone walls outward, into and through this ever-changing Earth, alive to possibility.

    [1] This site is documented by Loring (1982) and McClure (1978), and mentioned by Keyser (1992.) It is accessible to the public.  Photos by Douglas Beauchamp, March 2014: Tower & Fishing Patforms; John Day Dam; "Bear Paws" on basalt.



    ...A final reflection from Jungian analyst Marion Woodman: The masculine struggle… as a relationship to the feminine, extends into a collective attitude to the planet - Mother Earth - distorting her natural rhythms until she can take no more. This disturbing situation is in large measure the result of a flawed solar myth that confers upon the masculine a heroic status, which now threatens us with extinction. From The Maiden King (1998).

  • The Presence of the Visual: Rock Painting at Canyon de Chelly

    Two discrete sandstone walls in the remote areas of the upper wash of the main canyon of Canyon de Chelly hold distinctive rock paintings. They appear as markedly different traditions and expressions. Both are pigment with binders applied to the stone surface. Each is located in a sheltered curve of a smooth rock face. Both are present in place, melding material and gesture to arch across time.

    Sally Cole in Legacy on Stone* argues for the use of “rock painting” rather than the more common “pictograph.” I agree. Pictograph is the word usually put forth to distinguish painted images from petroglyphs. It seems to me the term risks misleading rather than illuminating. As does “picture writings,” in common use for decades. The language of rock art often struggles between art historical thinking and archaeological categorization. Interpretation, fantasy, and speculation bring along other rich veins of textual treatment. (For the moment I will set aside the most obviously problematic term - “rock art” – promising to take that up at another time.)

    Meanwhile, back in the canyon, the figurative, iconic or indexical, and precisely articulated rock paintings continue to resonate across centuries and the dry and watered lands. For now, let’s think not about what they say or how we wish to say it - let's simply see.

    Note: Photos from a week-long camp in the Canyon in 2007 coordinated by Gary Tepfer. Gary is a professional photographer who has guided this annual trip since 1990, though photography is not the primary emphasis. His next trip is mid-October 2014. He also leads a week in May in the Chuska Mountains, on the Navajo Reservation, under the guidance of Harry Walters.  Tepfer Trips.  Gary Tepfer's Southwest Rock Art.  “Legacy on Stone: Rock Art of the Colorado Plateau and Four Corners Region. 2009 (Revised and Updated).  A good overview: Campbell Grant’s Canyon de Chelly: Its People and Rock Art. 1978.