BLOG: To Become Visible

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  • Encountering A Petroglyph Place

    To recognize leads to representation of what is already known. To encounter fosters new experience.  According to Simon O’Sullivan, encounter challenges our typical ways of being in the world.  Encounter “produces a cut, a crack.” This “rupturing” is also, in the same creative moment, an affirmation. This conjunction is “a way of seeing and thinking this world differently.”[1]  With gratitude and without need of explanation or interpretation, I will add.

    [1] Simon O’Sullivan.  2006.  Art encounters Deleuze and Guattari: thought beyond representation. Palgrave Macmillan. At the book’s outset, O’Sullivan cites Deleuze: Something in the world forces us to think. This something is an object not of recognition but of a fundamental encounter(In Deleuze G. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Trans. P. Patton.)

    Encountering A Petroglyph Place

  • Charged with the rush of time: Michael Heizer at Gagosian

    When a thing is seen through the consciousness of temporality, it is changed into something that is nothing. This all-engulfing sense provides the mental ground for the object, so that it ceases being a mere object and becomes art. The object gets to be less and less but exists as something clearer. Every object, if it is art, is charged with the rush of time even though it is static, but all this depends on the viewer.  Robert Smithson, 1968, from “A Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Projects.”

    Michael Heizer’s current exhibit “Altars” at Gagosian New York includes “negative wall sculptures featuring metamorphic and igneous rocks.”  Heizer, son of renowned California archaeologist Robert Heizer, is best known for his massive landscape modifications - “land artworks.” Along with Robert Smithson and a few others he transformed how we modernists encounter landscape. These interventions often were/are of huge scale and scope.  Or, as Heizer reminds us: Size is real. Scale is imagined size.

    Spectacularly sized and imagined, Heizer’s Levitated Mass moved across California in 2012 to be permanently installed at Los Angeles County Museum of Art: See rockartoregon post January 31, 2014:  Freeing The Rocks: Four Potentials

    Michael Heizer.  Potato Chip, 2015.  18-ton granite rock in stell (sic) frame. 172×106 ¾’×92 inches.  Photo by Rob McKeever courtesy the Gagosian website

  • Meanders and Dams: Lost in Modoc country

    Between the limited volume of water stored in Clear Lake Reservoir, the low inflow forecast, and estimated evaporation and seepage rates, Reclamation cannot make discretionary releases from Clear Lake Reservoir during 2015. 
    - Bureau of Reclamation, April 2015

    A basin in the Modoc country of far northeast California gathers the inflowing water of Willow Creek from some million acres from the south and east. Prior to completion of the Clear Lake Reservoir Dam in 1910 the water flow made a sweeping turn through a lake called Tchápsxo by the Modoc.  Magically it became the beginning of Lost River. The river crossed north into Oregon, undulated northerly and westerly for a hundred miles, and eventually flowed into Tule Lake as that basin’s major replenisher. Today, for management purposes over a million acres of Modoc County is known as the Upper Lost River Watershed, a California segment of the Klamath Project.

    Rock art of the Upper Lost River is not well-documented or well-understood. In this extreme drought year, I wonder does rock art bear on the future of  productivity and well-being –even survival– of the people, animals, and plants of Modoc, Siskiyou, and Klamath counties? Directly, no, it does not. Yet, as a sideways reminder of time and change, seems to me it may. Walking the canyons, standing at the dam, I witness meanderings, a profound circle of season, and the vast cycles of this expansive lava plateau. Feeling time returning in curves immemorial. As with all the clear lakes and lost rivers of our journeys, we ask will it always be so?

    Some Petroglyphs of Upper Lost River

    [1] 2015 Annual Operations Plan, Klamath Project, Bureau of Reclamation, April 2015, p.3

    Note. The immediate Clear Lake area holds a tense and painful historical legacy.  Modoc villages for centuries until the mid-1800s. The Applegate Trail crossed to the north in the mid 1800s.  Modoc native peoples relocated to the Klamath Reservation in 1864. The last days of the Modoc War in 1873.  Carr’s ranch and walls held area, 1870s-1890s.  Diversions of Lost River from the 1880s to the dam completion in 1910.   President T. Roosevelt proclaimed the Clear Lake National Wildlife Refuge in 1911. Lost River sucker and the shortnose sucker listed as Endangered Species in 1988. Into the 21st century: increasing drought as symptom of global heating.

  • Crook Motif: Ever the More

    Last year I posted a consideration of the “Crook” motif as seen in Lake County, Oregon. [1]

    This simple and distinctive motif appears at times in association with other figures on panel and oft times as a “floating” figure absent any obvious referent.  Other than usually facing a water source.

    At their most concise, the abstracted form appears as a symbol:  a half circle arching upward with a brief extension on one side.  Perhaps it is better to not call them “crooks,” or hooks, or any name. 

    Recently I discovered paper by Bernard M. Jones, Jr [2], which to added new depth to my thinking about this form. I find his thoughtful investigation of power, or “powerscapes” as he proposes, quite provocative. Most of his examples include associations with anthropomorphs, as do the references I noted in my earlier post.  However, forms of the petroglyphs in the northern Great Basin vary wildly and generally depart from any anthro-association: Crook Motif: Expanded

    [1] By Crook or by Hook: Abstract petroglyph motifs in Lake County. Feb 18 2014

    [2] Bernard M. Jones, Jr. 2012. The Shaman's Crook: A Visual Metaphor Numinous Power in Rock Art. In Utah Rock Art Vol XXX, URARA.

    Look closely:  Two Crooks emerge, with dots and other figures - an old petroglyph as are most of rhe "floating" crooks in Lake County, Oregon

  • The Pit River Tribe vs. The U.S. and Calpine Corporation

    100 years ago this month, April 1915, the U.S. Reclamation Service issued a 200-page report on the Pit River Basin.  The purpose being “to assess the feasibility of constructing works for the full utilization of the waters of the river and its tributaries… for the highest public advantage.“ The Report makes no reference to native peoples or tribes. Among the considerations was a 25-mile aqueduct to enhance the river from Clear Lake, which flowed north as the (rechanneled) Lost River to the Klamath River.  This did not happen. [1]

    Last month, March 2015, the Pit River Tribe and their allies were in court to protect the Medicine Lake Highlands from geothermal destruction and desecration. The Pit River, Wintun, Karuk, Shasta and Modoc Nations hold the Medicine Lake Highlands sacred, and have used the region for healing, religious ceremonies and tribal gatherings for thousands of years. [2, 3].  Calpine Corporation,  a Fortune 500 company, was founded in San Jose, California, and has based in Houston, Texas, since 2009.

    Both aquifers contribute the Upper Sacramento Headwaters of California’s the Central Valley Project. [4]    Rock art is one of many testimonies to the continuous presence of indigenous peoples within the Pit River and the Modoc Plateau watersheds for many millennia. 

    [1] Report on the Pit River Basin. April 1915.  U.S. Reclamation Service Office, Portland Oregon.
    [2] Pit River Tribe Rallies to Protect Medicine Lake March 13 2015. by Dan Bacher.  An excellent and timely news article.
    [3] Central Valley Project per Wikipedia
    [4] Protect Medicine Lake website 

  • Free to be Wild. Again.

    Their survival means more than a wild animal among us.  Their survival, I am convinced, guarantees the tangible truth of our imaginations.  Ellen Meloy [1]

    In December, a group of Bighorn Sheep ran free in the Klamath River canyon after relocation and release by ODFW [2].

    Bighorns populated central and southeast Oregon’s mountains, rims, and scarps until arrival of euroamericans with domestic sheep herds (competition and disease) and an efficient passion for killing wild ungulates.  Given a very few decades, Bighorns were extinct in Oregon by the early 20th century.  In the 1950s Bighorns were re-introduced into the basalt rims of Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge in Lake County. [3]

    Petroglyphs lakeside west of Hart Mountain attest to the special place Bighorn Sheep held in thought and expression of indigenous peoples.  Petroglyphs appear on the capping basalt blocks tumbled from the high rims, the preferred terrain of the sheep.  These selected petroglyphs, from a rich and varied tradition, are probably late Holocene, the last 1000-1500 years.

    Bighorn Sheep petroglyphs at Hart Lake

    [1] Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild (2005).  Ellen Meloy’s journey with the spirit of Desert Bighorns inspires through adventure, patience, and humor infused with a deep caring. Highly recommended. -DB

    [2] ODFW release notice with video (2 minutes), December 2014: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/news/2014/december/120514.asp

    [3] 1983 Bighorn Sheep report (10 MB download) provides habitat analysis for SE Oregon: http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/pnw_gtr159.pdf

    Coda. As noble as restoration has been, and as tenacious as these sheep can be, the new normal of extreme drought in SE Oregon may result someday in petroglyphs speaking to a dry and silent world devoid of most of the creatures we now treasure. -DB

  • Rock Art/Rock Features Symposium at NWAC 2015

    2015 Northwest Anthropological Conference: March 26-28 in Eugene OR at Valley River Inn. For downloadable schedule with abstracts:   NWAC Conference    

    Rock Art and Rock Features Research in the Northwest.
    Invited Symposium.  Douglas Beauchamp, Lead Organizer. 
    Co-Organizers: Stephen Todd Jankowski and David G. Lewis.

    Friday, March 27, 1:30-4pm.  Willamette East room.

    An emphasis on rock features and rock imagery within a landscape context offers a range of research potentials. This symposium will present and extend research with attention to recent collaborative efforts about traditional land and resource uses. Presentations indicate locational to landscape relationships. This includes rock imagery on boulders, basalt panels and escarpments, and stacked rocks, cairns, walls, blinds, circles and rings. This research demonstrates the need to enhance understanding of changing environments and climates over the millennia and into the future. Preserving and protecting rock features and rock imagery in cultural contexts and archaeological landscapes is emphasized.

    Petroglyph boulders on the Rogue River at Two Mile Creek: Intentions and Actions, 1974-2015.
    Douglas Beauchamp, Arts Consultant

    Isn’t That Just Another Rock? An overview of Rock Features classified or known as Singularly Placed, Pedestaled, Window, & Boulder Feature types. Perry Chocktoot, THPO/Cultural Resources Director-Klamath, Modoc, & Yahooskin Paiute Tribal Nation & Stephen Todd Jankowski, Archaeologist- USDA-Forest Service, Willamette National Forest

    SACRED SITE OR CURIOUSITY…?Esther Stutzman, Komemma Kalapuya and enrolled member of The Confederated Tribes of Siletz

    Heiltsuk and Wuikinuxv rock art: reminders on the landscape. Aurora Skala, MA candidate, University of Victoria, Department of Anthropology

    Upper Klamath Rock Features: “Rain Rocks.” Joanne Mack, Professor Emerita, Notre Dame

    Overview of Stacked Rock Features at Cottonwood Canyon State Park: Examining and Expanding Criteria. Nancy Nelson, Archaeologist, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department

    Using image stitching software to display complex glyptic images located at Pine Bar, Hells Canyon NSA, ID: A field experiment.William Schroeder, M.S., R.P.A, Archaeologist/Cultural Resources Manager, Reiss-Landreau Research

    Cascadia Cave Rockshelter. David G. Lewis, Anthropologist, Ethno-historian, Archivist, Educator

    Click to view: Rogue River Rock Art

  • Checkerboarding and the place of Rock Art

    BLM has its hands full.  From trickle down rules to bubble up attitudes.  And worse.  As it evaluates, plans, decides, implements, we sometimes notice bits and pieces of reference to rock art clinging to places swept along the margins. 

    After traversing public lands earlier this month on the lava flat west of Fish Creek Rim, an expansive zone between Warner Lake Basin and Drakes Peak, I am thinking about the situation.

    Checkerboarding frames the various overlays of uses and jurisdictions in this somewhat invisible and silent zone. This home of wildlife, sage and juniper, BLM characterizes as  “dry, scab rock flats with low sagebrush.”  Significantly nearby ranchers use it seasonally for grazing cattle.  We found ourselves pluck in the middle of the Lynch-Flynn Grazing Allotment I later learned.  881 AUMs (Animal Units per Month) allowed annually, falling between April 1 and mid-July. A few hikers find their way to Lynch’s Rim, a scenic overlook, and may spot the resident herd of Bighorns reintroduced from California. BLM field personnel probably cruise through time to time to monitor or augment resource studies. We saw no one. Edging the allotment are power-towers, a major BPA line, with a wide swath of right-of-way, streaming unrelentingly straight for California, or maybe Las Vegas.  

    Water as always in the dry west water drives action.  Certainly it did for eons of ancient inhabitants, those in the rhythm of seasonal rounds that based their activities near these upland springs. At least one spring site has been occupied by peoples for as long as 11,000 years ago, early Holocene. This one, and other springs, was used intermittently for seasonal procurement.  Hunting in earlier days (11,000-7,000 BP) is conjectured. Later, plant gathering dominated sustenance activity. 

    BLM says two of the springs have rock art they call Great Basin Carved Abstract (GBAC), an archaic style exemplified by the famous buried glyph panel at Long Lake in the uplands to the east, the other side of Warner Basin. No GBCAs were obvious - at least to the caliber of that at other locales we've seen in the Northern Great Basin. Since BLM doesn’t provide images, or substantiate its claim of 50 sites with Carved Abstract in Lake County, we have no way of knowing,

    As we explored the spring sites, shallow draws, and desiccated washes, this terrain emerged as territory as one segmented and mapped out by BLM: the Lynch-Flynn Grazing allotment of 23,060 acres (of which 18,800 is BLM) overlaps to east the Fish Creek Wilderness Study Area (WSA) and the related Fish Creek Rim Natural Resource Area.   To the north an array parcels are called, yes, Checkerboard (SE, etc.).  Also one named Monument for no obvious reason. (In 2010 these were deemed to lack wilderness characteristics.))  Near one fenced-off spring water filled a cattle water trough. Reading allotment study brought to mind a recent article reporting, “Grazing is the chief cause of desertification in North America.”  Whether this broad truth applies to this particular region, I do not know. Probably, despite BLM’s best efforts to sustain natural soil and native plant communities.  In any event taxpayers hugely subsidize cattle grazing on public lands.  That’s not likely to change even as these lands continue to desiccate with global heating over the next several decades. Here, it is the wildlife and the native plants that will feel it most acutely as they slowly disappear. Rock art will remain, patient testimony to cooler, moister eras.

    At night coyotes spoke across the sage vastness.  Morning sun illuminated a line of pronghorn moving slowly along, single file, keeping their distance, wary to see humans in their country in early March.

    The petroglyphs we discover trail the seasonal water poolings and flows, seemingly at random and in various styles and ages.  Some glistened on water-polished black basalt. Some struggled for clarity on achingly dry basalt, befriended by stunning arrays of lichen.  Beauty unfolding.

    To inquire about sources for this post, email:  douglasbeauchamp AT gmail.com

    Photos:Fish Creek Rim petroglyphs

  • The Sinking Earth

    “Dudley Patterson is known to be wise. So … I put the question to him: ‘What is wisdom?’ Dudley greets my query with a faintly startled look that recedes into a quizzical expression I have not seen before. ‘It’s in these places,’ he says.  ‘Wisdom sits in places.' "
    -Keith H. Basso. Dudley Patterson is an Apache horseman of Cibecue, Arizona. In: Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache. University of New Mexico Press. 1996.

    Block cave mining thousands of feet below the surface will result in a cracking and sinking earth in the Oak Flat region of Arizona. A crater two miles wide and up to 1000 feet deep will result.

    Federal land given in December for the world's largest copper mine, a joint venture Rio Tonto and BHP-Billiton, will block access to and eventually damage and destroy many petroglyphs, Hohokam sites, the best documented Apache archaeological sites and many sacred places.

    The land in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest, signed into law as a rider in December 2014, sidestepped environmental impact assessment. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) slipped the transfer into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the must-pass military spending bill.  

    Five minute video overview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAptwpX-03E

    Clear explanation of the industrial mining process: http://www.azminingreform.org/sites/default/files/docs/Impacts%20of%20Block%20Cave%20Mining.pdf

    Current politics:  http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/02/04/yavapai-apache-chairman-oak-flat-holy-sites-are-central-apache-spiritual-beliefs-159016

    The archaeology: http://www.archaeologicalconservancy.org/planned-arizona-copper-mine-put-hole-apache-archaeology/

    facebook page: Saving OAK FLAT Campground

  • The Necessity within the Circle

    There is a difference of feeling between saying "the circle is a scientific or philosophical idea" and saying, "the circle is an archetypal idea." Archetypal adds the further implication of basic root structure, generally human, a necessary universal with consequents. The circle is not just any scientific idea; it is basic, necessary universal. Archetypal gives this kind of value.  James Hillman [1]

    We arrive to circles with a point of view.  A tension arises. Circle scribing universal form. Circle embodying a particular meaning for the people of a specific time and place.

    The value Hillman alludes to arises not from interpreting. Instead, holding close to the image. This allowing is to enter the circle. We may intuit a commonality emerging from the shared heritage of our human minds. Beyond that, as he says: “An archetypal quality emerges through (a) precise portrayal of the image; (b) sticking to the image while hearing it metaphorically; (c) discovering the necessity within the image; (d) experiencing the unfathomable analogical richness of the image.” [1]
    [1] James Hillman, “Inquiry into Image,” Spring, 1977, p 82.  (As cited in A Blue Fire, edited by Thomas Moore, 1989. 26-27.)

    Album: Petroglyph Circles
    Below, "Necessity within the Circle"  Hart-Warner Uplands, Lake County

  • So many words! So few millennia!

    In the next four months groups at three gatherings will present research and discuss rock art.  So many vistas! So many words! So few millennia!

    The Northwest Anthropological Conference NWAC 2015, March 26-28 in Eugene, includes a symposium devoted to Rock Art & Rock Features Research in the Northwest.  My research presentation: Petroglyph boulders on the Rogue River at Two Mile Creek: Intentions and Actions, 1974-2015. Image below: Detail from displaced boulder, now in Agness.  Photos of Selected Boulders

    The Society for American Archaeology’s Annual Meeting, San Francisco, April 15-19, includes a rock art via a forum, two symposia, and a general session, involving over 70 individuals.   SAA 2015 Annual Meeting  
    - Caring for Knowledge on Stone: Rock Art Co-Management with Indigenous and Local Communities
    - Rock Art Research: A Regional Analysis
    - Methodology and Interpretation in the Archaeology of Rock Art
    - Global Studies in Rock Art Analysis and Interpretation

    The American Rock Art Research Association’s annual conference, May 22-25, is in Laughlin, Nevada, on the Colorado River. Deadline for submissions is March 1. (I intend to discuss the implications of a rediscovered petroglyph boulder from the Columbia River.)  ARARA 2015 Conference

  • Of Slicks and Glyphs

    One’s experience deepens when encountering bedrock boulders with grinding slicks and attendant petroglyphs. The dimensional surfaces of the in-place stones reflect material processes of habitation. Which came first, how and why, is not as important as recognizing these as layered markers of peoples living in and moving through this landscape.

    Photos: Slicks and Glyphs

  • Dark Shape Swimming

    Dark Shape Swimming

    A Stone Age painting
    on a Sahara boulder:
    a shadowy shape that swims
    on some ancient river.

    With no weapon, and no plan,
    Neither at rest nor hurrying,
    the swimmer is parted from his shadow
    which is slipping along the bottom.

    He has fought to get free
    from millions of sleeping leaves,
    to make it to the other shore
    and join his shadow again.

    - Tomas Tranströmer [1]
    This poem, written in the 1950s, may reference images in a Wadi Sura cave, on the Egyptian border near Libya - the Cave of Swimmers. [2]  

    [1] From: The Half-finished Heaven: the Best Poems of Tomas Tranströmer, selected and translated by Robert Bly, 2001, Graywolf Press

    [2] Cave of Swimmers figures prominently in the 1992 book The English Patient and in its 1996 film adaptation. The cave shown in the film is not the original but a film set created by a contemporary artist. Fame has taken a toll as an increase in visitors has increased damage to the cave’s paintings. 

    Photo by Roland Unger, all rights reserved. Detail of swimmers, Wadi Sur

  • The Long Count

    In a refreshingly straightforward essay James Rauff, a professor of mathematics, considers North American rock art tallies from a mathematical point of view. [1] “Tallies represent a count of something, ” he says, and recognizes, “the ambiguity between artistic choice and tally.”  And notes, “As we study the tallies on rock art, a particularly difficult question arises: How is one to distinguish a tally from a design.”

    Rauff’s thoughts and sketches provoked me to think more carefully about series of marks, lines, dots, strokes, and figures as possible sequences and patterns that may be instances of tallies. The question is not so simple. I may be seeing linear, or what I perceive as logical progressions, as universal counting. A mistake to do so. I conclude there is no pure tally given the marks’ (and the makers’) own internal and obscure meanings. There may be an accounting of objects or a marking of time intervals, but the visual configuration of a petroglyph on stone is always an image with various signs and/or symbolic elements. [2]    

    As I identify possible tally marks, I see the complexity of notations merging as symbols or figures. Yes, the visual sense of counting in the sense of mathematics lends a density to inherent meaning. Further, I think of the possible use sequential marks as a form of re-counting, as memory-making, as a mnemonic. This remembering manifests as re-collection and storytelling, bridging realms.

    Rauff elegantly sums up his position, “Ultimately, the bulk of the interpretations of tally marks are pure speculation. My favorite interpretation is that of George Bull Tail. He is quoted as saying that the tally marks were made 'by the Little People to keep track of numbers or something' ".

    Photos possible Tallies:  Rock Art Tally Marks

    [1] James V. Rauff. "Rock Art Tallies: Mathematics on Stone in Western North America." Journal of Humanistic Mathematics 3, no. 2 (2013): 76-87. Bull Tail quote p.85. Available as a PDF at   http://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1103&context=jhm
    [2] The complexities of notation, or schemata, and pictures as images are well elucidated by art historian and theorist James Elkins in his numerous books and papers.
    Further reading. William Breen Murray, "Numerical representations in North American rock art," in Native American mathematics (1986), 45-70. Michael P Closs, ed., University of Texas Press.

  • Presence of The Dark

    Awakening to the night opens a dark eye into the invisible world.  James Hillman [1]

    With the shadows I am trying to represent the will of each stone. But at the same time, it's a reflection of the visitor’s own thought, an invitation to enter an imaginary world.  Lee Ufan [2]

    Ruminating into the shadows during this season of the longest night, I think first of those passionate people who examine, record, and document petroglyphs. All manner of illumination may be employed, even obsessively, to “capture” the carvings’ forms and precise details. For many years this has included chalkings, paintings, scraping moss and lichens, rubbings, and tracings, followed by photographs or drawings.  When timing a  precise angle of the light was not adequately revealing, the stone and marking may be wetted or, inviting shadows, photographed at night strafed by studio lights. Now 3-D laser scans, cameras drooping from balloons, and hovering drones simultaneously leave no stone untouched and do not touch the stone. What is the contained residue of this research? Designs, motifs, elements, floating signifiers.

    What is missed in this sharp looking? I say the elusive whispers of the muses of imagining who with respect may emerge from the realm of shades. Or pull us toward, within. We can choose to follow, along the edges, bearing light and night, bright and dark, each in mind and heart. The photographs here seek to open to the presence of the dark. Through the images, to feel the elusive depths of being human.

    Shadow Glyphs

    [1] From the essay “Waking at Night” in The Force of Character (1999).
    [2] June 2014 interview quote from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCiAZwLXUTM.  Lee Ufan, cofounder of Japan's Mono-ha (School of Things) movement, displayed ten new sculptures from his "Relatum" series on the grounds of Louis XIV’s 17th century royal palace Château de Versailles, outside Paris, summer and fall 2014. Views of the sculptures: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ooT07R_ExU

  • Traces: Multidimensionality in Modoc country

    This sensual small grotto, the base of a basalt rim, holds clear, well-executed petroglyphs. At the time of my visit in July to this place in Modoc County, NE California, I did not see rock painting. That morning I was entranced by the rock carvings and the fluid protrusions of the congealed lava of the central stone.

    Later as I looked at the photos on my computer I noticed some faint colorations. There is a tint to red ochre distinct from the variety of warm colors appearing in weathered, patinaed, lichened basalt. At such moments, even when faint, intentional marks as applied paint emerge – if you are attuned and lucky.

    Intrigued, an enhanced photo revealed an array of applied paints. Traces appeared. It was clear the once-bright ochre had been applied in relationship to and in some instances directly over the petroglyphs. When, why, and by whom, is unknown. Now on public lands, this place is part of the country occupied and traversed by Pit River and Modoc tribal peoples for millennia. It is likely peoples from the Great Basin also moved through this country in times past and possibly bands from the Shasta area or the distant Columbia Basin. A place of intersections. Rock art emerges as traces of those early inhabitants and travelers.
    To view larger versions:   
    Grotto Modoc County

  • The Probability Landscape

    Over the edges and horizons of the probability landscape, waiting for us, are the unseen, unthought forests and deserts of the visible. Finn Brunton [1]

    Brunton’s statement is a bit out of context, but I couldn't resist its topographic poetry. It called to mind a site visited earlier this year located near Lake County's Warner Valley. This selection of photographs of archaic petroglyphs attempts to capture an instance of a “probability landscape.” Warner Valley 

    [1] Brunton discusses visual analysis of paintings by computers using algorithms. The materials, strokes, lines, and marks are “decisions made against the backdrop of all others possible marks not made.” For him this means, “every painting becomes a landscape painting.” Hence, a probability landscape. This stylistic and material analysis leads to discerning authenticity, attribution, and dating. With rock art, variables may include pigments, application methods, pecking and abrasion, and the characteristics of the stone and its coatings. Finn Brunton, “The Hidden Variable.” Artforum, November 2014, p.120.

  • The virtual focus of the visible

    Meaning is invisible, but the invisible is not contradictory of the visible, the visible itself has an invisible inner framework, and the in-visible is the secret counterpart of the visible, it appears only within it … every effort to see it there makes it disappear, but it is in the line of the visible, it is its virtual focus, it is inscribed with in it (in filigree.)
    - Maurice Merleau-Ponty, in Working Notes, circa 1961, published 1968

    Despite an ambiguous tension in experiencing petroglyph images in places, the visible and the invisible are not in opposition. A third presence implied, invited - one of spirit.   So it is with petroglyphs in Canyon de Chelly in northeast Arizona.

  • Red paintings of Devil’s Lake

    At Devil’s Lake Pass, near the Cascades Lakes Highway west of Mt. Bachelor, the traveler may discover significant central Oregon pictographs, red-ochre paintings, on boulders of an obsidian dome. As early as 1920, a writer offered her fanciful interpretation of these rock paintings in a vacation travel article in the Sunday Oregonian, referring to the “picture writing” as a “red warning” … a “dread message” to the Indian about the dangers of nearby waters. 

    One motif is probably the most recognized pictograph image south of the Columbia.  This motif (inverted) is illustrated in Cressman (1937), though he did not visit the site, which is on Forest Service lands in Deschutes County. The Lorings (1982) offer a good overview as site 81: Devils Lake Pass. It is disturbing the site has been badly vandalized at times – and also admirably restored. For example, a serious bright blue spray painting in the 1970s instilled doubt the images could be saved. A group of paintings was chiseled off and stolen in the late 1960s. 

    To view images:  Devils Lake    
    Examples of other rock paintings in central Oregon with apparent cultural affinities:
    Picture Gorge and Umpqua River.  

    Errata.
    - A fine summary of the geology is provided by Northwest Research Obsidian Studies Laboratory, which uses the most distinct and notable image as its logo.
    The only earth rock on the moon came from a volcanic dome near Devil’s Lake. In the mid-1960s, astronauts trained along the Cascade Lakes Highway in preparation for the Apollo missions to the moon. In 1971, Astronaut Jim Irwin of the Apollo 15 mission placed an earth rock from a volcanic dome near Devils Lake on the lunar surface. Cascade Lakes Highway

  • 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 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.” 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.” Leslie Spier’s 1930 Klamath Ethnography was one of mnay sources 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.  When a person dies, the soul separates and departs for the land of the dead. Differing somewhat from Ray, he says ghosts are souls returning from the land of the dead and, transformed as beings, are generally dangerous and feared. 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 last month I studied these 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.