BLOG: To Become Visible

Petroglyphs
  • Swallowing Petroglyph Canyon 60 years ago today

    Water Monsters arrive in different guises. From time immemorial beings real and mythic await those who err. Or who in innocence linger in or traverse a vulnerable place. Swallowed, disappearing in dark liquid depths. Fearsome. Especially so along the river now known as Columbia.  

    Lake Celilo swallowed living and sacred places of the River People - villages, cemeteries, fishing stations, pathways — and rock art — on March 10, 1957, as the gates of The Dalles Dam closed.

    Below, a small sampling of photographs from the mid-1950s show a very few of the stones among the hundreds of petroglyphs that were swallowed that day. Disappeared under the waters. The photos presented here are for non-commercial, educational purposes by permission from the archives of the late David Cole.  About two dozen other stones were salvaged and preserved, languishing near the dam until several years ago when they were respectfully installed as the Temani Pesh-wa trail in Washington's Columbia Hills State Park.  That group is on public view during the Park’s season April-October. With appreciation to the ancestors of today's River People.

    Recommended:  
    Virginia Butler’s 2007 paper Relic Hunting, Archaeology, and Loss of Native American Heritage at The Dalles. Oregon Historical Quarterly, 108(4), 624-643.

    Petroglyphs near the Dalles of the Columbia River. 1925.  W. Duncan Strong and W. Egbert Schenck.  American Anthropologist, New Series, 27(1), Jan-Mar 1925, 76-90.

  • Winging It, Wringing It

    Rock art is tough; simultaneously fragile — enduring and fragmenting, an embodied tension balancing ancient elements and human articulation.

    Another dense layer arrives, dusty, drenching.  A willful squeezing and welling.  This now — politically, power driven jolts as actions by the new federal administration this month (January 2017) accelerate a lasting degradation of the natural environment as we think of it.

    This is real as well for archaeological places including rock art.

    In the short term, for example, management and information about public lands will be constricted with reduced oversight and protections. Long term?  Pressure for further extraction:  minerals, water, trees, gas, feed for livestock for meat.  Disruption, pollution and poisoning as expediencies of demand, yield and profit. A logic of more and more people, all needing, desiring, taking. Global heating, and its attendant climate change, already inevitable, becomes more abstract with fault deflected to the Other.

    This land, this earth, like carved expressions in stone, embodies tension — our winging abode of starry clarity and shrouded mystery.

    Three photos below (Douglas Beauchamp September 2016)
    Note: Oregon's Harney County is contiguous with Sheldon in Nevada.

    Petroglyph, BLM lands, Harney County; note lizard upper left
    Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. Sage Grouse Wings sign; barrel left
    Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. Sage Grouse collection barrel, each envelope a wing.

  • Tule Lake: The Dying Grass

    Feeling historical: the ground shifting. Suddenly there are serious questions about our grandchildren’s future. And this sense of insecurity, no doubt related to cyclical processes of political economic decline, is intensified by long-term ecological threats that can no longer be managed or exported. Historicity at a different scale: that of a species among other species, the past and future of a whole planet and its ability to sustain life.  James Clifford, Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty First Century (2013), [1]

    For over a century the petroglyphs of the Tule Lake area have attracted speculative and interpretive imaginings of popular and academic cultures.  The soft granular surfaces face wind, rain, ice, seepings; absorb peering eyes, snapping cameras, studied tracings. The distinct visibilities of intense grooves, the dense clusters, spark deep in the psyche. The walls of incised markings emerge emblematic of historical moments, mirroring desires to define origins.  

    William T. Vollmann in his recent epic, The Dying Grass: A novel of the Nez Perce War, imagines the musings of U.S. Army Captain Joel G. Trimble  [2]  in 1877 as he recalls a day in May 1873 by the eastern shore of Tule Lake, in northern California, eating lunch with other cavalrymen:

    “with their backs against a swallow-ridden sandstone cliff which the Modocs had pecked out with depictions of setting suns, full suns, peculiar insects which might have been moths if moths could skeletonize and if their wings had ribs; then there were armbones descending into triple-taloned claws, parallel wave-forms, squares pecked out to enclose right-angled groove-labyrinths, snake-grooves crowned with spreading fingers like the lodgepoles atop an Indian tipi, buglike schematic humanoids, mushrooms or perhaps phalli, nested double circles, Y-shaped incisions and lines of short vertical markings like tallyings, and there was something resembling a heart above a long vertical groove, while a birdlike figure spread her downcurving arms, and from a certain oval rose a long hooked, neck as to represent an egret bending down toward the water to troll for fat insects; then there was a vertical slash topped with nested inverted V's; had there been only one of those latter, the vertical stroke might have been an arrow, but the way it was made, Trimble supposed that it must be a grass head; after all, so much of this tall greenish-yellow grass grew about; and then here was grooved something like the inverted or falling seedhead of a stalk of what must have been dying grass, which made him inexplicably sad — why even consider dying grass?”  [3]

    Vollmann’s language refreshes. He does not say: this is what it is.  He says:  this is how it appears to me.  He does not treat the petroglyphs as objects, rather the event in a life as subjective encounter.  They are equal to his presence.  They change and endure, he comes and goes.

    [1] James Clifford, Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty First Century (2013), pp. 6-7.  Download the book’s Prologue
    [2] Vollmann notes, p. 353, Trimble’s role in the capture of Modoc leader Kientpoos, known as Captain Jack, on June 1, 1873. (The Dying Grass, 2015, p. 353.)  More: Robert Acquinas McNally (Indian Country Today, June 1, 2016) provides a carefully researched study of the capture: Who Really Caught Captain Jack?
    [3].  This quote is from The Dying Grass, p. 354.  Accompanying the Trimble’s musings, Vollmann inserts his 2013 photograph of a section of the wall of petroglyphs.  Vollmann acknowledges:  “Description of the petroglyphs in the Modoc Lava Beds — After a visit to Petroglyph Point (near Tule-lake) in June 2013.” (p. 1300)  

    Photos: Petroglyph Point
    More from the Tule Lake area (Petroglyph Point and The Peninsula) 

  • TEN 2016

    Ten images from this year now passing.  Exploring Life and Non-life within the northern Great Basin. TEN 2016 Album

    In this Now, this cusp of Then Past and There Future, let’s think a Moment with Elizabeth Povinelli [1]:  

    Take Life or Nonlife in the Anthropocene and the Meteorocene. Geology and meteorology are devouring their companion discipline, biology. For if we look at where and how life began, and how and why it might end, then how can we separate Life from Nonlife? Life is not the miracle-the dynamic opposed to the inert of rocky substance. Nonlife is what holds, or should hold for us, the more radical potential. For Nonlife created what it is radically not, Life, and will in time fold this extension of itself back into itself as it has already done so often and long. It will fold its own extension back into the geological strata and rocky being, whereas Life can only fall into what already is. Life is merely a moment in the greater dynamic unfolding of Nonlife. And thus Life is devoured from a geological perspective under the pressure of the Anthropocene and Meteorocene.

    [1] Elizabeth A. Povinelli is the Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. Excerpt from the final pages (176) of her recent book Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism. Duke University Press, 2016.



  • It is tempting to envision

    Grimes Point is located at the western tip of the Lahontan Mountains. Here there are abundant petroglyphs pecked into basaltic boulders distributed along crude shoreline terraces formed by waves of Lake Lahontan.  The age of the petroglyphs is not known so temporal associations with lake levels cannot be made with certainty, but it is tempting to envision Native Americans lounging amongst the rocks idly pecking away after a nice swim or clam bake.
    Susan H. Zimmerman, Kenneth D. Adams, and Michael R. Rosen, 2015 [1]

    The last phrase in the above quote is highlighted so we may think with it for a moment.  Certainly it is tempting when encountering petroglyphs to attempt to envision indigenous lifeways at the time the stones were carved.  Envision means to imagine, to conjure a picture in the mind.  Such a picture will always be our picture, our frame, our composition, the cosmos on our terms.  If words such as lounging, idly pecking, nice swim, enter into our picture it is time to recognize we have conjured our fantasy.  Time to step back, way back, to sense this place’s presence. Look and listen. The stones abide; the petroglyphs resound.

    Recognize, too, in the 20th century the material reality for this place, these stones, has often been one of destructive impacts and disregard. Roads through the site, bulldozing, quarrying, boulders displaced, removed, damaged or destroyed, painted signs and graffiti. [2]  Beginning in the 1950s, the Grimes Point petroglyph area was used as a trash dump for Fallon, a few miles to the northwest. [3] Only since the 1970s have protective measures by the BLM encouraged care and respect. [4]  The stones abide; the petroglyphs resound.

    [1] Susan Zimmerman, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Ken Adams, Desert Research Institute, and Michael Rosen, U.S. Geological Survey.  2015.   From “Modern, Holocene, and Pleistocene Lake Locales in the Western Great Basin, Nevada and California.”  Trip 3, June 15–19, 2015, in the Field Trip Guidebook, Sixth International Limnogeology Congress, Reno, Nevada.  p67.   
    [2] Karen M. Nissen 1982.  Images from the Past: An Analysis of Six Western Great Basin Petroglyph Sites. PhD. Diss, UC Berkeley.  p294.  During two field seasons in the 1970s Nissen recorded or noted over 900 boulders with petroglyphs at Grimes Point.  
    [3] Robert Heizer and Martin Baumhoff.  1962. Prehistoric Rock Art of Nevada and Eastern California. p18.
    (4) Grimes Point Archaeological Area (BLM).   Online Nevada: Grimes Point (Alanah Woody)

    Photos at Grimes Point

  • Sinking into Earth

    At hand, the deeply dark petroglyphs near Carson Sink in northern Nevada. It’s tempting to peruse the boulders and images, then wind along my away. [1] Lingering, my thoughts imagine the possible landscapes – waters, plants, birds, animals - how this country may have varied when the peoples who carved these images resided in and traveled through. These wonderings wheel back to considering how the landscape appears today. And what the future holds.

    Sounds of the national anthem drift across the early desert. Loudspeakers a few miles away. I notice 8 a.m. The anthem sifts over the quiet land from the Naval Air Station near Fallon: “Home to the Fighting Saints of VFC-13, the Desert Outlaws of Strike Fighter Wing Pacific, and the Naval Strike Air Warfare Center, NAS Fallon serves as the Navy’s premier tactical air warfare training center.” [2]

    A scattered patchwork of five bombing ranges comprising 100,000 acres inscribe on the nearby terrain of Northern Nevada. [3] Though the rock art meanings may seem mute in this presence, the carvings induce listening and looking, as unfurling intimations - there and here, past and future. A necessary and material sense of change turns, refolds, embraces this earth.

    [1] Modern research on the region’s rock art began with Julian Steward (1929); enhanced by Martin Baumhoff and Robert Heizer (1958; 1962); followed by Karen Nissen’s detailed documentation in the 1970s (1982).
    [2] Naval Air Station Fallon
    [3] The Center for Land Use Interpretation

    View Petroglyphs Carson Sink

  • Grimes Point of View: One boulder, a worldview

    Art engenders becomings, not imaginative becomings - the elaboration of images and narratives in which a subject might recognize itself, not self-representations, narratives, confessions, testimonies of what is and has been - but material becomings, in which these imponderable universal forces touch and become enveloped in life, in which life folds over itself to embrace its contact with materiality, in which each exchanges some elements or particles with the other to become more and other. Elizabeth Grosz [1]

    Grimes Point Archaeological Area, an extensive, fully accessible, and signed field of dark boulders with archaic petroglyphs, is adjacent to Highway 50 east of Fallon.

    The locale looks west and south over the Carson Sink, a terminus of the Carson River, in Churchill County, Nevada. Well-managed by the BLM, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Some boulders bear arrays of deeply patinaed cupules. These ancient “conical pits” associated occasionally with lines or grooves led to Baumhoff and Heizer’s in 1958 (and 1962) typing the “pit-and-groove” petroglyph style. They conjectured that this style represented the earliest petroglyphs in a wide expanse of the Great Basin. Though they cautioned their proposal as tentative pending dating, many rock art writers in the ensuing decades reified this style as fixed truth. I do believe these cupuled boulders are, in many of the instances I’ve seen in the northern Great Basin and Columbia Plateau, early Holocene (7,000+ years before present time [BP]). However, the designs and configurations are not rightly constrained as fixed cultural “elements,” while solid dating remains elusive. A worldview beyond grasp. What we have is the beauty of the densely-colored, dimpled desert boulders recalling watery eras – a sensible materiality. 

    This is one boulder: Point of View

    [1] Elizabeth Grosz. Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth (2008) p.23

  • Artifacts & Terrains II: Harney County

    In the West it is impossible to be unconscious of or indifferent to space. At every city's edge it confronts us as federal lands kept open by aridity and the custodial bureaus; out in the boondocks it engulfs us. And it does contribute to individualism, if only because in that much emptiness people have the dignity of rareness and must do much of what they do without: help, and because self-reliance becomes a social imperative, part of a code. Wallace Stegner [1]

    September in south Harney County.  Sage. Thin meandering roads. Thinner linear fences. The surprise of water here and there. A sparse happenstance of ancient and settler artifacts.  Rock art, some. Mostly no rock art. Early peoples were highly selective – good rock, the right aspect, a remembered and revered place. A land of curves, disappearances, hard stone, remnants, and striking vistas. Often treeless for miles in every direction.

    Few cattle ranging this season; plenty of evidence left behind.   BLM over the last several decades has provided small reservoirs, bermed drainages, tapped springs, and installed water tanks for seasonal cattle. Roads and fences. With these subsidized, mostly corporate, operations on public lands the opportunistic cattle munch, stomp, and drop. Then herded or trucked to winter grounds – or to market. Pronghorn, deer, bighorn, coyote, grouse keep distance.

    Photos Part II:  Artifacts & Terrains Harney County Oregon. Sep 2016.

    Album Part I:   Artifacts & Terrains   June 2016
    ...
    [1] Thirty years ago, October 1986, the eminent 77-year old scholar and author Wallace Stegner gave three nights of lectures. The book’s title captures an essence: The American West as living space.   The lectures are equally telling: Living Dry, Striking the Rock, Variations on a Theme. His words have a piercingly familiar ring (or echo?) in the present, as past and future entwine, repeat, are reborn. This brief book is recommended.

  • Horizons Thicken and Compress

    Let me define wholeness as horizon rather than destination: a horizon which recedes as the journey through life unfolds. Anne Buttimer, 1985 [1]

    Humanity is inside the whale now, bumping up against that thing once taken as the ‘open’ horizons of nature and the future, which now feels claustrophobically close and foreclosed. … Inside that thing, knowing what it’s hard to not know about rising global emissions levels, defrosting methane hydrates and negative feedback loops, even mountain air is no longer clean and fresh. The air is now thick with atmosphere… Simon Bayly, 2012 [2]

    This decades-old juniper, on the edge of an ephemeral lake in the basin and range country of Oregon, the only tree as far as the eye can see, pulls power toward place -  a slim rock-cleft shelter, rock features, petroglyphs.

    In 2014, this solo juniper glowed, alive and well.  In 2016, brittle, desiccated and dead. Between: 2015, a year of continued drought and heat; the northern Great Basin wavers. 

    In our 21st century time, as horizons thicken, recession compresses, how and wherefore art the sacred power?

    To view:  Horizons

    [1] Anne Buttimer, Irish geographer, emeritus professor of geography, University College, Dublin.   Quote from "Nature, water symbols, and the human quest for wholeness." In Dwelling, place and environment, pp. 259-280.   Springer Netherlands, 1985. 

    [2] Simon Bayly, University of Roehampton (London), Department of Drama, Theatre & Performance.  Quote from “The Persistence of Waste” (online version and in Performance Research: On Ecology, 2012]

  • Rising in the Southern Salish Sea

    During the misty mid-June day I took this photograph in Case Inlet, an eastern bay of the Southern Salish Sea, the tidal swing was nearly 14 feet. A swing of 18 feet is not uncommon [1]. In the photo the tide begins its rise from a minus low.

    A different kind of sea level rise will mark this shore in a profound way in coming decades. As a “mid-range” projection a permanent rise of two feet is predicted by the end of this century [2]. Eventually the boulder’s twenty circles will disappear by barnacle, erosion, and/or inundation. Does it matter? Many lives and species will have been dramatically decimated by that time given current trends. How does this pending catastrophe matter? [3]

    Meanwhile these circles story forth. Messages of cycles we moderns are unlikely to decipher, or indeed heed, except in general speculative terms [4]. To my knowledge this is the only petroglyph in the Puget Sound area that is entirely circles with no apparent iconic referencing [5].   Listen for a moment in this time of change

    [1] By comparison the tidal swing that day in Florence, Oregon, was 7 feet
    [2] Not counting the increasing flood risks. See: http://www.climatecentral.org/ Also:  http://www.climatecentral.org/pdfs/SLR-WA-PressRelease.pdf
    [3] The Anthropocene project: virtue in the age of climate change by Byron Williston (2015 Oxford University Press ) is a sharply provocative and convincing examination of the approaching catastrophe. He explores the ethics and morals of choice and denial. https://byronwilliston.com/
    [4] There appears an absence of formal documentation of this and a nearby petroglyph boulder, though a flickering of images appear on the internet without details. Its age or purpose is unknown. Some speculate that this type of imagery in sea-edge or riverine zones is related to abundance, as supplication or as gratitude. Little proof of intent exists.
    [5] Though many of the few Puget Sound petroglyphs are composed of circular elements, often suggesting eyes and faces. There are two locations I’ve visited on the Oregon coast with carved circles on sea-edge boulders: An Oregon coast boulder

    Circles Boulder in Salish Sea

  • Beyond Parts and Wholes

    The whole is something else than the sum of the parts, because summing is a meaningless procedure, whereas the whole-part relationship is meaningful.
    Kurt Koffka, in Principles of Gestalt Psychology (1935)

    One of the three founders of modern Gestalt psychology, Koffka penned this to counter the misattribution of the common precept “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” to him, Max Wertheimer, and Wolfgang Kohler.

    Why offer a fine-grained distinction in perceptual theory? To openly consider perception of configurations of marks on stone, I will assert. To encourage us to look beyond framing, beyond glyphs as elements, beyond summing, beyond the limits of our known world. We may then see-into relationships and allow this perceiving to constitute more-than parts, more-than whole. Or, as Philip Rawson suggests, seeing hidden in traces the gestalten of our universe as spatio-temporal rhythms. This whole will always be contingent, offering glimpses of a fleeting unitary beyond our moment within a multiplicity of appearances. The materiality of stone assures, as does weathering, and sensed duration.

    This gathering of photo-images of petroglyphs on a basalt rim in SE Oregon’s Owyhee country are part of a whole ever beyond containment. I rest, appreciating glimpses into the distances and depths.

  • Future Views Now: Petroglyphs, Golf, 3D immersion

    Property and Ideoscape.  Landscape and Taskscape.  Mother Earth.  Investigating land use and how indigenous habitation, modern development, and natural change shape and affect rock art is crucial to understanding.  This includes physical and material context, access and preservation, and perception and respect.

    Church Rock in Shasta County, California, is exemplary for two reasons. All of the above dynamics play a role in appreciating this extensive site.   Second, the historical documentation includes extensive ethnography, old-school on the ground recording, and 3D digital imaging. (Including access to the UC Davis KeckCAVE’s immersive visualization facility.)  I know of no site in Oregon with this range of documentation.

    Church Rock (CA-SHA-39) is more than a rock. It’s an areal distribution of hundreds of carvings on the surfaces of exposed bedrock near two streams managed as a two-acre “cultural resource protection area” by its owner the City Of Redding

    In remote areas I pay attention to fences, waterholes, dams, and reservoirs, roads, domestic grazing, hunting tracks and blinds, and power lines.  In suburban zones and fringes it’s housing, roads again, pipelines, and, of course… Golf courses! [1]

    This cultural “reserve” is downstream from a major private housing and golf course development.  Agreement with the development helps control access (Church Rock is not open to the public), foster respect, with an aim toward preservation.  (To view a satellite image of the golf links and the petroglyph bedrock is to time-travel. One wonders, how will this appear in the Future?)

    [1] In Cups, Circles, and Golf Links I consider petroglyphs within two golf course developments: Big Island Hawaii and Northumberland England.  

    Three recommended, well-illustrated references
    - Van Tilburg, Frank Bock, and A. J. Bock. 1987. The Church Rock Petroglyph Site: Field Documentation and Preliminary Analysis. Occasional Papers of the Redding Museum No. 4, 1987.

    - Millett, Marshall and Ritter, Eric. 2013. "The Church Rock Petroglyph Site: Function, Style, Digital Documentation, and 3D Visualization" in International Federation of Rock Art Organizations 2013 Proceedings, American Indian Rock Art Vol. 40:1017-1040.
    - Mary Gerbic. 2015. A Field Trip to Church Rock. In SCAN, Santa Cruz Archaeological Society, Winter-Spring 2015: 5-8.

    Images
    - Golf Green in the vicinity of Church Rock. Photo Douglas Beauchamp 2016
    - Viewing a high-resolution 3D scan of the Maidu Historic Trail and Site at the UC Davis KeckCAVE’s immersive visualization facility.  (This not Church Rock; it’s an example of how 3D imaging of the site can be used.)

  • TEN 2015

    A selection of 10 favorites from the year 2015. Link: Ten Album

    Image below is unlike any I’ve seen.  Deep, dark, old - a figure is suggested. The intent of the carver, the purpose of the image, feels ever-elusive.  So be it… as the year bows out with the grace of unknowing.  Peace.

  • Black Glyph

    Beautiful baffling petroglyph.  Black. Appears as natural aging of the stone, not paint. With dots, an old glyph.  In the second of the three images here, it is easy to see two ochre paint markings, enhancing dimensions of this place.
    Hart Plateau, Lake County, Douglas Beauchamp 2014.

  • Claimings, Reclaimings: Tule Lake

    Tule Lake.  A place of conflict, beauty, contradiction, extraction, preservation, jurisdiction, nurturance, and striking geologic presence.  Visiting Petroglyph Point or one of few caves with paintings, both part of the Lava Beds National Monument, is accessible and rewarding.  However, if one becomes curious about these places and spaces, the peoples and animals come and gone and come again, the winds of history, prehistory, planning, and accident quickly buffet, even shred, assumptions.

    The Rock Art. There are many studies with various facts, beliefs, and conjectures, which may be dated, fragmentary, or not well-grounded. We are reminded all interpretation risks concocting explanations by aligning selective facts or suppositions.  What to do?  Go out and look around!

    Meanwhile, for background study I suggest starting with the informed work of Robert David. His 2012 dissertation offers a fairly comprehensive bibliography related to Klamath Basin rock art with many references directly applicable to the Tule Lake area. Online, open access: The Landscape of Klamath Basin Rock Art (2012).

    Further:  Julian Steward (1929 & 1937), Robert Heizer & C. William Clewlow Jr (1973), B.K. Swartz Jr.  (1978), Helen Crotty (1979 & 1981), Georgia Lee & William Hyder (various 1980s & 1990s), James Keyser et al. (2006). For Fern Cave, internet searches offer a range of information, though many studies are not public. 

    The Place. Two books to open doors.
    Balancing Water: Restoring the Klamath Basin. 2000. Tupper Ansel Blake, Madeleine Graham Blake, and William Kittredge.

    Hell with the fire out: a history of the Modoc War. 1997. Arthur Quinn.

    Two photo pages:  Petroglyphs/Tule Lake.  Rock Paintings/Lava Beds 

  • Making Tracks, Leaving Traces

    Track. Trace. Trait. These words originate from the Latin tractus: drawing, dragging, drafting, pulling. They all speak to marks resulting from an action. A pen on paper, a foot on sand, a hoof on mud. Stone on stone. With petroglyphs a doubling results. The petroglyph itself marking stone. The image resembling an animal or human print or track in real space. Further, the modern photograph digitally traces the reflected light. The traits of the image store as bits subject to recall by the computer, displayed as something recognizable. Traces.

    Petroglyph images as tracks and traces, though infrequent among the thousands of mostly abstract glyphs in the northwestern Great Basin, stand out due to their resonance as resemblance. We recognize. We have an idea, a memory, a feeling. We say it looks like. We may ascribe values. Look from placement to place. We will circle back to our own hands. Our feet. Our digital self.

    Most of these petroglyphs are thousands years old. Embedded, intentional, and crafted markings, they embody as signs, signals, symbols, icons, or metaphors. Their appearances alter through time. Though powerful markers, for us they now lack social or cultural context, eluding meaning while producing a tension, an ambiguity of presence and absence of th human and the animal we know has been here, gone there.

    The thinking and writing of David Summers, Bruno Latour, and Michel Serres has challenged my understanding. Of course they are no way liable for the track I have followed! 

    Album: Tracks & Traces Petroglyphs

  • Where are the Pronghorn?

    Pia wantsipe toowenene’ iten
    Pia wantsipe toowenene’ iten
    Pennan tapai tatawento toowenene’ ite

    The big antelope buck-pe slowly grazing while standing
    The big antelope buck-pe slowly grazing while standing
    Sun beams flashing, hitting him while he stands and grazes. 

    "Antelope Song," a Western Shoshone round dance song [1]

    Pronghorns need to drink water every day.  During summer it is often several times a day.  Hunters know this. When hunting season opens in SE Oregon in August, many hunters will set up near waterholes.  And, camouflaged, wait behind rock blinds, brush, or on a low rim - if close enough to the water or a passage to water.  Scopes and high-powered rifles allow flexibility on what “close” means. About 2500 pronghorn antelope hunting tags are distributed by lottery by ODFW each year.  This is about 10% of Oregon’s estimated pronghorn population of 25,000. [2] 

    Indigenous peoples hunted and killed pronghorn for at least 10,000 years as testified by the remains in some archaeological excavations.  “Procuring” has been documented from the early Holocene in SE Oregon. [3]  Evidence in the Northern Great Basin shows communal hunts, usually with traps at drive sites with barriers/fences of stone, juniper, or brush, was an important method of capture and killing. [4} 

    Petroglyphs resembling pronghorn antelope are very rare in the rock art of SE Oregon, given the hundreds of rock art sites and the tens of thousand of images.  Bighorn sheep motifs are more recognizable and more frequent, but they are not common as they are in some other parts the Great Basin and in the Southwest. 

    Selected Pronghorn Petroglyphs in Lake County, Oregon 

    [1]  Transcribed and translated by Beverly Crum, ca. 1975. In Steven J. Crum, 1999. “Julian Steward’s Vision of the Great Basin: A Critique and Response." In Julian Steward and the Great Basin: The Making of an Anthropologist.  

    [2] Currently about 2000 pronghorn summer on the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in Lake County. About 60 bow and rifle hunting tags issued annually for the Refuge.

    2015 is the centenary of a low point for pronghorn.  In 1915 in the western U.S. about 13,000 remained of the estimated 35 million roaming a century earlier.  Some experts were resigned to the species’ eventual extinction due to killing, grazing, and partitioning of open lands.

    [3] Two examples of studies including references to pronghorn remains in early Holocene archaeological contexts:
    - A Flaked Stone Crescent from a Stratified, Radiocarbon-Dated Site in the Northern Great Basin. Geoffrey M. Smith, et al. North American Archaeologist July 2014 vol. 35 no. 3 257-276.
    - Early and Middle Holocene Archaeology of the Northern Great Basin. 2004. Edited by D. L. Jenkins, T. J. Connolly, and C. M. Aikens, University of Oregon Anthropological Papers 62.

    [4] About 120 hunting features and kill locales are now documented in Nevada and Eastern California. See studies and reviews of archaeological research and ethnography in the Great Basin by Brooke S. Arkush, Brian Hockett, and Patrick M. Lubinski.

  • Places Of The Actual

    Rock art photos, mine included, tend to frame a timeless presence.  Sure, most petroglyphs have been in place for centuries, many for millennia.  The stone itself has changed in ways simultaneously revealing and obscuring a subtle sense of time, altering the sense of the original markings and layerings. A latent beauty. Yet the surround - lands and waters, plants and animals - are often heavily disrupted, most profoundly in the recent 150 years.  A blip, rapidly in flux. Profound change impinged, more forthcoming. 

    These cultural and aspirational changes foster a measure of economic success – logging, damming, grazing, draining, channeling, pumping, piping, powering.   Most anyone who's lived in or traveled through this country can see and knows the score.  Most profound to me is the killings, direct or indirect. For example, native mammals fearfully classed as Predators or Competitors – coyote, cougar, bear, rabbit, prairie dog, for example, are trapped, shot, poisoned with relentless abandon. Plants too are attacked. Most visible these days in the arid west are the acres upon acres of clear-cut Western Juniper, including many mature trees in place before arrival of the Euroamerican culture in the 1800s. Sometimes the logic of cut lands demands a burning, seared to the ground.  Rock art as witness. 

    This collection of 24 photos from a trip this month in Three Corners – the border intersection of Oregon-California-Nevada - navigates places of the actual as a way of looking, of being present in old time and new.

  • The Eye is the First Circle

    “The eye is the first circle,” Emerson writes. “The horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end," with each new thought composing a new circle, wider than and containing those coming before it. Just as the nucleus is at the center of the atom, with each larger orbit whirling concentrically around it, including and surpassing in complexity and capacity the smaller one preceding, so the eye of a person, like a pebble dropped into a pond, emanates outward its interpretive horizons, the most powerful visions proving the most potent stones, generating strong and multitudinous ripples.

    - Eric G. Wilson, from Keep It Fake: Inventing the Authentic Life (2015)

    Related June 2015 photos:  Water Rock Rim

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 a Lake County 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.)

  • 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).

  • By Crook or by Hook: Abstract petroglyph motifs in Lake County

    A simple and distinctive motif appears at a number of sites in the playa lake-basalt rim plateaus in southeastern Lake County, generally east of Lake Abert to the Guano Valley.

    Its form is a widely pecked and/or abraded vertical line terminating in a half-circle downward curve. It appears to be a highly intentional form, as if meant to be a hook, crook, or cane. Yet it is may not be representative at all. It may be a symbol or icon with a specific meaning, perhaps a holder of place, bearer of power, or a kind of sign-as-indicator.

    The motif, though unusual given the thousands of petroglyphs in this region, is always part of a complex panel. Sometimes the “crook” seems to be clearly older or more recent than the accompanying designs, part of a petroglyph panel comprised of traditions spanning centuries, perhaps millennia. The carver may have intended to augment an already marked stone, or its presence may have attracted later markings. As such it appears as a production within a sequence of traditions.

    Crooks are usually discussed in rock art literature as a staff-like design associated with an anthropomorph. Sally Cole discusses crooks in the Basketmaker tradition as commonly depicted and related to fertility [1]. She illustrates a solid pecked crook suspended near a “copulating” couple “graphically emphasizing a symbolic association between crooks and fertility.” Alvin McLane considers a variety of crooks in southern Nevada and Arizona [2]. The discovery on an actual southern Great Basin crook is the focus of a report by Musser-Lopez drawing on the ethnographic work of Carobeth Laird [3].

    [1] Cole, Sally J. "Iconography and symbolism in Basketmaker rock art." Rock Art of the Western Canyons (1989): 59-85.

    [2] McLane, Alvin R. "The Cane Man Petroglyph, Esmeralda County, Nevada." Nevada Archaeologist (1998): 31-29.

    [3] Musser-Lopez, R. A. "Yaa? vya's Poro: The Singular Power Object of a Chemehuevi Shaman." Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 5, no. 2 (1983).

  • An Absence of Eyes

    Among the ten of thousands of petroglyphs in the Northern Great Basin you will not see eyes.  No human-like faces or forms with prominent eyes looking out.  Peering at you or past you. Yet, despite many rock art researchers obsession with typologies, styles, and motifs, this simple broad – even breathtaking - difference has not been studied or explained.

    The absence of eyes in the rock art of southeastern Oregon and contiguous regions in the Great Basin is a compelling visual cultural distinction, indeed perhaps a defining and characteristic difference, from the powerful presence of eyes in rock art and other art forms of the traditional cultures of Columbia River Basin and the Northwest Coast.

    Australian archaeologist Ben Watson offers an intriguing discussion, with a range of visual examples, of anthropomorphic faces with prominent eyes appearing in prehistoric rock art.  An emphasis of a frontal view with a high degree of symmetry derives from human perception and recognition, he argues. Watson highlights hunter-gatherer societies in many regions of the world and easily acknowledges faces with prominent eyes are comparatively rare in some regions [1].

    For decades anthropologists have studied cultural change and the dynamics of human movements and influences spanning many millennia throughout the intermountain realms of the Columbia Plateau and Great Basin [2]. I hope they will look more closely at eyes – or their absence [3].  Rock art, ever elusive, is there to be seen.

    [1] Watson, Ben. "The eyes have it: human perception and anthropomorphic faces in world rock art." Antiquity 85, no. 327 (2011): 87-98.

     (2] For example, the work of Luther Cressman, Mel Aikens and others at the University of Oregon and most recently the work of James C. Chatters, Kenneth Ames, Charlotte Beck, and George T. Jones, in books such as Meetings at the Margins: Prehistoric Cultural Interactions in the Intermountain West (2012) and From the Pleistocene to the Holocene: human organization and cultural transformations in prehistoric North America (2012). Also of interest: Don Hann’s 2013 paper “Is the Medium the Message?  Petroglyphs and Pictographs as Cultural Markers at the Interface of the Great Basin and Columbia Plateau in Oregon.” IFRAO 2013 Proceedings, American Indian Rock Art, Volume 40.

    [3] There IS a curious exception - in the northernmost Great Basin near Petroglyph Lake on the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge.  See Eyes album.  More:  Eyes Petroglyphs along Puget Sound  and the July 19, 2013 blog.

  • Happy Archaic Year! (or is it Terminal-Paleo?)

    The Paleoindian record … is noteworthy for its paucity of unambiguous items of art and ornamentation. The real fluorescence of symbolically laden material culture in North America comes during the subsequent Archaic period, several millennia after the last vestiges of Paleoindian lifeways had disappeared from the archaeological record.  -John Speth, 2013

    There are four or five sites in Oregon that qualify as Paleoarchaic, that is archaeological components chronometrically dated in excess of 11,500 cal B.P.:  Paisley Caves, Newberry Crater, Connelly Caves, and Indian Sands (Curry County) (See Davis et al. 2012 for Paleo discussion.)  Rimrock Draw Rockshelter (Harney County) may be considered another.

    However, as yet no rock art in North America has been firmed dated to older than the end of what Davis defines as the late-Pleistocene marker of 11,500 BP (cal years), presumably the transition from Paleoarchaic to Archaic or the Early Holocene era. 

    Benson et al, in their ground-breaking study at Winnemucca Lake (2013), which cites Cannon and Ricks’ (1986) Great Basin Carved Abstract style, conclude, “We consider the Winnemucca Lake petroglyphs to represent an early archaic style characterized by distinctive design elements and motifs created using deeply carved lines and cupules. …  specific motifs that are common to both Winnemucca Lake and Long Lake sites are also found elsewhere in the western Great Basin from Oregon to southeastern California.”   

    As we revel this Newer Year, let's respectfully enjoy this very old Carved Abstract rock art – four panels selected from a site in the southeast Oregon highlands near Long Lake tilting south toward Winnemucca Lake. Settle into the beauty of the rock art itself flowing through times’ mysterious portal. Offer gratitude to the makers who crossed the lands and gazed upon the stones, the bones of the earth, long ago. And to those who explore the measure of human presence in these lands.  

    References

    Benson, Larry V., et al. 2013. Dating North America's oldest petroglyphs, Winnemucca Lake subbasin, Nevada.  Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol 40:12.

    Davis, Loren G., Samuel C. Willis, and Shane J. Macfarlan. 2012. Lithic Technology, Cultural Transmission, and the Nature of the Far Western Paleoarchaic/Paleoindian Co-Tradition. In Meetings at the Margins: Prehistoric Cultural Interactions in the Intermountain West,  Rhode, David, ed., University of Utah Press, 47:64.

    O’Grady, Patrick, Margaret M. Helzer, and Scott P. Thomas. 2012. A Glimpse into the 2012 University of Oregon Archaeology Field School at Rimrock Draw Rockshelter. Current Archaeological Happenings in Oregon 37(2-3):4-7.

    Speth, John. 2013. PaleoIndian big-game hunters in North America: are we misreading the evidence? Quaternary International, Volume 285, 197-198.

  • A Glacial Erratic with markings. A Map Rock? A Sky Stone?

    In the spring of 1999 respected Salish elder Dobie Tom visited a boulder with markings on a hillside meadow near Bonney Lake, Washington, about 20 miles southeast of Tacoma.  Tom identified the markings on top of the massive glacial erratic, rediscovered during planning for a nearby housing development, as a map of the Puyallup Valley.  The bowl-like depression in the center of the top represented the original Lake Tapps to the northeast, he said. 

    The following year the property owner contracted two researchers from the community college. Using computer models Gerald Hedlund and Dennis Regan decided the twenty human made depressions (cupules? a mortar?) on the stone’s flat surface indicated the stone, with use sticks and cords, could have been an observatory for determining seasonal changes and predicting sun, moon, and star alignments and possibly as sight lines to mountains, including Mount Rainier.  They named it Skystone.

    E.C. Krupp, astronomer, director of the Griffith Observatory, and a specialist in the field of archaeoastronomy, said native peoples probably already knew when the solstices occurred by observing the heavens. "The site sounds to me like it's for rituals or an educational site," and added more proof is needed to accept Skystone as an old observatory. 

    The Puyallup Tribal Council called the find "an exciting rediscovery…considering the rock carving is located in the Tribe’s traditional usual and accustomed area" and called for a plan to protect "this fascinating cultural feature."

    Notably this petroglyph boulder is not identified in rock art surveys that include Western Washington (Lundy 1974, Hill and Hill1974, McClure 1978, Wellman 1979, Leen 1981).  I compiled the above summary through local newspaper stories (1999-2009) and fragments of references on city and tribal websites. So, ambiguity lingers beyond what can be recorded in this modest blog posting.  Isn’t that how rock art works?

    Photos (November 2013) and details:  Bonney Lake Skystone Petroglyph

  • Picture Rock Pass - Divide or Intersection?

    In northwest Lake County a low tilted-fault-block ridge divides the Summer Lake basin (a remnant of Lake Chewaucan) from the Fort Rock/Silver Lake basin.  Even during the high stands of the late glacial maximum, about 18,000 years ago, the pluvial lakes were never joined.

    This dynamic geologic and hydrologic intersection became an important cultural intersection.  To the south the Paisley Five-Mile caves and to the north the Fort Rock region, both studied by Luther Cressman in the 1930s, are now known to have been occupied by early peoples over 12,000 years ago.

    Petroglyphs in this region are diverse and distinctive, ranging from archaic (early Anthropocene) to later Anthropocene (the last 3000 years.)  The ridge divide is now called Picture Rock Pass. There are many varieties petroglyphs on sub-ridges and low basalt rims and boulders within a mile of the Highway 31 road cut and within six miles: along the south edge of Silver Lake, to the north; and south of the divide along the northern periphery of the Summer Lake basin near Ana Springs, now a reservoir.

    Many petroglyphs have been minimal recorded, yet despite this significant location, there has not been a systematic study. In part, most archaeologists do not consider petroglyphs scientifically relevant due to difficulties with dating and establishing cultural context.  Revelation awaits. 

    Meanwhile, view striking examples of this important cultural crossroads: Picture Rock Pass

  • Beginnings and Endings: Multigenerational Diversity in Rock Art

    Using individual panels with distinctly different levels of patination helps to focus on time as one of the major factors in the variability of rock art elements. (Her emphasis) -Alanah Woody 1

    The desert:  the mirage of eternity, or close to it, not really a void only because of the deep calm of the wild waiting patiently to wrap itself around you.  -Ariel Dorfman 2

    Why do I seek and find inspiration among the cluttered basalt rims and canyons? Or is it insight?  In-sight into the expanse of time, beginnings and endings, explicit or elusive.

    Three journeys in September to the High Dry Lakes* of SE Lake County, Oregon, have taken me to multitudes of rock rims and multigenerations of petroglyphs, many thousands of years old, deep, dark, imbued with wind and weather.  Others, pecked or carved in the last few hundred years, reflecting light, revealing bright stone.

    Diversity of this region’s rock art stands out as an almost overwhelming richness of time, place, style, and tradition.  Almost?  There is a point where I seek to organize the variables into a sensible grasp of this variety. To make sense.  Rather than labeling, I offer a series of images representative of this expansive variability: Multigenerations of Petroglyphs 

    1.  Alanah Woody in Layer by Layer:  A Multigenerational Analysis of the Massacre Lake Rock Art Site, 1996.

    2. Ariel Dorfman in Desert Memories: Journeys Through the Chilean North, 2003.

     * The “High Dry Lakes” region I define as the roughly rectangular zone, in SE Oregon and NW Nevada, east of Warner Lakes Basin to Guano Rim.  And south from Poker Jim Ridge, on the northern boundary of the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge, crossing the southern Oregon border to the Massacre Lakes region of Nevada.

  • Petroglyph Lake attracts lightning and visitors

    Petroglyph Lake, at the northerly periphery of Lake County’s high dry lakes region, is a popular and instructive place located near the northwest corner of the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge.  A marked, two-mile easy road and a half-mile hike leads to the distinctive basalt rim on the western edge of a year-round desert lake.  The site holds what appears to be at least three distinct traditions of petroglyphs: recent “loose” figurative spirit motifs; archaic abstract, often deeply carved and patinaed; and a carefully articulated anthropomorph-lizard style. 

    In addition to Weides’ and Lorings’ descriptive documentation (site 146), Jon Daehnke and Anan Raymond of the US Fish and Wildlife Service published a thorough report in 2008 based on a detailed recording in the late 1990s of 65 panels with more than 360 design elements.  They also mapped rock structures such as cairns and rings. (The Archaeology of Petroglyph Lake: Landscapes, Publics Past and Public Present. )

    Arlene Benson and Floyd Buckskin conducted an unusual study in the late 1980s assessing possible relationships of petroglyphs to lightning strikes.  Their study was thorough but inconclusive.  However, they provide interesting ethnographic details, for example about lizard power (Achumawi, or Pit River) and the power of thunder and lightning recognized as spirits to many native peoples.  ("Magnetic Anomalies at Petroglyph Lake." Rock Art Papers 8 (1991): 53-64.)

  • Winnemucca Lake petroglyphs dated as North America's oldest

    An important paper is receiving high media visibility this month, for good reason.  It is titled: Dating North America's oldest petroglyphs, Winnemucca Lake subbasin, Nevada. The paper by LV Benson, et al., appears in the Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 40, Issue 12, (December 2013).  Highlights, from the Journal's website:

    -Petroglyphs in the Winnemucca Lake subbasin, Nevada, were carved prior to 10.5 cal ka.

    -A deep lake in the Pyramid and Winnemucca Lake subbasins persisted until ∼9.3 cal ka.

    -The designs of the Winnemucca Lake glyphs are similar to those found at Long Lake, Oregon.

    Recommended: Robert E. Connick and Frances Connick’s important descriptive and analytic work of this site 20 years ago. They devoted thoughtful consideration to “The Question of Age” and included excellent photographs. (The Hitherto Unrecognized Importance of Nevada Site 26WA3329: A Monumental Site with Southwestern Connections, Rock Art Papers, 1992. #28 vol. 9:73-99, San Diego Museum of Man.)

    For selected images, see Winnemucca Lake Petroglyphs

  • Dwelling in a world of boundaries

    The eye and mind map surfaces, terrain, with borders and intersections. We imagine. The camera frames, including, excluding, with crisp delineation.  Descriptions and representations of rock art invoke boundaries, defining context.  But is rock art boundaried?  Bound by what terms? By what forms, lines or edges? The word bound originated in an old Norse word meaning to dwell.  Perhaps dwell spoke of a bounded space, a place of binding or of bonding.

    Petroglyphs mark place or sometimes suggest territories or traversals.  Some carved or pecked lines on stone seem to divide, delineate, or move across.   Some appear to move through to the other side, toward an unknown, an otherworld that disrupts the comfort of dwelling.

     "Unified Field Theory" A petroglyph panel from Lake County Petroglyphs East of Abert Rim

  • Telling Time: Late Anthropocene?

    Temporal descriptions and speculation in rock art depart in two dimensions:  How Old Is It?  And: Where does It Fit in the Sequence of Changing Times?

    Because few rock art glyphs, panels, or sites can be securely dated, researchers adopt various time-blocks, ages, and transitions inherited from archaeology, geology, or art history.  Archaic, Holocene, Bronze Age, for example.

    Happily, in the last dozen years a new and useful descriptor has emerged:  Anthropocene.  Does this term, with its own conceptual dimension and still hotly debated, clarify or muddy the temporal waters?  Briefly, Anthropocene is the period during which human activity has affected the measureable stratigraphy of the geologic record. Some say, that’s 1950, others it’s the industrial age, or, arguably, the transition from hunter-gathers to agricultural complexes, say 10,000 years ago.

    Anthropocene sharpens awareness about human impact and duration.  Is it possible the oldest rock art has been in place longer than the time the human species may have remaining on this planet?  A mind-opening sequence.

    More.  An engaging 2012 summary by two geologists - Is the Anthropocene an issue of stratigraphy or pop culture?  - can be downloaded as a pdf.

    Petroglyphs at Cascadia Cave, Oregon, a scientifically dated 8,000 year old heritage site. 

  • Defined by Tides through Time: Three Puget Sound Petroglyph Boulders

     … pictures and poetry and music are not only marks in time but marks through time, of their own time and ours, not antique or historical, but living as they ever did, exuberantly, untired.  -Jeanette Winterson, Art Objects

    The three most significant petroglyph boulders in southern Puget Sound are of the tidal zones.  All three are glacial boulders, arriving on the shores millennia before the carvers marked them.  Two are granite erratics; another (Agate Point) is fine-grained gray-green sandstone.

    Surging tides, flowing water, wave action, and, in one case the physical relocation of the boulder, continue to reshape the markings and how they are seen and imagined.  Researchers have also affected physical change through rubbings, castings, and removal of barnacles - indeed, barnacles for decades have encrusted the Agate Point boulder to near obscurity. 

    Yet the clarity and power of these faces and eyes and other forms convey a compelling presence – … living as they ever did. 

    Marian Smith (1946), Edward Meade (1971), Beth Hill and Ray Hill (1974), Richard McClure (1978), Klaus Wellman (1979), and Daniel Leen (1981) have all devoted attention to these boulders and published photos or drawings of the petroglyphs. Leen’s overview in particular was a carefully considered and comprehensive summary.  

    The Squaxin Island and Suquamish tribes have more recently taken strong public interest in the cultural importance of the boulders.  One of three boulders, originally from Harstine Island, called the Love Rock by the tribe, is now a centerpiece of the Squaxin Island Tribe’s Veterans Memorial near Shelton.   

    See Puget Sound Petroglyphs gallery

  • Rock art and a climate of change

    It’s hot out there.  And dry. 

    Late June, camping and hiking within the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge, I saw low lake levels, slow water flow.  While standing at a rock art panel, or on the rim above, and immersing in the view, I find it compelling to try to imagine how the terrain may have been experienced when the makers of the petroglyphs occupied or traversed this country.  And how changing climate and shifting geologic cycles discouraged, sustained, or enhanced travels and lifeways. 

    Rock art appears to me as a marker of movement, be it physical or psychic, practical or spiritual. The images reside in layers, simultaneously time-dependent and timeless.

    Today, I feel the acceleration of climate change and the rapid and profound warming of the air, water, and land.  Rock art does not offer a precise answer – yet it does help refine my understanding of place and change.

    Petroglyph panel, south of Hart Mountain, June 2013. Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge Petroglyphs

  • Petroglyphs as Social Media?

    The final paragraph of an article in this Sunday’s New York Times offers an odd linkage of petroglyphs and the compulsion of social media:  Geoff Manaugh said that although there was a big difference between street art and outright vandalism, it is all social media. The inscriptions left on rocks in the desert and petroglyphs “are, to some extent, the Facebook wall of an earlier era in human communication,” he said, “a kind of geoliterature left in place for others to discover.”  - Facebook Made Me Do It, The New York Times, Sunday June 16 2013, SR5, by Jenna Wortham. Mr. Manaugh blogs about urban architecture, the environment and technology.

    Photo:A Modoc County Petroglyph, March 2013

     

  • How is it?

    This image offers similarities to the two lobed figures I posted earlier, on May 1, one in Nevada, one of California. This, in Oregon, also with five twinned lobes (the lower lichen-covered), with a finial cupping, or blossoming, or offering.  The image may seem fixed. Our look, or the photograph, may make it seem so.

    The act of maker expressed experience of a way in the world.  The world continues, it opens, it moves. So to see and ask How is it? feels right in the presence of the image in stone, on the basalt rim, in this place, a playa south of Hart Mountain, facing east. 

  • Looking and Seeing at Petroglyph National Mounument

    Apprehension.   Approaching a basalt boulder at Petroglyph Monument’s Piedras Marcadas Canyon:  a face, a mask, south facing.

     

    Walking behind, I see the change of the angled planes of surface. The natural edge of the boulder becomes the forehead with ray-like, feather-like, extensions, adding complexity to the image. This site, on the edge of Albuquerque, offers many striking panels and images. Piedras Marcadas

     


     

  • Petroglyph Boulder on the Oregon Coast

    Petroglyph Boulder on the Oregon Coast

    I was able to view and photograph this unrecorded site on a beach in Curry County in January 2013. The fascinating pecked glyphs, on a green schist boulder, are distinctive, deep, and relatively large. I am not aware of any other recorded or documented petroglyph sites on the Oregon Coast and, given its possible deep antiquity, appears to be a very rare site.   View more photos.

    Jeff Fentress described this petroglyph boulder (without drawings or photos) as a PCN in 1994 in Bay Area Rock Art News.  PCNs, extensively distributed in inland coast ranges of California, are the subject of Donna Gillette's doctoral dissertation "Cultural Markings on the Landscape: The PCN Pecked Curvilinear Nucleated Tradition in the Northern Coastal Ranges of California." She notes, "PCN researchers have long placed PCNs in the 5000-8000 B.P. range... this is still a hypothesis in search of supporting evidence." PCNs were the focus of earlier research by Teresa (Miller) Saltzman.

    This boulder is the only example north of California and the only PCN beachside boulder.  There are very few petroglyph sites west of the Cascades in Oregon. The two most complex and well-known are near rivers: Cascadia Cave on the Santiam and Two Mile on the lower Rogue River, also in Curry County.  Selected photos from these two sites are posted in the Rock Art Oregon Index.

  • Embodied understanding

    Body relationship, in seeing the stone, affects our sense of its presence, context, and apparent meaning.  

    Morning light at Long Lake, this seems to be a spirit figure.

    Other glyphs appear, both sides of the figure, adding depth and complexity. 

    A simple stark "horned" staff glyph appears, up and (to our) left, from the one we've been studying… the hillside comes alive.