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  • DeepTime, DreamTime, BoomTime

    Cracks are material events that emerge as the result of force contradictions. They progress along paths of least resistance, exploiting and tearing through different material substances where the cohesive forces of aggregate matter are at their weakest. Each crack is a unique result of a specific disposition of a force field and material irregularities on the micro level. … Leonardo Da Vinci filled his notebooks with the studies of cracks. Elsewhere, he recommended staring at cracks for training the imagination.
    Eyal Weizman, Forensic Architecture: Violence at the Threshold of Detectability. (Zone Books, 2017)


    I’ve just returned from roading hiking camping out in/in out the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge/Warner Basin area.  As testimony and visual material, I offer observations and images of landscape and petroglyphs.  (Skip the words and see the pictures:  Hart Warner Imagined )

    Climatic imagination.  From patinaed figures, to cracking ice-shelves, to congealing plastic bottles, to precision drone strikes, all action becomes geologic.  Assimilate?  No, no need for that burden.  Articulate:  Lament, inspire, deny, confirm, confront, resign, reflect — visually apprehend presence, the beating heart of imagination.   

    An excerpt from the recent article The Uninhabitable Earth (David Wallace-Wells, New York Magazine, July 10, 2017):

    Early naturalists talked often about ”deep time” — the perception they had, contemplating the grandeur of this valley or that rock basin, of the profound slowness of nature. What lies in store for us (with climate change) is more like what the Victorian anthropologists identified as “dreamtime,” or “everywhen”: the semi-mythical experience, described by Aboriginal Australians, of encountering, in the present moment, an out-of-time past, when ancestors, heroes, and demigods crowded an epic stage.

    How to imagine an everywhen or an everyhow in clear view of the now. DeepTime, DreamTime, ever will be.  Today, shrouded in “fossil capitalism,” my view of past time and future time emerges as a melancholy vision of personal and planetary demise:  BoomTime. Anchored in 1945, marking the uplift of a sharp and devastating increase in emissions of carbon into Earth's atmosphere.  Coincidentally the year the first atomic bombs dropped; the following year the Boomer Generation swept forth with unrelenting desire.

    Hart Warner Imagined 

  • Swallowing: The Tabasará River Petroglyphs

    In May 2016 the reservoir of Barro Blanco Dam, in western Panama, was filled for the first time as a “test.” Considered an illegal act by the indigenous Ngäbe Bugle people, the flooding followed over 20 years of rulings, negotiation, government and corporate corruption, coercion, and human rights violations, protests, and some deaths. This continues. Inundated were forest and farm lands and village dwellings.

    The rising waters also swallowed sacred petroglyphs on boulders of the Tabasará River.  The annual ceremony in early 2016 was last in the presence of the now inundated petroglyphs.

    The report of the registered archaeologist hired by GENISA the company identified only one “disturbed" site in the project area and neglected mentioning the petroglyphs. GENISA, a family-owned corporation, was formed in 2006 to build the Barro Blanco dam.  Project funding comes from two European development (investment) banks in the Netherlands and in Germany.

    This disturbing situation took a bizarre turn in early Spring 2017. Water levels in the reservoir unexpectedly receded. The petroglyphs remain buried under debris and sediment up to 5 meters deep. It appears GENISA drained for testing, then by early April completely filled the Barro Blanco reservoir.

    Petroglyphs always mark a specific place with cultural moment. Yet as emblematic figures they continue witnessing cycling realms of change. As motif, symbol, and artifact, the stone abides, signaling desire, hope, and pain.  Why ask what does a petroglyph mean?  Rather:  How does a petroglyph mean in the longue durée of the Earth’s endeavor?

    ALBUM: http://rockartoregon.com/tabasar-river-petroglyphs
    …………………………………
    REFERENCES
    Underwater: Barro Blanco Displaces Three Ngäbe Bugle Communities in Panama.  Jonathan González Quiel.  In Cultural Survival, Dec 2016.
    https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/underwater-barro-blanco-displaces-three-ngabe-bugle

    http://chiriquinatural.blogspot.com/   See posts: June 9 2017 and January 20 2017.     

    Beatriz Felipe Pérez et. al., 2016. Rethinking the Role of Development Banks in Climate Finance: Panama’s Barro Blanco CDM Project and Human Rights. 12/1 Law, Environment and Development Journal. 1-17.  PDF http://www.lead-journal.org/content/16001.pdf  Highly Recommended.

    Sara E Bivin Ford. 2015. The Ngäbe-Buglé Fight to Maintain Territorial Sovereignty.
    PDF http://escholarship.org/uc/item/9qf03131

    Evans, Katharine. 2015. Tabasará Libre: A Case Study of Carbon Colonialism in Panama's Barro Blanco Hydroelectric Project. PDF http://wesscholar.wesleyan.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2523&context=etd_hon_theses

    Evans, Katharine. 2014. Tabasará Libre: A Case Study of Development and Indigenous Rights. PDF http://digitalcollections.sit.edu/isp_collection/1875/

    Barro Blanco Dam is one of 30 planned hydropower plants in Panama.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barro_Blanco_Dam

    Two photos below, for links to sources, see images in Album

    Petroglyph boulder in Tabasará River 2015.
    Last annual ceremony of the Ngäbe Bugle people with the sacred petroglyphs 2016.


  • Turning sideways into the Earth

    As a world opens itself the earth comes to rise up. It stands forth as that which bears all, as that which is sheltered in its own law and always wrapped up in itself. World demands its decisiveness and its measure and lets beings attain to the Open of their paths. Earth, bearing and jutting, strives to keep itself closed and to entrust everything to its law. The conflict is not a rift as a mere cleft is ripped open; rather, it is the intimacy with which opponents belong to each other.  Martin Heidegger [1]

    “From now on, everything will be called The Middle, everything will be called The Seam…”  Lisa Robertson [2]

    Stone adheres, marking the firm line between living and dead.  This spectator gazes on fugitive monuments holding absence present.  The passage thin; stone softens; the boundary delicate. As the stone is cut, earth reveals -  intimacy.  This Double Negative of quarry and tomb cut, excavated, buried, sealed, eroded, robbed, excavated, emptied. 

    Absent the living, absent the Etruscan dead, in Populonia, Tuscany, near the Tyrrhenian Sea.  Present now, turning, the stone and its void, at this spectral gateway, mulling choice, I walk the trail, down, away, soon pass a Madonna bearing flowers among the oaks and corks, baring new bark.

    Album: Populonia Tuscany/Etruscan rock-cut Tombs

    [1]  From The Origin of the Work of Art in Martin Heidegger: Poetry, Language, Thought. Collected and translated by Albert Hofstadter, 1971 (Orig. 1950).
    [2] From “The Seam” in the book of poems 3 Summers, 2017.
    ... with a glance and nod to the title of Michael Heizer’s iconic and monumental 1970 earthwork Double Negative located in Nevada’s Great Basin.

  • Swallowing III: Power & Other Than

    Celilo Converter Station, south of the Dalles Dam. For nearly 50 years this BPA-owned facility has provided low-cost hydroelectric power to Southern California via the Pacific Intertie, a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line that runs uninterrupted for 846 miles.  By steadily upgrading capacity, the 3800 Megawatt line delivers electricity to over 2 million homes in Los Angeles. Photo with labels added adapted from ABB [1]


    With the building of The Dalles Dam in the 1950s, Native peoples were dis-placed, re-placed. Some did not move, many returned seasonally or to stay [2]. Such a place is the Lone Pine In-Lieu Fishing Site, a federally-owned plot near river’s edge.  As Molly Harbarger reports in March 2016, “ ‘We understand there are some terrible living conditions there,’ said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Portland District spokeswoman Diana Fredlund. Few of the sites are as bad as Lone Pine. … Lone Pine is gated, separating it from The Dalles, a hub of Columbia Gorge life. The tribal members don't have access to the city's amenities like electricity. Instead, residents have to jack it from the bathroom lights and generators." [3]

    Lone Pine fishing platform and The Dalles Dam. Photo: Douglas Beauchamp, April 2017


    3. Many rock carvings and rock paintings are submerged by Lake Celilo Some displaced, then replaced at Columbia Hills State Park’s Temani Pesh-wa trail.
    (See Swallowing Petroglyph Canyon). Many images remain on the cliffs and outcrops, gazing south and east, over the dam-shaped lake, the power towers, the wind turbines, the highways and railroads, the salmon seeking, the river peoples living and fishing.

    NOTES Below

    Photo Album: Swallowing III 

    Rock painting on cliffs above Lake Celilo. Photo: Douglas Beauchamp, April 2017

    NOTES
    [1] ABB, a Euro-based multi-national, is the world's largest builder of electricity grids  
    [2] Shadow Tribe: The Making of Columbia River Indian Identity (2010) Andrew H. Fisher
    http://www.washington.edu/uwpress/search/books/FISSHA.html
    [3] Decrepit fish camps built on broken promises: Four tribes that had fishing villages wiped out in the last century are left waiting for the federal government to provide better housing
    Story by Molly Harbarger, Oregonian, March 11 2016.
    Also: Legislation Honors Long-Ago Federal Promises to Replace Tribal Fishing Villages Drowned By Columbia River Dams Terri Hansen, Indian Country Today, July 26, 2016.

  • Swallowing II: Requiem for a lost petroglyph boulder

    Dislocated from one another, we are now flooded,
    resting in place.
    We suffocate in the backwater of decadence
    and fractious contempt.
    Purity of the ancient is the language without tongues.
    The river elegantly marks swirls on its surface,
    a spiral that tells of a place
    that remains undisturbed.
       Elizabeth Woody, 1994 [1]

    Near the lower end there are several dangerous rocks in the rapid, and at the foot large masses of rock divide it into different parts the main channel empties into a capacious, deep basin of rectangular shape, called Big Eddy.   
       Captain. Chas. F. Powell, Corps of Engineers, 1882 [2]

    The investigation of the petroglyphs (in spring 1956) was made by Samuel C. Sargent, a Geologist with the Corps of Engineers, on The Dalles Dam project. Mr. Sargent called attention to petroglyphs existing on islands in Fivemile Rapids, which can be easily removed and are in an excellent state of preservation., these petroglyphs are located in areas 6 and 7. I would urge that these  petroglyphs be salvaged, since they represent unique forms for this area.
       David L. Cole, University of Oregon, 1956 [3]

    In attempting to raise the petroglyph from Area 7 (by the Corps of Engineer’s Derrick Barge “Cascade” after the formation of The Dalles Dam Pool), the connection to the lift line parted and the petroglyph ad lift line were lost.  In the near future, an attempt will be made to recover the petroglyph with the help of a diver.
       Joseph F. Garback, Lt Colonel, Corps of Engineers, 1957 [4]

    Area 7 was on a small island at the lower end of Fivemile Rapids. One rock was to be removed from this island. This rock was approximately seven feet high, eight feet wide and eight feet deep, weighing approximately seventeen tons. It was lying loose on a level area.  Jacks were used to lift the rock enough to slip the cables under … the petroglyph was … bound with a cable which was attached to a float.  In the attempt to lift this petroglyph a cable clamp slipped and it fell back into the water. The last report received was that the Corps of Engineers planned to send a diver down after it.
       David L. Cole, University of Oregon, 1958 [5]

     It is unfortunate that the petroglyph from Area #7 was lost in the efforts to raise it from the bottom of the pool.  Naturally, $1,000 to attempt to recover this petroglyph is out of line with the value of the petroglyph, and we feel that this petroglyph will have to be considered as lost.
       Herbert Maier, National Park Service, 1958 [6]

    Nature is a temple where living pillars
    Sometimes let out confused lyrics
    Man passes through, across forests of symbols
    Each one observing him with a familiar gaze

    Like long echoes, from afar confounding
    In a dark and profound unity
    Vast like night and like clarity
    Fragrance, color, and sound all resounding
       Charles Baudelaire, 1857 [7]

    Photos:  The Lost Petroglyph boulder from Area 7 

    NOTES
    [1] From Elizabeth Woody’s poem “Waterways Endeavor to Translate Silence from Currents.” In Luminaries of the Humble.  University of Arizona Press. 1994. Elizabeth Woody is an American Navajo-Warm Springs-Wasco-Yakama artist, author, and educator. In 2016 she was named Poet Laureate of Oregon.
    [2] From the May 30. 1882, report “The Survey of the Columbia River at The Dalles in Oregon,” by Captain. Chas. F. Powell, Corps of Engineers, US Engineers Office, Portland Oregon.  Note: The survey,  as part of an a project for the improvement of navigation, responded to an 1879 mandate by the U.S. Congress.
    [3] From the July 18, 1956, report “Further Recommendation for the Removal of Petroglyphs in The Dalles Dam Reservoir Area.” by David L. Cole, University of Oregon.
    [4] From a July 26, 1957, letter to the NPS from Joseph F. Garback, Lt Colonel. Corps of Engineers, Deputy District Engineer.
    [5] From the September 10, 1958, “A Report on the Removal of Petroglyphs in The Dalles Dam Reservoir Area,”  by David L. Cole, University of Oregon.
    [6] From an October 3, 1958, letter by Herbert Maier, Assistant Regional Director, National Park Service (in response to a September 25, 1958, letter from W. L. Winegar, Colonel, Corps of engineers, District engineer.)
    [7] Charles Baudelaire from the poem Correspondences in Les Fleurs du mal, 1857. Translated by Ariana Reines for Delirium: The Art of the Symbolist Book, an exhibition through May 14, 2017 at the Morgan Library and Museum, New York City. (Poem in Harper’s Magazine April 2017 p.22)

    END Notes
    - Hill and Hill (1974, p.257) include a photo of a 1956 casting of the petroglyph made by James Hansen for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI).
    - McClure (1978, p.73-74) notes: “The Round Island Petroglyph site, a small island with a single petroglyph, about 3/4 mi above Big Eddy, a boulder atop.” In 1984 he designates the site 45KL220.
    - Loring and Loring (1982, Part 1) include a drawing:  Site 9. Big Eddy, Klickitat County, WA,  Fig 14 g. (Also p.11 of the 1996 2nd Edition)


  • 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.

  • Public Lands, Private Property, Sacred Space

    Guy Debord sees the core of the spectacle as the annihilation of historical knowledge — in particular the destruction of the recent past. In its place there is the reign of a perpetual present. History, he writes, had always been the measure by which novelty was assessed, but whoever is in the business of selling novelty has an interest in destroying the means by which it could be judged. Thus there is a ceaseless appearance of the important, and almost immediately its annihilation and replacement: "That which the spectacle ceases to speak of for three days no longer exists.”  Jonathan Crary [1]

    Among the schemings, positionings, and other-regulatings irrupting this political season, land use, “land transfer” and public lands management are hotly debated.   For example, as reported in Oregon mid-February (2017):   “Four Republican lawmakers want to study the idea of transferring Oregon’s federal public lands to state control.” [2]  Thus far in Oregon a soft landing compared to targeted, aggressive push in some other states (Utah, Wyoming, for example) — and in our country’s Congress.  Whoa. Who’s country? Embodied in this stand-off inheres “property” — partitioned, boundaried, available.  “Country” by contrast suggests a depth and an expanse physical and cognitive.  Spaces as places.  Who uses, owns, extracts, honors, digs, fences, and remembers?  With what degree of lasting, of sacred?

    Rock art is part of the land, of the stone, the earth, indeed, the country.  The indigenous marked places and boundless spaces. Rock art, Indian Land, bearing time, witnessing change, holding close, hardly novel.  Lizard abides.

    Images from an ancient lake-basin now called Abert in Oregon country: Lake Land 

    [1] Jonathan Crary. 2002.  Spectacle, Attention, Counter-Memory, p.463. In Guy Debord and the Situationist International: Texts and Documents. Tom McDonough, ed.  An October book,   Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  

    [2] “Bill considers moving Oregon public land to state control” by Zach Urness, Feb 16 2017  “Fifty-three percent of land in Oregon — 32.6 million acres — is owned by the federal government.”

  • 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) 

  • Wading into the River called Carson

    They say the world is spinning around
    I say the world is upside down
    They say the world is spinning around
    I say the world is upside down
    Joe Higgs [1]

    The sign says fishing permitted.  As long as you do not eat them.  Wading into the River called Carson* quickly becomes surprising and a bit mucky.  Why even try? For me, it is not for fishing. It is to sense place, in the two senses of sensual and common. And to simply cross the river to the dark boulders — the petroglyphs active and dense, the stone deeply imbued with water and wind, the landscapes clear and compelling.  

    Recent history, in this case 1859-1861 with slight detours into the early 20th century, becomes an confounding thicket for an outsider — like me from Oregon country.
    — Carson River, toxic enough to be Nevada’s only Superfund site. Gold and silver discovered in 1859 Comstock immediately spawned an rough influx of seekers. Mercury imported to extract the metal became part of the effluent, 15 million pounds in refuse, penetrating and contaminating river and basin waters as far as the Stillwater Marshes in the northern Carson basin.  Poisonous quicksilver,  accumulating in tissues, is a health risk. [2]
     — A violent incident at a “a stage and grog stop” in May 1860 catalyzed increasing tensions between the Paiutes and encroaching miners and settlers.  This incident occurred along the Carson River not far from this petroglyph site and launched the brief and deadly Pyramid Lake War. [3]
    — During the winter flood of  1861-1862 Mark Twain lodged for a few harrowing days at the above stage stop, Honey Lake Smith’s, described in Twain’s 1872 “personal narrative” Roughing It (217-228).
    — In the early 20th century extensive water projects diverted, channeled, and dammed the lower river directly affecting the lands and scapes surrounding this distinctive petroglyph place. [4]  

    World Spinning around.  Upside down.  

    For close-up photos of selected:  Carson River Petroglyphs   

    *This river’s modern name?  Bestowed by John C. Fremont in the 1840s to honor scout and “Indian fighter” (aka “Indian killer”) Kit Carson.
    {1] The 1970s single by Joe Higgs, father of Reggae: The World Is Upside Down  (YouTube)
    [2] “Mercury-contaminated sediments in the Carson River, Lahontan Reservoir, Carson Lake, and Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge are the cause of elevated levels of mercury in fish and wildlife in and near the contaminated areas. The contamination presents a health risk to those who consume mercury-contaminated fish.”  EPA Carson River Mercury
    [3] Jerome Edwards recounts a version on the Nevada Humanities website. Pyramid Lake War 
    [4] Water in the West - more than complex.  For the Carson and Truckee Rivers, two places to begin:  The Newlands Project  & Pyramid Lake/Truckee-Carson Water Rights Settlement (1990)

  • 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

  • Great Basin Anthropological Conference October 5-8 2016

    Great Basin Anthropological Conference (GBAC) convenes this week in Reno Nevada. The 2016 biennial gathering includes 13 presentations on rock art  topics.  

    Notable: Australian scholar Jo McDonald on Arid Zone Hunter-Gatherer Rock Art: a View of the Great Basin from the Western Desert.  Professor McDonald’s impressive accomplishments, among them the book Dreamtime Superhighway, can be viewed at http://www.web.uwa.edu.au/people/jo.mcdonald

    Angus Quinlan, the accomplished director of the Nevada Rock Art Foundation, will offer a variety of topics including Social Perspectives on Rock Art’s Variable Distribution in Great Basin Archaeology.

    Douglas Beauchamp will present a non-rock art topic: Clovis Orange: Traverses and Uncertainties in the Alkali Lake Basin, Lake County, Oregon.  To view the images:  CLOVIS ORANGE

    To view or download the GBAC program: http://greatbasinanthropologicalassociation.org/gbac/2016-program-gbac/

  • 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]

  • Living on Earth: A tough fragility

    Living on Earth means arriving, finding water, inhabiting, moving on.  A tough fragility with focused intention in a shifting landscape. 

    Figures appear in all four new albums from Southeast Oregon's Lake, Harney and Malheur Counties now posted at rockartoregon.com

    Interface: Similarity and distinction

    Journey: Emergence, seasonal round, blessed water

    Water: Fluid and hollowed, ephemeral and contained

    Scratched petroglyphs:  Marking Place

  • 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

  • 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.)

  • She Who Watches the Industrial Complex Corridor

    A wild disjunction reigns at an overview of what was the Columbia River.  She Who Watches gazes eastward over still backwaters, Lake Celilo formed by The Dalles Dam.   She peers over corridors of modernist motion along with a myriad of other spirit beings, images in stone painted and inscribed by the indigenous peoples of the mid-Columbia region. The high-water survivors of other innumerable images inundated in the 1950s.

    Coal trains regularly rock by with urgency, China awaiting delivery of raw power.  On the lake,  pushed and shoved, barges bear freighted goods up and down. On the hills and spanning canyons march power-towers with drooping wires and wheeling wind turbines.  Across the waters, Interstate 84 cuts through basalt cliffs, connecting all points west and east, Portland to Idaho, following the rough path of the old Oregon Trail. 

    We ask:  What and how now does She watch?  Do we see with her?  Or are we content to look into her face, her masking, her patience. And with due respect for her presence, seek a kind of knowing.

    Images:  [Link]

  • Character of the place

    The place can make us feel deeply at home. Yet it is not our 'own' . Its significance does not originate in an order created by us. What the place means to us does not depend on our activities - and their meanings. This fact strikes us when we attempt to define the meaning of the place by words - and these words escape us. When we feel that the place is near – it withdraws. The place rests in its own withdrawal.  Dag T. Andersson [1]

    High Lakes lava lands of eastern Lake County. East of the Warner Valley, west of Guano Valley, south of Poker Jim Ridge, north of the Sheldon Antelope Refuge on the Nevada line. And here I stand and walk in a space that runs to horizons.  Near places resting in withdrawal.  Late September 2015. 

    The makers of petroglyphs found rims, boulders, smooth surfaces often facing morning sun. Carved, pecked, abraded, or scratched images as a single act or layered over uncountable centuries interplay within the hard basalt, the earth. Perhaps functional or practical, yet more often appearing imbued with spirit world. 

    Beginning a few decades ago ranchers and federal agencies brought laborers and their tools -- bulldozers and backhoes -- to carve rough tracks, dig waterholes, push up berms for reservoirs. 

    In common, these human activities circle near water, attentive to seasons.   Meaning expressed in and through materials, the altered rocks, dust, dirt, wet and dry. Meaning now melding with the cycles and wrappings of nature.

    Album: Lake County East [Link]

    [1] Dag T. Andersson. Ontology of a space left over.  In Ruin Memories: Materialities, Aesthetics and the Archaeology of the Recent Past.  Bjørnar Olsen and Þóra Pétursdóttir, editors. Routledge, 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 

  • Lake Abert: Spirits as Witness

    A place is deeper than the sum of its aspects.  My thought as I travel the 15 miles of US Highway 395 curving along the east shore of Lake Abert. 

    The indigenous peoples who inhabited the lakeshore adjusted the location of their dwellings as the lake expanse fluctuated over many millennia. Rick Pettigrew’s archaeological scoping reveals dynamic cultural change. He analyzes the surface archaeology – rock features and rock art - demonstrating sequential occupations linked with lake elevations. [1] 

    Today people – and birds – find the lakeshore uninhabitable. 

    “Under Oregon law, Lake Abert has no legal right to any water at all.”

    In 2014 for the first time is 80 years Lake Abert is - completely dried. [2a & 2b] A migration stopover for millions of birds that rely on the brine shrimp and alkali flies, the lake offered nothing.  Significant among many converging factors are the human manipulations and extractions of the Chewaucan River, the terminal lake’s only steady replenishment. 

    Beyond the reality of the region’s multi-year drought, is the strange story of the aptly-named River’s End Ranch, or perhaps better: Lake’s End Ranch.  Not only is the private ranch reservoir thick with 25 years of land- and water-use conflicts, the property owner’s dam-and-dike building in the 1990s ignored protection requirements and severely disturbed ancestral remains linked to four recognized tribes. [3]

    This year, 2015, looks to be the same to me during my mid-July visit to a few of the dozens of rock art sites distributed on the Lake’s east shore. [4]  Spirits emerge as witness as they have since time immemorial. And as they will when humans abandon the arid basin-and-range valleys as global heating accelerates.  [5]  

    [1]  Pettigrew, Richard M.  Archaeological investigations on the east shore of Lake Abert, Lake County, Oregon. Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon, 1985. 

    [2a] Lake Abert Dries Up, a 15-minute video from Oregon Field Guide (OBP), April 2014. This webpage also includes links to some source documents.

    [2b] Oregon’s only saltwater lake is disappearing, and scientists don't know why.”  July 3 2014. Oregonlive.

    [3] Klamath Tribe near remedies over disturbed ancestral remains.”  May 2000. Indian Country Today Media Network. (Note: the Tribes concluded an agreement in late 2001.)

    [4] East Lake Abert Archeological District, encompassing 6000 acres, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.   This greatly expanded the 1974 nine-acre “Abert Lake Petroglyphs” NRHP listing. 

    [5] Warming Pushes Western U.S. Toward Driest Period in 1,000 Years

    Photos: Spirits as Witness

  • 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

  • To create a sensible reality

    In every ritual operation, the seeking after a specific end is never but one amongst a number of its operators’ motives: these motives derive from the whole of reality, its religious and sensible (aesthetic) sides alike. In every case they imply what has always been art’s purpose: to create a sensible reality whereby the ordinary world is modified in response to the desire for the extraordinary, for the marvellous, a desire implicit in the human being’s essence. Georges Bataille, Lascaux or the Birth of Art (1955). 

    Sensible Reality: One Place

  • Encountering A Petroglyph Place

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

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

    Encountering A Petroglyph Place

  • 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.

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

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

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

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

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

  • Free to be Wild. Again.

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

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

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

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

    Bighorn Sheep petroglyphs at Hart Lake

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

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

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

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

  • Checkerboarding and the place of Rock Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Photos:Fish Creek Rim petroglyphs

  • The Sinking Earth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    facebook page: Saving OAK FLAT Campground

  • Dark Shape Swimming

    Dark Shape Swimming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Traces: Multidimensionality in Modoc country

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

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

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

  • The virtual focus of the visible

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

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

  • Red paintings of Devil’s Lake

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

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

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

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

  • Ancient Rock Art = Today’s News

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

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

    For story and photos: Ancient Gallery

  • 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.

  • What is an image?

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

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

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

  • The Geometrical Act of Grounding

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

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

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

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

  • Out There and the Right to Look

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

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

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • Freeing The Rocks: Four Potentials

    This last day of this wintry month - let’s elevate the season, beyond reason. Top down.

    Rock on Top of Another Rock, a large-scale sculpture by the artist duo Fischli/Weiss, is an installation in London’s Kensington Gardens, courtesy Serpentine Gallery and The Royal Parks.  Hurry – it’s in place until March 6, 2014. (Then what?)

    Levitated Mass by Michael Heizer is called “ongoing” by LACMA. Really. A 456-foot-long concrete slot bearing a 340-ton granite megalith, it resides on the museum’s “campus” with “no admission ticket required.”  The cap boulder, famously trucked through four California counties in early 2012, was blasted out at the Stone Valley Quarry near Riverside (or, if you are inclined to the poetic, between Palm Springs and San Diego).  You may recall Michael is the son of renowned UC archaeologist and rock art fellow Robert Heizer.

    The Kempe Stone, ten feet in height, is an Irish megalithic portal tomb about 10 miles east of Belfast. In 1884 The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland estimated the capstone at 17 tons. Go take a look or simply Google or Bing – it's storied.

    Oregon’s own meta-lithic, a shelter near an old lakebed in the southern Warner Valley, Lake County, holds faded red pictographs. Massive capstone about six feet above ground level. (Photo: Douglas Beauchamp)

  • Dust, Drying, and Rock Art

    While Western windstorms have always deposited dust on mountains, some recent research suggests that the trend is worsening, likely due to a continuing drought but also to land use in the West that is exposing more bare soil to the wind. -Wall Street Journal, January 7, 2014

    Rapid climate change and potential catastrophic impacts are of major concern as they may severely challenge the ability of societies to respond and adapt due to environmental, economic, cultural and geopolitical constrains. [1]

    This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is,   This is the common air that bathes the globe.  –Walt Whitman, from Song of Myself.

    Human activities and population growth accelerate the oscillations of climate patterns. One result:  increasing airborne dust from soil exposure and desiccation of the earth’s surface.  Three billion tons of dust release into the atmosphere every year - with complex effects.

    Dilemma of dust.  In a few millennia (sooner?) a few hardy observers and explorers will probe through sedimented layers of dust at the base of boulders and rims.  Luckily they will discover petroglyphs preserved though most of humankind will have disappeared along with many plants and animals from the desert west as we know it.  Some rock art will live on - a faint glimmer of trust in an unforeseeable future.

    Flip side of dust.  Dust offers one key to unraveling the past of rock art production. Cycles of airborne dust result in differential deposition. Layered markers worthy of study.  Findings help understand how changing climate shapes cultural sequences as peoples come and go, determined in great part by availability of the essential:  Water.

    In the Kimberley region of northwest Australia, a 1500-year mega-drought beginning about 5000 years BP coincided with the boundary between “the fine featured anthropomorphic figures of the Gwion Gwion or Bradshaw paintings, and broad stroke Wandjina figures.”  The dates were arrived at in part by studying the chemistry of airborne dusts deposited in the sediments of a mound spring. [1]

    In the arid western US, Varnish Microlamination (VLM) studies, refined over many years by Ronald Dorn and Tanzhuo Liu, have enabled more fine-grained dating for rock art researchers, David Whitley in particular. Rock varnish is a rock coating we usually refer to as patina.  Airborne dust in the form of fine clay minerals comprises the bulk of the sediments that form rock varnish on exposed rock. Notably, Manganese and Iron contribute staining and color - less so during arid times. Hence, discernible lamellae.  Whitley has integrated these studies with his extensive research in the Mojave Desert. The result is an important recent paper, far ranging, and provocative. I find Whitley convincing when he says, “The most conservative interpretation indicates that petroglyph production began in the western Great Basin at least 11,100 years ago and that it continued into the last 300 years.”  [2]

    Happily, both articles are open access:

    [1]  McGowan, Hamish, et al. 2012. Evidence of ENSO mega‐drought triggered collapse of prehistory Aboriginal society in northwest Australia Geophysical Research Letters 39, no. 22. ENSO?  El Niño-Southern Oscillation. 

    [2]  David S.Whitley. 2013. Rock Art Dating and the Peopling of the Americas.  Journal of Archaeology, Volume 2013, Article ID 713159, 15 pages.

    This 2007 article doesn't mention rock art – or dust – nonetheless a fascinating complement to the topic (PDF): Possible impacts of early-11th-, middle-12th-, and late-13th-century droughts on western Native Americans and the Mississippian Cahokians.   Notably, Senior author Larry Benson also led the team which recently established an early Holocene age of the Winnemucca Lake petroglyphs.

  • 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