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  • 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

  • Telling Time: Late Anthropocene?

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

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

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

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

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

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