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  • Beyond Parts and Wholes

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

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

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

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

  • Mysterious…

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

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

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

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

  • 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.

  • Now and Then

    All we presentists get from zooming out to ten-thousand-year time spans is vertigo. -Douglas Rushkoff, Present Shock

    Walking across interlocked cobble basalt at dawn, the air yet still.  Small sounds distant lightly move over the sage.  If I am lucky as the sun strikes this morning’s desert the first long golden rays will saturate the rim to glow with an old carving.  I will see it as form and shape and this light may help me look deeper into the field of its dwelling.  An abstract image residing in the real, this moment, spanning millennia.  

    The Ah Ha! of apprehension - the seeing, the hearing, the touching of the ground -  shape the sensual, physical space between.  A third space, cognitive, hovers in both Now and Then.  A space-time continuum, remembering and renewing.   Present and past with a slim thread to time beyond, the future.

    Morning Rim. See: Owyhee Canyonlands