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  • 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 Place of the Heart

    This design calls to mind the Pit River mythological being World’s Heart, te-ga-te-hataji, according to Floyd Buckskin, in a joint paper with Arlene Benson (Modoc 75; 1985). The authors describe the many ways the upper divided triangular motif, as World Heart with the connecting line(s) and the circles below, can be interpreted in Pit River myth.  They also note how this panel unites concepts of Pit River and Modoc myths. Photo Douglas Beauchamp 2013. 

  • Clarity of intent, certainty of form: Five-lobed motifs

    This image offers similarities to the other lobed figures I posted earlier, on May 1 and June 11. Again, the five “twinned” lobes.  Located in the Modoc National Forest of northeast California, east of Clear Lake in the Willow Creek area and west of Blue Mountain, this figure is part of larger basalt panel facing west toward Doublehead Mountain, which is sacred to the Modoc and Pit River peoples.  (Recommended: Arlene Benson and Floyd Buckskin.  "Modoc-75." Rock Art Papers [1985].)

    The four lobed images are discrete examples of a clearly articulated motif distributed over the expansive over-lapping territories of the northern Great Basin, Modoc Plateau, and Medicine Lake Highlands in what-is-now NW Nevada, SE Oregon, and NE California.