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Rock art is a term in archaeology for any man-made markings made on natural stone. They can be divided into:

Petroglyph attributed to Classic Vernal Style, Fremont archaeological culture, eastern Utah.
Petroglyphs in Val Camonica, Italy

In addition, petroforms and inukshuks are rock art made by aligning or piling natural stones. The stones themselves are used as large markings on the ground.

Contents

Terminology

Buddhist stone carvings at Ili River, Kazakhstan

The term "rock art" appears in the published literature as early as the 1940s[1][2]. It has also been described as "rock carvings",[3] "rock drawings",[4] "rock engravings",[5] "rock inscriptions",[6] "rock paintings",[7] "rock pictures",[8] "rock records"[9] "rock sculptures.[10], [11]

Location

Both petroglyphs and pictographs can be parietal, meaning on the walls of a cave or rock shelter, open-air (meaning they are made on exposed natural outcrops) or monument-based which are made on stones consciously deposited.

Age

The earliest evidence of painting derives from archaeological sites in two rock-shelters in Arnhem Land, in northern Australia. In the lowest layer of material at these sites there are used pieces of ochre estimated to be 60,000 years old. Archaeologists have also found a fragment of rock painting preserved in a limestone rock-shelter in the Kimberley region of North-Western Australia dated at 40 000 years old. [1]Pigments from the "Bradshaw paintings" of the Kimberley are so old they have become part of the rock itself, making carbon dating impossible. Some experts suggest that these paintings are in the vicinity of 50,000 years old and may even pre-date aboriginal settlement. [2][3]

Creation

Petroglyphs are created by rock removal, including scratching, abrading, pecking, carving, drilling, incising and sculpting. Locations of choice are rock facets coated with patina, a dark mineral accumulation on rock surfaces. Petroglyphs remove the patina, exposing the contrasting lighter rock interior. Instances of negative images, produced by removing the patina surrounding the intended figure, are also known. Sometimes petroglyphs are painted or accentuated by polishing. The degree of repatination indicates relative dating. Some of the most ancient petroglyphs are the same color as the surrounding rock.

Pictography is the application of pigments. Survival of ancient paintings is attributable to use of mineral pigments, most commonly manganese, hematite, malachite, gypsum, limonite, clays and various oxides. The best preserved pictography is found under sheltering overhangs and in caves. The simplest pictographs are wet clay finger drawings and charcoal drawings. To produce crayons or paints first the minerals had to be finely ground and combined with binding materials. Crayons and animal hair brushes have been excavated in caves with paintings. Exceedingly fine lines evidence the production of excellent brushes. The most common rock art element found around the world, the human hand, exemplifies several pictography types. A technique used since the Neolithic is spraying around a hand, resulting in a negative image. The more common positive print was often made with pigment applied to the hand and transferred to the rock.

Groupings: Motifs and panels

Pictograph, southeastern Utah, attributed to Basketmaker period, Puebloan archaeological culture.

Traditionally, individual markings are called motifs and groups of motifs are known as panels. Sequences of panels are treated as archaeological sites. This method of classifying rock art however has become less popular as the structure imposed is unlikely to have had any relevance to the art's creators. Even the word 'art' carries with it many modern prejudices about the purpose of the features.

Rock art can be found across a wide geographical and temporal spread of cultures perhaps to mark territory, to record historical events or stories or to help enact rituals. Some art seems to depict real events whilst many other examples are apparently entirely abstract.

Shamanism Motif

Common features in rock art that are related to portraying shamans were bones and other skeletal remains on their coats. One reason for the bones would be that they were used as a type of armor for protecting the shaman on his journeys through different worlds. Devlet, the author of "Rock Art and the Material Culture of Siberian and Central Asian Shamanism" highlights, “Another interpretation of these skeletal costume elements explains them as representations of a shaman brought back to life after the dismemberment that occurs during the initiation process: the depicted bones thus refer to the wearer’s own skeleton” (43). The concept of death and revival is often associated with shamans and the way they are portrayed. The bones were usually on the back of the shaman’s jacket or used on the breast-piece.

Another important aspect used to distinguish shamans in rock art depictions is that they are wearing fringed fabric. There are differences in the lengths of the fringe and where on the shaman the fringe is located. In the rock art, the fringe was usually long single strands attached to different parts of the shaman’s body. The symbolism of the fringe can be interpreted in several ways. One example is, “The fringe on a shaman’s coat is an important element, which marks his or her ornithomorphic nature (i.e. the ability to transform into a bird or to gain its abilities such as the capacity for flight) ” (Devlet 44). The concept of fringe being correlated with flying was mainly used in rock art in the Altai, Tuva, and Mongolian regions.

A more mainstream characteristic is the detection of the shaman’s ritualistic drum. Even though there are different types, shapes, and images painted on the shaman’s drum, it is clearly depicted in the rock art. The range of decoration used on the drums varied from simplistic to innately elaborate. The resemblance is remarkably illustrated, “In the Altai region, images depicted on historical shamanic drums demonstrate a striking similarity with what is shown on the rock engravings” (Devlet 47).

Africa

Rock paintings from the Western Cape

At Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg, South Africa, now thought to be some 3,000 years old, the paintings by the San people who settled in the area some 8,000 years ago depict animals and humans, and are thought to represent religious beliefs.

Somalia has a large number of rock art found at sites across the country. The most prominent of these sites is the rock art recently discovered by French archaeologists in Laas Geel.

America

Mexico

The Rock Paintings of Sierra de San Francisco is the name given to prehistoric rock art found in the Sierra de San francisco region of Baja California, Mexico, created by a people referred to as Cochimi or Guachimis. There are some 250 sites which are located in the municipality of Mulege within the El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve in the state of Baja California Sur in Northern Mexico. Motifs include human figures, weapons, and animal species such as rabbit, puma, lynx, deer, wild goat/sheep, whale, turtle, tuna, sardine, octopus, eagle, and pelican; there are also abstract elements of various forms. The paintings vary in age from 1100 BC to AD 1300.

The paintings are noted for their high quality, extent, the variety and originality of human and animal representations, remarkable colors, and excellent state of preservation. The rock paintings of Sierra de San Francisco were nominated in 1989 and became a World Heritage Site in 1993.

United States

Asia

Europe

Ireland

Italy

Finland

Norway

Portugal

Spain

Sweden

Oceania

Australia

See also

Notes

  1. ^ E. Goodall, Proceedings and Transactions of the Rhodesian Scientific Association 41:57-62, 1946: "Domestic Animals in rock art"
  2. ^ E. Goodall, Proceedings and Transactions of the Rhodesian Scientific Association 42:69-74, 1949: "Notes on certain human representations in Rhodesian rock art"
  3. ^ H. M. Chadwick, Origin Eng. Nation xii. 306, 1907: "The rock-carvings at Tegneby"
  4. ^ H. A. Winkler, Rock-Drawings of Southern Upper Egypt I. 26, 1938: "The discovery of rock-drawings showing boats of a type foreign to Egypt."
  5. ^ H. G. Wells, Outl. Hist. I. xvii. 126/1, 1920: From rock engravings we may deduce the theory that the desert was crossed from oasis to oasis.
  6. ^ Deutsch, Rem. 177, 1874: "The long rock-inscription of Hamamât."
  7. ^ Encycl. Relig. & Ethics I. 822/2, 1908: "The rock-paintings are either stenciled or painted in outline."
  8. ^ Man No. 119. 178/2, 1939: "On one of the stalactite pillars was found a big round stone with traces of red paint on its surface, as used in the rock-pictures"
  9. ^ G. Moore, The Lost Tribes and the Saxons of the East, 1861, Title page: "with translations of Rock-Records in India."
  10. ^ Tylor, Early Hist. Man. v. 88, 1865, "and bush art or bushmen art."
  11. ^ Trust For African Rock Art, East Africa, common terminology, "Rock-sculptures may often be symbolic boundary marks."
  12. ^ "Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka". World Heritage Site. http://whc.unesco.org/pg.cfm?cid=31&id_site=925. Retrieved 2007-02-15. 

References

  • Malotki, Ekkehart and Weaver, Donald E. Jr., 2002, Stone Chisel and Yucca Brush: Colorado Plateau Rock Art, Kiva Publishing Inc., Walnut, CA, ISBN 1-885772-27-0 (cloth). For the "general public"; this book has well over 200 color prints with commentary on each site where the photos were taken; the organization begins with the earliest art and goes to modern times.
  • Rohn, Arthur H. and Ferguson, William M, 2006, Puebloan Ruins of the Southwest, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque NM, ISBN 0-8263-3970-0 (pbk, : alk. paper). Adjunct to the primary discussion of the ruins, contains color prints of rock art at the sites, plus interpretations.
  • Schaafsma, Polly, 1980, Indian Rock Art of the Southwest, School of American Research, Santa Fe, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque NM, ISBN 0-8263-0913-5. Scholarly text with 349 references, 32 color plates, 283 black and white "figures", 11 maps, and 2 tables.

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