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The 4,000 year-old decorated dolmen discovered in Israel
Image credit Gonen Sharon, Tel Hai College
 
Ginger Perales, writing in the New Historian, reports on the discovery of a decorated dolmen in the Galilee area of Israel –
 
Archaeologists working in upper Galilee, near Kibbutz Shamir, have unearthed an unusual dolmen believed to be over 4,000-years-old. A type of megalithic tomb with a single chamber, a dolmen is typically comprised of at least two large vertical stones that support a flat capstone which lies horizontally on top of them (like a table).
 
Discovered in a large field of over 400 dolmens dating back to the Intermediate Bronze Age, several factors cause this structure to stand out, including its large size, the structure that surrounds it, and most intriguingly, the artistic decorations that are etched into its ceiling.
 
More here.
 
 
 
Side view of the south-eastern chamber looking south-west
 
The University of Bristol News reports on the complex prehistoric patterns discovered around the site of ancient Welsh burial chamber –
 
A team of archaeologists, led by a researcher from the University of Bristol, has uncovered the remains of a possible Stonehenge-type prehistoric earthwork monument in a field in Pembrokeshire.
 
Members of the Welsh Rock art Organisation have been investigating the area around the Neolithic burial chamber known as Trellyffaint – one of a handful of sites in western Britain that has examples of prehistoric rock art.
 
The site of Trellyffaint dates back at least 6,000 years and has been designated a Scheduled Monument. It is in the care of Welsh heritage agency Cadw. The site comprises two stone chambers – one of which is relatively intact. Each chamber is set within the remains of an earthen cairn or mound which, due to ploughing regimes over the centuries, have been slowly uncovered.
 
More here.
 
 
A little-known rock covered in Buddhist carvings in Sichuan Province, south-west China, is said to be all that remains of a temple complex
Image credit Newssc.org.
 
Chen Binglin, writing in the South China Morning Post, reports on the damage being done to the 1,000 year-old carvings of Buddhas in south-west China –
 
A 1,000-year-old giant boulder covered with carved images of the Buddha statues has been severely damaged due to government neglect in southwest China, according to the official news website of Sichuan province. Local officials say they did not protect the site because they could not find any writings on the rock to tell them when it was created, Newsssc.org reported.
 
 
Detail of the One Thousand Buddhas
Image credit Newssc.org.
 
The intricate carvings were created between the mid-Tang Dynasty, more than 1,000 years ago, to the Qing Dynasty, according to archaeologists. Some farmers took rocks with carvings from the site to build or decorate their houses, archaeologists said. The main cause of damage to the relic was vandalism, although serious weathering also played an important role due to the lack of protection.
 
More here.
 
 
One of thousands of rock engravings made over a period of some 30,000 years by the aboriginal peoples of the Murujuga Peninsula of Western Australia
Images courtesy Dr Ken Mulvaney
 
As the United Kingdom celebrates Australian Indigenous heritage at the British Museum and as Sotheby’s London Indigenous Australian Art auction achieves record prices, back in Australia the Western Australian Government silently moves to deregister Aboriginal sacred sites.
 
“The Ngarluma and Yindjibarndi people are deeply concerned about the effects of the proposed development on the Burrup Peninsula. As the traditional owners, we have a spiritual connection given to us by the Mingkala and a responsibility handed down to us by our ancestors to ensure the cultural heritage values of the Burrup are protected for future generations”.
 
Pilbara Native Title Service, June 2002
 
Once Australia is erased it can never be put back. It will be lost forever. To us this is an enormous sadness. When I speak to Wong-goo-tt-oo elder and law man Wilfred Hicks about the Murujuga situation there is great sadness in his voice too and we should all think about the cultural grief and suffering created by the destruction of culture and heritage in Australia. It is a crime against humanity.
 
Peter Hylands
 
Read more here.
 
 
The XIX International Rock Art Conference IFRAO 2015
Symbols in the Landscape: Rock Art and its Context
 
The University of Extremadura, the Institute of Prehistoric Studies (ACINEP) and the Patrimonio & ARTE and CUPARQ (Culture, Heritage and Archaeology) research groups are pleased to invite researchers, specialists, lecturers, curators, managers, cultural heritage professionals and all those interested to the XIX International Conference of the International Federation of Rock Art Organizations (IFRAO), which takes place from 31 August to 4 September 2015 in the city of Cáceres (Extremadura, Spain).
 
Cáceres is a charming historic-artistic city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the autonomous community of Extremadura. The surroundings, on the Iberian Peninsula’s west, are a fortunate part of southwestern Europe where paintings and engravings of the main artistic cycles of the area’s prehistory and protohistory, from the Palaeolithic to the Iron age, have been preserved. An abundance of shelters with schematic paintings in a series of exceptionally well-preserved natural spaces are of particular interest. In this setting, with hospitality characteristic of our country’s people, we shall provide the appropriate atmosphere to encourage the study and reflection on some truly universal symbolic creations existing through the ages and in virtually every corner of the planet.
 
Details here.
   
 
The Saldyar Valley in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia were archaeologists have discovered a stunning alfresco gallery of prehistoric art
©
The Siberian Times
 
Will Stewart, writing for the MailOnline, reports on the stunning prehistoric art that has been discovered by archaeologists in the Altai Mountains of Siberia –
 
Archaeologists in Siberia have begun uncovering an extraordinary alfresco gallery of prehistoric art high in the 4,506-metre tall Altai Mountains. While the region is famed for petroglyphs (rock engravings), new finds are being made in the hidden and rarely-visited Saldyar valley, close to the fast-flowing Katun River. Here beneath the densely-wooded slopes they are discovering remarkable rock pictures dating back 5,000 years, close to Russia’s border with China and Mongolia.
 
The Altai Mountains in southern Siberia are one of the great undiscovered tourist destinations, featuring breathtaking lakes and peaks, with many signs of the ancient lost world, such as burial mounds, standing stones and the exhibition of petroglyphs, many from the Bronze and Iron ages. Many of the carvings are found on rocks that form a symbolic rock garden, with the sun’s beams helping to illuminate the artistic work and making them appear similar to photograph negatives. According to Altai legend, the location of these megaliths was a result of the mythical hero Sartaksakpay, who is said to have jokingly changed the direction of the rivers and scattered the mountain valleys with huge rocks.
 
Archaeologists studying the petroglyphs found that the ancient artists had several favourite images, including the Siberian mountain goat, which has always been seen as a symbol of success and good luck as well as being good hunting prey. Another of the most popular images at Saldyar is the long horned bull, a symbol of a bygone era that once roamed in Ancient Egypt, Mycenaean Greece and Central Asia.
 
Full MailOnline article here.
   
 
 
The Beşparmak Dağları, known as “Latmos” in antiquity, is one of the most fascinating and archaeologically richest regions in western Turkey. As early as prehistoric times the Latmos was already revered as a sacred mountain in Anatolia. Upon its peak the Old Anatolian weather god together with a local mountain deity were worshipped. The mountain peak was the centre of weather and fertility rituals. Despite socio-cultural changes that transformed religious concepts, the cultic tradition there continued into Ottoman times.
 
The beauty of the rock landscape and the cultural monuments that it inspired are now greatly endangered by increased stone quarrying in the area. For several decades feldspar, a rock-forming mineral used for the production of ceramics, glass and sanitary installations world-wide, has been quarried in the Beşparmak. This exploitation is causing the drastic metamorphosis of the Latmos from a sacred mountain into a source for bathroom installations! Tax exemptions and lax mining regulations, especially in the past few years, have enabled quarrying feldspar to expand dramatically, so that sites are threatened of the most important group of archaeological monuments on the Latmos: the prehistoric rock paintings.
 
Discovered in 1994 by the Berlin archaeologist Dr. Anneliese Peschlow-Bindokat, these rock paintings, dating to the 6th and 5th millennia B.C., belong to the recent extraordinary discoveries in prehistoric archaeology in Anatolia. The repertory of images focuses on family scenes and reflects the changes that occurred in society with the onset of sedentism. The themes and message conveyed by this imagery are unparalleled in the Mediterranean sphere and the Near East.
 
Please consider signing the Save Mount Latmos petition here.
   

A guest feature by Roy Goutté. Text and images © Roy Goutté

An elevated view of the Trippet Stones taken in 2012 with Hawkstor farm in the background

After visiting King Arthur’s Hall the banked enclosure of uncertain age on King Arthur’s Down near St Breward, Cornwall, on the 12 June 2014 with fellow enthusiast Peter Castle, we decided on the way back to make a fleeting visit to the Trippet Stones stone circle on Manor Common. I’m very glad we did now otherwise we could have missed out on something quite interesting!

After wandering around the circle for a few minutes we came across two smaller stones that on first impression had that look that suggests that one part was the remaining stump of an upright, and the other, a broken section off it! In this instance however, on closer inspection, they were both found to be just lying on the surface or embedded just beneath, but neither seriously earth-fast! Where they came from I don’t know but the likelihood is that they are nothing to do with the circle at all and ‘just stones’ placed there at some stage.

However, on looking more closely at them, we noticed that one, the more secure of the two, had what appeared to be a form of horizontal and vertical crisscross carving on its stepped top. Some may even call it rock-art, something I’ll admit to knowing very little about, but maybe a follower of The Heritage Trust will.

It can be seen in the photo that both ‘steps’ in the stone appear to have been carved or ‘decorated’, but a more interesting point to me at the moment is the fact that the bottom and top halves of the stone have a fracture or fault running between them threatening to split the stone into two separate halves. If it did, it may well provide us with the answer as to whether the lower section of ‘grid-lines’ are natural or man-made. Obviously if the grid did run completely through the stone then the carving would be a natural feature, but if not…?

There must be many ways in which a stone can become ‘marked’ accidentally, one being when dragged out of the earth by a tractor when ploughing, but in this case I would have thought it unlikely, as the crisscrossed markings on the lower step go right up to the rising side of that step. 

The fracture or fault line clearly seen running through the stone between top and bottom. If separated, would it reveal more of the ‘carving’ or just a plain surface? One action could solve an archaeological mystery, the other, damage it irrevocably!

Do the ‘grid-lines’ continue through the fracture or stop against the face of the upper section as seen from above? If it is just a random stone and not part of the setting, should it be split as one would when fossil hunting to prove it one way or another or left well alone?

 

The Trefael Stone

BBC News South West Wales reports yesterday that a ritual burial site in Pembrokeshire may have been in use 10,000 years ago – almost twice as far back as expected –

The Trefael Stone near Nevern was reclassified as a Stone Age burial chamber after its capstone was studied. But a three-year dig [headed Dr George Nash] has since found beads dating back much further, perhaps to the Neolithic or Mesolithic periods.

For centuries the Trefael standing stone was largely disregarded as just one of hundreds of similar Bronze Age monuments. Yet closer analysis of its distinctive cup marks now indicate that they loosely match the pattern of stellar constellations. This would only make sense if, rather than standing upright, it had originally been laid flat as a capstone which would have once been supported by a series of upright stones.

Dr Nash believes the Trefael Stone in fact topped a Neolithic burial chamber, probably a portal dolmen, which is one of western Britain’s earliest burial monument types. “Many years ago Trefael was considered just a simple standing stone lying in a windswept field, but the excavation programme has proved otherwise,” he said. “It suggests that Trefael once lay in the heart of a ritualised landscape that was in operation for at least 5-6,000 years.

Full article here. See also the Welsh Rock-art Organization (WRAO) and our earlier features here and here.

 

 
Ancient cave paintings of white-lipped peccaries discovered by researchers in Brazil’s Pantanal and Cerrado biome
Image credit: Liana Joseph/WCS
 
The Wildlife Conservation Society reports on 8 November 203 that –
 
Researchers tracking white-lipped peccaries in Brazil got the surprise of a lifetime. The team discovered ancient cave drawings made by hunter-gatherer societies thousands of years ago. The remarkable drawings are diverse and add significantly to our knowledge of rock art from the Cerrado plateau region.
 
The extraordinary discovery was made on Brazil’s Cerrado plateau in 2009, while the team was conducting surveys and collecting data on the pig-like peccaries. These animals are important indicators of healthy forests but are sadly disappearing from the area due to deforestation and hunting.
 
More here.
  
 
An example of Quinkan (an Australian Aboriginal mythological being) rock art
Source Wikimedia. Image credit Michael Gardner
 
Some of the world’s most extensive and ancient rock painting galleries surround the little town of Laura, Queensland,  North-East Australia. “Aboriginal people have made their home in the Laura River valley for at least 50,000 years. In the wet season, they would camp under rock shelters on the high ground. This is where their rock art can be found, some of which are available for public viewing. (Wikipedia).
 
The Australian however quotes IP Shanks as saying that –
 
GINA Rinehart wants to explore for minerals near Laura (“Rock art now: writing on the wall if Gina digs”, 2-3/3). Forget it Gina, those art galleries are 40,000 years old, compared to Stonehenge, which is only 5000 years old.
 
Can anyone imagine the British allowing mining exploration anywhere near Stonehenge? The Laura art work is the oldest in the world and belongs to all. The giant horse cave is truly awe-inspiring and probably the first indigenous representation of a horse in Australia. What Australia urgently needs is legislation to control its rapacious miners.
 
More here.
 
 

Andrea Hahn writing for The Southern reports today that –

CARBONDALE – Stonehenge is much closer to home, but some of the sites a group of British archaeologists want to see are in Southern Illinois.

The Prehistoric Society Tour, a British archaeological society based in London and led by British archaeologist Pete Topping, includes two Southern Illinois sites on a whirlwind tour of prehistoric sites in the Eastern United States. Southern Illinois University Carbondale archaeologist and prehistoric rock art expert Mark J. Wagner will guide the group through the Piney Creek Rock Art site and to the Millstone Bluff site. The tour group will be in Southern Illinois on Thursday, June 21, beginning mid-morning.

“I’ve worked as an archaeologist in Southern Illinois for 20 years, and this is the first time I’ve been asked to guide a tour group of British archaeologists,” Wagner said. “I think this whole thing is pretty cool, that we have archaeologists from as far away as Great Britain that know we have sites worth seeing in Southern Illinois and want to visit them. It is definitely something out of the ordinary.”

Wagner is the right person to lead the group. He is the author of an official survey of prehistoric rock art in Illinois commissioned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and has made the study of the rock art his research specialty.

Full article here.

 

Adam Stanford is an archaeological photographer in the UK. He is in need of funding for his field trip to record the excavations and archaeology at the Ness of Brodgar during the field work season of July-August 2012.

More here.

 

 
The Trefael Stone. Image credit Archaeology Safaris UK
 
The Western Telegraph reports yesterday that –
 
Rare finds have prompted archaeologists to rewrite the history of an ancient north Pembrokeshire stone. The Trefael Stone, a scheduled ancient monument in a Nevern field, was originally thought to be an ancient standing stone, but is actually the capstone of a 5,500-year-old tomb, according to new research from a Bristol University archaeologist. Dr George Nash and colleagues’ excavations at the site indicate that the 1.2m high stone once covered a small burial chamber, probably a portal dolmen, Wales’ earliest Neolithic burial-ritual monument type.
 
The stone has multiple cupmarks, circular holes gouged into its surface associated with ritual burial activity in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. As the first archaeologists to fully investigate the site, Dr Nash and his colleagues Thomas Wellicome and Adam Stanford found a further 30 cupmarks of varying size and quality on the stone, along with an array of prehistoric artefacts that led the team to suggest that this site was more than just a standing stone.
 
Full article here.
 
 
 
Example of one of the Fugoppe cave’s more than 200 prehistoric engravings. The engravings include shaman-like humans with horns or wings, as well as boats, fish, whales and four-legged beasts
Photo courtesy of the Yochi Town Board of Education, Hokkaido
 
 
Writing in The Japan Times on Sunday, 17 August 2003, Mark Hudson reports that –
 

Art is part of what makes us human. Primitive or otherwise, though, it is not only about painting pretty pictures, but also about the complex use of symbols and forms of language.

An Australian archaeologist once told me that he had listened to an Aboriginal man talk for three hours about the meaning of a bark painting he had made. What to the uninitiated may have appeared to be no more than an attractive but random series of dots and lines was, the awed archaeologist admitted, in fact part of a complex web of stories and ideas.

Despite the centrality of art to the human experience, however, the archaeological record of prehistoric art is rather patchy. While the renowned paleolithic cave paintings of southwestern France or the rock art of Australia are outstanding examples of prehistoric art, there are many areas of the world where the remains of such early art don’t exist — or haven’t yet been discovered.

Japan is one such region: Here, evidence of early prehistoric art is sparse. This is despite the fact that more than 5,000 paleolithic sites have been found to date in Japan — a huge number compared with many other parts of the world. Where Japan really comes into its own, of course, is with the ceramic arts of the Jomon Period that followed the Paleolithic Age, dating from around 8,000 B.C. through to the dawn of the Yayoi Period around 400 B.C.

Full article here.

 

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