Tag Archives: petroglyphs

How to Make a Petroglyph

Replica sandstone petroglyph made by Christine Stathers. Photo credit: Stathers.

I’ve often said the graduate student work is the backbone of the archaeological discipline in British Columbia.  Today I get to report on more student work – but this time its a fascinating study done by an undergraduate student at Camosun College here in Victoria.  The student, Christine Stathers, did an experimental archaeology project for her Anthropology 240 course, and she kindly agreed that I could post some of the results here.  The results are highly informative for our interpretation of petroglyphs, I think.

Continue reading

Advertisements

One more update on the Museum of Vancouver’s Petroglyph.

Interior Petroglyph now at Museum of Vancouver, while still in Stanley Park ca. 1980. Source: DanLeen.org

I have posted several times recently on a superb interior petroglyph boulder languishing in a shady courtyard at the Museum of Vancouver.  Together with Heather Pringle’s posts on this topic, we seem to have caught the attention of the Board of Directors of the Museum.

One of the Directors, Anthropology Professor Bruce Miller of UBC, called me the other day.  He consented to me posting notes from our conversation.   Continue reading

March ASBC Talk: GvonP on UP Art

UVIC's own, Langford's own, Genevieve von Petzinger. Source: Goldstream News-Gazette

I had the pleasure of serving on this month’s ASBC speaker’s graduate committee and I know if you are in the Victoria area you will be entertained and educated at this talk – which unfortunately I can’t make due to pre-existing public speaking commitments of my own.  Genevieve has recently been featured on the cover of New Scientist magazine and there has been something of a global storm of publicity stemming from her Master’s research.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, VICTORIA CHAPTER

March 2010 Monthly Meeting: Tuesday, March 16, 2010, 7:30 pm

Pacific Forestry Centre, 506 West Burnside Road.

The talk is free and open to the public.

Genevieve von Petzinger

Making the Abstract Concrete: The Place of Geometric Signs in French Upper Paleolithic Cave Art.

In Paleolithic cave art, geometric signs tend to outnumber figurative images and yet, they remain relatively understudied. To address this gap in our knowledge, I compiled a digital catalogue of all known geometric signs found in parietal art in France, and then trended the results looking for patterns of continuity and change over time and space. I focused on parietal art, as I could be certain of its provenance, and picked France as my region due to its abundance of decorated sites and its natural boundaries of water and mountain ranges. The database is searchable by a variety of criteria such as sign category, method of production, date range, site type, geographical coordinates and region. It is now being converted into an online resource. To provide a visual dimension, it includes a selection of linked photographs and reproductions of the different signs. In this thesis, I detail the chronological and regional patterning in sign type and frequency and the implications of these patterns for understanding where, when and why the making of these signs was meaningful to the Pleistocene peoples who created them.

(editor’s note: you can download her thesis free of charge here)

Biography Having been interested in the cognitive evolution of modern humans since her undergraduate days at the University of Victoria, Genevieve von Petzinger was finally able to explore this in more depth at the Master’s level. Working with Dr April Nowell, again at the University of Victoria, she was able to pursue this interest, and received her MA in June 2009. Using the geometric signs of Upper Paleolithic rock art, Genevieve discovered some very interesting information about these early examples of symbolic behaviour, and presented her findings at the Paleoanthropology Society meeting in Chicago, Illinois in April 2009. This presentation was the catalyst for her research being featured as the Feb. 20th, 2010 cover story in New Scientist magazine. This exposure then led to a strong media follow-up, which included an interview on the Discovery Channel, a feature in the Tuttoscienze supplemental of La Stampa in Italy, an article in the Globe and Mail, and a full page feature in the Vancouver Sun, as well many other popular press articles and radio interviews in French and English, both nationally and internationally. While being slightly overwhelmed by all the attention, Genevieve has been very excited about the positive response, and is just thrilled that other people want to hear her talk about her favourite subject!

For information, phone 384-6059 or e-mail asbcvictoria@gmail.com

Media Links

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20527481.200-the-writing-on-the-cave-wall.html?full=true

http://www.timescolonist.com/news/UVic+researcher+taps+into+cave+language/2599510/story.html

More views of the Museum of Vancouver petroglyph problem

Petroglyph from Lone Creek Cabin, Stl’atl’imx Territory, now in an outdoor courtyard at the Museum of Vancouver. Source: Squamish-Lil'wat Centre.

I’ve posted before on the large petroglyph boulder from the central Fraser River that is being kept in a sub-standard context at the Museum of Vancouver.  I found some more pictures of it, from the website of the Squamish-Lil’wat Cultural Centre (which is excellent).  These additional pictures confirm there is a serious conservation issue at the Museum of Vancouver.  I don’t want to beat a dead horse but I am still mad about this situation. Continue reading

dSpace: Adams on Gabriola Petroglyphs

Gabriola Petroglyph Design Elements. Source: Adams 2003.

One recent M.A. thesis I was really looking forward to reading is by Amanda Adams entitled Visions cast on stone : a stylistic analysis of the petroglyphs of Gabriola Island, B.C., from UBC Anthropology 2003, and available for free download here.

I was particularly interested to read the instructions she received on proper deportment when visiting the rock art:

Sites were visited in a manner and with a personal code of conduct adhering to Snuneymuxw wishes. Petroglyph sites were not visited at either dawn or dusk. A respectful demeanor was expected as was an “open heart and mind” (Bill Seward, Snuneymuxw elder, personal communication 2002). I was asked to give my full attention to the petroglyphs and their sacredness, not allowing daily distractions to interfere with my concentration on the ancient imagery. These expectations were met to the best of my ability. (18-19)

While many archaeologists are under the impression that there is little to no ethnographic information about petroglyphs, I have long felt that more likely such knowledge is private or highly privileged and not readily shareable.  In this self-serving sense, it was gratifying to see that Adams was able to record some such information:

Snuneymuxw Elder, Bill Seward, asserts that many petroglyphs were made by shamans, hunters and vision seekers (personal communication 2002) while Elder Ellen White maintains that the carvings were places where people both sought and gained power. She explained that “men would be stripped – even in cold weather and laid on top of each petroglyph – learning the spirit world, connecting to the area.” She also noted that the pitted ‘dots’ surrounding several of the carvings were “points of access”, places where one could dip their fingers into pools of “energy” and reservoirs of strength (Archaeology Forum group tour 2002).  (p 13)

Another welcome aspect of Adams’ thesis is her direct comparison to portable art.  Continue reading

Lousy conservation at the Vancouver Museum?

Shoddy conservation of magnificent petroglyph boulder at the Vancouver Museum. Screenshot from VM website.

For some reason mistreatment of rock art just makes me spitting mad.  I posted the other day about a magnificent petroglyph boulder that was removed from its home on the central Fraser River near Lillooet in 1926.  Bad enough that this work of art was ripped from its setting to be a curio in an urban park.  Petroglyphs are not ornaments for your outdoor rock garden any more than they are lifestyle amenities deployed as advertising copy, even if you are a museum.

Now my spies tell me that this petroglyph boulder was moved to the Vancouver Museum in 1992.  Pictures of the boulder on the VM website show it to be in absolutely appalling shape.  It is covered with moss, the designs are visibly eroded and faint, there are signs of exfoliation, and the large crack seen in 1926 seems to be getting larger.   The Vancouver Museum appears to be keeping this treasure in a damp, shady, spot in the outdoors (as they say, it is in a “lower level garden courtyard”) and there is no sign of any attention to basic, fundamental conservation responsibilities. They even have the gall to note in their website description “Today archaeologists are reluctant to reveal the locations of petrogylphs, lest they be disturbed.”  Well I am revealing the location of this petroglyph, which is being disturbed by careless curation!

Seriously: this boulder is one of only a few petroglyphs from that part of the province, where pictographs are much more common.  It was in pristine condition in 1926.  Now it is a moss-ridden crumbling mess.  This boulder is a cultural masterpiece.  It is a provincial treasure.  It is a national treasure.  It is of international significance.  And yet it is being absolutely neglected by a leading cultural institution.  Imagine an Emily Carr painting being treated so poorly.  Imagine a Bill Reid sculpture  treated so shabbily.  It would never happen.  Yet this boulder is as important, is MORE important, and is consigned to rot away metres from state of the art curatorial facilities which are being devoted to white leather pant suits (!!).  It is astonishing to me that they put this boulder on the web at all, suggesting that they don’t see a problem and are therefore unworthy to be in possession of it.  They should make arrangements immediately to have it transferred to a suitable institution or have it returned to its original setting, in what I take to be St’at’imc territory

Vancouver Museum, you have a responsibility of professional stewardship.  Are you living up to it?

Note the eroded engravings and extensive moss/algae cover. Source: VM website screenshot.

The boulder in the early 1930s, soon after it was brought to Stanley Park. Note the crispness of the designs and the lack of moss.

Rock Art on Gabriola Island in 1792

Descanso Bay Rock Art, 1792. Source: U. Washington

From the University of Washington, an unexpected image of a large Gabriola Island rockshelter containing rock art, entititled:

Northwest Coast carvings on cliff near Descanso Bay, Gabriola Island, British Columbia, in engraving made 1792.

Cardero, Jose, b. 1767 or 8

Notes: Photograph of engraving of explorers and indians viewing a carved head and other petroglyphs on the side of a cliff. The caption says it is a view of a natural gallery, one hundred feet long, and ten feet wide near Descanso Bay.

Caption on image: Vista de una galeria natural, ce cien pies de largo y diez de ancho, en la inmediacion del puerto del Descanso, en el estrecho de Juan de Fuca Image from Alessandro Malaspina’s Viaje politico-cientifico alrededor del mundo, 1885, f.p. 200

I presume this is the “Malaspina Galleries” near the ferry terminal – I didn’t know there was rock art there though and maybe there isn’t, anymore.  Perhaps this place, or this one? Or, perhaps the unusual pitted and pocked natural sandstone fooled the Spanish, though it sure looks like there is a large image in the middle of that engraving.   Quick, Gabriolans, trot down there and check it out.

Malaspina Galleries, Gabriola Island. Photo: Kevin Oke.