March 5, 2019 - No Comments!

Good News for the San Rafael Swell

Buckhorn Wash Pictograph Panel on the San Rafael Swell

Those of you who have been following the Ancient Art Archive's work are familiar with our efforts to document Barrier Canyon Style (BCS) artworks. BCS is one of North America's most enigmatic and evocative styles. It is known, primarily from the San Rafael Swell of Central Utah.

In general conservation news has been bad in Utah for the past few years. Both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monuments were significantly reduced. However, last month a mammoth public lands bill passed both the House and Senate that will increase protections on many National Lands.

Among many other things the bill adds 660,000 acres of wilderness designation to Emery County Utah, home of much of the San Rafael Swell. You can read more here.

The Rochester Rock Art Panel in Emery County Utah
The Rochester Rock Art Panel in Emery County Utah

January 29, 2019 - No Comments!

Pahranagat representational style

A Pahranagat representational style petroglyph in the Basin and Range National Monument.

Pahranagat representational style anthropomorphic figures are unique to the Pahranagat Valley of Southern Nevada. There are two types of figures; pecked oval bodies with large hands and box shaped, line drawn bodies. The later are sometimes depicted with atlatl spear throwers. Bow and arrow replaced the atlatl more than  1500 years ago in this part of the country so this offers a clues as to the images age.

A Pahranagat style anthropomorphic figures in Lincoln County Nevada. This style of anthropomorph is unique to the Pahranagat Valley and its immediate drainage.

Not knowing an engravings exact age is one of the mysteries of rock art. This style is particularly intriguing because it is such a localized phenomenon. It is interesting that there are other styles of art represented in the area including Great Basin Carved Abstract and  Freemont. Why are these images limited to this valley? We will likely never know. For more information about Nevada Rock art visit the Nevada Rock Art Foundation.

January 16, 2019 - No Comments!

Barrier Canyon Painting, San Juan County Utah

Barrier Canyon rock art in San Juan County Utah. BCS panels are believed to have been created during the archaic period (probably late archaic) and are estimated (from direct and indirect carbon 14 dates) to be somewhere in the range of 1500 to 4000 years old.

An enigmatic and evocative piece of Barrier Canyon Style (BCS) rock art in Southern Utah. Rock art is notoriously hard to date but his style of painting likely comes from the late archaic period of Southwestern Archeology (1500-4000 BP). There are a large handful of sites across Southern Utah (also into Colorado and Arizona) with a similar style. The large scale anthropomorphic figures that are often finely painted.

This is one of the smaller BCS panels in the area. Big sites like the Great Gallery cover hundreds of feet and many complex paintings.

BCS is one of my favorite styles of North American rock art. The scale and attention to detail speak to me. The figure in this panel is human-sized.

A detailed view of Barrier Canyon rock art in San Juan County Utah.

I'm working on a @natgo grant looking at rock art in some of our western public lands. It’s a project sponsored -in part- by the National Geographic Society. However, most of the funding is provided by donors to the Ancient Art Archive.

Please consider giving to help with our mission.

-Stephen Alvarez

San Juan County, Utah

 

October 1, 2018 - No Comments!

Grotte Pair-non-Pair, Aquitaine France

I visited Grotte Pair-non-Pair last week with a National Geographic travel group. I knew about the cave and its Aurignacian era engravings but honestly did not think that the engravings would be very impressive. Wow was I wrong!

The entrance door to cave Pair-non-Pair. It contains engravings of mammoth, horses, ibex and Megaloceros. The cave was identified in 1881 by archeologist François Daleau.

Pair-non-Pair is small, little more than a rock shelter but it contains a remarkable collection of engravings. Horses, aurochs, ibexes, mammoths, and a megaloceros are all engraved into the walls. There are faint remnants of red and black pigment on the engravings reminiscent of the Venus of Lassel. What is more remarkable is that the cave was also a living area. Fireplaces, stone tools, and discarded bones indicate that Pair-non-Pair was occupied for a period of 60,000 years. First occupants were undoubtedly Neanderthals beginning 80,000 years B.P. who were replaced by humans by the start of the Aurignacian 30,000 years B.P. Artwork in a Paleolithic living area is very rare.

The cave itself was found quite by accident in 1881 when a farmer went to recover a cow whos foot had become lodged in a hole in the pasture. Upon investigation, he found the chamber containing the engravings and called in archeologist François Daleau.

Read more

July 7, 2018 - No Comments!

New Ancient Art discovered in the Southern US

Stephen Alvarez works in one of the Unnamed Caves. Photo by Alan Cressler

The Ancient Art Archive has been very busy in the Southeast with the Unnamed Caves Initiative. The initiate brings to light significant Southern ceremonial cave art so that the deep art history of the region can be appreciated.

We have completed the initial documentation of what is one of the most significant art caves in the United States. Unnamed Cave 19 is located in the heart of the Southeast. Hundreds of feet of the cave’s ceiling are covered with faded but purposefully drawn 1,500-year-old figures.

The images are all but impossible to see standing in the cave but using high-tech 3D imaging we have brought art that was unknown back to life. The scale of the artwork is difficult to comprehend. There are life-sized anthropomorphic figures, full-sized bears, and birds, a 25-foot-long snake. It is truly a world class location.

Line drawings of figures identified on the ceiling of Unnamed Cave 19

The video below is a fly-through of the 3D model that the Archive has built. Line drawings of the art are superimposed on the ceiling to better visualize their position. This is a very preliminary video. There are thousands of engravings on the ceiling.

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June 24, 2018 - No Comments!

A nearly 1 million year old hominid fossil in Europe

A recent study of a hominid tooth found in the Atapuerca Mountains of Spain has confirmed through direct dating that the fossilized remains are nearly 1 million years old. The dating estimate is between 750,000 and 950,000 years before present. It is consistent with sediment deposits at the site but represents the first direct date from a hominid that old.

The ESR dating and challenges are explained in Phys.org here.

The Atapuerca Mountains have continued to yield very interesting clues about the first hominid inhabitants of Europe. While this new discovery confirms previous associated dates it is exciting in that it opens up the possibility that there will be other direct dates from Hominid fossils both in and out of Europe.

 

March 26, 2018 - No Comments!

The story of human evolution is written in ochre

Mixing ochre paint under a tree in Omungunda Namibia.

"Smeared on shells, piled in graves, stamped and stenciled on cave walls from South Africa to Australia, Germany to Peru, ochre has been a part of the human story since our very start — and perhaps even earlier.

For decades, researchers believed the iron-rich rocks used as pigment at prehistoric sites had symbolic value. But as archaeologists turn up evidence of functional uses for the material, they’re realizing early humans’ relationship with ochre is more complex."

read more in Discover Magazine here

March 24, 2018 - No Comments!

New light on human evolution

New light on human evolution

Groundbreaking research puts human evolution in a new perspective as significant archaeological findings reveals sign of modern human behavior 300 000 years ago.

"This discovery suggests that the earliest African Homo sapiens populations were already cognitively, socially and technologically complex", says Francesco d’Errico. He is a professor at UiB and Principal Investigator at the Centre for Early Sapiens Behavior (SapienCE). He is also part of the international team behind the remarkable findings in Kenya, and one of the co-authors of the article that has been published in Science, covering these discoveries.

Sophisticated early life

It is not every day that investigators stumble over findings that can change the understanding of human history, but these particular discoveries may be just one of these great moments. Francesco d’Errico is not denying the fact that these discoveries are significant.

Continue Reading on UIB.NO

March 1, 2018 - No Comments!

Oldest Paintings in the World now over 65,000 years old

Gallery C of La Pasiega cave in Monte Castillo.

The big news this week in Anthropology is that a species besides humans seems to have painted. Dirk Hoffman and Allistair Pike have published an article in the journal Science that dates the paintings to well over 65,000 years ago. That is 25,000 years older than previously dated art from Spain and Indonesia.

65,000 years ago the only known species that could have made the paintings are Neanderthals. The dates come from three caves widely separated in Spain. This is a stunning development in the world of art history. Hoffman and Pike explain their results in the video below.

You can reach the Science article here.

In this video from National Geographic shot in 2014 Allistair Pike discusses his belief that Neanderthals could have made art.

February 26, 2018 - No Comments!

Unnamed Caves

 

Stephen Alvarez works in one of the Unnamed Caves. Photo by Alan Cressler

February has been a very busy month for the Ancient Art Archive. In addition to modeling a Cherokee Syllabary cave, we have been hard at work on the Unnamed Caves project. The Unnamed Caves refers to board member Jan Simek's 30 years of work documenting the rock and cave art of the Southern Cumberland Plateau. When he started the work cave art was unknown in the region. Today he has over 100 sites. They are called the Unnamed Caves not because they lack names but to protect the sites by keeping them anonymous.

With a grant from the Lyndhurst Foundation, we have begun working in one of the most complex unnamed caves. This site has over 100 meters of finely traced mud glyphs on the ceiling. Most of them are so faint as to be almost invisible to the naked eye. However, using a 3D modeling technique called photogrammetry we can make these difficult to see drawings visible. The technique is the very definition of painstaking. We shoot thousands of high resolution, overlapping images of the cave then use computer software to triangulate each pixel is three-dimensional space. We are six thousand images into the project with another six thousand to go.

So far the results have been spectacular. In proof of concept modeling, we have already uncovered images that are unknown in Southeastern iconography. The drawings come from the middle woodland period (200 BCE-500 CE). This is a time that we don't know a lot about in the Southern Cumberland Plateau. This cave may represent the most complete set of iconography from that era.

Please join the Ancient Art Archive and help support our work exploring and preserving humanity's oldest stories.