Ten negative handprints in Fish Canyon, Bears Ears National Monument, Utah
If there is a single symbol that could stand for all of humanity it is the negative handprint. I've seen the negative handprint reproduced on 6 continents and across all ages of human creativity. From the Paleolithic to modern times the images persists in our visual vocabulary. They may well be the very first artistic expression. To me, they are the original 'selfie' the very first way that people recorded their passage. That urge to leave a visual mark that says "I was here" is uniquely human. Read more
Serpentine figure Painted Bluff, Marshall County Alabama circa AD 1400
Painted Bluff is one of the most significant open air rock art sites in the Southeastern United States. It's red ochre paintings occupy a towering, 400-foot high limestone bluff with commanding views of the Tennessee River. For centuries the site has acted as a beacon drawing prehistoric and historic travels along the Tennessee River corridor. Although often marred by spalling and historic graffiti, the site contains over 80 individual images.
"Painted Bluff Towers of the Tennessee River"
One of the most impressive is a long serpentine red ochre painting that overlays a previous and very faded circle. On top of both the circle and the serpentine figure is a clear human form.
Carbon 14 analysis of a river cane torch recovered from the bluff yields an approximate date of AD 1400 and the assumption is that most of the older painting come from that era. However, the bluff is a conspicuous stopping point and passageway along the river corridor. Painting and drawing clearly continue into modern times. Read more
Artists who created the ancient masterpieces that we appreciate today—cave paintings, murals on cliff walls, countless carvings, and other artifacts—left no written records about the worlds in which they lived. This often makes it difficult to know when they lived. Fortunately, modern technology has helped scientists develop several dating methods to accurately date ancient art sites.
Scientists used carbon 14 dating to determine that the charcoal used at Chauvet was over 30,000 years old
Petroglyphs in Comb Wash. Bears Ears National Monument, Utah
Utah's Bears Ears National Monument is a national treasure. Besides the area's fantastic natural beauty the Monument contains over 100,000 archeological sites. Many of you generously supported a scouting trip to the Bears Ears this spring. The images are now online here. Read more
Nampaweap Petroglyph Site Grand Canyon-Parashant Nat’l Monument, Mojave County Arizona
Recorded October 2016
Nampaweap is a very large petroglyph site in the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. Hundreds of individual petroglyphs cover the face of a lava flow at the head of Nampaweap canyon. The canyon is a natural coridor from the Colorado River to the Ponderosa pine forest on Mt Trumbull and the wetland around Nixon Spring.
There are Basketmaker engravings on the floor of this cave in Comb Wash in the new Bears Ears National Monument. The engravings themselves are pretty spectacular. Deer, anthropomorphs, animal tracks, foot prints all rendered in that peculiar basketmaker style. The location and the carvings are incredible and they speak to a very different time in this part of Utah.
Check out the 3D models (after the break) to get an idea of the density and complexity of the art on this cave floor.
Moonrise behind the Procession Panel, Comb Ridge, Utah
Recorded March 2017
The Procession Panel, San Juan County, Utah The 15-foot long panel depicts 179 human-like forms coming from three different directions and converging on a central circle. Other figures in the panel include mountain sheep, deer and/or elk and snakes. A few smaller panels are located along the cliff just below the main panel.
The Procession Panel in Comb Wash, San Juan Country Utah
The Panel is one of the most iconic rock art sites in the new Bears Ears National Monument. As such, modeling it was a primary objective of this year's visit to Utah. The model below was built using more than 200 DSLR images. It is best viewed in High Resolution.
The Bears Ears contains a stunning number of archeological sites. The monument is a 1.3 million acre open air museum. The area is central to the Dine, Ute, Hopi and Zuni tribes. There has been talk of rescinding the National Monument status. If public land and historic preservation are important to you please visit the Bears Ears Coalition and express your support for keeping the area protected.
A few weeks ago the wonderful Kate Parish wrote a fantastic piece about the Ancient art Archive for the Sewanee News (here).
One of the things we are doing with the Archive is trace humanity's spread across the planet. As we expanded out of Africa and into the what was then a new world we recorded what was important to us on rock and cave walls across the planet. It is the history of the first people, our people, told in the first person.
UT anthropologist and board member Jan Simek wonderfully sums up what we hope to accomplish.
“They are speaking, we are not able to listen to them just yet. We are grappling with ways to try and hear their words.”
It is a long haul, looking at all these sites across the planet and trying to help tease out that first story. But using new imaging and modeling techniques we have already begun to tease out new threads to this story.
Please sign up for our mailing list so we can keep you informed of our progress.