June 10, 2021 - Comments Off on Rochester Rock art panel vandalized!

Rochester Rock art panel vandalized!

Three is more bad news for rock art in Utah. The Rochester rock art panel was vandalized last month (May 2021). We were recording images of the panel for a coming VR model May 4-7, the vandalism happened after that (here).

We have updated this 3D model to show the location of some of the graffiti.

The Rochester Panel is a Fremont and Barrier Reef style petroglyph panel depicting human and animal figures and geometric designs etched into the red-varnished sandstone of the San Rafael Swell overlooking Muddy Creek. 2,000 years to 700 years before the present. Iti s an enigmatic panel in terms of size, style and location.

Given the tremendous visitation the panel receives it is surprising that someone was alone at the site long enough to vandalize it at all. If you are reading this you don't need to be told, but please visit rock art sites with respect. They are not only great works of art, but they are also the living heritage of the descendent communities.

April 29, 2021 - Comments Off on Two acts of vandalism in Moab, Utah

Two acts of vandalism in Moab, Utah

Two acts of vandalism happened to rock art near Moab last week.

Birthing Rock before the vandalism, Image by Alan Cressler

Near Moab a climber intentionally bolted through a rock art panel. This has been widely reported on social media and in the outdoor recreation world. The climb is called the Sunshine Slabs. The bolts were removed by other climbers, but the holes that remain and will hasten erosion of the rock art panel.

The offender’s defense was that he was trying to make the very easier (5.3) climb even more accessible. It is important to note that even though this happened on public land, it is illegal make permanent changes to the public land without permits. It’s the same as mining for gold or building a road without permits, its illegal. The culprit is known and is presumably being dealt with by the BLM who manages the site. Read more (here).

A much more egregious act of vandalism also occurred near Moab. Birthing Rock, a well-known and extraordinary panel, was tagged with a white supremist slogan and pornography. There aren’t words to express the outrage we feel at the Archive over this desecration.

The Birthing Rock vandal is not known, and the BLM has offered a $10,000 reward for information (here).  

That both acts of vandalism happened near Moab is upsetting but not particularly surprising. Moab has experienced an explosion of visitation but funding for land management has been at best flat. There is a lack of resources for enforcement in the BLM Moab field office. It is easy for bad actors like these two vandals destroy important cultural heritage with relative impunity.

As more people go into the desert incidents like these will be more common. The only reasonable thing we can do is record the sites now and try to educate people about their importance.

April 7, 2021 - Comments Off on “Irreplaceable” 1,000-year-old rock art vandalized in Georgia

“Irreplaceable” 1,000-year-old rock art vandalized in Georgia

The Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia is reporting that the Track Rock Gap rock art site has been vandalized (USA Today). Track Rock Gap is one of 3 heavily engraved soapstone petroglyph sites in the mountains of Georgia and North Carolina.

The sites are tied to the Cherokee and Creek nations. The best known of these soapstone sites is Judaculla Rock, seen here as a 3D model.

Judaculla Rock, Jackson County, North Carolina by Ancient Art Archive on Sketchfab

All pre contact story written on the landscape are irreplacable. Vandalism at Track Rock Gap is deeply sad.


Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Track Rock Gap page

Judaculla Rock, NC

Alan Cressler's photos of Track Rock Gap

April 2, 2021 - Comments Off on Altamira Cave, Spain

Altamira Cave, Spain

Spain's Altamira is known for some of the most pristine examples of Paleolithic cave paintings. The bulls painted on the ceiling are at least 14,000 years old, and with new dating techniques, archaeologists have determined that painting first started in this chamber more than 34,000 years ago.

Stephen Alvarez takes photographs of a team dating the paintings inside Altamira cave.
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March 20, 2021 - Comments Off on Shooting the Milky Way and Rock Art

Shooting the Milky Way and Rock Art

A Paranagant anthropomorphic figure at Shaman's Knob at Mt Irish Archaeological District.

One of the most common questions that I get asked about photography is how do you shoot images like this where you can see the Milky Way?

The Shooting Gallery Archaeological District in the Basin and Range National Monument. The Shooting Gallery was an archaic kill site. Begining 5,000 years ago the enclosed valley was used to drive game animals into and harvest them in large numbers.

How do you make images where you can see the rock art but also stars and the milky way, images like the time-lapse sequence on our home page?

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March 14, 2021 - Comments Off on Chauvet Pont d’Arc the discovery of 36,000-year-old art

Chauvet Pont d’Arc the discovery of 36,000-year-old art

27 years ago, a team of explorers lead by Jean-Marie Chauvet squeezed through a tiny rock opening in the gorge of the Ardèche River in Southern France.

An aerial view of the gorge of the Ardèche with its natural bridge. Chauvet cave is in the cliff on the left side of the abandoned oxbow.

Inside, they discovered a previously unknown cave.

A portion of the Horse Panel in Chauvet Cave, France.

Unknown to modern humanity, that is.

A detailed photograph of 2 woolly rhinoceros on the wall of Chauvet pont d'Arc cave in France.

They obviously weren’t the cave’s first human visitors, for artwork of unimaginable antiquity covered the walls.

a 3D model of the lion panel of Chauvet cave

They stood in awe, surrounded by paintings, charcoal drawings, and etchings of transcendent artistic beauty.

Read more

March 7, 2021 - Comments Off on NASA algorithm helps us see faded art

NASA algorithm helps us see faded art

Hundreds, thousands of years exposed to the elements often leave ancient art hard to see. Famous sites like Chauvet, Altamira and the Great Gallery are well preserved but some important rock and cave art sites are weathered almost beyond recognition. How do we see rock art that is mostly weathered away? Mathematics, NASA and rock art enthusiast Jon Harman have a solution. It is an image analytic program Harman developed called DStretch.

Barrier Canyon Style Petroglyphs in a side canyon of Ferron Creek. Emery County, Utah. See what it looks like after DStretch on the next page.

The program uses a method called decorrelation stretch, which was originally used by NASA to improve remote sensing images of Mars. DStretch takes the NASA algorithm but optimizes it for rock art. The program analyzes photographs of rock art sites, and then shifts the images’ color to highlight designs and patterns that have faded away or otherwise become invisible to the naked eye by providing more contrast within the image. The program is especially useful when it comes to faded colors, particularly reds, yellows, blacks, and whites, but it is also works on etchings and other rock art forms. The results are a false color image that is often much more detailed than the original.


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March 7, 2021 - Comments Off on Unnamed Esplanade Poylchrome site

Unnamed Esplanade Poylchrome site

Esplanade Style Polychrome Panel, Mojave County, Arizona

This is the type site for Esplanade style polychrome rock art. Known from only 25 sites it is some of the most enigmatic and beautiful prehistoric art in North America. There are fewer than 25 examples of Esplanade style rock art all are located in Mojave County Arizona. As such it is one of the least studied types of North American rock art. Age estimates range from archaic southwest (8,000 BCE) to pre-Fremont (500 BCE).

The style stands out for its tremendous detail. See the close-up image of part of the panel below. Some of the anthropomorphic figures are presented in "x-ray" style. Eyes often have lashes. The images are finely rendered. 

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March 5, 2021 - 1 comment.

Dating Rock Art, How Old Is It?

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

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March 4, 2021 - Comments Off on The New York Times says we are one of five accounts you should follow on Instagram

The New York Times says we are one of five accounts you should follow on Instagram

The 36,000 year old Horse Panel of Chauvet

This week, New York Times arts critic Martha Schwendener called the Ancient Art Archive one of the 5 instagram accounts that you should follow right now.

“…the Ancient Art Archive journeys to caves, mesas, buttes and other sites around the world, documenting the paintings and marks made by our ancient ancestors.”

She called out two of our posts in particular, one from Chauvet Cave in France and another from the Maze Panel in Arizona.

The Maze Panel in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.

It is an honor to be featured in the Times. The explosive growth of our Instagram feed shows what we have long known, people are hungry for these images from the past.