April 24, 2017 - No Comments!

Procession Panel, Bears Ears National Monument, Utah

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 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.


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April 16, 2017 - No Comments!

“They are speaking…We are grappling with ways to try and hear their words.”

Stephen Alvarez shooting in Chauvet cave, France

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.

April 13, 2017 - No Comments!

Unnamed Caves Initiative

mud glyph snake in unnamed cave 19

The Unnamed Caves are one of the initiatives that the Ancient Art Archive is working on this year. Across the Southeast, there are prehistoric art caves. The locations are closely guarded secrets (hence the name) and the art in the caves tends to be faint. However, using the 3D imaging techniques that the Archive is pioneering we can see the images more clearly and in some instances see them for the first time at all.

We are working closely with Jan Simek at the University of Tennessee on this project.

John Jeremiah Sullivan wrote a wonderful profile of the Jan's work in the Paris Review.

Of course, all our work is supported by donations. Please consider a gift to help preserve this fragile legacy.

March 27, 2017 - No Comments!

New Model of Horseshoe Canyon’s Great Gallery

Great Gallery of Horseshoe Canyon, Wayne County Utah.
The Great Gallery is the "type site" for Barrier Canyon Style rock art

On the way back from a spring scouting trip to the Comb Wash / Bears Ears area of Utah I stopped to shoot a new model of the Great Gallery of Horseshoe Canyon. I had built a model last year but it did not include the entire panel. It also had some holes in the data that I thought I could clear up. This one has the whole alcove. There figures on the left beyond the debris pile. One of them closely resembles the Moqui Queen.  If you have the chance, it is worth looking at this at full screen on a high-resolution monitor. A Microsoft Surface works particularly well.

Rock art is notoriously hard to date and BCS art age estimates range from Archaic (4,000-8,000 BP) to pre Fremont (500BCE-500BCE). The National Park Service has a free book on the archeology of Horseshoe Canyon available here that puts the date for BCS production at around 2,000 BCE.

Some things to note in the site and model

  • The tallest figure is 2.15 meters tall
  • The Panel is 65 meters end to end
  • The alcove is 33 meters high and 12 meters deep
  • The model is built from 247 high resolution DSLR images and assembled in Agisoft Photoscan


Great Gallery March 2017
by Ancient Art Archive
on Sketchfab

March 20, 2017 - No Comments!

Bear Ears

The Procession Panel, San Juan County Utah

The Ancient Art Archive is in Utah all week scouting locations to record in the Bears Ears. For those that don't know, the Bears Ears is one of the United States newest National Monuments. Its 1.3 million acres represent some of the most inaccessible landscape in the lower 48 states. It is also a cultural treasure. There are over 100,000 archeological sites in the Monument and tens of thousands of pictographs and petroglyphs. It's a remarkable place.

Thanks to everyone who has helped us get into the field this spring. Your support is vital.


March 13, 2017 - 2 comments

What does it take to understand?

The entrance to Arco B cave in Northern Spain.

Imagine this. You are squeezing through tight passages where your body barely fits. You are surrounded by darkness and navigating by torchlight. If your light dies you are stranded.

Seeing some of the ancient art sites is not easy work. Just look at what a leading Spanish anthropologist is willing to go through in order to document paleolithic art in the Northern Spain. Being underground is hard. It is dark, it is often cold and wet. It is an inhospitable realm.

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March 11, 2017 - No Comments!

Dating the cave paintings of Spain

Alistair Pike discusses the work he has done with Dirk Hoffmann in dating the cave paintings of Northern Spain in this short video that I shot for National Geographic. The open question that Pike is trying to answer in his research is are all the cave paintings of Europe Human or are some of them Neanderthal?

Its an interesting question. Neanderthals certainly could have produced some art, but there is not overwhelming evidence that they did. Refined dating techniques have pushed the age of the first paintings in Europe back. The oldest paintings are now known to be older than 40,000 years. But by the same token refinements in tracing migration by looking at the human genome indicate that homo sapiens sapiens first entered Europe 55,000 years ago. So the current oldest painting in El Castillo in Spain is well within the date range that modern humans occupied Europe.

Proving that Neanderthals made art will take a very old painting indeed.

March 9, 2017 - No Comments!

We have invented nothing, pointillism is 38,000 years old

Dating cave paintings in Altamira Cave, Spain

Dating cave paintings in Altamira Cave, Spain

There is a story about Ancient Art and Pablo Picasso. The story is that he once visited Altamira, the famous Paleolithic cave in Northern Spain. Picasso was said to have emerged from the cave shaking his head. When questioned about his reaction to the art Picasso -the leading modern artist of his time- replied

“In 15,000 years we have invented nothing.”

The story is probably apocryphal. But like many such stories, there is more than a grain of truth in it. One of the reasons that I launched the Ancient Art Archive is that I was so overwhelmed by how sophisticated some of the very earliest art is. I walked into a cave in France and emerged knowing that Paleolithic people thought just like we do, that visual communication is inherent to our survival strategy.

Over my years of documenting Ancient Art, I have seen how sophisticated ancient people’s artistic sensibilities are.

The news this month that pointillism was developed at least 38,000 years ago is very interesting. NYU’s Randall White led excavations in the Vézère Valley of SW France. The digs uncovered limestone tablets that used a pointillist technique to engrave mammoths and horses.

The work is originally reported in the Quaternary Journal (here) and discussed at length in the press (Smithsonian, NYT).

Our work with the Ancient Art Archive is entirely supported by donations.

March 1, 2017 - No Comments!

Cottonwood Canyon Panel, Carbon County Utah

Cottonwood Panel, Carbon County, Utah
by Ancient Art Archive
on Sketchfab

Recorded August 2016

The Cottonwood Panel -also known as the Great Hunt Panel- is the most famous piece of rock art in Nine Mile Canyon. Nine Mile Canyon is a 40 mile long canyon in Carbon and Duchesne Counties that is festoon with thousands of rock art sites. Its estimated that there are more thatn ten thousand individual images in the canyon. The majority of petroglyphs in Nine Mile are Fremont age artworks like the Cottonwood Panel. However, ages in the canyon range from Desert Archaic to Modern. That is almost 10,000 years of artistic history.

February 23, 2017 - No Comments!

The Rochester Rock Art Panel, Emery County Utah

Located on a prominent spit of land above Muddy Creek and a side canyon, the Rochester Rock art panel is an extremely complex site. It incorporates images from the Fremont culture to historic times so the art varies in age from 2,000 years old to modern. The panel sees a lot of visitation and hence there has been a lot of damage over the years.