Rock Art: Methodology and Interpretation in the Archaeology of the Site

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 81st Annual Meeting, Orlando, FL (2016)

The cultural manifestation we label rock art has the potential of being identified and recorded from wherever humanity has traveled. In the pursuit of innovative instrumental technique, enhanced interpretive insight, and successful approaches to preservation, this Rock Art Interest Group sponsored symposium is intended to provide a context within which recent archaeologically informed rock art research can be shared.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-16 of 16)

  • Documents (16)

  • The archaeology of dreams and what it tells us about climate change (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only David Whitley.

    Why does archaeology matter in the 21st century? One value is its ability to help us understand how humans react to changing circumstances, not with law-like statements but instead in terms of general behavioral patterns. The social context south-central California rock art, a record of visions or dreams, is an example of this fact. As partly indicated by rock art, the Medieval climatic anomaly led in one area to a population collapse but, in a related region, to population increase and the...

  • Eccleston’s Pictograph: The Great Medicine Rock (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Paul Langenwalter. Titus Kennedy.

    During 1851 the Mariposa Battalion was formed to quell conflict between a number of Central California tribes and settlers during the California Gold Rush. The battalion’s pursuit of the Chowchilla and Chukchansi tribes led to several important discoveries including a Chukchansi curing shrine and Yosemite Valley. Diarist Robert Eccleston named the shrine “The Great Medicine Rock” and provided a brief description of its use. This is the earliest account of any rock art in California and one of...

  • Getting Up-Close and Personal with Pecos River Style Rock Art (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Victoria Roberts. Jerod Roberts. Carolyn Boyd.

    Pecos River style rock art in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of southwest Texas and Coahuila, Mexico is arguably one of the most famous and complex pictograph styles in North America, if not the world. Thirty-two radiocarbon assays obtained from 19 figures range from 4200 ± 90 to 1465 ± 50 RCYBP. Many characteristics of the style have remained almost unchanged throughout that time. What attributes define the Pecos River style, however, are still debated, despite a seemingly iconic appearance....

  • How to Capture a Photograph worth a Thousand words: Photographic Documentation of Rock Art in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of Texas (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jerod Roberts. Victoria Muñoz. Carolyn Boyd.

    Digital photography provides increasingly sophisticated applications that are invaluable to rock art researchers. Shumla Archaeological Research and Education Center relies heavily on many of these applications to document, preserve, and analyze rock art—such as 3D modeling through Structure from Motion (SfM) photogrammetry, multi-focal stacking, color management, and digital field microscopy for stratigraphic analyses. Depending on which applications are used, there are important considerations...

  • It’s not an Illustration; it’s a Graphic Database: Rock Art Documentation in the Digital Age (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lindsay Vermillion. Carolyn Boyd.

    Shumla incorporates new technologies that are revolutionizing rock art illustration and documentation. This presentation discusses the method developed by Shumla to engage these technologies in the production of graphic databases. Using Adobe Photoshop and a Wacom Cintiq Interactive Pen Display, digital Photoshop layers are used to graphically document data for individual figures. These living documents include accurate scale illustrations and the color calibrated and enhanced photographs used...

  • Non-Destructive Analysis of Pictographs at Painted Bluff: Understanding Prehistoric Paint Recipes in the Southeastern United States (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sierra Bow. Jan Simek. Alan Cressler.

    Analytic methods for prehistoric pigment analyses, especially for rock art, have seen important enhancements over the past decade. In particular, the development of non-destructive, field-portable instrumentation has been transformational. Painted Bluff in Alabama is one of the richest rock art localities in the Southeastern US. Initial SEM-EDS analyses there yielded results consistent with prehistoric technology, but this method is destructive and only a limited number of pictographs were...

  • Shape Shifters, Spirit Guides, and Portals to Other Worlds in Puebloan Rock Images of the Southwest (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Matthew Schmader.

    Rock imagery in the puebloan region of the southwestern United States often combines elements from different animal, human, and plant sources. Blended elements may depict or refer to other-wordly states of being. Beings made from combined elements shift from shapes familiar in the present world and transport the frame of reference to the spirit world. Specific animal forms may be selected because they are spirit guides, have specific powers, or are guardians of cardinal directions from mythical...

  • "Showing up" at rock art sites: Ethical behavior while using DStretch in Heiltsuk and Wuinkinuxv Territories on the BC Coast, Canada (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Aurora Skala.

    The results of this 2013-15 MA research will showcase the successful use of DStretch to bring out hidden images at pictograph sites in a geographically-remote area where prior photographs are unavailable. The examples used will be taken from First Nations Territories, primarily from Heiltsuk Nation and Wuikinuxv Nation, on the Central Coast of British Columbia, Canada. Although these examples are a case study of one region, the concepts presented may offer insight regarding sites worldwide....

  • Site 26CK206 Near Atlatl Rock, Valley of Fire State Park, Clark County, Nevada: A Re-examination of Site Recording Techniques, Condition, and Interpretation After 50 Years (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kevin Rafferty.

    Although Valley of Fire has been mentioned in the archaeological literature since the 1930s (Harrington n.d.), the first real reconnaissance surveys were conducted by the Richard and Mary Shutler in 1961 (Shutler and Shutler 1962). They recorded 32 sites throughout the park, many of which were near present-day Atlatl Rock. One particular site, 26CK206, was recorded by the Shutlers at that time, and also partially by Heizer and Baumhoff (1962). In 2011 the CSN Valley of Fire survey project...

  • Strat is where its at: Analyzing and Managing Complex Mural Stratigraphy at Rattlesnake Canyon, TX (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Carolyn Boyd. Timothy J. Murphy IV.

    Pecos River style murals are highly-ordered, complex compositions of layered figures composed of different pigments. Through analysis of sequential ordering and stratigraphic relationships of these figures, researchers can gain insights into the technical history of a mural and the artistic and cognitive processes that led to its creation. The Pecos River style mural in Rattlesnake Canyon spans 32 meters and contains more than 250 finely-executed, polychromatic figures. Shumla is investigating...

  • Taking a Byte out of Rattlesnake: An Overview of the Rattlesnake Canyon Project (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Audrey Lindsay. Carolyn E. Boyd. Victoria L. Roberts. Jerod L. Roberts. Timothy J. Murphy IV.

    The Rattlesnake Canyon mural represents one of the most well-preserved and compositionally intricate rock art murals in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands, and perhaps the world. Deposited gravels from a major flood episode in June 2014, however, raised the canyon floor approximately 10 feet, enabling future floods to destroy the fragile panel. The Rattlesnake Canyon Project is an emergency collaborative effort among Texas Tech University, the National Park Service, and Shumla to document this...

  • Talking Stone: Cherokee Syllabary Inscriptions in Dark Zone Caves (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Beau Carroll. Tom Belt. Alan Cressler. Jan Simek.

    Caves have offered the Cherokee people concealment before and after contact with Europeans. With the invention of Sequoyah’s Syllabary a way to record these hidden activities became available. A number of caves in the Southeastern United States contain such historical inscriptions and interpreting these can tell archaeologists about who made them and when they were made. This paper considers several such inscription caves, located in the area of North Alabama, North Georgia, and southeastern...

  • Through a Mirror, Darkly: Using Multi-Sensor Imaging Surveys as Basic Data for 3D Spatial Analysis of Cave and Open-Air Rock Art (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Stephen Yerka. Jan Simek. Alan Cressler.

    This paper explores and compares how quantitative spatial analysis of cave and open-air rock art can be derived from high-resolution, multi-sensor 3D digital reconstructions. For this project, three different types of survey data were collected at four prehistoric cave and rock art sites within the southern Cumberland Plateau of eastern North America. The project survey methods include close-range photogrammetry, high-density laser scanning, and near-infrared (NIR) multispectral imagery. The...

  • Two Independent Methods for Dating Rock Art: Age Determination of Paint and Oxalate Layers at Eagle Cave, TX (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Karen Steelman. Carolyn Boyd.

    Using two independent methods, we provide reliable age estimates for three Pecos River Style figures at Eagle Cave in Langtry, TX. To obtain direct dates for the paintings, we employed plasma oxidation of the organic binders in the paint layer followed by accelerator mass spectrometry. For minimum and maximum ages, we acid treated the overlying and underneath accretion layers to isolate calcium oxalate for combustion and 14C measurement. The radiocarbon dates for the three paint samples are...

  • What's new in Canadian Shield Rock Art (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Daniel Arsenault. Serge Lemaitre.

    The last few years of archaeological fieldwork in Eastern Canadian Shield have allowed the identification of some new figures in the graphic content of sites already documented by other researchers in Ontario. But this context has led also to the discovery of new rock art sites in this province as well as in Québec. These rock painting sites but also the new engraving sites found help more than ever to better understand the variability and complexity of the iconographic themes privileged by the...

  • Zoomorphs in Caribbean Rock Art (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michele Hayward. Frank Schieppati. Michael Cinquino.

    While Caribbean rock art is characterized by its high percentage of human-like facial and body images, realistically-depicted and stylized zoomorphic motifs are also present. Fish, turtles, birds and marine mammals are among the animals found amidst anthropomorphic, geometric and abstract designs. We identify a number of zoomorphic forms and describe their distributional patterns from our current set of rock art sites particularly Puerto Rico. We also discuss the roles or functions these...