Saturday, December 9, 2017


 Petroglyphs and hieroglyphs
 at Wadi Amera, Egypt.

When I was an Art History student we were taught that Egyptian history basically began with the Pharaoh Narmer, who united Egypt and reigned as the first historic Pharaoh. This early Egyptian history is now being clarified by new discoveries. Carvings found at Wadi Ameyra, in the Sinai Desert, date back to over "5,000 years ago, possibly by mining expeditions sent out by early Egyptian Pharaohs, say the archaeologists who discovered them." (Jarus(A) 2016) Petroglyphs of many ships and animals have been found, as well as early hieroglyphic inscriptions. The team was led by Pierre Tallet, a professor at the University of Sorbonne.

"About 60 drawings and hieroglyphic inscriptions, dating back around 5,000 years have been discovered. - Carved in stone, they reveal new information on the early pharaohs. For instance, one inscription the researchers found tells of a queen named Neith-Hotep who ruled Egypt 5,000 years ago as regent to a young Pharaoh named Djer. Archaeologists estimate that the earliest carvings at Wadi Ameyra date back around 5,200 years, while the most recent date to the reign of a Pharaoh named Nebre, who ruled about 4,800 years ago." (Jarus(B) 2016) Wadi Ameyra is on a route in the Sinai to Egyptian copper and turquoise mines, and sometime after the rule of Nebre the route was changed bypassing this location.

Neith-Hotep's name is represented
by the image at the top of this
illustration which resembles a palm 
tree beside a building.

Egyptologists have long known of Neith-Hotep's existence, but believed that she was married to the Pharaoh Narmer. The inscriptions at Wadi Ameyra suggest, however, that she was not Narmer's wife, but ruled as a regent at the beginning of the reign of Djer. (Jarus(B) 2016)


A ship petroglyph at Wadi Ameyra.

Several of the petroglyphs at Wadi Ameyra show ships. "On three of these boats, the archaeologists found a "royal serekh," a pharaonic symbol that looks a bit like the facade of a palace. The serekh looks "as if it were a cabin on the boats, Tallet said. In later times, boats were buried beside Egypt's pyramids including the Giza pyramids. The design of the boats depicted at Wadi Ameyra "are really archaic, much older than those found beside the pyramids, Talley said." (Jarus(B) 2016.

There is a great deal more to be learned from rock art about the earliest history of Egypt. Art informing life, rock art as history!

NOTE: Images in this posting were retrieved from the Internet with a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on these reports you should read the originals at the sites listed below.


Jarus, Owen
2016(A)   5,000-Year-Old- Hieroglyphs Discovered in Sinai Desert, January 19, 2016,

2016(B)    Early Egyptian Queen Revealed in 5,000-Year-Old Hieroglyphs, January 19, 2016,

Saturday, December 2, 2017


When I first became interested in studying rock art our only way at hoping to have any success at aging was by using comparative methods. Researchers would look for overlapping images to set up a sequence of styles, and compare the images to artifacts in collections looking for stylistic comparisons. This was reasonably successful for relatively recent rock art produced by people who were well represented in museum collections, but was of no use for older material. Now, an exciting story from Australia illustrates how sophisticated we are becoming in dating rock art.

16,000-year-old yam-like
motif. Kimberley rock art,
Western Australia.

A team of researchers in Australia have dated more than 200 rock art sites in northwest Kimberley, and the results indicate that the earliest examples date back to the Paleolithic. The time depth of occupation in Australia has long been known although the earliest dates are still being pushed back as new research adds data, but this early dating of rock art now means that Australians were making art as early as some of the cave art in Europe.

A team of researchers with the Australian Research Council used a number of different dating techniques, but one of the most interesting (and perhaps unique) relied on "optically stimulated luminescence, dating sand grains in fossilized mud wasp nests that had been built over the ancient images." (  2016)

"Accelerator mass spectrometry was also used to date the carbon in the wasp nests and spots of beeswax found on the images. June Ross of the University of New England said that the oldest image in the study, "a perfectly preserved yam-like motif painted in mulberry colored ochre on the ceiling of a deep cavern," was dated to more than 16,000 years old." (  2016)

Kimberley rock art,
Western Australia.

The project depended upon the cooperation of aboriginal Australian people as well. "Chair of the Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation Cathy Goonack said the rock art brought visitors from all around Australia, and around the world to the Mitchell Plateau. "They want to look at our art and hear our stories; now we've got a good science story that we can tell people as well. We'll use this information to help us look after our art," she said."" ( 2016)

I used the word unique above, not in the sense that the techniques are so unusual, but that the application of optically stimulated luminescence to sand grains in mud wasp nests, and accelerator mass spectrometry to beeswax found on a pictograph surface seems to me to be inventive and creative. Such dedicated studies might well serve as an example for much of the rest of the world.

NOTE: For further information on these reports you should read the originals at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:, Sept. 1, 2016

Staff Writers,
2016    Researchers Date "World's Earliest Rock Art" in WA's Kimberley Region, August 31, 2016,

Saturday, November 25, 2017


Bigfoot man, McConkie Ranch,
near Vernal, UT. Photograph
Peter Faris, November 2010.

Continuing the subject of the meaning of polydactylic figures in rock art, I present this example known as Bigfoot Man, from McConkey Ranch, outside of Vernal, Utah. Usually noticed for his outsized feet, most people do not even note, or if they do they quickly forget, the fact that this gentleman displays six fingers on his raised right hand (I visited the question of his feet in a previous column, cited below). He is obviously a mighty warrior as he holds what appears to be a war club in his left hand. He also has a trophy head suspended from his left elbow and what seems to be a spear or lance behind his right shoulder.

His importance is attested to by the care and hard work that went into producing his picture, and the fact that he is painted as well as pecked into the rock. This picture is in the style commonly known as Fremont Classical Vernal style and is assumed to date from the peak of their culture, ca. 1100 - 1150 A.D.
The archeologist H. Marie Wormington explained her theory of polydactylism in Fremont rock art to me back in the 1980s (a personal conversation). She had found a Fremont burial of a six-fingered man who had deluxe grave goods interred with him and, from that, she inferred that the polydactylism made one "special" in that society, and hence more likely to be considered important. Important enough to bury with special grave goods, and important enough to be pictured on the rocks.

Bigfoot man, McConkie Ranch,
near Vernal, UT. Photograph
Peter Faris, November 2010.

This figure is also endowed with deluxe accessories; he has a special headdress with plumes on each side painted with red and white stripes (perhaps meant to indicate bunches of red and white feathers), he also wears jewelry, a Fremont pectoral is around his neck. These were usually made from bone plaques strung side-by-side on a fiber or sinew cord. He is also wearing a tunic which is belted at the waist. The most unique thing about this figure, however, may be the fact that he is six-fingered on each hand. An obvious portrayal of a "special" figure who is shown with six fingers on each hand. I believe that Marie was absolutely right.


Faris, Peter
2015    A Beginner's Mistake - Bigfoot Man at McConkie Ranch, Feb. 15, 2015,

Saturday, November 18, 2017


Panel of Fremont figures. Glade
Park, Mesa County, Colorado.
Photograph Peter Faris, October 1989.

On May 18, 2010, I posted a column titled NATIVE AMERICAN PORTRAITURE - THE MAN WITH ONE FOOT which discussed a panel of Fremont figures located at Glade Park in Mesa County, Colorado. My premise was that this anthropomorph was pictured with only one foot which would have identified him to other members of the tribe/clan who knew him - thus, a portrait.

Fremont figure. Glade Park,
Mesa County, Colorado.
Photograph Peter Faris, October 1989.

There are a couple of other anthropomorphs in the panel as well, including one which is portrayed ornately with a unique headdress and is also shown with a crane-headed stick, possibly a dance wand. Now I always get excited when some detail of a rock art panel can be corroborated by a physical object, so it was quite exciting to me to find an illustration of a crane-headed dance wand pictured in a book by Evan Maurer (1992:118)

Crow/Absaroke dance wand, 1900.
Pictured on Maurer, 1992, Visions of 
the People, fig. 19, p. 118.

According to Maurer the dance stick was Crow (Absaroke), dated from 1900, and had been collected in 1900 by Robert H. Lowie on the Crow Reservation in Montana in 1907. It was held by the American Museum of Natural History. " Lowie documented these crane-headed sticks as being the insignia of the four men who were the third highest group of officers of the Crow Hot Dance Society (batawedisua). The Hot Dance was analogous to the Grass Dance and was introduced to the Crow by the Hidatsa in 1875. (see Lowie 1935, pp. 206-13)." (Maurer 1992:118)

Closeup of crane head. Glade
Park, Mesa County, Colorado.

Photograph Peter Faris, October 1989.

Can there be any connection between a Fremont figure dating from before A.D. 1300 and the Crow/Absaroke people of A.D. 1900? There is obviously no temporal connection, and I know of no cultural connection between the two peoples (although the Fremont people probably migrated into their home area from the North). What they have in common might be no more than the presence of cranes in their landscape, and anyone who has seen cranes dance might have been impressed enough to replicate it with a crane-headed dance wand themselves. It does suggest that this concept possesses considerable time-depth.


Evan M. Maurer,
1992 Visions of the People: A Pictorial History of Plains Indian Life, fig. 19, p. 118, The Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, Minneapolis.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


Anthropomorphic geoglyph, Henry
Smith Site, Montana -  Photograph
U.S. Bureau of Land Management,
Public domain.

On September 22, 2010, I posted a column titled A GEOGLYPH IN SOUTHEAST COLORADO - THE MAN WITH THE SPEAR, about a rock alignment in the form of a human figure found near Two Buttes in southeastern Colorado. (Faris 2010)  Now an article in by Blake DePastino revealed a Montana geoglyph that is very similar. A 2015 grass fire at the Henry Smith site burned off enough cover that this geoglyph, and a number of other features, could be recorded.

The intentional grass fire, Henry
Smith Site, Montana -  Photograph
U.S. Bureau of Land Management,
Public domain.

The newly discovered features include another large figure that appears to represent a turtle, six rock cairns, and a large number of drive lines. The Henry Smith site was previously known and has been interpreted as a buffalo jump (Miller 2015) and bison hunting camp, but many of these features were not recorded until their discovery after the fire.

Radiocarbon dating of bison remains from at least six discrete layers established that the site was in use from between 770 to 1040 CE, and stemmed stone points found there place the people who used it within the Middle and Late Avonlea Phases from the Northern Plains. Partial excavation in the 1960s revealed a portion of the impoundment where the driven animals were trapped. (DePastino 2017)

Stone circles seen from drone, Henry
Smith Site, Montana -  Photograph
U.S. Bureau of Land Management,
Public domain.

The fire was purposely set in mid-April and covered approximately 320 acres. After the fire exposed the features they were extensively photographed from a drone. Also discovered were a number of stone circles. A few of these were tipi rings, but others may have been a type of medicine wheel.(DePastino 2017) Study of the site will continue.

NOTE: Images in this posting were retrieved from the internet after a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on these reports you should read the originals at the sites listed below.


DePastino, Blake
2017 Fire Reveals Human Stone Effigy, Bison-Kill Site in Montana, February 5, 2017,

Faris, Peter
2010 A Geoglyph in Southeast Colorado - The Man With The Spear, September 22, 2010,

Miller, Mark
2015   Montana Burn Reveals Ancient Stone Effigies, Cairns, Rock Formetions, and Buffalo Slaughter Areas, May 30, 2015,

Saturday, November 4, 2017


Six-toed footprint, Potash Road,
Moab, UT. Photo: Peter Faris,
7 October 2001.

On October 28, 2017, I publish a column titled Another Push-Me-Pull-You about a Fremont Style image from a remarkable site West of Moab, Utah, along Potash Road. Here I wish to present another image from the same site, another example of polydactylism - a six-toed footprint.

Closeup of six-toed footprint,
Potash Road, Moab, UT.
Photo: Peter Faris, 7 October 2001.

I have written previously about H. Marie Wormington's theory about polydactylism. Early in her long career she had excavated a Fremont burial with six fingers on each hand and grave goods indicating that the burial was a high-status individual. She explained that her interpretation of this was that a person with extra digits (or otherwise "different") was perhaps seen as "special" and treated accordingly within the clan or tribe. That fact influenced her to interpret Fremont Style hand-and-foot-prints with six digits as representations of important individuals who also possessed this genetic trait (Wormington, personal communication).

We do find numbers of six-fingered-or-toed representations in Fremont rock art, and Ms. Wormington's hypothesis seems to me to be an eminently reasonable explanation.  In any case they are interesting to find, and speculate about.


Wormington, Hannah Marie - personal communication, 1982.

Saturday, October 28, 2017


Dinosaur tracks, Potash Road,
West of Moab, UT.
Peter Faris, 7 October 2001.

In Grand County, Utah, on the west side of the Colorado River across from Moab, along Potash Road, is a remarkable spot with a panel of dinosaur tracks as well as a Fremont rock art site. Given the uncertainty of identifying the animal who left the footprints, dinosaur tracks are commonly named independently of a species of actual dinosaur. These are referred to as either Grallator or Eubrontes tracks (the uncertainty here is mine, my notes have disappeared since the visit).

 Push-me-pull-you, Fremont
rock art, Potash Road,
West of Moab, UT.
Peter Faris, 7 October 2001.

Now, I don't think I can imagine anything more interesting than having both dinosaur tracks and Fremont rock art at the same location, but if I could it would probably involve finding a Fremont push-me-pull-you there. Well, here it is! He is attached to a trapezoidal bodied anthropomorph by a zig-zag line often referred to as a "power line". The animal itself has a desert bighorn head at each end as if it is going both ways at once. As before, I must confess that I don't know what it represents, and in total absence of evidence it would be irresponsible of me to speculate that it is a mythical animal inspired by the dinosaur tracks, but wouldn't that be something?