Saturday, September 24, 2016


Close-up of K'ómoks engraved pebble.
Photograph Erin Haluschak,
Comox Valley Record.

Excavations by Simon Fraser University Archaeology Professor Bob Muir and his students in the Comox Valley, British Columbia, have been exploring a midden ascribed to the K'ómoks First Nation people, and they have turned up a rich assortment of finds. A July 20,2016 article in the Comox Valley Record, by Erin Haluschak described the finds of a field school conducted by Simon Fraser University Archaeology professor Bob Muir. During the six-week field school students uncovered around 80 engraved tablets and pebbles at a site on the traditional territory of the K'ómoks First Nation.

 K'ómoks engraved pebble.
Photograph Erin Haluschak,
Comox Valley Record.

"Muir described the pebbles or tablets as flat pieces of stone with images sketched on one side - symbols which could be interpreted as a tree, feather, or a symbol of fertility." (Haluschak 2016) These items have only been found at two other sites in the Comox valley. They were originally discovered when a roasting pit was being dug for a barbeque and artifacts were turned up by the shovel. The excavations produced well-preserved shell and animal bone (including bone needles for sewing or leather work, harpoons, and herring rakes). Animal bones included deer, elk, and dog. (Haluschak 2016) 

These engraved plaques will be photographed and studied at Simon Fraser University for a year or two and then returned to the K'ómoks First Nation to put on display. Interesting things just keep turning up.


Haluschak, Erin
2016 SFU Archeology Students Discover Tablets That Could Be 2,000 Years Old, Comox Valley Record, July 20, 2016.

Saturday, September 17, 2016


Cave with wall markings (inset).
Mona Island, Puerto Rico.

Writing for LiveScience on July 20, 2016, Megan Gannon introduced the petroglyphs of Mona  Island, Puerto Rico. Citing an article in the July 19, 2016 journal Antiquity, she presented both prehistoric and Spanish settler images. This considerably expands the knowledge of rock art in the Caribbean.

Cave markings. Mona
Island, Puerto Rico.

This collection of rock art is found in caves on Mona Island, and many of the markings were made by dragging fingers or a tool through a soft surface layer on the limestone walls of the caves. Researchers reportedly found markings in thirty of seventy caves they explored, and date the oldest back to 500 years B.P.

Historic cave inscription.
Mona Island, Puerto Rico.

In one cave they found a mix of prehistoric and historic imagery. "Alongside the indigenous artwork there are names, dates, and Christian symbols like crosses and Christograms (a symbol of Christ usually consisting of letters) from the 16th century. There are also some Christian phrases and Bible verses, in Spanish and Latin, such as "dios te perdone" (may God forgive you") and "verbum caro factum est" ("and the Word was made flesh")." (Gannon 2016)

Christograms on cave wall.
Mona Island, Puerto Rico.

"In one case, a name scribbled graffiti-style on a cave wall could be tied to a real person. Francisco Alegre, who came to the Caribbean from Spain with his father in the 1530s and became a royal official in Puerto Rico." (Gannon 2016)

So much more rock art is there to be discovered, if only we look.


Gannon, Megan,

Saturday, September 10, 2016


Waianae Coast, Oahu, Hawaii.
Photograph from LiveScience.

In an August 10, 2016, story on LiveScience, contributing writer Stephanie Pappas reported on the discovery of petroglyphs on the beach at Oahu's Waianae Coast on the western side of the island.

Newly discovered petroglyphs on
the Waianae Coast, Oahu, Hawaii.
Photograph from LiveScience.

A layer of horizontal sandstone rock on the beach is normally covered by sands which can be shifted and moved by wave action. Two tourists from Texas were there at just the right time to see exposed engraving in the rock layer. At the time of Pappas' writing seventeen carvings have been found along the shoreline. Most of the images are human figures with one measuring 1.5 meters (almost 5 feet) tell.

Newly discovered petroglyphs on
the Waianae Coast, Oahu, Hawaii.
Photograph from LiveScience.

Finding petroglyphs right on the shoreline is rare, but some locals report that they have seen them before. They had not, however, been previously reported or recorded.

Newly discovered petroglyphs on
the Waianae Coast, Oahu, Hawaii.
Photograph from LiveScience.

"The plan for the preservation of the petroglyphs is still in its infancy, a Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesman told Live Science. The agency's State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) will work with the Army  to develop a plan. The petroglyphs are extremely fragile, and even brushing sand away from them can damage them, archaeologists said. They are an important part of Hawaii’s culture and while sands have covered them again, in time they will reappear and we want to make sure people know that they are fragile and culturally sensitive and should only be viewed; not touched," Alan Downer, SHPD administrator, said in a statement." (Pappas/LiveScience)

Newly discovered petroglyphs on
the Waianae Coast, Oahu, Hawaii.
Photograph from LiveScience.

If the Hawaiian SHPD stated that "even brushing sand away from them can damage them", one has to ask what the tide washing sand back and forth over them daily is doing, or do they believe that the water provides a cushion protecting them from sand erosion?

In any case the Waianae Coast petroglyphs provide an interesting and valuable new addition to knowledge of Hawaiian rock art.


Saturday, September 3, 2016


Engraved limestone cobble, Clovis,
ca. 13,000 years old. From Tamara
Stewart, Paleo-Indian Art Identified
At Central Texas Site, p. 10, American
Archaeology, Summer, 2016,
Volume 20, Number 2.

On June 25, 2011, I posted a column titled "The Oldest Art In America - Clovis Art? - The Gault, Texas, Engravings". That column was a report on a 2010 publication by D. Clark Wernecke and Michael B. Collins,  “Patterns and Process: Some Thoughts on the Incised Stones from the Gault Site, Central Texas, United States”, and was illustrated with a line drawing I had done from a photogaph by Michael B. Collins, co-author of the original IFRAO Congress, September 2010 – Symposium: Pleistocene art of the Americas story that I was reporting on. Now another report on incised limestone cobbles from the Gault site in Texas has enlarged the subject considerably.

Writing in the summer 2016 issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 20, No. 2, p. 10, author Tamara Stewart's column Paleo-Indian Art Identified At Central Texas Site, presented Wernecke and Collins' recent findings from the Gault site. They now have "numerous small, weathered limestone cobbles with elaborate engravings, nine of which are clearly associated with Clovis technology dating to about 13,000 years ago." (Stewart 2016:10)

Nine purposefully incised limestone cobbles "clearly associated with Clovis technology dating to about 13,000 years ago". This gives us 13,000-year-old rock art in North America, and another strong candidate for the oldest rock art in North America.

Engraved stone, Clovis, Gault, TX.
Drawing by Peter Faris (2011)after a
photograph by Michael Collins.

Note: I reported on the previous hard date for the oldest rock art in North America on Jan. 25, 2014, in "Pyramid Lake Petroglyphs May Be Oldest In North America", on .


Faris, Peter
2011    The Oldest Art In America - Clovis Art? - The Gault, Texas, Engravings,, June 25, 2011.

2014     Pyramid Lake Petroglyphs May Be Oldest In North America,, January 25, 2014.

Stewart, Tamara
2016    Paleo-Indian Art Identified At Central Texas Site, p. 10, American Archaeology, Summer, 2016, Volume 20, Number 2.

Wernecke, D. Clark, and Michael B. Collins,
2010     “Patterns and Process: Some Thoughts on the Incised Stones from the Gault Site, Central Texas, United States”, IFRAO Congress, September 2010 – Symposium: Pleistocene art of the Americas.

Saturday, August 27, 2016


De Beque Canyon, Mesa County, CO.
Photograph Peter Faris, Aug. 1981.

I return to the subject of vandalism of rock art sites; the shameful practice of adding initials, words, names, dates, or anything else to the rock art that is there, or altering, removing, or otherwise defacing it. Recently, while reflecting on vandalism, I found myself wondering about the most vandalized/defaced rock art site.

DeBeque Canyon rock art site, Mesa County,
CO. Photograph Paul and Joy Foster.

The question of the most vandalized/defaced rock art site I can remember seeing is easy - it is found in DeBeque Canyon, along the Colorado River in Mesa county, Colorado.

"In the spring of 1884, Dr. W.A.E. DeBeque and three close companions explored the hills  surrounding what is now the Town of DeBeque. They were searching for a suitable place to form a ranch. Others followed them quickly, and by 1890 there were 31 ranches in the area." (

The town continued to exist as a ranching center and an annual market for wild horses rounded up on the adjacent Roan Plateau. As you can see from the illustrations a major local entertainment seems to have been vandalizing this panel of Uncompahgre Style rock art. If you take the time to look at it closely you can make out the beautifully detailed quadrupeds they left.

So, this is my candidate for the most vandalized/defaced rock art site, what is yours? Send it to


Saturday, August 20, 2016


The Ancient Skier carving before it
was damaged. (Nordland County)

At this time of the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro we have a story on vandalized rock art with an Olympic connection. On 4 August, 2016, ran a column by Danny Lewis about the vandalism of a petroglyph of a figure on skis on the Norwegian island of Tro. This image, dated 5,000 B.P. is famous as the earliest portrayal of what we now classify as a winter sport, and inspired the symbol for the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

""It's a tragedy, because it's one of the most famous Norwegian historical sites," Bård Anders Langø, the mayor of the nearby Alstahaug Municipality - "It is one of the most internationally known symbols of Norway."" (Lewis 2016)

""As the oldest-known image of a person on skis, the stone age symbol is often seen as an iconic part of Norwegian culture. In addition to an important glimpse into the lives of ancient humans, the carving inspired the logo for the 1994 Norway Winter Olympics in Lillehammer."" (Lewis 2016)

The Ancient Skier carving after
damage. (Nordland County)

Two boys, visiting the site, decided to touch it up to make the lines more visible. They also decided to improve a nearby petroglyph of a whale.

" The news of the damage - broke when a person staying in the area informed Tor-Kristian Storvik, the official archaeologist for Nordland County, that the petroglyph had been damaged. - Storvik investigated and found that in addition to the damage done to the famous carving, a nearby etched whale had also been harmed. The boys have come forward and publicly apologized for the incident. Officials are keeping their identities secret to protect the minors from potential abuse." (Lewis 2016)

Apparently Norwegian officials are considerably more lenient in cases of vandalized rock art than our current social sentiment demands. Cases of such vandalism in our country nowadays usually end up in trials and fines if the perpetrators are discovered. While I applaud such generosity and sympathetic treatment, I also see this as a teaching opportunity missed. In this case only two individuals have learned a lesson from this vandalism, not the whole society. We must find ways to get the word out and promote an understanding throughout the whole society that rock art is irreplaceable and must not be altered, defaced, or damaged.

You can read the whole story at


Lewis, Danny, 2016

Saturday, August 13, 2016


Fig. 28.11, Sunburst with nine points,
Sinmo Khadang, Tibet. Photograph
from John Vincent Bellezza. 

In our quest to locate the rock art at the highest elevation, Peter Jessen has again come through with another candidate, this time from Tibet. Pictographs at the site of Sinmo Khadang were found at 4,720 to 4,740 meters which is about 15,576 to 15,642 feet above sea level (that is high altitude in anybody's book).

Fig. 28.2. Interior of Sinmo
Khadang, Tibet. Photograph
from John Vincent Bellezza.

Jessen forwarded to me an article by John Vincent Bellezza from 2015 (please see references below) detailing a number of rock art sites in Tibet, and conveniently each site listed has its elevation above sea level given. The highest elevation listed for a site in this article is that of Sinmo Khadang (4,720 to 4,740 meters/15,576 to 15,624 feet above sea level).

Fig. 28.1. View from the south mouth
of Sinmo Khadang overlooking the
Spiti River valley, Tibet. Photograph
from John Vincent Bellezza. 

The rock art sites of Spiti.
Map by Brian Sebastian and
John Vincent Bellezza.

Sinmo Khadang is an 80 meter long large cave, situated just below a summit dividing the main Spiti river valley from the tributary valley of Kibbar. The name Sinmo Khadang translates as "Gaping Mouth of the Cannibalistic Fiend." Spiti is located in the Western fringe of the Tibetan Plateau (see the map above).(Bellezza 2015)

Fig. 28.8. Swastika, crescent moon,
and bell-shaped form. The swastika
and moon are one composition, the
bell-shaped form was painted
separately. Photograph from
                     John Vincent Bellezza.

Fig. 28.12. Swastika and anthropomorphs.
Sinmo Khadang, Tibet. Photograph from
John Vincent Bellezza.

"The repertoire of rock art at Sinmo Khadang is comparable with the other pictographic sites of Spiti. In addition to trees, suns, moons, swastikas and anthropomorphs, there are two paintings of ibexes and a raptor pictograph in the cave. The pictographs of Sinmo Khadang were made by many different people. They primarily date to the Protohistoric period but some may possibly have been made subsequently in the Early Historic period. There is also a more recent red ochre pictograph consisting of a clockwise swastika with four dots painted inside its arms, as well as an obscured inscription in the Uchen script." (Bellezza 2015)

Fig. 28.14. Tree and swastika on
east wall of Sinmo Khadang, Tibet.
Photograph from John Vincent Bellezza.

Uchen is an upright, block style of the Tibetan alphabet. The name means "with a head" and it is the style of writing used for printing and formal manuscripts. Uchen is used to write both the Tibetan language and Dzongkha, the official language of Bhutan. (Wikipedia)

Fig. 28.10. West wall of Sinmo Khadang,
Tibet. A large sunburst in middle, above
it a pair of anthropomorphs flanked by
swastikas forming a single composition.
Photograph from John Vincent Bellezza.

It is hard to imagine any rock art at sites higher than this, but people certainly at higher elevations in Tibet, and it is likely that there may still be rock art sites that have not been recorded. It is going to be hard to beat 15,642 feet but let's all keep looking, and let me know of your candidate for Highest Elevation Rock Art.

NOTE: For further information about rock art of Tibet please refer to Tibet Archaeology and All Things Tibetan, (see below).


Bellezza, John Vincent
2015   Flight of the Khyung (Part 3), in Tibet Archaeology and All Things Tibetan,