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Petroglyphs vs Graffiti, artifacts vs trash
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(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 02/03/2012 12:16:37 MST Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 06/15/2015 16:33:38 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Petroglyphs vs Graffiti, artifacts vs trash on 02/03/2012 12:27:04 MST Print View

Petroglyphys - graffiti that have stood the test of time. No more. No less.

Sometimes, when admiring priceless Sung Dynasty china... I think what would the original owner be saying if science could bring him back to life? Likely, he would scoff at the whole fancy schmancy climate-controlled display... "haha, that was my old drinking cup, bought it on sale for next to nothing...".

Isn't human psychology interesting? :)

Edited by ben2world on 02/03/2012 12:30:58 MST.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Petroglyphs vs Graffiti, artifacts vs trash on 02/03/2012 13:24:20 MST Print View

I'm no archaeologist, but...

It seems to me that petroglyphs held a much different function than the graffiti of today. They told a story, showed an account of events, were instructional tools, calendars, maps, astronomical charts, etc... They were an essential part of early communication within emerging societies. That's not to say that some markings weren't a sort of casual "graffiti" of the time, but it's much different than when some moron spray paints a rock in 2012 or hacks his girlfriends name in a tree.

I think its cool when I get to see remnants of another era.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Petroglyphs vs Graffiti, artifacts vs trash on 02/03/2012 13:39:14 MST Print View

I can't wait to see the pleased reaction of future archaeologists that dig up old pairs of Mighty Morphin Power Ranger shoes with battery powered light up soles.

Definitely something we can be proud of contributing to posterity.

Brian Camprini
(bcamprini) - MLife

Locale: Southern Appalachians
Petroglyphs vs Graffiti, artifacts vs trash on 02/03/2012 13:48:30 MST Print View

It's a shame tighty whities don't hold up for posterity. The AT could be an outdoor museum of undergarment history. Usually with plenty of DNA attached.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Petroglyphs vs Graffiti, artifacts vs trash on 02/03/2012 13:49:48 MST Print View

I just bought a 600+ page book on Native American Rock Art -- big time expensive too. Many were religious in nature and influenced by the Shamans. The reason I got the book is because there are thousands of rock art pieces remaining in some of the remote areas I walk. Decided that after all these years I should learn something about them.

I plan to start photographing them and learning more. I'll post some pictures when I begin this new phase of my life next month.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Petroglyphs vs Graffiti, artifacts vs trash on 02/03/2012 14:08:34 MST Print View

they are so different and come from completely different context you can't even compare them.
Ancient man probably didn't need to go hiking to get away from the stress of modern life. The rock art was either where they lived or a sacred ritual space. Every one probably knew where they where. Trash was very different because they did not have plastic and other materials that would sit around for ever. their conception of owner ship/ public space and nature was very different.
Graffiti is a modern expression of aggression and alienation twords urban space. Its about feelings of powerlessness when it comes to community needs. Its saying " I will claim this space and make it more personal and human" in contrast to the indifferent oblivious architecture and city planning that make the inhabitants feel powerless and depressed. Its an act of rebellion. Of coarse Im generalizing. there is a large street art movement these days.
The shear scale of modern trash and development makes what we do incomparable to the past.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Petroglyphs vs Graffiti, artifacts vs trash on 02/03/2012 14:34:46 MST Print View


Petroglyphs like this may be found in lots of areas of the Southwest. This particular photo was from Death Valley. Don't go there expecting that you will drive up, jump out of the car, shoot a few shots, then jump back into the car and drive off. Most authorities, like NPS in this case, will not confirm that they even exist, much less tell you where to find them. I had to hike 16 miles round trip to get the photo. The National Park Service has a very good feel for what are valuable artifacts versus what is graffiti. When the image is chipped into the rock, it is a petroglyph. When the image is painted onto the rock surface, it becomes another form of rock art.


Edited by --B.G.-- on 02/03/2012 14:35:46 MST.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Re: Petroglyphs vs Graffiti, artifacts vs trash on 02/03/2012 14:38:51 MST Print View

I see Bob's been playing with his sidewalk chalk again... :)

Edited by T.L. on 02/03/2012 14:39:23 MST.

Don Morris
(hikermor) - F
artifacts vs. trash on 02/03/2012 19:30:15 MST Print View

I am a retired NPS archaeologist, and I can tell you there is a standard; items are generally worth considering as "historic" when they are about fifty years old. The standard is flexible - some things (Cape Canaveral) are almost instantly historic, while others never quite make it. Currently a lot of WWII sites are being considered for historic significance - some make it,others don't.

Just today I was reading about some folks who inscribed their names in an archaeological site where some famous Western characters including Butch Cassidy had also inscribed their names. It seems they posted evidence on Facebook that led to their detention. Eradicating their graffiti will cost them a cool $6,000.

The question is a real one, and the answer can be kind of tricky. Did you know that Camp 4 in Yosemite is on the National Register of Historic Places because of its role in climbing history?

I like to say (facetiously) that I am philosophically opposed to LNT, because if we stop leaving "traces," what will future archaeologists do? One must think of the future...

Edited by hikermor on 02/03/2012 19:32:25 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: artifacts vs. trash on 02/03/2012 19:54:10 MST Print View

"Did you know that Camp 4 in Yosemite is on the National Register of Historic Places because of its role in climbing history?"

You mean Camp 4 >> Sunnyside Campground >> Camp 4 ?

A nearby place with more history is the Pioneer Cemetary.

The only NPS archaeologist that I've met was in person in Katmai, Brooks Camp. That guy was having a lot of fun as he supervised the diggers.


Don Morris
(hikermor) - F
artifacts vs. trash on 02/04/2012 07:20:23 MST Print View

The very same Camp 4. I haven't been in Yosemite recently, but I understand there is an official plaque marking the designation. I am not really familiar with the pioneer cemetery, but I wager that its significance is more local rather than national. Camp 4 was the focus for the development of climbing styles and techniques that were profoundly influential internationally, as well as nationally. I have often thought that the lines put up in that era, like the Salathe route, should also be on the register. That would put discussions about retro bolting, etc. on a whole new level.

Don Morris
(hikermor) - F
Re: Re: Re: Petroglyphs vs Graffiti, artifacts vs trash on 02/04/2012 07:24:33 MST Print View

The NPS isn't tight lipped about all rock art sites. At Petrified Forest and Canyon de Chelly, rock art is routinely shown on the regular tour routes.

Daniel Bell

Locale: US Southwest
Artifacts vs Trash on 02/04/2012 07:51:29 MST Print View

I took a group of students to Saguaro NP 2 days ago. Our particular project allows us to go off-trail, where the students found old bed springs, bottles, cans, etc. The park ranger that was with us indeed told us that anything over 5o years old was considered an artifact and won't be removed.

And Saguaro defnitely has petroglyphs they don't tell anyone about. You can see photos of them in coffee-table books but they won't (on pain of death, apparently) tell anyone where they are. I'm OK with that.

Christopher Kuzak
Historic or Not on 02/04/2012 11:50:13 MST Print View

Not to get overly technical here, but in addition to being fifty years of age, something has to have integrity--there is enough left to convey a sense of time and place--and meet one of 4 criteria to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places (or, loosely, have "historic significance"). Something has to A) Associate with a significant event; B) associate with a significant person; C) exemplify a method of construction; or D) offer some information potential that we otherwise would not have without it. Some things can have exceptional significance that they can be less than fifty years of age but still make the cut, but they are pretty rare.

Rock art is one of those things where a lot of it is around in the southwest, some in great condition, some less so. The Carizzo Plains National Monument features rock art that was once used as target practice. Fortunately, if it's in a National Park or Monument, it's protected whether or not it is eligible for the National Register, just like all the other "historic" stuff in a park, at least theoretically.

trash on 02/04/2012 21:25:07 MST Print View

Some of the best "archeological sites" full of artifacts which teach us about past peoples, whether thousands of yrs or only 200 yrs ago, were actually their garbage dumps.

Go figure.

Don Morris
(hikermor) - F
artifacts vs.trash on 02/04/2012 22:02:38 MST Print View

not just some sites, but most sites are comprised primarily of discards, waste, and lost items. They still have explanatory value; this also applies to relatively modern sites. I once did a fair amount of excavation and site stabilization at a nineteenth century cavalry post (Ft. bowie, AZ). I was amazed at the quantity of discarded beer bottles left around the post, especially common after the railroad was constructed and supplies were easier to obtain. It reminded me of the scene on the military posts on which I had served about eight years earlier. Some things never change.

Archaeological sites retain "integrity" unless they have been disturbed by bulldozing, pot hunting, or whatever. Careful excavation and analysis can recover amounts of information that can be quite surprising and informative. A classic example are excavations on the Custer battlefield 100 year after the battle which provided new insights into events of the battle.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: trash on 02/04/2012 23:20:25 MST Print View

Having investigated landfills from within my own lifetime, it's interesting how one's trash becomes someone else's history. My parents met on an archeological at Coyote Hills on the San Francisco Southeast Bayshore. Mostly digging up the fast-food wrappers of the Ohlone of 300+ years ago (sea shells, etc).

As a caver, you see a continum of inscriptions in caves - Native markings, Revolutionary, Civil-war, Gold-rush-era inscriptions, and lots of newer stuff. What do you remove and what do you leave? I'd try (imperfectly I'm sure) to infer intent. Was this a meaningful event to the individual or was it more like p1ssing on a fire hydrant or Donald Trump's fifth trophy wife? Then I take it off.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Question for Bob G, and other ramblings... on 02/06/2012 18:16:28 MST Print View


A question about that absolutely beautiful set of petroglyphs. Were they by themselves or in an area of others?

Other stuff…

Petroglyphs and pictrographs have been somewhat a minor hobby for me over the years. I am not an expert, but have been studying the available research in more detail recently.

The petroglyphs Bob shared were made by a Shaman.

So what can we surmise about Bob’s Shaman? Well the place he chiseled them became a place of power to him. He searched for a place that had a pathway to the supernatural world, and this place had water, or a cave (or rock over hang), or a rock crack that provided a gateway to his journey to the other world. He was on a “vision quest” or "dreaming." As a Shaman or a Shaman Apprentice he needed to enter the supernatural world to find a helper/ally to give him his Shaman powers. Preparing for his vision quest he fasted, probably engaged in some sort of very tiring physical activity, maybe ingested natural tobacco (a hallucinogen), or in rare occasions might have ingested jimsonweed. All of this was done to create a hallucinogenic state. Once he was ready for his journey, he sat down and closed his eyes. The journey would entail 3 stages. The first stage was visual, but with eyes closed. Picture yourself looking at a bright light and then closing your eyes, and you will see some sort of figure on your eyelids. Bob’s Shaman saw the figure in the middle of the picture. As he got closer to his pathway into the supernatural, his vision (probably still optical), was the spiral with dots around it. And once he entered the supernatural word, he found his helper, a bird, probably an eagle. He may have seen other things in the supernatural world, but the bird became his ally. After this was accomplished, he fell asleep.

As we know, often we easily forget our dreams after a short period of time. Upon awaking, we do remember it or parts of the dream. For the Bob’s Shaman, he knew that if he forgot his journey into the supernatural, he would die. So he chiseled the journey on the rock. The images are not what the objects look like in real life (e.g., the bird), but what they looked like in the dream. And this Shaman would probably return to this place many times during his life, because it became his personal place of power.

Some Shamans would superimpose the images on top of each other in the order they happened. Or some would spread them out as Bob’s Shaman did. However they created it, it was to meet their personal requirements as Shamans, not to create art for others. Zig-zags often depict the sidewinder rattlesnake and diamonds a diamondback rattlesnake.

Art, Religion, or Graffitti?

As many of you may have gathered, I hike a lot in the Southern Sierras, and the southern California & Nevada deserts. I have visited over a hundred petroglyph/pictrograph sites. Some were by design, and most were somewhat accidental. Over time I have learned where this art rock might be found, and although I usually am not looking for rock art, I find it if it is there. The places I frequent most often were at one time populated by Indians that can be separated into four groups, based on the language they spoke. (1) The Great Basin Desert (Southern Nevada, Owens Valley, Death Valley & the Mohave Desert), (2) the South Central part of California (ocean to the Western Sierras), (3) the Southernmost deserts of California, and (4) the area along the lower Colorado River. The first three were very similar in religion/culture because they were hunter/gatherers. For these three, the rock art was entirely religious in nature, either made by Shamans, or participants in rites of initiation into puberty. The Colorado group tended to rely on some level of agriculture, and stayed close to the River. Their art often included their religious mythology. Many South Central Shamans used paint to create art. The other groups usually chiseled or pecked the art. It was not uncommon for the participants in the initiation rites of the far southwest of California to paint the art.

Rock Art Sites and Significance –

Shamans created their rock art in places of power. Those places might have been passed down by their teacher-Shaman, they may have found them on their own, or they might be places of extreme power that Shamans would travel great distances to gain power. An example is the Coso Mountains near Ridgecrest. Shamans traveled from as far as northern Utah to this site, where the Big Horn Sheep would become their helper in the ability to make rain. Typically when you see a Big Horn petrograph, its purpose is to help the Shaman to make rain. However there are many petroglyphs of other animals, as the area is a very powerful place, and not all Shamans wanted the Big Horn as a helper. Many Shamans were evil and searched out evil allies.

When I moved to Palm Springs in 1977, I met an elderly Indian one day while hiking in the desert and we became friends. (Note: The Cahuilla band where I live preferred to be called Indians, so I will use that term). I found that in northern Arizona, the natives hated the term and Native American was preferable. This gentleman was saddened that the younger generations of Indians in his band had lost interest in walking in the desert, and he called it the White Man’s disease. But we hiked together often, and he told me about many places where the art could be found. What is interesting is that he was a non-Shaman, and these places were dangerous to him. He would not go to them, nor would he discuss them… it was too dangerous. He did tell me that there were numerous places of power (Shaman rock art) in the communal tribal areas, and when the tribe actually lived in these areas, all non-Shamans avoided walking close to them and never looked directly at them. And he told me where to find them.

Where to find Rock Art –

From the recent thread on secret places, it is obvious I do not share secret places. However, if you are interested in exploring these places, here is some information to get you started. Earlier I mentioned the Coso mountains. This area probably contains the greatest rock art site in North America, and it is located within the Naval Base near Ridgecrest, so it is heavily protected. Some of the art is close to 20,000 years old and some just a few hundred. However you can arrange a tour through the local museum in Ridgecrest (I forgot the name). It is a full day tour with a guide. From what I remember there is somewhat an expensive fee. So check with them.

There are several outstanding sites near Bishop. Location is difficult to find in public sources. They are all on BLM land. Used to be that if you went to the Bishop BLM Field Office (not sure if they still have an office there), they would provide you directions… and sometimes not, depends upon whether they trusted you, I guess. The idea is that this is how they will limit visitations to these areas, since the BLM has limited resources to protect them.

Joshua Tree National Park. Lots of sites there. It will be up to you to find them. However, many are near some of the most popular parts of the park. The secret is to look for boulders that are brown in color. The brown is what we call desert varnish. Shamans used these rocks because they were easy to chisel off the varnish to expose the lighter color rock. So in areas of granite and red rock, be on the lookout for boulders covered in desert varnish, especially in formation that look like a place of power. If there is or was a water source nearby (think dry spring), it might be the place too look. These boulders may be covered by shrubs and brush.

Corn Springs. Well know BLM area, it is on their Website and there is a primitive BLM campground at the spring.

Art, Vandals, and Trash

Here are some pictures from the Corn Springs Area.

Artifacts? Yes 1957 is more than 50 years old. Appropriate? Well some ignorance on the part of these two. Notice the desert varnish and part of “57” has fallen off. Do not touch, rub against, or even spray water on rocks to get a better picture.

Notice Blythe 46 in the center. Also note the deliberate vandalism at top center where someone has chiseled their name on top of the rock art.

IMG_0880 cropped
Close up of vandalism.

This one might depict the 3 phases of the Shaman’s journey.

Trash near the cabin of a couple gold miners, who built it in the early 40’s. Not sure if this is their dump, because I found many bottles and cans that had Zip Codes on them. The Indians did not litter, because they had few material possessions, because like UL backpackers they kept their pack weights as low as possible.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Answer for Nick, and other ramblings... on 02/06/2012 18:58:54 MST Print View

Nick, you have been unusually prolific. Slow day at the office?

"Were they by themselves or in an area of others?"

Death Valley National Park has several localities with petroglyphs. The problem is that it is such a huge park that it is a long hike to get to any of them from any road. In other words, you better bring your lunch or else bring a small backpack.

As a general rule, we do not describe online exactly how to find petroglyphs. If we did, some teenagers would be in there next week with some spray paint. There are a few petroglyphs visible on some single boulder right out in the middle of some sandy hillside, but they are in a minority. Most of them were chipped into large smooth rock surfaces such as you might find in a slot canyon. The most recent markings are from about 100 years ago, made by goldminers.

One particular canyon in DV is known for several spots like this. I just marched past the easy ones and found my way back to the good ones. So, within two miles of here, there are several spots.

Your inquiry hit me at a good time. I've been trying to rationalize a return trip to this site. The optimum season is from about March 15 until Easter. I just finished updating my topo map.