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?

Saturday, October 21, 2017


Pictograph, trail to Peñasco Blanco,
Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.
Photo Peter Faris, May 1994.

Along the trail to Peñasco Blanco in Chaco Canyon is the panel that has long been identified as a representation of the 1054 A.D. supernova explosion that was the origin of the Crab Nebula. It is shown as a star or sun with ten prominences or coronal outbursts.

Newly discovered petroglyph,
Chaco Canyon, New Mexico., Public Domain.

I recently wrote on the announced discovery of a supposed solar eclipse in Chaco Canyon giving my reasons why I disagree with the discoverers as to it representing an eclipse. Actually, I think it just as likely that this petroglyph represents another portrayal of the supernova observed in 1054 A.D. than an eclipse.

To sum up my previous arguments, the corona and prominences of a total eclipse are really only visible during totality, at which point the sun itself is a featureless dark disk (see rockartblog for August 21, 2017, Solar Eclipse - Lessons Learned and Theories Burned). I would expect that any attempt at a realistic portrayal of a total eclipse would include the ring of the edge of the sun's disk in the center. A supernovae, on the other hand, should be expected to be as bright or brighter in the center than toward the edges, thus, no ring.

What other clues might we look for? The Peñasco Blanco supernova has ten prominences/projections or flames extending outward from the body. This new petroglyph also shows prominences/projections or flames extending outward. On each side and on the lower edge are double lines curling out from the edge in opposite directions. Between those are single lines projecting out from the edge, and, at the top is a more complicated portrayal of curling projecting lines made from double lines. If we count, not the individual lines, but the number of curled projections portrayed, we also get ten (counting each double curl at the top as a single, thicker prominence). Is this significant? I really don't know, perhaps I am stretching it too far. But it might be a possibility that should be considered.

NOTE: An image in this posting was retrieved from the internet in a search for public domain photographs. If any of this image is 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.

Faris, Peter
2017   Solar Eclipse - Lessons Learned and Theories Burned, August 21, 2017,

Saturday, October 14, 2017


Vulva symbols? Winnemucca Lake,
Nevada, Larry Benson, used with

The symbol of the "vulva", originally found in Paleolithic art, has long been assumed to represent fertility. This identification was originally made, I assume, by the early students of the cave art in France, who were French. Leave it to the French!

This is now the automatic assumption worldwide when we see these symbols carved or painted onto the rock. What I wonder is if there was ever any attempt to analyze these symbols to see if they could represent anything else? They have been found literally all over the world, representations by diverse and widespread ancient cultures have used this theme. Of course, human fertility is found all over the world, but what else might it represent? What else do all of these cultures have in common? Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is cowrie shells. Perhaps most commonly used in adornment; i.e. necklaces, bracelets, or decorating clothing, the cowrie shell was known and prized by many diverse cultures, all over the world, and down through time.

Early Chinese shell money,
3,000 BCE, June 20, 2017,

Writing on, Chapurukha Kusimba posited that "Objects that occurred rarely in nature and whose circulation could be efficiently controlled emerged as units of value for interactions and exchange. These included shells such as mother-of-pearl that were widely circulated in the Americas and cowry shells that were used in Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia." (Kusimba 2017) So for so many ancient cultures the cowrie shell represents wealth, wealth that is to be displayed for personal aggrandizement. What better way to symbolically display your wealth than to carve it into, or paint it on, the rock, on a cliff, a boulder, or the walls of a cave?

Deer cowrie shells,,
Public domain.

Midewiwin shell symbols,
Rajnovich, Reading Rock Art,
p. 53, Fig. 41.

There are examples of this symbol that can be documented as representing something other than vulvas. A very different aspect of the shell, at least here in North America, was found in the Midewiwin Society of the Algonkians.Writing on the Midewiwin Society of the Algonkians, Rajnovich stated: "The Midewiwin was widespread among the Algonkians, practised by the Ojibway, Odawa, Miami, Menominee, Illinois, Shawnees, and others. Archaeologist Charles Callender suggested we cannot rule out the possibility that aspects of the Midewiwin go back 2,500 years among the Indians of Ohio. The symbol of the society and of the power of the medicine itself is a tiny white seashell, often a marginella originating on the southeast coast of the United States. These shells, called megis by the Mides, are shown in Midewiwin picture writing in various forms (Fig. 41), including a small oval figure with radiating power lines, and it may be on the rock paintings as well, possibly at Burnt Bluff (Figure 39). The people of the Shield travelled great distances to obtain the shells. The Odawa(the word means "trader") journeyed throughout the Great Lakes and surrounding areas, covering vast distances in their bark canoes, exchanging goods including the shells among the many Algonkian groups." (Rajnovich 1994:52-3)

Vulva Symbols, Patterson, p. 203,
A Field Guide To Rock Art Symbols,
Petersborough, Ontario.

Linnea Sundstrom apparently agrees that on the Great Plains this symbol originated with the Algonkians, although she also assumes that it may represent fertility as she ascribes its creation to girl's puberty rituals. "Track-Vulva-Groove style rock art clearly had its origins in the Algonkian and Siouan territories east and southeast of the plains (figure 8.13). It is more difficult to determine who made this rock art in the Black Hills country and why. Perhaps some was made by girls as part of a puberty ritual. In other parts of the West, girls sometimes made abraded grooves for other kinds of petroglyphs as part of their puberty rites." (Sundstrom 2004:88) This suggests an Algonkian influence in inland North America that could have brought ideas about the shell to the middle part of the country.

Do these images represent shells, or vulvas? Well, I don't really know but it seems to me that we owe it to ourselves to thoroughly analyze all the possibilities before we blindly relegate a whole category of rock art symbolism to definition by a French assumption. Fertility, display, or wealth, you tell me?

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.


Kusimba, Chapurukha
2017 Making Cents of Currency's Ancient Rise, June 20, 2017,

Patterson, Alex
1992 A Field Guide To Rock Art Symbols of the Greater Southwest, Johnson Books, Boulder, Colorado

Rajnovich, Grace
1994 Reading Rock Art: Interpreting the Indian Rock Art of the Canadian Shield, Natural Heritage/Natural History Inc., Toronto, Ontario

Sundstrom, Linea
2004 Storied Stone: Indian Rock Art In The Black Hills Country, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

Saturday, October 7, 2017


Zorats Karer (Karahunj), Armenia,
Pinterest, Public domain.

A site in Armenia with many standing stones, Zorats Karer (also called Karahunj or Carahunge) is much debated. Some theories call it an astronomical observatory while many other purposes have also been proposed including defensive, and a cattle market. The site is found at a "latitude of 39 34' and longitude of 46 01' on the mountain plateau having (an) altitude (of) 1770 m. and occupies a territory of about 7 hectare(s) on the left side of the Dar river canyon, the tributary of the river Vorotan (at 2 km). It is located on a rocky promontory near Sisian." (Wikipedia)

Interior of Zorats Karer,,
Public domain.

"The first scholarly account of Zorats Karer took place in 1935 by ethnographer Stepan Lisitsian, who alleged that it once functioned as a station for holding animals. Later, in the 1950s, Marus Hasratyan discovered a set of 11th to 9th BCE burial chambers.  But the first investigation which garnered international attention to the complex was that of Soviet archaeologist Onnik Khnkikyan, who claimed in 1984 that the 223 megalithic stones in the complex may have been used, not for animal husbandry, but instead for prehistoric stargazing. He believed the holes on the stones, which are two inches in diameter and run up to twenty inches deep, may have been used as early telescopes for looking out into the distance or at the sky." (Vann 2017) I am assuming that the association of the stones with pastoralist and their animals would have been based upon some idea such as the stones with holes are hitching posts to tie the animals up to. The prehistoric stargazing is certainly destined to be a much more popular theory at the present time given current enthusiasm and overemphasis on archaeoastronomy.

Zorats Karer (Karahunj),,
Public domain.

"In recent years, to the dismay of local scientists, the monoliths have garnered the interest of the international community after some pre-emptive research emerged drawing comparisons between the astronomical implications of Zorats Karer and that of the famous Stonehenge monument in England. Many touristic outlets responded to the comparison by branding Zorats Karer colloquially as the 'Armenian Stongehenge' and the resulting debate between the scientific community and popular culture has been a fierce one." (Vann 2017)

Close-up view of a drilled stone,,
Public domain.

The problem in the archaeoastronomical interpretation comes with identifying the holes in the stones as sights for viewing. If you are close enough to a 2" hole to see much at all though it your field of view is going to be 20 to 30 degrees wide, not a very precise measuring tool. I have also been unable to find any reports that mention holes in adjacent rocks lining up which would have actually been a much more precise sighting device. In the photo above you can see a monolith through the hole as if they were a rifle's peep sight and front sight, but they line up on the distant hillside, not anything on the horizon or sky. Obviously not a marker.

View through a drilled stone,,
Public domain.

"In 1994, Zorats Karer was extensively analyzed by Professor Paris Herouni, a member of the Armenian National Academy of Science and President of the Radio Physics Research Institute in Yerevan. His expeditions revealed a great deal of fascinating information about the site. First of all, his team counted 223 stones, of which 84 were found to have holes." (Klimczak 2016) (the holes are, however, especially fascinating.)

Map of Zorats Karer,
Public domain.

Klimczak continued that "a number of researchers concluded that the monument is at least 7,500-years-old, but possibly much more. It is believed to have been created for ritual reasons and the need to understand the movements of the sun, moon, and stars. The people who created (it) connected their beliefs with the early science of astronomy. it seems that the main functions of the observatory, which was also a temple, were to serve in the cult of the Sun god of early Armenians, to provide protection through cultivating the Armenian god of science, to serve as a school, and to function as an observatory." (Klimczak 2016)

In other words, we don't have any idea exactly what Zorats Karer was intended for. Also, none of the reports I have been able to find explain how the daring was arrived at. Probably, as in so many other cases, the uses changed over time with the beliefs and interests of the inhabitants of the area, and maybe all of the suggestions have a germ of truth in them. In any case, it looks like an absolutely fascinating site, and deserves much more study. The truth must be in there somewhere.

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.


Klimczak, Natalia
2016 Armenian Stonehenge: Incredible History of the 7,500-Year-Old Observatory of Zorats Karer,

Vann, Karen
2017 Unraveling the Mystery of the "Armenian Stonehenge",

Saturday, September 30, 2017


Chusang hand-and-footprint
site, Tibet, photo Wall Street
Journal, Public Domain.

On August 13, 2016, I wrote in this column "Highest Altitude Rock Art Revisited - Yet Again" about a rock art site in Tibet at approx. 15,600 feet in altitude above sea level. I have not yet been able to top that, but we now have heard of a Tibetan site with foot-and-hand-prints at 14,000 feet in altitude, a good second.

"human handprint preserved in
the soft limestone at the 14,000-
foot-high site of Chusang in central
Tibet was left there more than
7,000 years ago." (Coates 2017:42) 
Photo: Wall Street Journal,
Public Domain.

Published in the September/October 2017 issue of Archaeology magazine (volume 70, number 5) pages 38-43, by Karen Coates, The Heights We Go To, discussed a site in Tibet with both foot and hand prints at that altitude. It seems remarkable that people were there as long ago as 7,000 years, not that they could not have gone there back then, but I wonder why they would?

Coates was reporting on research by Mark Aldenderfer of the University of California, Merced. "Aldederfer  and several of his colleagues created a stir in early 2017 when they announced that they had evidence of preagricultural hunter-gatherers living in a permanent settlement system on the central Tibetan Plateau at least 7,400 years ago - thousands of years earlier than researchers had previously thought. That research centers on a site called Chusang, about 215 miles from Lhasa, at an elevation of 14,000 feet. There, 19 human hand-and footprints are embedded in a unique formation of travertine limestone created in the remains of ancient hot springs. No artifacts were found nearby, just the markings of up to six individuals who were at that site millennia ago." (Coates 2017:41)

The Tibetan examples of extreme altitude rock art testify to something very basic in humanity that can drive or inspire people to the most impressive results. You can read the whole article in the September/October issue of Archaeology magazine listed in REFERENCES below.

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.


Coates, Karen,
2015 The Heights We Go To, Archaeology Magazine, Vol. 70, No. 5, September/October 2017, pages 38-43.

Faris, Peter
2016 Highest Altitude Rock Art Revisited - Yet Again,, August 13, 2016.