Online ISSN: 2076-0752


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No Reprieve for Tasmanian Rock Art


Peter C. Sims

| Pages: 182-224
The Australian State of Tasmania, at latitude 42 degrees south, became an island about 8,000 years ago when the sea rose to its present level, following the melting of polar and glacial ice that covered much of the land mass. After that time, the Tasmanian Aboriginal rock art developed independently of mainland Australia, with its form being basically linear with some naturalistic figures and a predominance of cupules. The petroglyphs with one lithophone site occur on various rock substrates varying in hardness from granite to sandstone. Many sites exist along the western coastline that borders the Southern Ocean where the landscape in some places has changed little since the arrival of Europeans in 1803. The significance of this Tasmanian Aboriginal cultural heritage along what is now known as the Tarkine Coast, named after an Aboriginal band that once inhabited this area, was recognised by the Australian Government in February 2013 when a 21,000 ha strip, 2 km wide, was inscribed on its National Heritage Register, being one of 98 special places listed in the country. However, politics and racism hamper its management. This paper is based on the results of 40 years of field recording of the Tasmanian Aboriginal rock art sites, many of which remain unpublished.

Chronological Trends in Negev Rock Art: The Har Michia Petroglyphs as a Test Case


Davida Eisenberg-Degen -- Steven A. Rosen

| Pages: 225-252
Negev rock art comprises a large and diverse corpus of motifs and compositions developed over the course of several millennia. As dating of specific elements is at present not possible, the rock art was analyzed statistically through the study of individual panels where internal sequences of engraving could be discerned. Examining the set of such individual sequences, larger scale reconstruction of engraving phases, sequences and patterns were recognized. Additional chronological markers, such as the presence of domestic camels or other chronologically diagnostic features, offer benchmarks for tying the general trends to more absolute frameworks. The reconstructed patterns reflect the long term history of the Negev and some of the most significant cultural and social transitions in the region are reflected visually through the rock art, notably a form of self-expression, a crucial complement to the historical sequences derived from sedentary peoples living farther north. For example the introduction of the domestic camel and its symbolic and economic significance is well evident in the rock art. Similarly, the emergence of Islam is expressed through the mark makers’ preference for "abstract" (non-figurative) motifs. One motif found throughout all engraving phases, transcending the religious, political and economic structures of Negev society, is the “ibex”. Although Negev societies have all focused, to one degree or another, on sheep and goat pastoralism, these animals are rarely present in the Negev rock art and never as herds. Ibex, whose role in the diet and daily subsistence was minimal, was the most commonly depicted zoomorphic motif.

The Cave of Isturitz (West Pyrenees, France): One Century of Research in Paleolithic Parietal Art


Diego Garate -- Aude Labarge -- Olivia Rivero -- Christian Normand -- Joëlle Darricau

| Pages: 253-272
The cave of Isturitz is one of the most important archaeological sites of the prehistory of Western Europe. Human occupations followed each other in the cavity from at least the Middle Paleolithic to the Roman age. In 1913, Passermard started archaeological excavations there, and a calcite pillar was discovered next to the original entrance that was sculpted with a dozen of animal representations. In this excavation, the Magdalenian levels yielded a considerable quantity of portable art objects. In the last few years, several workers have resumed the study of those pieces. Since 2011, we have created a research team for the study of the parietal figures of the cave, as well as other elements, for example the objects embedded in the walls. We present here our first results, which improve in the understanding of the artistic activities of Upper Palaeolithic peoples by shedding light at the art analyzed in Isturitz.

The Case for Hand Stencils and Prints as Proprio-Performative


Patricia Dobrez

| Pages: 273-227
Hand stencils and prints are found globally in rock art, reflecting the sine qua non role of the hand in human evolution. The body itself is the tool, and it affords the registering, in the form of a trace, of what perceptual psychology terms an “ecological self”. More than a “signature”, a hand mark is uniquely “proprio-performative”, combining inscription of individuality with direct address. The first part of this paper looks at what might get in the way of a universally readable primary meaning by methodically addressing issues of technique and cultural specificity. Having cleared the ground, it proceeds to make its argument for hand stencils and prints as constituting a special category of rock art imagery. It does this by having recourse to ideas currently under discussion in cognitive psychology: awareness of self-agency and body-ownership, as well as the notion of perceived looming in pictures. Finally, an appeal is made to the claim for a key mirror neuron role in communication. Because they are traces of actions eliciting mirror-neuronal responses, hand marks are seen as affording a readily accessible external term in an exchange of meaning on which a system of graphic communication might be built.

Rock Art in Kurdistan Iran


Jamal Lahafian

| Pages: 328-349
Kurdistan, with great potential and prehistoric resources, has numerous petroglyphs in different areas of the province. During the last 14 years of extensive field study, more than 30 sites of rock art have been identified and introduced by the author. In this article, we summarize these rock art areas in Iranian Kurdistan.

Saharan Rock Art: Local Dynamics and Wider Perspectives


Marina Gallinaro

| Pages: 350-382
Rock art is the best known evidence of the Saharan fragile heritage. Thousands of engraved and painted artworks dot boulders and cliffs in open-air sites, as well as the rock walls of rockshelters and caves located in the main massifs. Since its pioneering discovery in the late 19th century, rock art captured the imagination of travellers and scholars, representing for a long time the main aim of research in the area. Chronology, meaning and connections between the different recognized artistic provinces are still to be fully understood. The central massifs, and in particular the "cultural province" encompassing Tadrart Acacus and Tassili n’Ajer, played and still play a key role in this scenario. Recent analytical and contextual analyses of rock art contexts seem to open new perspectives. Tadrart Acacus, for the richness and variability of artworks, for the huge archaeological data known, and for its proximity to other important areas with rock art (Tassili n’Ajjer, Algerian Tadrart and Messak massifs) is an ideal context to analyze the artworks in their environmental and social-cultural context, and to define connections between cultural local dynamics and wider regional perspectives.

The Perception of Depicted Motion


Livio Dobrez

| Pages: 383-446
Everyone knows that you can read a galloping horse in a still image as galloping. This paper asks how it is that we perceive motion in pictures. It considers perception of real motion in point-light experiments and the perception of motion in stills via the work of various psychologists, in the course of which it raises theoretical questions about the nature of visual perception. It then offers a detailed examination of knowledge regarding neural substrates for both real and depicted motion perception. Finally, it combines psychological and neurophysiological perspectives with phenomenologically-oriented observation of pictures, discussing both frontoparallel motion and motion in depth (in particular the phenomenon of “looming”) in terms of two kinds of depictions, the “narrative” and the “performative”. Examples are drawn from all kinds of pictures, but focus is on world rock art, whose time depth is especially amenable to the universalist approach adopted by the paper.

Rock Art of Saudi Arabia


Majeed Khan

| Pages: 447-475
It is not only oil in which Saudi Arabia is rich, but it is also among the four richest rock art regions of the world. Hundreds and thousands of petroglyphs, painted rock art, and ancient Arabian inscriptions sites are located all over the country, representing various cultural phases, from the Neolithic until the recent past. One can see the naturalistic, schematic, abstract, mythical, and mystical images representing ancient ideology, thoughts about the metaphysical world, religious entity, economy, environment, human activities, and variety of animal types, according to particular climatic and environmental conditions. The rock art of Saudi Arabia is the mirror of its rich cultural heritage of so-called Bedouin or desert dwellers that surprises the world with its 4000 archaeological and more than 1500 rock art sites.

The Meaning of the Dots on the Horses of Pech Merle


Barbara Olins Alpert

| Pages: 476-490
Recent research in the DNA of prehistoric horses has resulted in a new interpretation of the well-known panel of the Spotted horses of Pech Merle. The conclusion that has been popularized by this research is that the artists accurately depicted the animals as they saw them in their environment. It has long been evident that some artists of the European Ice Age caves were able to realize graphic memesis to a remarkable degree. This new study of the genome of ancient horses appears to confirm the artist’s intention of creating the actual appearance of dappled horses. I will question this conclusion as well as the relevance of this study to the art by examining the Spotted horses in the context of the entire panel and the panel in the context of the whole cave. To further enlarge our view, I will consider the use of similar dots and dappling in the rock art of other paleolithic people. The visual effect of dots will be seen in terms of their psychological impact. Discoveries by neuroscientists regarding the effect of such stimuli on human cognition will be mentioned. I will conclude with another possible interpretation of the meaning of the Spotted horses of Pech Merle.