GPS Guided Hikes Explore Mysterious Yorkshire Rock Art

rock art, YorkshireYorkshire, in northern England, is famous for its beautiful countryside where hikers pass through remote moors and climb rugged hills. They can also explore an enduring mystery of Europe’s past.

Yorkshire has some of England’s largest concentrations of prehistoric rock art. Drawings of recognizable animals or objects are rare. Instead, most are abstract images like these “cup and ring marks,” seen here in this photo by T.J. Blackwell taken in Hangingstones Quarry above Ilkley Moor. They are shallow divots ground into the rock, surrounded by incised lines that often connect to the lines around other cup marks.

More examples can be seen on the so-called “Badger Stone,” also at Ilkley Moor, and shown below in this photograph by John Illingworth.

Archaeologists estimate them to be about 4,000 years old, dating to the transition from the late Neolithic to the early Bronze Age. They’re found in various regions of Europe and hundreds of them can be seen on Ilkley Moor in Yorkshire.

Nobody knows why prehistoric people went through so much trouble to make them. Some researchers have suggested they were territorial markers, or had a ritual purpose. Others think they were some sort of primitive writing. Now hikers can come to their own conclusions by downloading a GPS trail through Ilkley Moor that takes them to some of the best sites. The hike starts and ends at a parking lot and takes about two hours. The Friends of Ilkley Moor created this easy-to-follow hike and have created other hikes as well.

It’s good to note that all examples of rock art are Scheduled Ancient Monuments and it is a crime to damage them.
rock art, YorkshireYrkshire, rock art
Photo courtesy John Illingworth.

Expanding the Memory of the World: great books and other records

books, Chinese, bookWhen we think of UNESCO lists, we tend to think of UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. UNESCO has another list, however, and it just got a lot longer.

The Memory of the World program lists books, inscriptions, libraries, and other documentary heritage to protect them from “collective amnesia” and the ravages of time. Last week the program held its annual meeting and voted to add 45 new entries into the list.

The new additions include the Compendium of Materia Medica, pictured here, which is a Chinese pharmaceutical text written by Li Shizhen (1518-1593 AD). Other additions include the Mainz Psalter (1457), the first printed color book in Europe to be entirely produced with mechanical methods; pictures, text, and records of the Indian indentured laborers in Fiji, Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago; and the Epigraphic Archives of Wat Pho in Thailand.

The list now includes 238 items. The entire list is here and a detailed looks at the new additions is here.

[Photo courtesy Li Shizhen]

Five great places to see Native American rock art

Native American, native american, petroglyph, new mexico, petroglyphs
I often hear people saying the U.S. has a short history. Actually it’s as ancient as anywhere else. Before the Europeans took over this land there were hundreds of Native American cultures living here. Some have survived; others have disappeared. One of the most evocative reminders of their civilizations is the rock art of the American Southwest. Here are five good places to see some.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The stunning landscape of this park is the main draw, but hidden amidst the colorful mesas and canyons are numerous petroglyphs (carving in rock) and pictograms (paintings on rock). The best are in Horseshoe Canyon, where a large panel of ghostly painted figures have been variously interpreted as gods, ancestors or, by the scientifically challenged, aliens. They date to as far back as 2000 BC.

Nine Mile Canyon, Utah
One of the best sites for petroglyphs in all the Southwest is billed as the “world’s longest art gallery”. With about 10,000 images ranging in date from 950 AD to the 1800s, it is the biggest concentration of rock art ever found in the U.S. The remains of the homes of the Fremont people are clearly visible when hiking the canyon. The images include bison being stuck with spears, strange horned figures that may be shamen, and men on horseback dating to the historic period.

Saguaro National Park West, Arizona
The rock art here isn’t as grand as the other places on the list, but it’s far more accessible. Just a short drive from Tucson and only two hours from Phoenix, the park takes its name from the forest of giant saguaro cacti that grow here. There are two parks–one to the west and one to the east of town–and the one to the west has a rocky hill covered in carvings made by the Hohokam people. The most unusual is a strange spiral that may have been an early calendar. The Hohokam built large towns and extensive canal systems in southern Arizona until about 1450 AD. In fact, the modern cities of Phoenix and Tucson were founded by the Hohokam!

%Gallery-111971%

Petroglyph National Monument
Another easily accessible location, this national monument is right on the western edge of Albuquerque. You can see just how close from the above photo, courtesy Daniel Schwen. There are about 24,000 images here, mostly from prehistoric Pueblo peoples starting about 500 AD but also some made by Spanish settlers who saw all the pictures on the rocks and decided to add their own. Some are even the cattle brands of the early ranchers.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona
We’ve talked about this amazing set of cliff dwellings before. Located in the heart of the Navajo Nation, prehistoric peoples built extensive villages here in the shadows of towering cliffs until their mysterious disappearance in the 14th century. As you wander the trails you’ll see petroglyphs of animals and people scattered about the rocks. If you have kids, playing “spot the picture” can be a fun way to keep them entertained. The jaw-dropping scenery will probably do that anyway. Note that the interpretive center is closed for remodeling until May 2011.

While desert scenes aren’t exactly the first thing you think of during the Christmas season, winter is a good time to explore these sites. The scorching sun takes a vacation, and in the higher altitude the desert can be downright cold!

Native American rock art damaged in Agua Fria National Monument

rock art, native american, Native American
Rare petroglyphs at Agua Fria National Monument in Arizona have been damaged by vandals, Arizona Central reports. The art, dating back 2,000 years to the little-understood Archaic period, was covered in paint and defaced with obscene words.

Images of the graffiti aren’t available at this time, but it’s not hard finding other examples of defaced Native American rock art. The picture above was taken by user jkiel of Gadling’s flickr pool at Utah’s 9 Mile Canyon.

The damage at Agua Fria wasn’t just another case of casual vandalism so common in preserved areas. The art was well off the trail and high up a cliff. Somebody actually set out on a daytrip to destroy some of their heritage.

Damaging archaeological resources at a National Monument is not only a punk-ass move, it’s also a federal crime that carries a penalty of up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. The Bureau of Land Management is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading the arrest and conviction of these idiots.

Kentucky wins fight with Ohio over Indian Head Rock

We’ve talked about people stealing archaeological artifacts before here on Gadling, but the theft of an eight-ton rock has got to be some sort of record, especially considering that it was underwater.

A boulder called Indian Head Rock used to poke out of the Ohio River near the Kentucky side and was a popular place to visit. Boatmen in the nineteenth century used it as a guidepost, and locals would swim out to it to carve their names on it have their picture taken. This woman posed for a photo circa 1903.

Indian Head Rock gets its name from a mysterious face on it that some people believe is an ancient petroglyph carved by a prehistoric Native American.

The rock became submerged in the 1920s when the river was dammed, but low rainfall made it visible again in 2005. In 2007 a group of Ohioans pulled the rock out and brought it to Ohio, claiming that it was in danger and should be conserved.

This brought an angry response from Kentucky, with even the legislature getting in on the act and demanding its return. The Ohio legislature shot back a resolution claiming it was a part of Ohio history. The guys who took the rock faced a variety of charges ranging from antiquities theft to dredging without a license. Some of those charges have been dropped, but the rock hunters are still entangled in legal battles and are likely to face some sort of punishment for their actions.

Kentucky sued to get the rock back and it has now been returned. Sadly, it hasn’t been returned to its original location since archaeologists say the site has been “compromised”.

Scratch off yet another historic spot from the landscape.

[Photo of Indian Head Rock courtesy Billy Massie via Wikimedia Commons. Historic photo courtesy user Stepshep via Wikimedia Commons]