Petroglyphs, petroglyphs, petroglyphs!

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Petroglyphs, petroglyphs, petroglyphs!

Postby BillRigg » Aug 24, 2017 4:58 pm

Hey all! I'm very interested in cave carvings / petroglyphs. Are there any reasons some caves might have them as opposed to others? Are there any signs or historical indicators that might give one a hint as to where petroglyphs might be found? Obviously they're linked to histories of human habitation.

Also, I'd love to hear about some petroglyphs you've seen! What did they look like?
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Re: Petroglyphs, petroglyphs, petroglyphs!

Postby GroundquestMSA » Aug 25, 2017 7:44 pm

Are you interested in prehistoric rock carvings or in petroglyphs in general? Carvings are often found in caves for a couple of reasons. They attract attention as natural curiosities, and they preserve markings for much longer than many other places exposed to the elements. Celebrated prehistoric petroglyphs along the riverbanks in my home county have gone from obvious to nearly invisible over the last one hundred years, while many inscriptions and drawings in caves are mostly unchanged over longer periods.

This past Sunday my brother and I studied a cave containing hundreds of inscriptions, most from the 1850s to 1910s. It is rumored to also contain a prehistoric engraving of a bird. We were able to discern four bird carvings in this cave, but I am almost certain that at least three of these were made by the same hand, probably during the 1870s.

I often wonder how many works of prehistoric art are the doodlings of children. I see many similarities in style and subject matter when comparing ancient petroglyphs to drawings made by children over the past few centuries, which I regularly find in the margins of books and on the plaster of abandoned houses.
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Re: Petroglyphs, petroglyphs, petroglyphs!

Postby graveleye » Aug 28, 2017 1:32 pm

GroundquestMSA wrote:
I often wonder how many works of prehistoric art are the doodlings of children. I see many similarities in style and subject matter when comparing ancient petroglyphs to drawings made by children over the past few centuries, which I regularly find in the margins of books and on the plaster of abandoned houses.


I'm convinced that many are exactly that: just doodles. Maybe the kids were bored while ma and pa went into the cave for some gypsum or something.
I've found a few that were obviously paleo, but were in little out of the way areas that would be pretty uncomfortable for an adult, but perfect for a child.

I think the same thing about arrowheads, spearpoints atlatl points etc. There are preforms, then there are the unfinished ones, then there are ones that were discarded and of poor quality that could have easily been when a youngster was learning how to make them.

Rocks can speak, but you have to listen carefully, and you never quite know what they're actually saying.
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Re: Petroglyphs, petroglyphs, petroglyphs!

Postby BillRigg » Sep 6, 2017 9:09 am

Beautiful! Two beautiful replies.

I guess I'm more interested in ancient/prehistoric/Native American petroglyphs than I am in petroglyphs from the 1800s on, but I would like to see both in truth.

I bet it must be a cool feeling to see what ancient hands have carved out in the same place you're standing. It does seem like animals are very popular imagery for petroglyphs too.

Any tips on how I might go about finding petroglyphs in my caving? Good tip about out-of-the-way or child-accessible areas, Graveleye. Are there any parts of the country that have a higher rate of petroglyphs than others? I know Monument Valley and Mystery Valley in Arizona have a lot of them. Anything of note on the East Coast?
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Re: Petroglyphs, petroglyphs, petroglyphs!

Postby graveleye » Sep 13, 2017 3:29 pm

there are quite a few outdoor petroglyph sites that are well known out there. But ones in caves are usually kept secret for a variety of reasons.
More often than not, cavers won't reveal what they know to other cavers, much less folks outside the community. They are very rare, fragile and prone to damage intentionally or unintentionally.

I'm not nearly expert enough to say if there is a particular concentration or not. I would probably say that there is not any particular area where they are more common than others. But like I said, they really are rare in the first place. Indigenous Americans just didn't decorate caves the way that early Europeans did.
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Re: Petroglyphs, petroglyphs, petroglyphs!

Postby GroundquestMSA » Sep 14, 2017 12:22 pm

graveleye wrote:Indigenous Americans just didn't decorate caves the way that early Europeans did.


In fact, you may be more likely to find the remains of an Indigenous American than an indigenous petroglyph. Three to none in-cave examples in my own case.
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