by Tom McClintock
30 April 2021
Getty Conservation Institute held a nine-day colloquium with twenty-four rock art scholars, site managers, conservators, and filmmakers at the Getty Center, entitled Art on the Rocks: Developing Action Plans for Public and Professional Networking. The colloquium included discussions and presentations, as well as visits to rock art sites to discuss their management, preservation, research activities, and community issues. Participants visited the complex at Little Lake Ranch and Painted Rock, both in California, and the Lower Pecos River region in Texas.
In 2015 the Getty Conservation Institute published Rock Art: A Cultural Treasure at Risk, which arose from the Getty Conservation Institute's Southern African Rock Art Project and its exchange program among rock art specialists, managers, and custodian communities from southern Africa and Australia.
Art on the Rocks: A Global Heritage, in Namibia. The June 2018 colloquium was a follow-up to that event.
At the June 2018 colloquium, participants addressed two key directives established at the 2017 Namibia colloquium. The first was acknowledgment that to generate awareness for this endangered global heritage, rock art professionals must reach a broader audience. To this end, attendees committed to making greater use of media and to developing content for distribution to a range of audiences.
With greater public enthusiasm for rock art preservation, policy and decision makers who are in positions to enact change will be motivated to do so. The second key directive addressed was the establishment of an informal Rock Art Network through which an exchange of information and intellectual resources can be made among allied professionals. By making connections between those responsible for site management, improved communication can elevate conservation and management practice. Participants committed to formulating tangible action plans to advance the agenda of this informal Rock Art Network.
Little Lake is an interrelated complex of rock art loci in the cultural Great Basin. The scratched, pecked, and painted motifs can be found throughout the landscape. Little Lake is related to 3 settlement sites dating back to 6000 BP.
Research in the area has been presented in the publication 'Rock Art at Little Lake: An Ancient Crossroads in the California Desert' by Jo Anne Van Tilburg, Gordon Hull, and John C. Bretney. The product of ten years of fieldwork at Little Lake Ranch in the Rose Valley, the southern gateway to the Owens Valley, this book presents the results of intensive rock art analyses carried out by the interdisciplinary research team of the UCLA Rock Art Archive.
Rock Art Network visited the White Shaman Panel and several other major rock art sites in central Val Verde County, Texas, as part of the third 'Art on the Rocks' colloquium organized by Neville Agnew, senior principal project specialist of the Getty Conservation Institute of Los Angeles, and were guests of Dr. Carolyn Boyd and the Shumla Archeological Research and Education Center.
Twenty five rock art experts toured the White Shaman Panel above the Pecos River and the Fate Bell Shelter in the Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site. At the White Shaman, the group listened to a lecture by Shumla founder Dr. Carolyn Boyd, detailing her extensive research into the panel's symbolism and story. "I didn't expect so many paintings, the quantity and the quality," said Pilar Fatás Monforte, Director of the National Museum and Research Center of Altamira in Spain, the site of some of Europe's oldest and best-known cave paintings.
Thomas McClintock, of the Getty Conservation Institute, stated that the Getty has about 30 years of experience in promoting rock art preservation, noting the institute has published a paper titled, 'Rock Art: A Cultural Treasure at Risk'. He went on to explain that this was the foundational document for what we are doing now. The document sets out four pillars for effective preservation, incorporating all of the values of rock art. What we're doing here is discussing among a group of experts how best to promote the values of rock art to the public.
Carolyn Boyd said "I was really, really honored to have the opportunity to share with them, these incredible scholars from all over the world, the precious rock art that we have here. It's been really spectacular to introduce them, because for most of them, it's their first time to see the rock art here. They were just like, 'Wow, just wow, this is simply amazing!'"
Carolyn Boyd has recently published her research at the White Shaman Panel:
The prehistoric hunter-gatherers of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of Texas and Coahuila, Mexico, created some of the most spectacularly complex, colorful, extensive, and enduring rock art of the ancient world. Perhaps the greatest of these masterpieces is the White Shaman mural, an intricate painting that spans some twenty-six feet in length and thirteen feet in height on the wall of a shallow cave overlooking the Pecos River. In 'The White Shaman Mural', Carolyn E. Boyd takes us on a journey of discovery as she builds a convincing case that the mural tells a story of the birth of the sun and the beginning of time making it possibly the oldest pictorial creation narrative in North America.
Unlike previous scholars who have viewed Pecos rock art as random and indecipherable, Boyd demonstrates that the White Shaman mural was intentionally composed as a visual narrative, using a graphic vocabulary of images to communicate multiple levels of meaning and function. Drawing on twenty five years of archaeological research and analysis, as well as insights from ethnohistory and art history, Boyd identifies patterns in the imagery that equate, in stunning detail, to the mythologies of Uto-Aztecan-speaking peoples, including the ancient Aztec and the present-day Huichol. This paradigm-shifting identification of core Mesoamerican beliefs in the Pecos rock art reveals that a shared ideological universe was already firmly established among foragers living in the Lower Pecos region as long as four thousand years ago.