Sunday, January 20, 2013

Potomac Archaeology

A walk in the woods can be about the big picture, the small picture, or simply collecting thoughts. The small picture is often lost to the masses.

When I pointed out this neolithic rock art site to a friend of mine, he described the Native Americans responsible--respectfully--as early graffiti artists. Or did the glyphs have some more spiritual meaning? Can't say, though I'm guessing the teenagers that have since decorated this rock never noticed the faint older markings. The light needs to be just so. While rock art is common place in the desert southwest, it is quite rare in the mid-Atlantic area.

The Park Service archaeology group estimates this site at about 5000 BCE, though these sort of markings are inherently difficult to date; there are no other artifacts--the area is flood prone--and there is no carbon dating to nail it down. Weathering and style are the only guides.

Here we find a sequence of 4 figures (one was too faint to reproduce in 2 dimensions) in various stages of throwing spears with an atlatl. There may have been a rendering of prey or some other part of the story, but a piece of rock may also be missing. There is one grove in the rock that may be a spear in flight (not shown here).

Although they have been painted over, they have not been vandalized. There is one partial newer image added by a visitor no doubt. It's well of to the side and no harm was done.

I leave you with a teaser. I located this site by examining some photographs posted in a local news paper about 10 years ago. I knew the creek and I matched the pattern of trees. It's a bit off the trail, perhaps a large part of why it is still there.The Park Service doesn't talk about it. We've also found arrowheads laying on the beach from the same period (pre-woodland)

See what you can find. White folk were not first.



Modern graffiti artists have loitered in the same spot, decorating the the same rock, and no doubt telling their own tales over a few beers. There are always bottles behind the rock. It's not hard to imagine neolithic hunters lingering on the ledge telling lies or searching for meaning. It's been a naturally zen spot for millenia.

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