A. The Beginning of Research

Since 1627, when the first tracings of prehistoric rock art were made in Bohuslaan (Sweden) by a Norwegian school teacher, Peder Alfsson, the study of rock art has gradually developed to interest both scholars and laymen.

In the last century the number of Publications concerning the subject has steadily increased. Even so, the stu y of rock art is still a relatively young and undeveloped field of archaeological research. Today the subject is awakening an ever-growing interest among researchers, although well-tested recording systems and fully assimilated patterns of aims and purposes . are still lacking in many regions of the world.

Sporadic reports on rock art appeared throughout the 18th and 19th centuries; however, ma)or studies were not undertaken until the end of the last century. In America an invaluable book by G. Mallery, Picture-writing of the American Indians, was published by the Smithsonian Institution in 1893. From the beginning of this century there have been significant reports and data collection on rock art in South Africa, the Sahara and Australia. In Sweden, rock art studies were pioneered by 0. Almgren and in the Alps by the English clergyman Clarence Bicknell.

After the discovery of Altamira, about one hundred years ago, a wealth of Palaeolithic cave art in France and Spain was brought back to light. Beginning sites in the early 1900s, recording and description of rock art sites were conducted primarily by the Abbé Henri Breuil and by Hugo Obermaier. These two scholars, followed by Teilhard de Chardin, created a challenging school of thought that contributed to a new cultural approach in rock art studies. "Research" at that time consisted of a combination of descriptions and theories. Scholars attempted to establish dating for prehistoric paintings and to explain their meaning, relating them to tales and habits of present-day tribes. There were many more or less factual accounts, yet little analysis and no synthesis in these preliminary studies; however, they provided an astounding intellectual base that raised curiosity and stimulated further research.

B. The Development of Research Methods

Methods of recording and analysis have been, and still are, continually being refined. There is no doubt that they will further evolve through the progress of science. The growth of research itself generates ever deeper aspects of study, with a consequent need for new systems of documentation and of analysis.

Methods must be adapted for each project to ensure that the basic data required for analysis can be obtained: that is, analysis must be planned according to the specific questions which the project addresses. Recording paintings requires different techniques from recording engravings; where both occupy the same surface, still other considerations must be made. In addition, the dimensions of figures and decorated surfaces, their state of preservation, the type of rock, the presence or lack of various techniques of execution and stratigraphic superimpositions irregularities in the rock surfaces, and differences in patination (that is the colour of the naturally oxidized rock surface that changes hue with age) demand, in each case, specific approaches of study and research. Today the methods of recording developed in Italy by the CCCP have been adapted for use at several major rock art sites in Europe, The Near East and Africa, yet there is still no recording method which is universally applicable.

Recording also requires a concern with superimpositions and stratigraphy, quantitative analyses of subject matter, evaluation of stylistic patterns, the study of the raw materials and the tools used by the artists, and numerous other items that enable an in-depth understanding.

Differences obviously exist in the methods used by researchers due to variations in approach and training. Nevertheless it is imperative to develop and establish a conventional, universal system which will enable researchers to understand each other, to compare results and to identify common elements and particularities in each area.

Once an area is accurately recorded, the main question that arises is what should be done with the collected data: in other words, what are the aims and purposes of rock art study? As with the methods of recording, the goals of research are also developing. In the last few years wider scopes and new implications have emerged within this field.

Matters changed when it was understood that rock art, like writing, is a very important source for historical reconstruction. Because of this consideration research in rock art has grown both in dimension and in outlook. In the last generation it has ceased to be just a descriptive subject and has become a research discipline.

Twenty years ago there were very few specialists in rock art, concentrated in a few countries. Today there are over 200 specialists in nearly 100 countries throughout the world; thousands of laymen make "pilgrimages" to rock art sites. In Valcamonica alone over 300,000 people visited the rock art in 1983, whereas in 1964 visitors numbered less than 10,000. In 20 years the number of visitors has multiplied 30 times! Rock art is being discovered by the public at large, and yet scholars have still to define the broader aims and purposes of their research.

C. International Cooperation

The CCSP, a nonprofit and non-governmental Institution, was established in 1964. Its purpose is to study prehistoric and tribal art and related subjects that concern the economic, social and intellectual life of prehistoric and tribal man. In 20 years it has hosted participants from over 60 countries and has undertaken research throughout the world. In 1968 it organized an International Symposium on Rock Art under the auspices of the UISPP (International Union of Prehistoric Protohistoric Sciences). This event gathered over 100 rock art specialists from 26 countries, and began a new stage in world cooperation for rock art studies. Since then three major international symposia and numerous conferences and seminars have been held at the CCSP.

In November 1979, ICOMOS (international Council on Monuments and Sites) created the "International Committee on Rock Art" which now has over 150 members. The committee disseminates relevant information through its members, thus contributing to expanding communication in the field; it also contributes to the world data bank.

A Training Seminar and International Consultation of Specialists on Rock Art was held by UNESCO at the CCSP in September 1981, with the participation of ICOMOS, ICOM (international Council of Museums), ICCROM (international Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property), and representatives from 24 countries of five continents.

The purposes of the Seminar were:
- to provide professional training in research, documentation and conservation of rock art;
- to promote cooperation and to develop standard procedures in the above mentioned items;
- to lay the foundations for a world strategy to safeguard, evaluate and promote knowledge and information in the field of rock art.

During the Seminar, the UNESCO Consultation of Specialists agreed upon a series of recommendations which provided basic orientations for international action and cooperation.

The aims emerging from the Recommendations are:
- to realize a world inventory and data bank of rock art;
- to prepare and circulate an International Gazette of Specialists in rock art studies (Who's Who in Rock Art);
- to develop a World Journal of Rock Art Studies for the advancement of research, promotion of the cultural heritage, and the updating of conservation techniques; and to publish an annual report as a forum for these issues;
- to examine and provide advice on problems of legislation concerning the protection of rock art sites, and to make comparative information available to the concerned specialists and governments
- to provide specialists where required, especially for urgent salvage projects;
- to hold international seminars and symposia for the interchange of ideas and comparison of information, and for professional training in the field.

D. Current Action

Efforts are presently being concentrated in three fields:

1. DOCUMENTATION: producing a World Inventory and Data Bank on rock art. In a joint effort of ICOMOS and the CCSP, a draft Standard Rock Art "Site File" (as agreed upon by the participants of the 1981 International Seminar) has been circulated for further comments and approval in order to be adopted on a world basis. Sample files have been use at sites in Italy, Israel, India, Mexico and Tanzania, where they proved efficient and quite easy to use. The file takes into consideration various existing forms currently in use in the USA, Canada, Lesotho, Sweden, Italy, France and Spain, and attempts to unify the system and adapt it for world use. This standard "Site File" form provides a minimal amount of essential data. This information is in the initial stage of being collated, computerized and made available for the study of individual sites. The CCSP's archives already contain the largest documentation of rock art in the world and include: data from some 100 countries, over 500,000 photographs and slides, and numerous tracings and reproductions.

Together with the cartography and field reports of research expeditions these make up the initial core of the World Inventory and Data Bank.

2. PUBLICATIONS: several projects are currently in progress:
- publishing the Proceedings of the International Seminar and Consultation held in September 1981, which has recently been edited;
- adapting the BCSP (Bollettino del Centro Camuno di Studi Preistorici) to fulfill the recommendation of becoming a World Journal of Rock Art Studies. Volume 21 already incorporates these new aims;
- producing a Who's Who in Rock Art. A form has been mailed to scholars and specialists for this purpose. The first edition is nearly ready for the printer;
- setting up a "World Inventory" to be published and distributed. The first stage would include short entries concerning the major areas.

Broad international cooperation, including the support of sponsors, is necessary for this publication programme.

3. EDUCATION: current programmes include developing an educational structure to provide training programmes for professionals, and for international symposia and seminars on rock art, and disseminating information to specialists and to the public at large. The actions taken so far are modest because of financial limitations. Symposia/seminars should be planned every two x,ears, following the 1981 seminar.

E. Research Projects in Progress

Research projects concerning rock art are being carried out all over the world. In the last few years a significant increase in field surveys and rock art studies has been noted. In 1982-83, several reports were received by the CCSP which provide a great deal of new information. The response has not been consistent, however, and it is doubtful whether the reports received so far accurately reflect the actual world-wide distribution of rock art presently p under investigation. Information collected from publications and from sources other than research projects serves to round out the yet incomplete view of the current world situation. A general appraisal of the state of research in the world and in each continent is presented in subsequent chapters.

New waves of activity in rock art research appear to be particularly strong in Africa and South America, while a consistent increase may also be noted in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America.

Reports continue to arrive, and it is certain that additional ones will become available in the near future. Furthermore, there must still be researchers who have not been contacted yet, while several of those who were, may not yet have answered. But already from the reports received, we can recognize the extensive efforts currently being made throughout the world in the field of rock art.