V. REGIONAL DISTRIBUTION
A. Differences in Evaluation
From one area to another scholars reveal different concerns and varying degrees of knowledge about sites. It is not only the lack of adequate training which limits data-collecting and prevents sharing information with others. There are also differences in professionalism, and in the willingness to communicate knowledge to others. Frequently, the less people know, the more they want to keep their "secrets"; this pattern may also reflect local habits. While in some regions there is an eagerness to communicate knowledge and to obtain information from other areas, other regions of the world are still reticent in sharing their cultural patrimony and in learning about what is found elsewhere. Furthermore, some researchers tend to focus their interest on local details, disregarding basic concerns which are necessary for comparative studies.
An additional problem arises when attempting to compile a world view of rock art there are different methods of evaluation in different areas which condition the information received. Data considered significant by one researcher may not be considered so by another. To one, the most important aspect of a site might be its monumentality; to another, its age; to another still, the quantity of findings or their degree of visibility, the holiness of the place, or its impact on local cultural and historical awareness. In order to complete a world view of rock art distribution, it would be useful to rely to a Farger extent on first-hand information and on-the-spot visits. Several of the areas mentioned have not been visited as yet by the author. The present report is therefore by no means conclusive. It shall provide short outlines of chronological successions of the rock art in a few main areas of the world which constitute essential examples for understanding regional sequences.
For the future it would be advisable to focus interest on different geographical areas each year, so that at least some areas can be sufficiently covered. This would both stimulate local researchers to cooperate more and help bring basic information to a world forum, as well as allow the acquisition of deeper understanding of regional problems.
The African continent may be divided into two major regions, as far as rock art is concerned, which roughly represent the north and the south. In the south, major concentrations follow the general geographical area of the Rift Valley from Kenya and Tanzania, down to Johannesburg in South Africa. In addition, there is a still broader distribution in southern Africa, where major sites have been found in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Lesotho. Malawi, the Katanga province of Congo and southern Angola have yieded preliminary reports of sites which may result to be of considerable importance. In northern Africa most major concentrations are located in the central Sahara region. Some are well known and publicized, such as the Tassill'n'Ajjer in Algeria, and the Fezzan and the Acacus in Libya. Others, no less significant, in the Tibesti and Ennedi in Chad, in Niger's Tenere and in the Adrar range of Mali, are yet to be adequately explored. Other major sites are found in the Moroccan and Algerian Atlas range, along the Nile valley, both in Egypt and in the Sudan, and in the Canary Islands.
A distinction must be made, as far as southern Africa is concerned, among four assemblages which appear to reflect four major historical eras. From the oldest to the latest they illustrate human practices: 1. early hunters of big game, who did not know the use of the bow; 2. evolved hunting, with the use of bow-and-arrow; 3. pastoralism; 4. mixed economies.
Rock art reflecting a mixed economy appears to be primarily connected with Bantu-speaking peoples. It is widespread in south-eastern Africa, including vast areas of Kenya! Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Most of these sites appear to be connected with initation practices and ancestral worship. They comprise schematic designs principally in white, and cover most of the past 2,000 years.
Pastoral rock art is mainly concentrated in Kenya and Tanzania, with isolated occurrences in other countries. Domestic oxen, some humped, are the main subject matter, while the typiced colours used are black, white and brown. Most of this art is chronologically parallel to the early phases of the mixed economies stage, although the earliest phases of pastoral rock art are older; some may go back as far as the second millennium B.C. Another series of local styles, still to be defined, is present in the area during the last two millennia B.C. -9 it seems to illustrate a variety of living patterns.
Late Hunters' art includes scenes of mythology, hunting, and other daily activities. Numerous anecdotal depictions are present. Stylized and dynamic human figures with bows-and-arrows constitute the most widespread pattern in the area, and are particularly well-represented in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Lesotho. The Matopos Hills in Zimbabwe and the Drakensberg in Lesotho and Natal each number well over 200,000 figures of this style. The total number of figures is estimated At over 2,000,000. Artistic reduction reached a high peak of creativity with polychrome depictions of exceptionally well-conceived, elegant and harmonious assemblages. The origins of this type of rock art may go back more than 10,000 years, as implied by recent findings of painted tablets from excavated funerary caves in the Cape Province (South Africa). In some areas this style was still practiced by San tribes as recently as the last century.
The earliest stage, that of the Early Hunters, is frequently overlapped by later figures. Unfortunately, because it is sometimes faded antnardly visible, it has been consistently neglected. The only area where the art of early hunter-gatherers is known to be well represented and can be studied thoroughly, appears to be the Central Highlands of Tanzania in the districts of Kondoa and Singida. Here a UNESCO consultation in 1981 allowed us to identify a consistent series of overlapping styles which may well contain the earliest rock art examples known so far in the world. The Early Hunters style consists primarily of large animal figures, and includes a limited typology of recurrent symbols. At least eight stylistic phases have been detected; one of the later ones shows depictions similar to those represented in the slabs of Apollo 11 Cave in Namibia which, as mentioned already, have been dated by C-14 to 28,000 - 26,000 B.P. At some rock art sites, strata with material culture have been excavated with sequences covering all of the Late Stone Age and part of the Middle Stone Age, for a time range of over 40,000 years.
Somalia and Ethiopia have revealed a mostly pastoral art so far, with the exception of one site in Ethiopia (Porck Epic) which may include some figures from the Late Hunters horizon. This area is clearly connected stylistically and conceptually with the Sudan, as well as with southern Arabia. It appears to be a region of transition with little stylistic autonomy, as far as known sites are concerned. This region, however, is largely unexplored, and future research may modify this view.
In northern Africa, as mentioned already, the most important rock art sites are located in the mountain ranges of the central Sahara, in territories belonging to Chad, Libya, Niger and Algeria. Here the earliest rock art appears to belong to a final phase of the Earl Hunters, and to have been
y made in the late Pleistocene, before or around 12,000 B.P. It consists of engravings of large animals. Elephants, giraffes, and wild oxen are profusely represented in what is now a desert area. It is followed by a widely diffused and extremely peculiar horizon which some researchers define as "Round- Heads" because of this specific feature in the anthropomorphic depictions. Most of the figures are painted in monochrome or bichrome, but in a large variety of colours. They illustrate a wealth of mythologies created by people who relied principally on a gathering economy, livingin a sort of "paradise on earth", when the central Sahara mountain plateaus must have been very fertile gardens, with lakes and forests, and with a flora similar to that which characterizes the tropical forest.
The human groups of this cultural horizon appear to have lasted until approximately 8,000 B.P., after five or six thousands years of survival, after which the earliest pastoral peoples reached the area with domesticated oxen. For nearly 4,000 years the central Sahara was a land of semi-nomadic pastoral peoples who originated elsewhere. They produced a very sophisticated rock art, both painted and engraved, primarily characterized by depictions of large herds of cows and by detailed descriptions of family and social life.
The second millenium B.C. saw another change with the introduction of the horse; the rock art of the Horse Period reflects intensive trading and warfare. Shortly thereafter the camel arrived with nomadic peoples, whose descendants may still survive in the area. The rock art reveals the drastic changes that took place in the ecological conditions and in human life in the
Sahara, where populations succeeded each other over the ages with different traditions and using different resources.
For the purpose of the rock art world inventory, Asia has been divided into two regions of unequal size. One, from the Bosphorus to the Hindu Kush range, roughly corresponds to the Near East. The other, much larger in size, includes the rest of Asia: central Asia, Siberia and the Far East.
In the Near East, rock art is widespread in the Arabian peninsula, Sinai (Egypt), the Negev desert (Israel), Jordan and Anatolia (Turkey). Isolated yet significant concentrations have been reported also from Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. The most complete sequence found so far in central Arabia. A study of the documentation collected by the Ryckmans-Lippens-Philby expedition has enabled us to recognize over thirty-five consecutive stylistic horizons of rock engravings which fall into four major chronological groups: 1. Early Hunters; 2. Hunting-Pastoral; 3. Literate; and 4. Islamic. The Islamic style, starting after the Hegira in the 7th-8th century A.D., is mostly schematic with numerous tribal signs (wassum) and Arabic scripts. The Literate period illustrates a way of life based on trade and pastoralism. Figures are accompanied by a variety of Semitic writings. Thamudic, Lihyanite and Sabaean inscriptions were produced by these tribes through most of the first millenium B.C. Hunting, pastoral and ritualistic scenes include figures of domestic camels and goats. In the second half of the first millennium B.C. this style developed further, showing Nabataean and Hellenistic influences; in the first half of the first millenium A.D. clear stylized contributions are evident from the Roman and Byzantine worlds. The presence of the domestic horse is well documented in this period.
The I-lunting-Pastoral period lasted for at least 4 millennia until the second millenium B.C.; the camel was introduced as a domestic animal toward its end. The Hunting-Pastoral is by far the most complex and diversified age of Arabian history, as reflected in the rock art which ranges from the 6th to the 2nd millennium B.C. and contains a very rich sequence of cultural episodes. The rock art created in this period by a broad variety of ethnic groups testifies to ther diverse racial make-up and differentiated cultural background of the inhabitants, and occasionally reveals connections with Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Ethiopia. Domestic cattle are the main subject represented; goats and sheep are less common, and only towards the end of this period are camels depicted. A variety of assemblages describe hunting scenes, pastoralism, and daily activities. Cult scenes and mythology are also frequently depicted and reveal an intense and very rich intellectual life during the Hunting-Pastoral period.
The earliest horizons are grouped as Early Hunters, and reflect a way of life of hunting-gathering bands who relied primarily on ibex and wild oxen as basic sources of food. Both animal and stylized anthropomorphic figures.are common in these horizons. A few elephants and hippopotami are occasionally represented. It has been hypothesized that the earliest rock art known
in the Arabian peninsula may go back to ca. 14,000 B.P., but this date is SUTI)Orted so far by the sole consideration that the rock art figures reflect
auna of Pleistocene type. In the Negev and Sinai another important sequence has been detected. Seven major stylistic periods have been defined as: I. Early Hunters; II. Realistic Dynamic Hunters; III. Hunters and Pastoralists; IV. Pastoralists-traders; V. Roman-Byzantine; VI. Early Islamic; VII. Recent. This sequence is parallel to that detected in Arabia, though less diversified, and is likely to cover the last 10,000 years up to the present.
Central Asia and the Far East may be divided into two sub-groups, one in India and the other in central Soviet Asia, Siberia, and Mongolia. Very little information is presently available from other countries of the Far East. Despite substantial stylistic differences, both sub-groups appear to follow a parallel evolution, much like in the Near East, starting from Early Hunters expressions which can be safely attributed to the Pleistocene epoch, occurring before 12,000 B.P. Then follow Hunting and Pastoral groups, and finally there appear art expressions of populations with a complex mixed economy. Quite substantial concentrations of rock art are found both in the Indian subcontinent and in Soviet and Mongolian territories. Some areas are immense in extent and in quantity of figures, though detailed reports are not yet available.
The largest site known so far in India is Bhimbetka, in the state of Madhya Pradesh not far from Bhopal, which contains over 1,000 decorated rock shelters and caves within a few square kilometers. Bhimbetka is significant for its exceptional sequence of some twenty different styles of paintings covering the Upper Palaeolithic, the Mesolithic and the Chalcolithic periods. Later scenes of religious and mythological character illustrate the introduction and early developments of Hinduism and Buddhism. Over 20,000 years of Indian history are described on the walls of these caves. Excavations in the decorated rock shelters have brought to light layers with artifacts including decorated ostrich egg-shells, and have provided a sequence of C-14 dates starting from 25,000 B.P.
In the Soviet Union, the major concentrations known so far are scattered rimarily along river valleys: the Amur and Usuri on the south-eastern borders with China, in the Chiukatka, in the valleys of the Lena, the Yenisei and the Angara, around Lake Baykal, in the upper Ob river, in numerous sites of Kazakstan, Uzbekistan and Tadjikstan, and in the Ural range.
At the Kapovaya Cave, in the southern end of the Urals, there are the only Palaeolithic Kaintings of Franco-Cantabrian style known so far in Asia. Along the Lena, the Yenisei and the Angara rivers, the earliest phases of rock engravings in open-air sites have been attributed to the Pleistocene epoch, before 12,000 B.P. They illustrate a stylistic approach which is different from the Franco-Cantabrian, and which already indicates the trend developed by later rock art assemblages in the same areas.
A thorough stylistic and chronological sequence of the rock art in these Siberian valleys is still to be elaborated. Nevertheless, the art of the hunting tribes seems to have persisted until quite late, probably until after the Amur and Usuri peoples had already developed agricultural patterns with a complex mythological world reflected in the rock art of the fifth millennium B.C. Kazakstan has revealed an extremely varied conceptual rock art, with engravings focusing on imaginary beings and on scenes of sun worship, which is likely to have reached its peak of creativity in the third millennium B.C.
Both in Mongolia and in the Soviet republics, a great quantity of rock art sites reveals the persistence of this traditional method of recording well into literate periods and into the Middle Ages. Records of caravans, trade, warfare and the cult of various religions, including Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, are widely represented.
Interestingly enough, outside India and the Soviet Union, other countries of the Far East have yielded very little information on rock art. Only sporadic and fragmentary data are available on prehistoric rock art sites in Pakistan, Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Timor, and Sri Lanka, while no information is available so far from Japan, the Phi ippines, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam. Reports from China, Nepal and Burma concern primarily Buddhist and later rock sites, although it is not unlikely that major concentrations of prehistoric rock art exist in these territories.
In Europe the rock art sequence is conventionally divided into two chronological cycles: the earliest cycle, known as Franco-Cantabrian, is the art of the hunters; the later cycle comprises art produced by peoples with complex economies. This stylistic division appears to be stricter in Europe than elsewhere.
The art of the Hunters is found primarily in caves, and its origins go back earlier than 30,000 B.P. The major concentrations are in the Franco-Cantabrian region in the southwest of France and in northern Spain. There are also sites elsewhere in France and Spain, as well as in Italy, Romania, Portugal, and as far east as the Kapovaya Cave in the Soviet Urals. In all, some 150 decorated deep caves and rock shelters from the Palaeolithic period are known in Europe, of which nearly 100 are in France and ca. 30 in Spain. Both engravings and paintings are present in virtually all of these sites. The subject matter consists primarily of associations of animals and symbols; in the advanced stage which is identified with the Magdalenian period (16,000- 10,000 B.P.), the polychrome paintings are of a very sophisticated craftsmanship.
European Palaeolithic cave art has been studied quite intensively in this century, and is far better known and published than many other assemblages in the world. Nearly half the rock art specialists in the world today focus their major efforts on the study of this group, which in fact has become an elementary part of Western culture. No doubt it provides precious insight into the very roots of European civilization. Some masterpieces of Franco-Cantabrian art show an exceptional sense of harmony and conceptual refinement. In a world view, however, it must be kept in mind that there are other significant assemblages contemporary to the Franco-Cantabrian sites which may provide equally valuable contributions to world history and to the understanding of the early intellectual adventures of Homo Sapiens.
A rather schematic stage of rock art of Late Hunters and Gatherers containing many symbolic images, is detected in the final Palaeolithic, Epi-Palaeolithic and Mesolithic ages in the western Mediterranean region. Several local styles focus on mazes, patterns of lines, dots and other marks which seem to have numerical values. This stage is represented primarily between 1 1,000 and 8,000 B.P. It includes so-called Romanellian rock art in Italy and La Cocina-style rock engravings in Spain and southern France. Similar figures are found along the Mediterranean coast in Turkey, Israel, Morocco and Algeria. This artistic horizon has been related to actual living sites and material culture, and thus can be specifically dated by comparison with archaeological evidence.
Later hunters persisted in the Scandinavian countries, and have left open-air rock engravings all the way up to the Arctic Circle, in the Tromso province of northern Norway.
The second cycle is the expression of peoples living on mixed economies, and seems to have already appeared while the Franco-Cantabrian was in its last phase; it is characterized by open-air rock engravings found widely spread in numerous countries of Europe: Portugal, Spain, France, Ireland, Scotland, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Yugoslavia and Greece. The earliest phase is defined "Epi-Palaeolithic", and reflects the persistence of the FrancoCantabrian range of subject matter in a decadent Palaeolithic style. It constitutes the early stage of a sequence of rock engraving styles and periods found in Spanish Galicia, Italian Valcamonica and Austrian Totes Gebirge, and of rock paintings in Spanish Levant. The beginning of animal domestication and of incipient agriculture is recorded in the subsequent phase, when human beings become the main subject matter. From then on, a parallel stylistic evolution with specific local characteristics may be followed both in Mediterranean Europe and in the northern countries. Almost everywhere in Europe rock art became virtually extinct with the advent of the Roman Empire, although in some areas this tradition persisted, or was renewed, in the Middle Ages.
Major concentrations of prehistoric rock art in prehistoric rock art in Europe are found in the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal), southern France, the Alpine range (including France, Switzerland, Italy and Austria), in southern Italy, in the Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland), and in Soviet Karelia. More recently, substantial rock art sites have been reported from Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Albania and Greece.
Special cases are those of Magoura Cave near Bielogradchik, Bulgaria, and of Badisco Cave near Lecce, Italy, where Neolithic and Chalcolithic sanctuary caves with numerous paintings of a cosmological and religious character from the 5th and 4th millennia B.C. have been brought to light. Such painted sanctuary caves are 4 characteristic of the Palaeolithic era and are very rare in later eriods. In the European Soviet Union major rock art sites have been recorder in Karelia, on the shores of Lake Onega and Lake Ladoga, and along the shores of the White Sea, in the valley of the river Volga, as well as in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus. In Gobustan, near the south-western shores of the Caspian Sea, an exceptional succession of styles recently studied by I.M. Djafarsade has revealed an evolution ranging almost uninterruptedly from the eighth millennium B.C. to the Middle Ages. Such a sequence of Post-Palaeolithic rock art in Europe is equaled so far only in Valcamonica, Italy.
Valcamonica at the moment is the richest area of rock art in Europe, both quantitatively and in terms of age and range of successive styles. So far, over 200,000 figures have been recorded. A series of six major styles range through a time span of some 10,000, years, covering the entire Holocene epoch. This valley provides a complete stylistic sequence, from the earliest hunting clans that reached the Alpine area immediately after the melting of the Ice Age glaciers, up to the advent of the Roman Empire and later, with secondary persistencies until the Middle Ages, The sequence begins with the Proto-Camunian style which belongs to the Epi-Palaeolithic period. Valcamonica Styles I and II are Neolithic, dating back to the 6th through 4th millennium B.C. Style Iii-A is from the Chalcolithic or Copper Age, covering the 3rd millennium B.C. Styles fil-B to D occur during the Bronze Age and covet the 2nd millennium B.C. Style IV starts in the final Bronze Age and continues through the entire Iron Age (lst millennium B.C.). Finally, the Post-Camunian style ranges from Roman times to the Middle Age.
In Oceania, by far the most significant concentrations of rock art are found in Australia, while minor assemblages of rock art have been detected all over the, Pacific and as far east as Easter Island. in several cases this tradition appears to have reached the islands with the first populations. In Australia, as mentioned already, the earliest graphic signs in Koonalda Cave are over 20,000 years old. Complex figurative assemblages in Laura on the Cape York peninsula and at Panaramitee Hill in South Australia may be 14,000 years old or more. C-14 datings obtained in 1982-from Laura confirm such an earl date. Also, samples of C-14 from layers covering en ravings have yielded several dates, from ca. 13,200 B.P. to 15,450 1,500 B.P. In Australia, New Guinea, the Bismark archipelago, and Timor, rock art was still being produced as recently as the last generation, thus allowing ethnologists to make records of the contexts in which this custom occurred.
Rock art has recently been recorded in various areas of the Pacific, primarily in the Hawaiian and Easter islands, in both major islands of New Zealand, and in southern New Guinea. The most important concentrations known so far from the Pacific, outside Australia, consist of rock engravings in Hawaii. In New Zealand there are several caves, rock shelters and open-air sites which contain finely preserved and elaborate paintings and engravings made by Maori tribes during the last few hundred years. On Easter Island, deeply engraved images and figures in relief appear to belong to the same age as the monumental statues.
Recent extensive fieldwork carried out in the Sydney area, the Cape York peninsula, Arnhem Land, the Kimberle and Dampier regions and the territory of South Australia, have revealed the range of Australian rock art which includes several areas containing over 1,000,000 figures each. Recent research in Tasmania indicates that the custom of creating rock art was probably introduced there as a consequence of migration from Australia or contact with Australians, before the rise of the ocean, ca. 10,000 B.P.- before thep Tasmania must still have been connected to the mainland. The Tasmanians are in fact "early Australians" who remained isolated from the mainland around 8,000 B.C. The so-called "pre-dingo" phase, which appears to have evolved on the Australian mainland before 8,000 B.P., may have persisted much longer in Tasmania.
Numerous local styles have been identified throughout Australia, creating serious difficulties in tracing a general evolution of Australian rock art styles. Actually, every style in Australian rock art may be safely attributed to hunting societies, as the overwhelming majority of aboriginal groups still constituted hunting societies at the time of contact.
In very broad lines, however, six major stages may be distinguished: 1. The Koonalda Cave Marks style is found today mainly in southern Australia find in Victoria. It consists of simple parallel engraved markings, some of which may have a numerical value. This style, as mentioned previously, has been dated to ca. 20,000 B.P. Its duration, however, cannot be established yet.
2. The Murray River Pattern Marking style is known from several sites, from Cape York in northern Queensland to the Murray River valley in southern Australia, and in Tasmania. At Laura it has been related to archaeological layers dated by C-14 methods to between 13,200 and 15,450 B.P. Its presence in Tasmania would also imply a rather early date. Recurring patterns, such as horseshoe-like forms, rectangles, circles with dots and series of parallel lines are among the most common motifs which are engraved again and again.
3. The Panaramitee Symbolic-Figurative style has been recorded in South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory. It still belongs to the pre-dingo sequence and is likely to be at least 8,000 years old. It consists of engravings representing elements such as hand prints and footprints, animal tracks, dots (which are believed to represent eggs and are sometimes enclosed in ovals resembling nests), boomerang-like patterns, schematic animal figures, and human-like schematic faces.
4. The Sydney Generalized Figurative style has been recorded in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. It is mainly concentrated in the east and is likely to have lasted a long time; specific dates are presently not available. In Western Australia, near Dampier, similar engravings are likely to be much more recent. This style consists of large-sized outlined figures of both humans and animals. Humans are frequently represented in couples, and animals appear with their offspring or eggs. Scenes of erotic character and images of mythological beings are common.
5. The Laura Classic Figurative style has been recorded in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and appears to have a predominantly northern distribution. At Laura it has revealed a series of over twenty phases of paintings, sometimes bichrome and patterned, which overlap earlier engravings in the Murray -River and Panaramitee styles. In Queensland and in the Northern Territory it is found superimposed in its turn by figures of the subsequent Arnhem Complex Figurative style. It consists of rather static yet beautiful paintings representing humans, spirits animals, hand stencils, symbols and other objects, and contains a much greater variety of subject matter than any previous style, an innovative imagination, and a highly developed aesthetic sense. Composition seems to be considered within a new and more complex perspective. This style has different local patterns in Laura, Arnhem Land, Kimberley and Dampier, and includes both paintinigs and engravings.
6. The Arnhem Complex Figurative style generally corresponds in distribution to the Laura Classic, but is most dense in Arnhem Land and the Kimberley region; lesser concentrations are found in Queensland and Western Australia. As in the previous style, local patterns can be distinguished. It consists primarily of complex depictions of a large variety of subjects, and includes mythological an magical scenes. Anecdotal descriptions show a wonderful imagination and a wealth of colours and details. It is the only extensive polychrome style in Australia, and is by far the most complex. It is still being executed in some areas, both on rock surfaces and as bark paintings. This sequence of styles, though oversimplified, illustrates six major stages in the, history of the Australians for a period of over 20,000 years. The earliest art known on this continent is located n the south, which is also the area of earliest development. In the north, the two most recent styles seem to represent cultural levels that were never reached in regions of central and southern Australia. Rock art research is developing fast in Australia on sound ground, and is likely to bring very important contributions to the understanding of cultural evolution in the region.
F. The Americas
As mentioned already, the earliest dated rock art sites in the Americas so, far are in Brazil and Argentina. The earliest date is provided by C-14 analyses of a level which goes back 17,000 B.P. and contains rock fragments with traces of red ochre, in the state of Piaui, Brazil. In southern Patagonia, Argentina, rock art has been found at Rio Pinturas related to archaeological levels dated to 9,300 B.P. (hand stencils and hunting scenes). Another site in the Province of Santa Cruz, Cueva de los Toldes, contains levels connected with paintings (hand stencils and non-figurative signs) dated between 11,000 and 8,800 B.P. They are connected with a hunters' culture with bifacial points. Similar paintings are known at Alero de las Manos Peritadas, in Chubut. North American rock art has not been sufficiently studied yet, but it is not unlikely that similar dates will be obtained in the West Coast states, where some of the major clusters of rock art on the American continent are concentrated.
From records available so far it seems that rock engravings are more widespread in northern America, whereas rock paintings are more widespread in Latin America. California and New Mexico seem to be the transitional areas where both types are equally common; however, both paintings and rock engravings are found from central Canada to southern Patagonia.
It seems premature at present to generalize the succession of styles in the Americas; local sequences recorded in Baja California, Mexico, and in Patagonia, Argentina, may provide guidelines for recognizing more diffused patterns. Both in the north and in Latin America, an early sequence of hunting and gathering rock art appears to have preceded later styles which include Late Hunters, Gatherers, and more complex economic groups. In parts of the Americas, hunters' rock art is the only type present, while elsewhere, in British Columbia, along the US West Coast, in Mexico, Peru, Brazil and in the northern provinces of Argentina and Chile, rock art styles reflecting incipient food-producing and mixed economies are also found. An early fishermen style may be present in British Columbia.
A thorough stratigraphic analysis has been conducted in Argentinian Patagonia at Rio Chubut, where a series of four subsequent styles belonging to hunting-gathering cultures may cover a sequence of 12,000 years. Hand stencils and abstract marks were depicted here for ages, while human and animal figures (camelides) were added at various later periods.
In Peru and northern Chile the rock art sequence culminates in a phase of monumental hill figures, consisting of huge forms delineated by stones and boulders on the hill slopes. Similar examples of "boulder figures" appear in central Canada and in the western states of the USA.
Northern Arizona, Chile, Peru and Bolivia have revealed a rich sequence of styles, both engravied and painted which is yet to be fully analysed, but which has already contributed a wealth of information on the cultural evolution and the succession of life patterns in the area.
A very important sequence has been detected in Baja California, Mexico. This, area is characterized by a large number of styles, ranging through several periods, which often occur in the same caves and rock shelters. This exceptionally valuable stratigraphy may prove very useful in the elaboration of an American sequence. No dates are available so far from Baja California, but the succession of styles indicates a rather long duration of rock art traditions. Both paintings and engravings art present. The sequence starts in the Early Hunters' horizon and ends after the Spanish conquest. The four major eras are defined as Early Hunters, Late Hunters, Hunters-Fishermen, and Mixed Complex Economy.
Early Hunters stylistic assemblages are characterized by large-size figures of animals, hand stencils, symbols and signs. Instead, anthropomorphic beings are the main subject matter of the Late Hunters style, with spirits and monsters revealing a very rich imaginative world. The Hunters-Fishermen style has a wealth of engravings, in addition to many refined paintings. Fish and sea monsters are prominently depicted even at sites quite distant from the sea or lakes. Whales and other large sea animals are commonly represented at sites at two to three days distance from the coast. The last style reveals a Mixed Complex Economy and is mainly made of symbols, hand-prints and geometric patterns, repeating motifs found on pottery and objects from late pre-Colonial times. Connections with assemblages further north in the south-western states of the USA seem to indicate that certain phases reflect widespread cultural patterns.
Both in the USA and in Canada, the recording of rock art began during the last century. Very large concentrations of sites have been reported in all the western states, from Texas, Arizona and California to Washington. A richly diversified sequence of styles has been reported in Utah, while sites of varying significance are known in several central states as well. Maps and descriptions are available, yet analytical works and chronological studies have still to be developed. A sequence of styles has not yet teen clearly established, and a working chronology is still in the process of being elaborated.
In Canada, the province of British Columbia contains by far the most significant concentrations and richest assemblages of rock art, Vancouver Island being one of the major centres. Sites are also found sporadically in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. British Columbia may have some rather early rock engravings of a hunting-fishing human group. More recent mythological figures of monsters, sea animals, and imaginary beings may be associated with figures which persisted until-recently on totem poles, decorations of houses and other objects. An early stage of this stylistic horizon seems to have far-reaching parallels, primarily in the Amur-Usuri Soviet Far East.
The Americas contain a very rich variety of rock art which illustrate at least 17,000 years of cultural records, illustrating man's intellectual adventures and imagination. Information is widely scattered and not yet adequately assimilated. The existing raw material justifies broader and more incisive analyses than have so far been achieved.
The present survey is mainly compiled from reports produced by researchers around the world and from the documentation existing at the CCSP. It on should by no means be considered exhaustive. Indeed, indirect reports have informed us of large and important rock art sites in such countries as China, Nepal, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Cuba and Costa Rica, for which there is not sufficient documentation available at present. However, this preliminary survey illustrates how rock art appears to have been the most widespread artistic expression of prehistoric times in the world, and indicates the role that rock art could have, both internationally and locally, for culture and for historical reconstruction.