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31 o MARGARET W.

CoNKEY

1993 The Raw and the Half-Baked: Structuralism and Archaeological Interpretation.
In Review Feature, Material Culture and Text: The Art of Ambiguity,
II
Cambridge Archaeological ]ournal3(l):ll8-21.
Ethnographic Study and
1994 Shamanism, Natural Modeling and the Rock Art of Far Western North
America. In Shamanism and Rock Art in North America, edited by S. Turpin,
pp. 1-43. Rock Art Foundation, San Antonio.
Symbolic Analysis
1998 Finding Rain in the Desert: Landscape, Gender and Far Western North
Robert Layton
American Rock Art. In The Archaeology ofRock-Art, edited by C. Chippindale
and P. S.C. Ta~on, pp. 11-29. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Whitley, D. S. (editor)
1998 Reader in Archaeological Theory: Post-Processual and Cognitive Approaches.
Routledge, London.

Whitley, D. S., and L. L. Loendorf (editors)


1994 New Light on Old Art: Recent Advances in Hunter-Gatherer Rock Art
Research. Monograph 36, Institute of Archaeology, University of California,
Los Angeles. Ethnography ("writing about a people") is the descriptive dimension of
anthropology, which documents peoples' culture and social organization. The
Wilson, M. study of symbolism investigates the meaning of elements of culture. Rock art
1998 Pacific Rock Art and Cultural Genesis: A Multivariate Exploration. In The has no natural place in a cultural tradition. In some cases, it may be central to a
Archaeology of Rock-Art, edited by C. Chippindale and P. S. C. Ta~on, pp. people's religion, in others it may be mere doodling.
163-84. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Wylie, A. FuNCTION AND MEANING


1982 Epistemological Issues Raised by a Structuralist Archaeology. In Symbolic and
Structural Archaeology, edited by I. Hodder, pp. 39-46. Cambridge University Anthropologists traditionally distinguish between the meaning and function of
Press, Cambridge. sociocultural traits. The function of a custom has been defined as the contribution
it makes to satisfying the individual's needs or to the organization of social relations
Zubrow, E., and C. Renfrew (editors) (Malinowski 1922:515-16, 1954:202; Radcliffe-Brown 1952:178-79). Not all
1994 The Ancient Mind. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. marks on rock have a symbolic value and may simply be the product of subsistence
activities. Axe- and seed-grinding hollows are well-documented in Australia,
while "cup marks" on rocks in Kenya may have been used to grind fruit, quartz,
or iron ore (Layton 1986:28-9, 1992a:3, 184-85; Odak 1989:161-63, 1992:69).
Andre Rosenfeld (developing an argument advanced by Anthony Forge) has
suggested further distinguishing "gestural markings" such as hand stencils, which
record a person's visit to or association with a place, from rock art in the strict
sense, which draws upon a body of regular motifs to express cultural constructs
(Forge 1991, Rosenfeld 1993). Rosenfeld terms the latter a referential tradition
although, for reasons given below, I prefer to use the term differently.
The distinction between purely instrumental and symbolic actions is not
clear-cut. Josephine Flood has shown that even instrumental actions may be
mediated by an unfamiliar theory of being. The Wardaman of Northern Australia
pound the edges of rock ledges in shelters to release the power in the rock, and
abrade gr ves "to make the rock bleed" during rainmaking rituals (Flood
1997:151- 5 ). H rm dsson d s rib s polish d aviti s t und at a numb r of

311
312 ROBERT lAYTON ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY AND SYMBOLIC ANALYSIS 313

rock art sites in Sweden and the Alps which may have been produced by grinding One of the best-documented traditions of totemic rock art is that of the
cereal or sharpening swords. In several areas local tradition relates that the Kimberley region of northwest Australia (for a review of the extensive literature
hollows were created by barren women, who slid down the rocks in the hope of on, and current indigenous knowledge of this tradition, see Layton 1992a:33-
becoming fertile (Hermodsson 1995). 47). In the Kimberley, each clan is associated with an ancestral being or
I have argued elsewhere that art may be characterized in both aesthetic and Wanlijina. Various artifacts and animals which the Wandjina used or encountered
symbolic terms (Layton 1991:4-6) and will rely here on the minimal definition during the creation period became the minor totems of the clan. Eventually
adopted in my study of Australian rock art: "art consists of deliberate each Wandjina chose a territory ( damhina or dam hun), which he or she bestowed
communication through visual forms" (Layton 1992a:1). As Nancy Olsen puts upon the clan. Tiring of travelling, the Wandjina painted his or her image upon
it, "rock art is that portion of a culture's visual communication system which is the wall of a rockshelter within the territory, sometimes in quasi-human form,
painted and incised onto rock surfaces" (1989:427). David Whitley notes the sometimes in an animal transformation. The minor totems are often painted in
importance of distinguishing between literal and metaphorical readings of rock the same shelter. As Daisy Utemara, a senior woman from the region explains,
art (1994a:3 56) . He traces the idea of reading rock art to Barthes' work on the "When we wanted to have plenty yams or crocodiles, we would go back to that
communicative dimension of material culture (Barthes 1967; but see also Mounin place and paint them again" (Utemara with Vinnicombe 1992:25). People gi,
1970). that is, follow or inherit their Wandjina (Layton 1992a:37, Utemara with
Rock art is not necessarily profoundly symbolic. Melanie Blackmore found Vinnicombe 1992:25) and the act of repainting the ancestral figures i~ one
that contemporary rock engravings near the Indian village of Budihal in north expression of this heritage. David Mowaljarlai identifies the rock upon which
Karnataka were largely made by herd boys passing the time while watching over the Wandjina are painted with rain-bearing clouds (Vinnicombe and Mowaljarlai
their livestock. The figures included snakes, game boards, and the hands and 1995:234). The Wandjina also left the spirits of unborn children in pools of
feet of a local deity (Blackmore 1994). In Kenya, young Samburu warriors are water within the clan territory, which Mowaljarlai equates with the Wandjina's
excluded from the family camp, and, when not defending the camp's herds against reflection in the water, "generating, supplying kids from the same image coming
raiding, spend much of their time in rockshelters roasting meat. They sometimes from the ... water" (ibid.:233). The best known case of totemic rock art in North
paint pictures of everyday life on the walls of the shelters (Odak 1992:69). America is that of the Hopi (see below) .
Among the neighboring Masai slaughtering and eating meat in the open air is The best recorded case of shamanistic rock art is that of the Columbia Plateau
forbidden, compelling men repeatedly to return to rockshelters where they paint of North America. The ethnographic record from the Columbia Plateau, like
pictures of shields and cattle brands which the informed viewer can identify as that of the Australian Kimberleys, extends from first-person accounts given to
the property of particular clans (Hartley 1992:112-13, citing Gramley 1975). the earliest ethnographers to the recollections of elders who have provided
Secular rock art is well-documented in Australia, where paintings have been accounts based on their personal experience, in the 1990s. Not only is there
made to show others what horses looked like or to record a successful hunt general information on the relationship between rock art, the quest for visions,
(Turner 1973; Mulvaney 1996). The "biographic" rock art of the Northern Plains and shamanism, but also direct reference to actual figures, the majority of them
of North America, which builds motifs such as warriors, horses, and shields into paintings. One ethnographer gives the word for pigment as nameeta, or "power"
scenes depicting combat, horse-raiding, and sexual intercourse, occupies a rather (Barbeau 1960:207-9). Some pigment sources are still in use (see review in
similar position in the native cultures of the Northern Plains (Keyser 1987; Hann, Keyser, and Cash Cash n.d., on which the following summary is based).
Keyser and Cowdrey n.d.). Even secular art, however, resonates with a culture's Every known animal, together with artifacts, mythological figures, and heavenly
values. Australian paintings of horses or European ships are rooted in the bodies figure in the Spirit Quest. People visited existing paintings either because
cataclysmic events of colonial domination. Horse-raiding and the humiliation the paintings had been put there by someone .w ho went on to receive good
of rivals are symptomatic of the tensions that developed on the North American power, or because the spirits themselves were thought to have created the
Plains ahead of the encroaching colonial frontier. paintings. Visions were induced by the fasting and strenuous activities undertaken
by those questing. Sometimes the very act of painting or engraving rock art
induced a vision although, more frequently, the art was a record of a vision
RocK ART AND RELIGION
already achieved. Some rock art appears to have been created by professional
A broad distinction can be drawn among the types of religion expressed in rock shamans as an advertisement for their powers but, since all adults with any
art, between those in which the right to paint or engrave motifs signals social standing had succeeded in the vision quest, rock art is widespread on the
membership of subgroups within the community (totemic traditions) and those plateau. Walker considers there are thousands of vision quest sites in the northern
characterized by individual ownership of motifs achieved through spiritual Rocky Mountain region (Walker 1991:107, 110; see also Ray 1939 and Cline
communion (shamanistic traditions). 1938; both cited in Hann, Keys r, and Cash Cash n.d.).
314 ROBERT LAYTON f THNOGRAPHIC STUDY AND SYMBOLIC ANALYSIS 315

There is also ethnographic evidence that elaborate scenes of corralling, snaring, Sullivan 1989:70, see also Mulvaney 1996:15-17). Claire Smith has recorded a
and spearing in the rock art of the Columbia Plateau are the product of hunting video that shows the preparation of pigments and fixative in southern Arnhem
magic (Teit 1906, cited in Hann, Keyser, and Cash Cash n.d.). Since one expected Land (Smith 1993 ).
success in hunting the species associated with one's guardian spirit, the two themes Wherever the representational qualities of rock art can be identified, figures
are related. Annie York, a contemporary native expert, comments: "The things can be said to point in two directions: outward, to a world of perceived experience
that the hunter wants . . . that's the way you write it. It shows he has caught them in which the researcher and artist may both participate, and inward, to a world
in his mind." York further explained a composite (therianthropic) human-animal of culturally-constructed meanings that are more or less unique to the artist and
figure as the dream of a hunter visualizing his power (York, Daley, and Arnett their community. It is here that most anthropological research has been
1993, cited in Hann, Keyser, and Cash Cash n.d.). conducted. The outward links between the figure and what it represents can be
Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff documented shamanistic rock art in South described as its referential qualities, and the inward evocation of meanings its
America, among the indigenous Tucano people of the Vaupes region of Colombia signification (cf. Quine 1960:17). Although references may be detected in art
(Reichel-Dolmatoff1967). Just as the southern Basarwa or San believed God to without the help of an indigenous instructor, it is important to remember that
have been upset by the killing of the first eland, so the Tucanoan peoples of the no style is transparently naturalistic, but rather selects certain culturally
northwestern Amazon believed game animals to be under the protection of a significant aspects of the world to portray through regular forms. Through the
being called the "Master of Animals." A shaman in trance can enter the hills study of style, ethnography reveals the intimate connection between reference
and negotiate the release of animals for his group to hunt, in exchange for the and meaning in rock art.
souls of those who had broken the rules of good conduct while alive. Although Style can be characterized in terms of the distinctive forms from which its
hunters avoid these hills, shamans visit them to paint in red the animals they motifs are constructed and the organizational principles through which composi-
have asked the Master of Animals to release. Geometric motifs painted adjacent tions are built up. Although archaeologists have tended to interpret style change as
to the animal figures represent fecundity. Rows of dots depict drops of semen, evidence of a temporal sequence, anthropologists can demonstrate the expressive
and zigzag lines the succession of generations. Geometric shapes inside the bodies functions of style. In Australia, totemic ancestors, sorcery figures, and secular
of animal paintings denote the animals' fertility. Reichel-Dolmatoff was aware paintings, produced by members of a common culture, are frequently distin-
that these forms were characteristic of human trance experience and regarded guished by different styles. Local people rely upon their knowledge of style to
them as directly induced by the human nervous system (Reichel-Dolmatoff1978), recognize the theme signified by a particular figure (on the functions of style in
a point later taken up by Lewis-Williams and Dowson in their study of Southern Australian rock art, see Layton 1992a, chaps. 2, 3). Whitley argues that the
San rock art (Lewis-Williams and Dowson 1988). Reichel-Dolmatoff considered three rock art styles identified in the Great Basin of California and Nevada may
the accumulation of many superimposed paintings, the oldest much-faded, to be not be chronologically distinct, but expressive of different stages in trance
evidence of the longevity of this tradition. experience (Whitley 1994b:87).
Whitley has reviewed the ethnographic documentation of shamanistic rock Each artistic tradition is also characterized by a particular iconography, an
art in the far west of North America. He finds good evidence for its production ordered set of connections between particular forms and their meanings. A human
and use in the recent past in south-central and southern California (Whitley figure with fingers splayed on an enlarged left hand is a specific motif signifying
1992:91-95). Shamans painted their spirit helpers on the rock to let people see a shaman in Algonkian cultures (Snow 1977:47). Schaafsma identifies individual
what they had experienced. When in trance, shamans entered the rock itself, Kachina in Pueblo rock art from such iconographic traits as a crooked mouth, a
were "drowned" in a pool of water, or "died." Caves were considered entrances beard and sharp teeth, star-shaped face, large horns, or a long beak (Schaafsma
to the spirit world. Inside the rock one encountered spirit agencies embodied in 1981:28).
the grizzly bear or rattlesnake. The ability of lizards to dart in and out of cracks The most difficult aspect of a living rock art tradition to describe
in the rock made them emblems of trance experience (Whitley 1992:101). ethnographicially is its iconology. lconology is the study of the way in which an
artistic system is embedded in the theories of being held by those who produce
it. Recent philosophical writings have questioned whether complete translation
WHAT CAN BE LEARNED FROM ETHNOGRAPHY? of another culture's theoretical sentences is possible (Derrida 1976, Putnam
Ethnographers frequently forget to record the kind of practical information which 1995, cf. Layton 1998). Historical sources record, for instance, that the Dakota
archaeologists, confined to the material remains of a tradition, find useful. Ivan believed petroglyphs to have a supernatural origin, but this is not inconsistent,
Haskovec and Hillary Sullivan, however, calculated that a Western Arnhem in the indigenous theory of being, with the proposition that they were made by
Land artist required seven hours to collect his pigments and fixatives, but only a shaman in trance (Snow 1977:44). D ean Snow cites the case of John Neptune,
fifteen to fifty minutes to paint a figure. They point out that pil:(ments and an Abenaki shaman who could take seven animal forms. The capacity of Abenaki
fixatives would ftc n be collected in the cours' of f taRIOI:( (Hnskov und 1 R ndary h lni(R to und r.:o ontinual transformation "muk"s shamhls of
316 ROBERT lAYTON ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY AND SYMBOLIC ANALYSIS 317

modem efforts to impose a rigid structure" upon the cosmology expressed in culture, and that most recent paintings were the work of a few such people, made
folklore (ibid.:4 7) . The empiricist orientation of many North American to record successful hunts and, more rarely, as part of an increase ceremony.
archaeologists has blinded them to the need to read early ethnographic Najombolmi's compositions include so-called maternal scenes in which a larger
statements as metaphorical allusions to trance experience (Whitley 1992:98). woman puts her arms protectively around a smaller male, records of sexual
In Australia, indigenous statements that rock art was made during the Creation relations between males and females, and domestic scenes of men and women
Period, or that it was the work of non-human agencies, led some archaeologists foraging. European contact is underrepresented in Najombolmi's work, although
to conclude that the real circumstances of its production had been forgotten otherwise common in the region. His work is not confined to his own clan estate.
(Layton 1992a:ll5-19). If rock art is part of a living tradition, there should be a degree of inter-
The location of engravings or paintings in the cultural landscape may be critical subjective understanding between the artist and his or her indigenous audience.
to their meaning. The rock art of the Columbia Plateau appears to be preferentially Interviewing others is as important as seeking out the artist. Even if rock art is
located at two types of sites: places considered gateways to the spirit world and, no longer practiced, if it has contemporary significance this is of both academic
probably, graves. Many features of the landscape bearing rock art are the transformed and practical interest (see Haetta 1995; Odak 1992). Downplaying the signi-
remains of the bodies and artifacts of heroic beings. In Australia, rock art at sacred ficance of indigenous statements degrades the cultural value of sacred sites
sites is typically regarded as the work of the ancestors who created the site. Totemic (Meehan 1995; Whitley 1994b:92).
rock art tends to have a different distribution pattern from that of secular art. The archaeological urge to assume all rock art is prehistoric should be resisted
Michael Evans and his co-authors similarly report that both the geographical (Layton 1995:217; Walker 1991; Whitley 1992:96, 1994a:360ff). Whitley argues,
location of the site and the position of an engraving within a group of petroglyphs for example, that the failure of ethnography to match the archaeologists' hunting
revealed the meaning of figures to contemporary Pueblo people, even though magic hypothesis led to erroneous claims that all Coso Range art preceded
"Pueblo consultants made a point of explaining that there is no one correct or ethnographically-documented culture. Deward Walker refers to the "impressive,
complete Pueblo interpretation for a petroglyph image. Each pueblo associates ongoing revitalization of traditional non-Christian religions taking place among
symbols with its own stories" (Evans, Stoffle, and Pinel1993:39) . American Indians .... This revitalization became widely noted in the 1930s and
Rock art may not hold the same interest for the community that produces it its legitimacy and validity cannot be questioned" (Walker 1991:101).
as it does for the archaeologist. Field research should try to elucidate both aspects; Lack of detailed verbal explanations for the meaning of rock art is not
qualities such as symbolism, which will be difficult if not impossible to decode necessarily indicative of its insignificance; the particular place an artistic tradition
archaeologically, and qualities such as style and geographical location that may occupies in its cultural milieu will determine how much can be said about it
be detectable archaeologically.lt is the ethnographer's task to warn archaeologists (see Layton 1992a:124-26). If access to information about the cultural
about research that would contravene the wishes of the indigenous community significance of rock art is restricted, that information should not be published.
(see Haetta 1995; Meehan 1995). Evans, Stoffle, and Pinel found, for example, that Pueblo consultants were
If the rock art researcher is fortunate, the art will be part of a living tradition unwilling to share restricted knowledge unless it was absolutely necessary to
and the researcher can prepare his or her own ethnography. In less favorable explain why a site needed protection, and the same has frequently been true in
circumstances there may still be earlier ethnographic literature available. In Australia. Indigenous knowledge can be turned to practical effect if there is
the least favorable circumstances, where no ethnographic information is scope for employing indigenous staff on rock art management projects, as is the
obtainable on local rock art, the researcher may wish to extrapolate from anthro- case in the Uluru and Kakadu National Parks of Australia. Evans, Stoffle, and
pological information on other rock art traditions to elucidate the art which is Pinel write: "Despite many Pueblo peoples' perception of harm done by past
the object of their study. Use of such ethnographic parallels is the least research and journalistic studies, many communities took part (in their
satisfactory. All three approaches benefit from an understanding of how survey) ... and made very practical recommendations for how the Monument
anthropological fieldwork is conducted. resources and their connections . . . could be both appreciated and protected"
(Evans, Stoffle, and Pinel1993:2).
Doing Your Own Fieldwork in a Living Tradition The basic rules of anthropological fieldwork can be summarized as follows:
In the ideal field situation, it is possible to interview artists or collect biographical Do not rely exclusively on the first person to speak to you; they may be
material shortly after their death (Haskovec and Sullivan 1989; Mulvaney 1996; marginal in their own community.
Turner 1973). Ivan Haskovec and Hilary Sullivan reconstructed the life of
Conduct open-ended interviews and quote your instructors as fully as
Najombolmi, an artist of Western Amhem Land whose work was instrumental
possible, rather than paraphrasing (for excellent examples of co-authored
in achieving World H eritage Status for the Kakadu N ational Park. They identified
papers sec U tcmara with Vinnicombc 1992; Vinnicombe and Mowaljarlai
604 paintings at 46 sites as his work. Interviews with other members f his
1995 ).
c mmunity made it clear that th conc~ pt f a skill d nrtlst xlst d In th lo al
I,
318 RoBERT lAYTON ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY AND SYMBOLIC ANALYSIS 319

Variation in answers is acceptable and should be documented: do not was collected by a father and daughter team, Wilhelm and Dorothea Bleek,
between 1866 and 1884, with six principal instructors. Two belonged to a family
try to homogenize or construct the perfect or complete response (for
examples of such variation in the telling of legends associated with band which was still living a seminomadic existence.
Australian rock art, see Layton 1992a:40-44). Whitley writes that Lewis-Williams' comparative analysis revealed a number of helpful parallels
"Numic religion (of the Coso Ranges of the Great Basin of the Southwest in the rituals and cosmologies of the three cultures. Both the /Xam and Maluti
United States) was highly individualistic and idiosyncratic, and a certain believed in a Creator Being called /Kaggen or Cagn, whose favored creation was
degree of variability in the vision quest ritual should be expected in the the eland. When the first Basarwa hunter killed the Eland, the Creator became
literature" (Whitley n.d.: 1). angry. Analysis of the frequency of motifs in the art of the Drakensberg shows a
Establish the cultural mechanisms which make it possible to monitor predominance of antelope, of which between 50 and 60 percent are identifiable
as eland. Hunting scenes are rare in the Drakensberg, but numerous paintings
and, if necessary, correct what individuals say. Discover whether age and
gender influence what a person can, or should, know. The gender of the show eland juxtaposed with, or superimposed on, humans. One striking
researcher should also be taken into account. composition shows two composite human figures with the feet of eland upon
which a group of eland have been painted, which Jufhoansi-consulted by Lewis-
Let your indigenous instructors shape the progress of your research as far
Williams-identified as a mating herd; four males surrounding a female (Lewis-
as possible. Let them take you to rock art sites, rather than obliging them
Williams 1981:64-5 and fig. 15; compare Jean Clottes et al. on bison compositions
to follow your decisions about when and where to go (for an example, see
in the European Upper Palaeolithic [Clottes, Garner, and Maury 1994]).
Odak 1992:67).
All three Basarwa cultures practice(d) the seclusion of girls when they
Respect confidences, and do not publish them or reveal them through reach(ed) puberty, either in the mother's hut or one specially constructed. The
public notices. Ju/'hoansi consider that if the girl behaves disrespectfully during her seclusion
Establish the appropriate way to recompense your instructors. Pueblo she can spoil hunters' chances of catching an eland; the /Xam said the same of
consultants, for example, consider that individuals should not be paid the Springbok hunt. The Ju/'hoansi (and other living Basarwa communities)
for providing knowledge that was the property of a wider community. perform a dance around the girl's hut called the Bull Eland Dance. Women
Present the community with a plain-language report on your findings dance in the guise of female eland soliciting mating. Younger men withdraw
when the project is complete and allow them to comment on it (e.g. from camp, taking their hunting weapons, which would otherwise be defiled
Evans, Stoffle, and Pinel1993; Meehan 1995; Michaelis 1981). (Lewis-Williams 1981:43-51). Lewis-Williams draws attention to a complex
scene painted at Fulton's Rock in the Drakensberg that probably depicts the
Critical Use of Earlier Ethnography Bull Eland Dance. A figure covered by a cloak is framed in an arc that Lewis-
The most renowned use of early ethnography to elucidate rock art is David Williams identifies as the outline of the hut. Men and women dance in the
Lewis-Williams' work on the rock art of the Drakensberg Mountains of South postures of the Ju/'hoansi dance, while other men watch from a distance. One
Africa. When Patricia Vinnicombe wrote People ofthe Eland (Vinnicombe 197 5) of the dancers has an antelope head (Lewis-Williams 1981:41-53 and fig. 10).
she had access to depressingly little direct information on the significance of the Among the Ju/'hoansi curing is effected during dances in which medicine
art for the local San (Basarwa) people who had produced it, and her account of men enter trance, gaining access to the spiritual potency possessed by eland and
their extermination by settlers during the nineteenth century suggested no new by girls at puberty (manifest in their underarm sweat). As they dance the men
data would become available. Six years later, Lewis-Williams presented quite a gouge a circle in the ground with their heels. One medicine man is recorded as
different picture in his book on the same body of paintings (Lewis-Williams suffering a nasal hemorrhage while in trance. During trance, the men dance in
1981). Lewis-Williams' transformation was achieved not, primarily, by the a characteristic posture, torso bent forward and arms stretched out behind them.
discovery of new documents but through the systematic analysis of available Trance enables them to see the cause of the illness afflicting another member of
sources to argue for a common cultural foundation for the living !Kung (Ju/ the band. The /Xam danced in a similar fashion, also gouging a circle in the
'hoansi) culture of the Kalahari, the extinct but well-documented /Xam of the ground. An herb called buchu was used to cool those whose trance state became
Strandberg and Katkop regions two hundred miles north of Cape Town, and the too intense. Medicine men suffered nasal hemorrhages while drawing "sickness
Maluti of the Drakensberg. Qing, the only Maluti to have been interviewed, objects" from patients. Some wore a distinctive cap made from a springbok
spoke to J. M. Orpen in 1873. Qing had not met a friendly White person before scalp or carried rattles (ibid.:76-81, 88). Hats and rattles similar to those worn
and was said to have been the son of a leader whose tribe had been exterminated by the /Xam are seen in many of the Drakensberg paintings. Numerous paintings
(Lewis-Williams 1981:31). Lewis-Williams' analysis culminates in the reinterpre- show men, and sometimes women, with lines issuing from their armpits and
tation of the fragmentary, enigmatic statements f Qing. The /Xam ethnography noses. Flecks around figures dancing with bent t rsos and arms thrown backward
320 RoBERT lAYTON ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY AND SYMBOLIC ANALYSIS 321

are construed by Lewis-Williams as manifestations of spiritual power. Some mountain sheep. A vision in which the shaman killed a mountain sheep indicated
paintings show dancers fallen to their knees; one apparently depicts two dancers success in attracting rain. Whitley argues, "the large proportion of Coso mountain
assisting another in a manner similar to the way Ju/'hoansi support each other sheep engraving, including killed sheep and 'hunters' shooting sheep, thus, should
during trance (ibid.:fig. 21). Lewis-Williams interprets a complex painted not be interpreted in a literal sense . . . (but as) graphic expressions of the visions
composition at Fetcani Bend as the depiction of a reclining patient surrounded of rain shamans" (Whitley 1994a:363). Although the earlier Coso ethnography
by dancers (ibid.:fig. 18). is less ambiguous than that of the Drakensberg, Whitley notes the need to be
Perhaps Lewis-Williams' greatest achievement was to elucidate Qing's conscious while reading it of the theoretical paradigm within which it was
enigmatic explanation of a painting that depicts antelope-headed humans bent collected(ibid.:364-67). Whitley proposes that the rise of rain-seeking shamanism
forward at the waist, supporting themselves on sticks. Orpen quotes Qing's coincides with the decline of hunting as a subsistence activity, offsetting the
statement that the men had "died and now lived in rivers, and were spoilt at the lessening contribution of men to subsistence, and indicating that the shift was as
same time as the elandsand by the dances of which you have seen the paintings" much cognitive as adaptive.
(Orpen 1874:1, his emphasis; quoted in Lewis-Williams 1981:34 ). Dia!kwain, a James Keyser and Mike Cowdrey are able to draw on the ledger art, which
/Xam man shown Orpen's copy of this painting, said that the painting depicted developed out of the rock art tradition of the Northern Plains of North America
sorcerers. Lewis-Williams argues persuasively, in light of the ethnographic after the native peoples were confined to reservations, and which was documented
material he assembles, that "living in the rivers" is a metaphor conveying the by contemporary collectors and observers (Keyser and Cowdrey n.d.). The
sensation of being in trance, and that dance exploited the potency of the eland symbolic significance of motifs such as the dragonfly is also elucidated by compiling
as God's favored animal. Another composition, in which men carrying bunches generalized information from early ethnographies. Linea Sundstrom similarly
of leaves hold a string attached to the mouth of an animal, was explained by draws on ethnographically-documented shield designs from the northern Great
Qing, and by Dia!kwain. Lewis-Williams paraphrases their accounts in the Plains to elucidate the region's late prehistoric and protohistoric rock art
following terms: "it depicted a rain-making rite. (Medicine) men had attached (Sundstrom n.d.).
a rope to the nose of the rain-animal and were leading it over the parched land An awareness of the pitfalls of ethnographic fieldwork makes it possible to
in an attempt to alleviate the drought." The men had charmed the animal with evaluate earlier ethnography critically. All statements obtained in the field are
the herb, buchu (Lewis-Williams 1981:34). Whether "rain animals" were, in interpreted by the ethnographer, and all ethnography is written within a
Western terms, real, or legendary, is unclear (ibid.:103-9). theoretical framework, even if only unconsciously. According to Miles, a
Productive as Lewis-Williams' analysis has been, some cautions should be nineteenth-century settler, an elderly Aboriginal woman told him that the
noted. Antelope-headed humans may be construed either as men wearing caps Sydney-Hawkesbury rock engravings were visited by "none but the priest or
made from springbok scalps or as visual metaphors for shamans becoming eland conjurers ... except when mystic orgies were performed-dances, human
in trance. The semi-circle surrounding the "girl" in the Fulton's Rock scene is sacrifices, Paphian orgies and settlements for adjustments of disputed questions
construed as a hut; the semi-circle surrounding the "patient" in the painting at among the tribes" (quoted in Elkin 1949:125). Clearly these were not the
Fetcani Bend is interpreted as the groove gouged by the dancers' heels. The woman's actual words, but Miles' paraphrasing filtered through ideas about the
critical difference lies in the details of the paintings; in the first, two figures debauchery of non-western culture. Nineteenth century accounts of rock art of
appear to touch the "hut" with their hands; in the second, the feet of four dancers the Columbia Plateau of North America suffer from the same clumsy cultural
are placed within the semi-circle. The women of the Fulton's Rock eland dance translation: "Minnie says they were made by doctors and mean nothing but to
(exposing their buttocks) adopt a very similar posture to figures at other locations inspire fear of the doctor's supernatural power" (Denison 1878, quoted in Hann,
construed as men in trance. Retrospective exegesis can never be conclusive, Keyser, and Cash Cash, n.d.). The contrast between this paraphrase provided
but will always depend on deriving the best available reading among several by Denison in 1878 and the first-hand accounts of Baptiste Mathais and Lasso
possibilities. Stasso recorded in Malouf and White (1953), both of which are quoted in Hann,
David Whitley has carried out a similar re-analysis of rock art in the Coso Keyser, and Cash Cash's (n.d.) study of rock art on the Columbian Plateau, is
Range of the North American Great Basin. Dating evidence suggests that much striking. In studies of the cultures of the Great Basin of California and Nevada,
of the rock art, in which mountain sheep and male anthropomorphs are commonly rock engravings were frequently reported by early ethnographers as the work of
represented (51 percent and 13 percent, respectively), was produced after a shift a spirit called "rock baby," "water baby," or "mountain dwarf." Whitley concludes
away from hunting toward the intensive exploitation of wild seeds at about A.D. that these were not, as the ethnographers often supposed, mere sprites, but
1200. Ethnographic accounts compiled earlier in the twentieth century (especially powerful spirits encountered by shamans in trance (Whitley 1992:97). The
Kelly 1936 and Steward 1941) recorded that rain-making shamans' ritual inability of archaeologists in the past, both in Australia and North America, to
equipment included hats and bullroarers made from the skin and horns of make sense of indigenous pc ples' statements led them to di scount their value
( Layton 1992a:116- 9; Whltl y 1992:107, l994b).
322 RoBERT lAYToN f THNOGRAPHIC STUDY AND SYMBOLIC ANALYSIS 323

significance of a site. Star-shaped motifs, similar to contemporary kiva paintings,


prompted their instructors to conclude that the rock engraving was associated
ETHNOGRAPHY AND ARcHAEOLOGY
with the Bow Priest society. Their interpretations only partially coincided with
the views of archaeologists who had previously studied one of the sites and were
Cultural Continuity and Transformation informed by the sacred geography of the area. The presence of water pools and
The meaning of an artistic tradition undergoes renegotiation through time. grinding hollows led modern Pueblo consultants further to infer that parties
Archaeologists are well equipped to collaborate with anthropologists in had in the past paused here to replenish their food supply for the rest of the
reconstructing continuity and change in a cultural tradition. The best example journey (ibid.:20-23 ).
is probably that of research into the history of Pueblo rock art. Nancy Olsen drew upon the extensive ethnographic record of Hopi and
During a field trip conducted in 1933-34, Mischa Titiev related an account Zuni culture, including indigenous autobiographies, to demonstrate the durability
of a salt-collecting trip his instructor had participated in, as a young man, in of the contemporary system of matrilineal clans and their emblems in the face
1912 (Titiev 1937; see also Talayesva 1963). Although the 1912 party consisted of colonial domination. Like Michaelis, she investigated whether continuity in
of only three men, Titiev considered that every household or clan in the village the system could be traced further into the past through the archaeological
would formerly have sent a representative. During their journey, the three men evidence. While the ethnography showed that animal representations frequently
stopped at a rock art site called Tutuveni ("Writing," in the place known to figured among clan symbols, they could also be associated with ritual associations
Euro-Americans as "Willowsprings"). Each was expected to carve his clan emblem or curing. Sixty percent of contemporary rock art motifs are clan symbols (Olsen
upon a boulder. Those who had already made the expedition should carve the 1989: 429). Olsen carried out statistical tests to see whether known clan emblems
same emblem, to the left of the original, on subsequent trips. Talasavuyauoma, tended to occur in certain types of location, such as kiva walls, house room
the senior participant, carved a coyote head at the left of a line of figures he had walls, or field boundaries and therefore, by inference, functioned as markers of
started many years earlier. Duvenimptiwa, the narrator's father, did likewise, site ownership which might leave an identifiable archaeological trace. She could
engraving a sand hummock. Talayesva, the speaker, began a fresh row by carving only demonstrate a statistically-significant association in the case of kiva walls.
a sun shield (Hopi clans are matrilineal). During the late 1970s Helen Michaelis Although clan emblems have also been used to signal ownership of farm field
made an extensive study of the site, finding a total of 2,178 figures, including boundaries, this practice appeared to have originated during the twentieth
many arranged in rows where the same motif is repeated ten or more times century. Olsen's study of art produced by the Anasazi farming culture after A.D.
(Michaelis 1981). Michaelis compared the corpus of figures with the known 500 showed that portable objects tended to carry geometric designs, while fixed
clan emblems of the Hopi. Up to ninety-four Hopi clans have been documented. locations such as rock walls, boulders, and kiva walls bore animal and human
Michaelis found the symbols of forty of these among the Willowsprings carvings. representations. Thirty-eight percent of the Anasazi vocabulary of animal motifs
One Corn clansman appeared to have visited the site sixteen times; two others, were identical in form to modern clan emblems. Since they were non-randomly
a Strap and a Lizard clansmen, had visited the site twelve times. The extinct distributed, Anasazi art provides good evidence for the antiquity of the clan
Rabbit Brush clan was represented by one figure (Rabbit Brush is a species of system and its expression in rock art. Olsen hypothesises both that other Anasazi
plant). Michaelis found a tendency for members of the same clan to place their motifs may be lost clan emblems and that, since the Anasazi are only one of the
symbols on the same rock. Oral tradition concerning the arrival of Hopi clans in groups ancestral to the Hopi and Zuni, other groups may also have contributed
the region suggests the earliest engravings may date to about A.D. 1150 (Michaelis to the present body of emblems (Olsen 1989:430; compare Kate Kent's [1983]
1981:8). When Michaelis reported on her findings to the Board of the Hopi parallel study of continuity and change in textile design among Pueblo cultures).
Cultural Centre on Second Mesa, it became apparent to her that the salt quest Polly Schaafsma similarly correlates changes in the rock art of the south-
described to Titiev is still practiced. western United States with changes in settlement pattern. After A.D. 1300 large
Contemporary Pueblo people consider that engravings in the Petroglyph areas of the Colorado Plateau were abandoned, probably due to increasing aridity,
National Monument area are linked with local volcanoes and spirit trails to and populations gathered in the vicinity of the modern Hopi and Zuni
form "a communication nexus" giving access to the spirit world "that can be IICttlements in the Rio Grande valley. After about A.D. 1325 rock art changed in
used by living people to help their prayers and medicine" (Evans, Stoffle, and hoth style and content. Figures resembling the Kachina, which are so important
Pinel1993:17). They pointed out that, as described in Titiev's record of the salt In modern Hopi religion, proliferate. It is then, in Schaafsma's assessment, that
quest, people journeying toward the Santa Fe and other mountains would have rhc motifs that belong to the principal Pueblo ritual associations also appear.
stopped at places including rock art sites to leave offerings. If a place is associated S haafsma concludes that contemporary Pueblo culture can validly be used to
with a particular medicine society or clan and people stop using it, the clans lnt rprct r ck art fr m this timet rward (Schaafsma 1981:26- 7) . Schaafsma
and the associated prayers and songs can be lost, although m mbers of tb wid r rcll 'Son th distribution of motifs in rock art t trace the origin of the Kachi.na
Puebl community may draw on th ir cultural kn wldg t und 'rstand h ult t :> th MoKollan ulrur , ast of th Ri rand .
324 RoBERT LAYTON ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY AND SYMBOLIC ANALYSIS 325

Ralph Hartley has extended this approach to the Colorado Plateau. The inherited patrilineally, although they could be stolen if the victim of a cattle
plateau was settled by Anasazi between A.D. 500-1300, although Hartley considers raid were killed and his cattle taken (see evidence reviewed in Odak 1989:175,
it difficult to assign figures to any phase within this period. After probable 1992:69). The informed Masai viewer could construe particular motifs as
abandonment by Anasazi in about 1300, it was reoccupied by the Shoshonean signifying the work of different clans. The uninformed observer, however, would
Ute and Paiute. Rock pictures of horses, often with riders, are attributed to this recognize only the redundancy of repeated shapes symptomatic of the men's
latest phase (Hartley 1992:39-43). Hartley notes that different degrees of mobility need to return frequently to the shelters when they slaughtered livestock (Hartley
were demanded by the subsistence economies of the different periods. He argues 1992:112-31, citing Gramley 1975). Hartley argues that where the information
that, although "we will never know what 'meaning' was assigned to rock art by content in rockshelter art rises (i.e., where the variety of different motifs
prehistoric peoples in southeastern Utah . . . , the systematic relationships between increases), one may infer use of the rockshelters for different purposes by different
these peoples and their socio-physical environment is knowable" (Hartley peoples over time (Hartley 1992:112).
1992:64). Christian Dupuy argues that the various, historically unrelated cultures which
Hartley relies on the theory of economic defendability in territoriality to have enabled adaptation to the Sahara must have been subject to certain
construct a predictive model, and upon the work of Schaafsma and Olsen for common ecological constraints. The preponderance of male over female human
indications of how Hopi and Zuni rock art might express territoriality (Olsen figures in several phases of the rock art is interpreted as an expression of the
1985, Schaafsma 1980). He finds a greater variety of motifs on isolated boulders male dominance characteristic of pastoral societies, which arises from the need
and draws a parallel with Titiev' s account of the salt quest, where the engravings to protect one's flocks from raiding (Dupuy 1995, cf. Irons 1979).
on boulders record the visits of members of many clans to the same site (Hartley Lewis-Williams' work on South African rock art assumed much greater cross-
1992:110). Rockshelters, on the other hand, were likely to have been reoccupied cultural significance after the publication of a joint paper with Thomas Dowson,
on many occasions by generations of the same or related groups, and display in which it was argued that certain visual forms seen in Basarwa (San) rock art
many repetitions of a more limited set of motifs. Hartley compares his findings are universally experienced during altered states of consciousness, which include
with Richard Gould's work in the Western Desert of Australia. Here there is a the preliminary stage of trance experience (Lewis-Williams and Dowson 1988;
relatively limited range of repeated rock art motifs close to water sources where see also Lewis-Williams, ch. 12, this volume). Several neuropsychological
art announces restrictions on access by advertising the rights of the local group researchers had independently established that these forms include grids, zigzags,
bestowed on them by the totemic ancestors (Gould 1969:270-72). dots, spirals, and "catenary curves." Lewis-Williams and Dowson drew on
Sudha Malaiya uses contemporary ethnography to interpret ancient Indian Whitley's then largely unpublished work on the Coso, and on the work of
rock art, relying on the hypothesis that the gestures of dances of modern Indian numerous authors on the signs characteristic of Upper Paleolithic rock art in
tribal communities who lie outside the caste system have retained the same France and Spain. They recognized the ambiguity of possible referents in Upper
meanings over a long period (Malaiya 1992).In this instance little independent Paleolithic rock art; a possible entoptic form might equally represent a weapon
evidence of continuity is offered in support of the method. or simplified human silhouette, but argued that the extent to which the range
of Paleolithic "signs" corresponded to entoptic forms gave strong support to the
Cross-Cultural Comparisons validity of their hypothesis that at least some Upper Paleolithic rock art was
Since every culture constructs a more or less unique system of meanings, the trance inspired. Whitley has since documented the convincing parallels, in both
extrapolation of ethnographic information on symbolism to historically unrelated the verbal imagery and rock art motifs of western North America, which support
cultures can only be justified by appeal to human universals or specific common the cross-cultural validity of Lewis-Williams and Dawson's model (Whitley 1992
features, such as mode of subsistence (see Layton 1992b).lt is also possible that and 1994b:85-7; see also the work of Reichel-Dolmatoff, cited above). Some
indigenous observers may be able to detect references to details of animal caution is nevertheless needed in the model's application to rock art traditions
behavior unfamiliar to the Western researcher (see the discussion of Lewis- which lack independent evidence of trance inspiration, since there may be other
Williams 1981, and Clottes, Garner, and Maury 1994, above). motives for using the same forms (see Layton 1988). Spirals and concentric
Hartley's reliance on the socioecological theory of territoriality in his study lrcles are common in central Australian rock art, for example, where they
of Anasazi rock art on the Colorado Plateau has been mentioned in the preceding r present the power emanating from sacred sites created by the totemic ancestors
section. He uses "examples from both contemporary and aboriginal behavior to (Munn 1973:220-21).
demonstrate the socioeconomic utility of marking places" (Hartley 1992:64) .
Hartley draws a parallel with the East African rock paintings of shields and
cattle brands mentioned above to illustrate how the particularity of cultural
meanings is lost in the absence of a competent instructor. Brand designs ar
I\ ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY AND SYMBOLIC ANALYSIS 327
326 RoBERT lAYTON

Gould, R. A.
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