Hiking through the isolated canyon, its walls covered with bighorn sheep, swirling patterns and otherworldly human figures, the archeologist can't escape the sense that the images are speaking to her. But what are they saying?
This is a special problem for the archeology of rock art: understanding images that cry out in a language no one remembers.
It is clearly a language, a system of communication. These are not merely random images, nor is it certain that they record anything so straightforward as actual events. Somehow, this select set of symbols is infused with meanings so important that people for thousands of years dedicated time and effort to their production.
Archeologists who worked on the 1960s surveys developed the chronology of both the production of rock art as well as the order in which different symbols were created. By associating symbols with sites that could be dated, archeologists believed that most Coso rock art was produced during the last few thousand years with a marked flurry of production about one thousand years ago.
Over time, artists seemed to turn away from the production of curving and rectangular abstracts and focused on representational forms. Men, dogs, and particularly sheep, proliferated. more >>