The Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Missouri

Article excerpt

The Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Missouri. CAROL DIAZ-GRANADOS and JAMER R. DUNCAN. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, 2000. 331 pp., 21 figs., 20 charts, 47 maps, 32 plates, 12 tables, 3 appendices, biblio., index. $34.95 (paper), ISBN 08173-0988-8.

Reviewed by Joseph C. Douglas

This book, a small, brown volume issued by the University of Alabama Press in 2000, languished for years at the bottom of the stack of books in the book review editor's office, and then for months more on this reviewer's desk. This lack of attention should perhaps comes as no surprise, as archaeologists, historians, and cultural resource managers have, with a few notable exceptions, devoted little serious research to the (unfortunately named) field of rock art, especially in the eastern United States. This is regrettable, as the study of anthropogenic markings on rock, whether in open air, rocksheiter, or deep cave sites, offers an important window into the ideology, iconography, and technology of prehistoric (and historic) societies in the Southeast, ranging from (at least) the late Archaic period well into the twentieth century. It is especially lamentable in this case, as this book by Carol DiazGranados and James R. Duncan, which grew out of Diaz-Granados dissertation, offers a solid model for the recordation, analysis, and interpretation of an important category of artifact. Focusing on the prehistoric rock art of Missouri, this survey is comprehensive, and it sets a high standard for both the identification of styles and for the interpretation of specific motifs and combination of motifs (called panels). It also points the way for establishing temporal parameters for parietal art through direct radiocarbon dating, an innovation in the study of eastern sites which has subsequently been expanded upon in more recent works by the authors as well as other researchers in the region.

The authors begin their study by clearly laying out the terrain of the field. After first introducing the terminology they employ, they note previous investigations of rock art in the region and their relevance to the current research. Then they discuss the natural environment of Missouri, including its geology, fauna, and flora, especially emphasizing the patchwork pattern of open glades intermixed with forests. A lengthy section follows where Diaz-Granados and Duncan delineate their methodology for site inventory and investigation, beginning with locating reports of rock art in the Missouri state archeological records and from knowledgeable private individuals. Once a potential site was discovered, fieldwork included locating the reported site and documenting its content, media, and spatial relationships utilizing photographs, drawings, and copious notes. The context of the site was always carefully noted, including macro and micro-environments, orientation, elevation, and the presence of any surface (as opposed to parietal) artifacts or material. A search for satellite sites was also conducted, which often proved successful. After recordation was complete, which sometimes took several research trips, the state site files were updated and the authors processed the photographs, drawings, and any related artifacts in the lab.

By moving beyond description and emphasizing the physical context of rock art, the authors ground their analysis in place, which itself was an important consideration for the creators of prehistoric markings. By dividing the physical environment into four categories, of caves and shelters, glades with outcrops, river and creek sites, and spring sites, patterning emerges. On a smaller scale, the specific location chosen by the artists and the spatial relationships within the sites show connections between motifs and environment (such as concentric circles and water), and it demonstrates that what we today might consider an "ideal" location was not necessarily true for the artist at the time. This contextual approach provides an important corrective for a field that previously tended to be both physically and theoretically disconnected from the landscape. …