Thursday, April 28, 2016

Social memory inscribed in rock art: Bear Restoration Complex in Pleistocene-Holocene Transition Siberia and North America

Wind (Big Horn) River (Boysen Reservoir) petroglyphs

Lynda D. McNeil
L’art pléistocène dans le monde / Pleistocene art of the world / Arte pleistoceno en el mundo
September 2010
(Link) pdf

Blog comment on this paper:  I am reluctantly putting this paper on my blog.  I do agree with the author that there is a connection between Siberian and Legend Rock (Wyoming) petroglyphs.  However, the paper focuses on the notion of a Bear Restoration Complex and under emphasizes the obvious swan-elk-hunter/birdman theme evident in the Wind (Big Horn) River (Boysen Reservoir) petroglyphs and its probable connection with star constellations on the Milky Way/Path of Birds/Path of Souls/Path of Wolves.  The paper is also problematic in the suggestion of a simplistic one-directional migration from Siberia to North America at the Late Pleistocene/Holocene transition.  In fact, most Native Americans from North America object to this simplistic theory.  An increasing body of evidence shows that the ancestors of Native Americans reached the Americas before and during the last Ice Age, and that there continued to be travel back and forth between North America and Siberia until the flooding of Beringia.  In any case, the comparison between Siberian and Wyoming Rock Art is fascinating.

The paper (introduction):

"Using a poststructural practice approach to rock art interpretation,1 this paper seeks to reconstruct an understanding of the social and cognitive processes involved in the transmission of an ancient Angara rock art style from central Siberia to North America. As I argued in a previous paper (McNeil 2005), Tungusic Manchu-speaking Evenki in Siberia produced rock art at ceremonial sites and inscribed images (Connerton 1989) intended to communicate a regional Bear Restoration Complex and bear-human ancestry religious beliefs. The ancestral Evenki clans’ shared practical and discursive knowledge (Bourdieu 1977; Giddens 1987, 1984) was grounded in hunter-gatherer lifeways, bolstered by bear restoration cycle beliefs and ritual practices. A similar style with probable connections to this ideology appears to have been replicated in North America (Wyoming) during the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition (PHT) or Early Holocene."

"Both Siberian and Wyoming (USA) rock art data sets are based upon a combination of personal observation in the field and published photographs. The Siberian data set for this analysis is based upon personal field observation of rock art on the Middle Yenisey River (Minusinsk Basin) in the Soviet Republic of Khakassia, Siberia (July to August 2002), in addition to over one hundred published photographs from the following Middle Yenisey rock art sites: Oglakhty I-II, Tepsej I-II, Ust’-Tuba II-III, and Shalabolino (Francfort & Sher 1995; Martynov 1991; Pyatkin 1998; Pyatkin & Martynov 1985; Sher et al. 1994). The Wyoming data set is based upon field observation of the Archaic Hunting style rock art at Legend Rock and of photographs taken by archaeologist Richard Wheeler in 1950 of the relevant rock art panel (48FR99) at the Boysen Reservoir site prior to the panel’s inundation."

"The paper addresses the following research question: what social and cognitive processes could account for the reproduction of PHT Siberian Angara rock art style and bear restoration themes in North American (Wyoming)? Based upon a theory of structuration and materiality (idea-embodying style), I argue that the rock art’s emplacement and inscription both in central Siberian (Middle Yenisey) and in Wyoming (Wind River/Big Horn Basins) functioned to preserve and transmit collective social memories integral to the Bear Restoration Complex (cosmology, beliefs, and ritual practices) and their bear-human ancestry and identity."

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