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."

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Wapiti Migration, Montana


    Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park (Link)

Karagem Valley: A Rock Art Site in the Russian Altai

      Old style deer image of Karagem Valley, Altai.

Karagem Valley:  A Rock Art Site in the Russian Altai
(Link) pdf

"In this paper I would like to present a piece of Altaic prehistory which has left its traces in the rocks of the wild landscape of the southern Siberian Mountains.

"The starting point will be a rock art location in the Karagem valley. Its carvings and possible meaning will be studied in detail. Next I am trying to discuss the place from a landscape perspective. This study is a result from the expedition “Altai 2003”, organized by the University of Tomáš Baťa in Zlín (Department of Palaeoecology), which took place in June and July 2003. The rock art investigation was just one of several tasks of the expedition, since the main focus was rather ecological, botanical and geological investigation of the south Altai region.

1. Geographical context

"Altai, the highest mountain range in Siberia, extends over the territory of four states: Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan. Its elevation reaches up to 4000 m (the highest point being Belukha at 4506 m). The mountain area can be divided into vast steppes, alpine meadows, tundra and areas with glaciers. The south-eastern regions are appropriate for year-round cattle pasturing, because of a thin snow cover (BOKOVENKO 1995). Climatic conditions are sharply continental and demanding for human survival, even today.

2. A brief outline of Altaic prehistory and history

"The Altai seems to be a unique chronicle of the past. Several cultures and ethnic groups have engraved their specific “signature” here during the past in the form of graveyards, rock carvings, but also in the present day traditional craft and magical perception of the world. This extraordinary landscape, cruel and amazing, has also formed the people, leaving traces in their mentality, and, in my opinion, an extremely high “energetic potential” of it. Scythic culture has influenced the distant peoples in Europe (TALBOT RICE 1957, 178–196).

"The very first evidence of human presence in the Altai area coincides with the Stone Age. Several rock carvings of Palaeolithic age were found for instance on the Ukok Plateau – at a location called Kalgutinskij rudnik (MOLODOV 1997, 39). During the Neolithic period, certain relations to the area surrounding Lake Baikal and the Angara River seem to have emerged, which is suggested by carvings of female elks in Altai. It became the most characteristic animal in the rock art of the region (OKLADNIKOV 1966; KŠICA 1973, 145; JACOBSON 1993, 91).

(read more) pdf

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Ballad of Crowfoot (Issapóómahksika)

The Ballad of Crowfoot by Willie Dunn, National Film Board of Canada

Distribution of Cervus Canadensis (Wapiti)

Light green:  Former recent distribution
Dark green:  Current distribution
Beringian Ice Age distribution not shown

(Link) wiki

"Modern subspecies are descended from elk that once inhabited Beringia, a steppe region between Asia and North America that connected the two continents during the Pleistocene. Beringia provided a migratory route for numerous mammal species, including brown bear, camel, horse, caribou, and moose, as well as humans.[58] As the Pleistocene came to an end, ocean levels began to rise; elk migrated southwards into Asia and North America. In North America they adapted to almost all ecosystems except for tundra, true deserts, and the gulf coast of the U.S. The elk of southern Siberia and central Asia were once more widespread but today are restricted to the mountain ranges west of Lake Baikal including the Sayan and Altai Mountains of Mongolia and the Tianshan region that borders Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and China's Xinjiang Province.[59] The habitat of Siberian elk in Asia is similar to that of the Rocky Mountain subspecies in North America."

"Throughout their range, they live in forest and in forest edge habitat, similar to other deer species. In mountainous regions, they often dwell at higher elevations in summer, migrating down slope for winter. The highly adaptable elk also inhabit semi-deserts in North America, such as the Great Basin. Manchurian and Alashan wapiti are primarily forest dwellers and their smaller antler size is a likely adaptation to a forest environment."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Faunal record identifies Bering isthmus conditions as constraint to end-Pleistocene migration to the New World

Meirav Meiri, Adrian M. Lister, Matthew J. Collins, Noreen Tuross, Ted Goebel, Simon Blockley, Grant D. Zazula, Nienke van Doorn, R. Dale Guthrie, Gennady G. Boeskorov, Gennady F. Baryshnikov, Andrei Sher, Ian Barnes
Proceedings of the Royal Society B:  Biological Sciences
11 December 2013

Figure 2:  Map showing approximate locations of ancient Cervus remains sampled in this study. Colours correspond to geographical locations: purple, North America; blue, northeast Siberia; green, central Asia; red, east China; black, samples that did not yield DNA.

Blog comment:  the paper concludes that Cervus canadensis (wapiti) entered North America from Siberia/Beringia in large numbers approximately 15 thousand years ago.  However, I would note that the paper does not sample ancient DNA from any part of North America for wapiti that would have been south of Last Glacial Maximum glaciers.  It therefore does not seem clear to me as to how the paper came to the conclusion that wapiti in North American today are mostly from Siberian/Beringian wapiti introduced since the last ice age.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dene-Yeniseic in Past and Future Perspective

Edward J. Vajda

This is a great paper on Vajda's development of the Dene-Yeniseic language connection, and also more generally on current challenges and schools of thought within linguistics.  If you are interested in Trans-Beringian language connections, or more generally on the development of methods to look at language connections in deep time (with divergence of potentially greater than 10,000 years), this paper is an engaging and thought provoking read.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Find Shows Early Humans Settled East of Great Rift

By AKIYOSHI ABE/ Staff Writer
The Asahi Shimbun
April 12, 2016 at 11:30 JST

The first hominid fossils found east of Great Rift Valley in Africa have provided solid evidence that early humans settled in a wider range than previously thought, researchers said.

The international team, including researchers from Japan and Kenya, said March 24 they confirmed that the fossils dating back 3.5 million years belonged to Australopithecus afarensis.

Masato Nakatsukasa, professor of paleoanthropology at Kyoto University, and other group members excavated an arm bone from an adult male and fossilized teeth from two babies in 2012 from a stratum in a suburb of Nairobi, about 10 kilometers from the eastern cliff of the Great Rift Valley.

The Great Rift Valley is a 6,000-kilometer fracture in the Earth’s crust running north to south in eastern Africa.

Hominids are early humans who separated from a common ancestor with the chimpanzees and lived in Africa from 6 million to 1 million years ago.

Hominid fossils had previously been discovered in South Africa and central parts of Africa. But in eastern Africa, such fossils had been only found inside the Great Rift Valley, which is several tens of kilometers wide.

Near the 2012 find, the researchers also found animal fossils of Hippopotamidae and Bovidae.

The researchers assume that the location of the hominoid fossils had been an environment with fewer trees than at the bottom of the Rift Valley. That suggests hominids had a high ability to adapt to different environments, they said.

Their findings were published in the online edition of the Journal of Human Evolution.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Pleiades ... Cultural Links Across Northern Eurasia




The Pleiades as Openings, the Milky Way as the Path of Birds, and the Girl on the Moon: Cultural Links Across Northern Eurasia

Yuri Berezkin


Abstract: The Baltic-Finnish and the Baltic (Latvian and Lithuanian) cosmonyms mostly coincide while the Baltic and Slavic cosmonymic patterns are different. The Pleiades in the Eastern Baltic are ‘a sieve’, the Milky Way is ‘the path of migratory birds’ and a girl holding water pails is seen on the Moon. Across most of Central, Western and Southern Europe the Pleiades are ‘a hen with its chicken’, the Milky Way and the lunar spots have other (and different) interpretations. The Eastern Baltic pattern is identical with the Middle Volga one where it is widespread among both Finnish-Permian and Turkic groups and probably relates back to the (Proto-Baltic?) culture of the Iron Age. However, parallels for the cosmonyms in question are found across most of Northern Eurasia and find corresponding similarities in some parts of North America. ‘Water-carrier on the Moon’ is the most widespread of these motifs being known in Japan and Polynesia. In Eurasia, the Northern Samoyeds noticeably lack all three images. The initial emergence of at least some of the cosmonyms under discussion in the Terminal Pleistocene of northern East Asia and their further dissemination towards the West, down to the Baltics, is a hypothesis to be checked.

Pleiades as 'Sieve'

"The designation of the Pleiades as a ‘sieve’ is characteristic, as was mentioned, for the Eastern Baltic where it was recorded among ancient Prussians, Lithuanians, Letts, Livonians, Estonians, Votians, Finns (Allen 1899: 397; Andree 1878: 107; Ernits & Ernits 2009; Kerbelyte 2001: 65; Kuperjanov 2003: 183–185; Mándoki 1963: 519; Nepokupny 2004; Vaiškūnas 1999: 167; 2004: 169)."

"In the Middle Volga region ‘sieve’, as a name for the Pleiades, has been recorded among the Chuvash (Mándoki 1963: 520; Sirotkin & Ivanov 1970: 128; Iukhma 1980: 266; Zolotnitskii 1874:22), Mari (Aktsorin 1991, No. 37: 83), Tatars (Potanin 1883: 729; Vorobiev & Khisamutdinov 1967: 316), Bashkirs (Maksiutova 1973: 383), and Udmurts (probably the southern groups only) (Nikonov 1973: 376; Wichmann 1987: 107)."

"Besides the Eastern Baltic and Middle Volga areas, ‘sieve’ is typical for Dagestan where it is recorded among the Kumyks, Laks, Avars, Andi, Dargins, and Tavli (Gamzatov & Dalgat 1991: 304–305; Potanin 1883: 729–730). Grigori Potanin found ‘sieve’ as a name for the Pleiades among the Kazakh of the Middle Zhuz and among Astrakhan Tatars (Potanin 1881: 126; 1919: 84)."

"Among Chukchi and Koryak of the Asian North-East, W. Bogoras and W. Jochelson recorded cosmonyms Ke’tmet and Kä’tmäc (Bogoras 1939: 29; Jochelson 1908: 122) and translated them as ‘small sieve’"

"A word similar to Ketmet really means ‘sieve’ (for washing salmon roe) though not in the Paleoasiatic but in the Yukaghir language (Mudrak 2008)."

"‘Sieve’ may have reached Dagestan and Kazakhstan from the Volga region in times of the Golden Horde (Napolskikh’s suggestion) though such a late diffuse spreading does not fit well a specific parallel between the Lithuanians and the Laks: the sky sieve was used by God to winnow cereal grains (Khalidova 1984: 160; Nepokupny 2004: 77). Unfortunately, the Lithuanian mytheme is known only from a literary source (Mickiewicz 1955, book 8: 434), from which it is not sufficient to draw reliable conclusions. The position of Hungarian materials is also unclear as although the Hungarian word szita for the Pleiades is borrowed from Slavic (Mándoki 1963: 519–520), the constellation in the sky is really viewed as something with openings (Zsigmond 2003: 434). The fact that the Hungarians are the only people in the Balkans who have this concept makes it doubtful that such an interpretation of the Pleiades was borrowed from the Slavic population of Pannonia. And if the Hungarians brought it from the East, what was the source? In Western Europe the cosmonym ‘sieve’ (crivello) is recorded only in the Alto Adige district of Northern Italy (Volpati 1932: 206; 1933b: 21). It deserves to be mentioned that crivello is both ‘sieve’ and ‘shovel for winnowing grain’."

Pleiades as 'Holes in the Sky"

"it is supported for the Yakuts by a folklore text: the hero makes mittens of wolf skin to stop up holes in the sky from which the icy wind blows and these holes are the Pleiades (Holmberg 1927:418)."

"Among the Orochi and the Uilta of Sakhalin the Pleiades, in some cases, are also ‘seven openings’ (Podmaskin 2006: 432)"

Pleiades as 'Girls'

"There are no data on the Vepses while for the Saami the Pleiades are girls (Charnoluski 1930: 48; Lundmark 1982: 105)."

"among the Chukchi the basic image of the Pleiades was ‘group of women’ (Bogoras1939: 24)."

"the ‘seven women’ are more usual for the Lower Amur region. No special narratives exist related to this name but the same word is used to denote the branchial openings of the lamprey (Pevnov 2008)." 

Dakota/Lakota Star Knowledge

Annette S. Lee
Jim Rock
Charlene O'Rourke
(Link) Amazon

This fascinating book, illustrated with astronomer Annette S. Lee's luminescent paintings, beautifully portrays the Dakota/Lakota concept of kapemni, or mirroring, in which geographic features on land are mirrored with stars in the sky.  Many of the Dakota/Lakota most sacred geographic sites have mirrored correlates in the sky.  For example, the Wakan Tipi Cave by Big Waterfalls River has a mirrored correlate in Orion's Belt/Tayamni  Constellation.  This book is a brief but excellent visual introduction to kapemni and other Dakota/Lakota cosmological concepts.

A few constellations/concepts in Dakota/Lakota:

Tayamni - Buffalo -
         related Greek constellations:  Orion, Canis Major, Pleiades

Wiciŋyaŋna Śakowiŋ/Wiciŋcala Śakowiŋ - Seven Girls -
         related Greek constellation: Pleiades

Ahdeska/Agleska - Salamander -
         related Greek constellation: Cygnus

Wanagi Tacaŋku - Spirit Path/Ghost Path - Milky Way

Saturday, April 2, 2016

"The swan, to the ancient Karelians, was the central creature who carried the sun across the sky."

Rock art from Lake Onega, Russia, as described and photographed by Dave Rothenburg.  From his article "The Swan Petroglyph and the Wild Reindeer Pavilion" at (Link)


Ojibwe Star Map Constellation Guide

This is a beautifully illustrated book about Ojibwe Sky Knowledge.

Annette S. Lee
William Wilson
Jeffrey Tibbetts
Carl Gawboy
(Link) Amazon

Sun - Giizis
Moon - Dibik-giizis (Night Sun)
Venus - Ikwe Anang (Woman's Star)
Ecliptic - Ma'iingan Mikan (Wolf Trail)
Milky Way - Jiibaykona (Spirit Path)
Milky Way - Jiibay Ziibi (River of Sands)
Pleiades - Bagone'giizhig (Hole in the Sky)
Pleiades - Madoodoowasiniig (Sweating Stones)
Cygnus - Ajijaak (Crane)