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38th Annual Rock Art Symposium 2013

Nov 2, 2013

The fascinating study of rock art is the subject of our annual Rock Art Symposium held on the first Saturday of November every year. This year, ROCK ART 2013, our 38th annual Symposium, will meet on Saturday, November 2. This day-long event offers participants the opportunity to share in the results of rock art research around the globe, presented in informative illustrated lectures.

Registration is $40 for students and Museum members, $50 for general admission, including a commemorative ceramic mug. The Rock Art 2013 Flyer with registration information and directions to the Symposium is now available. Click here to download your copy (PDF format). If you are unable to download and open a PDF file, phone the Museum at (619) 239-2001 ext 10 to request a Registration Flyer by mail.

This year we return to our new location. Rock Art 2013 will meet in the auditorium of the Mingei International Museum in the heart of Balboa Park, just one block east of the Museum of Man. Please note: to reach the auditorium, use the Alcazar Garden entrance on the west side of the Mingei Museum; do not enter the Mingei’s main entrance on the Panama Plaza side of the building. The 2013 Registration Flyer includes a map with directions. Seating is limited, so register early.

Our 2013 Symposium logo and T-shirt design is based on one of the Rocky Valley labyrinths, two classic maze designs found on a slate cliff face near Tintagel on the north coast of Cornwall, England. Once thought to date from the Bronze Age, the Rocky Valley labyrinths are now believed to date from the time of the 18th century Trewethet Mill, where the petroglyphs are located. Rock Art 2013 T-shirts are available at a cost of $15. Orders must be received by October 18 to guarantee a shirt, so be sure to place your order along with your registration.

Call for Papers


If you have rock art research to report, or a new discovery to announce to the world, we are accepting proposals for Rock Art 2013 papers until available time on the program is filled. To submit a paper, send the title and a brief abstract by e-mail to RockArtSymposium@cox.net by October 28, 2013. Please identify your paper as a regular paper (20 min), short paper (10 min), or brief presentation (5 min).

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Painted Past and Veiled Future at the Tsodilo Hills, Botswana
By Anne Q. Stoll, photos by George Stoll

A recent visit in late June, 2013 to the UNESCO World Heritage rock art site of Tsodilo Hills, Botswana, Africa, revealed an amazing wealth of painted images. With local guides, twenty-six remarkable sites were savored, photographed, and image-enhanced. When our focus widened beyond the rock art at Tsodilo, a cloud of uncertainty obscured our view. We present here a glimpse of the stunning art and a brief status update for the benefit of the global rock art community in hopes of a bright future for this culturally rich and unique location.

A Tale of Two Cañadas: The Most Northerly Great Mural Site Yet Discovered
By Jon Harman

In Baja California near Rancho Viejo San Gregorio are two cañadas perched as hanging valleys at the edge of a deep and steep sided arroyo. The cañadas are separated by less than 300 yards and both have pictographs in rockshelters. In one the painting is abstract and is similar to other Northern Abstract sites found to the north. The other has rockshelters containing Great Mural art, the most northerly such site known. This presentation will document the Great Mural site and discuss the geography of the sites. The abstract sites have ample water and a beautiful setting in a gentle swale-like cañada. The Great Mural site is poorly watered in a barren V-shaped cañada. An intriguing possibility is that the abstract sites were established first at the best location, and only later the Great Mural site was occupied in a nearby, but less desirable location.

The Coso Petroglyphs: Who Knew What and When?
Alexander K. Rogers, Archaeology Curator, Maturango Museum

The Coso petroglyph field, on the Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake, is one of the most extensive rock art areas in the world. Visitors often ask whether the existence of the petroglyphs was known at the time the land was withdrawn for the Navy in World War II. In this paper I describe the earliest known Euro-American report of the Coso rock art, from 1860, and subsequent reports from the early 20th century, including photographs from 1923 in the Maturango Museum collection and not otherwise published. I conclude that the presence of rock art and archaeological sites was known in 1943, but did not affect the withdrawal decision, whereas claims on land, minerals, and water did. Withdrawal of the land has ultimately worked to the benefit of the rock art and archaeology by restricting access to the sites and thereby inhibiting vandalism.

An Overview of Some of the Rock Art in the Lower Drysdale Region of the Kimberley
Jeff LaFave

The Kimberley region of Australia is one of the most important rock art areas in the world.  It is famous for its Wanjina and “Bradshaw” paintings. The region is remote and contains difficult terrain that is dominated by a series of rivers which dissect sandstone plateaus and escarpments.  This paper provides an overview of a number of rock art sites in the lower Drysdale River region and discusses how they compare to sites in nearby regions. The paper also examines how some of the paintings compare with early photographic images of Aboriginal groups in the area and adjoining areas.

Flute Players and Pipers: Musings on Music in Rock Art and Megaliths
Steven J. Waller

Musical pipes have been found in Ice Age caves and ancient burials associated with megaliths. The flute player is a frequently occurring motif in rock art, and is typically found in echoing locations. “Pipers’ Stones” is so common a name for megalithic structures in the British Isles it suggests usage as a generic term. Myths emphasize the magical qualities of the flute, particularly its fertility associations. The significance of these findings will be discussed relative to psychoacoustics, as well as the potential function of pure tone acting as a tool for experiencing, exploring and assessing the sonic environments of rock art.

Through the Eyes of Ancient Artists: Visions of a Green Sahara
Peter W. Merlin, Lancaster, California

The Tassili n’Ajjer region of southeastern Algeria boasts an astounding concentration of prehistoric art. Here in the central Sahara, thousands of paintings and carvings dating from around 6,000 B.C. to A.D. 100 adorn the walls of rockshelters on a high plateau in the middle of the world’s largest desert. These magnificent artworks—ranging from tiny, delicate figures to enormous murals—are all the more spectacular for the story they tell. Over the span of six millennia the ancient artists of the Tassili recorded their changing environment as it transformed from a verdant savanna into a hyper-arid wasteland. Images on the rocks depict a vanished world of huntsmen pursuing wild game, warriors fighting from river-borne watercraft, and herders tending their cattle. These beautiful images are both a record of past times and a poignant reminder of the delicate and changeable nature of our biosphere.


Nov 2, 2013
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