I receive a lot of emails from people sending me pictures of their rock art finds, asking me to share them on the blog in the hope that someone out there has some expertise that they can share. I’m not a rock art expert myself, but I’m seeing a lot of interesting things. One trend that I’ve noticed is that most of the rock art photos being sent to me come from people in the southern states of the U.S. I don’t recall anyone sending me rock art from Minnesota or North Dakota, or even out west. But now I have some photos coming to me from Guy B. from the south of France, in the Basque Country. He poses an interesting question: “I see American stones artifacts that look like mine … how is it possible?” And this question: “So logically, if it is the same stones, perhaps it is the same prehistoric culture (unknown yet today!), made by the same people?”
I think this opens up a whole bunch of questions and ideas, because for a long time my assumption (and perhaps that of the people sending me their rock art) was that these artifacts were from Native American Indian cultures. But perhaps they’re even older than that? This gets into an area of discussion which I will flat out admit that I know almost nothing – as far as the difference between prehistoric cultures in North America vs. Native American Indian cultures and when did one era end and the other begin, in a clearly delineated way? I’m not even going to try to start analyzing this in this blog post, as that’s biting off a huge history lesson, but I am certainly curious to start reading to learn more.
At any rate, now that I’ve asked all these questions, let’s get back to Guy’s found rock art from the South of France in Basque Country. Here’s the first picture that he sent:
The first thing that jumps out at me when I look at this picture is all of the “eyes,” several of which appear to have mouths as well. This feature grabs my attention because not too long ago, I had someone send me this picture of a collection of rocks with similar holes found in Johnson County, Missouri. At the time, I did some research, and found that naturally-formed holes in rocks are called “hag stones,” and are “considered by cultures around the world to be a protective amulet when hung on a cord.” But while the holes in the Missouri stones looked like they could be natural occurrences (since the placement of the holes seemed more random), Guy B’s stones have the holes always together as if they were eyes. These “holes”- or “eyes” – or “faces” – whatever you want to call them in the picture above, look a lot more intentional and suggestive of being man-made to me. What do you think? (feel free to share comments in the section at the bottom of this post).
Guy publishes his own blog titled “Farioman,” which features “photos of the prehistoric lithic industry of the Basque Country, rocks and bones gleaned from the banks of the Nive River and the tributaries.” I need Google Translate to read it, but am starting to investigate more of what he has found on his site. He writes: “the goal of this blog is to make known all my prehistoric artifacts of the Basque Rivers … and if people want to study in particular the sculptures and the stones-figure which are today not recognized by the local archeologists … then everyone can make their opinion with regard to the photos of all this prehistoric art.”
Guy further explained to me that he’s shown these rock art finds to archeologists and they tell him that these are naturally-formed markings and called them “pareidolia,” which I had to look up and find the definition as “the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image from a random or ambiguous visual pattern.” Another definition is “the tendency for incorrect perception of a stimulus as an object, pattern or meaning known to the observer, such as seeing shapes in clouds, seeing faces in inanimate objects or abstract patterns.” I have to admit that I’m guilty of this all the time, for example, when I saw melting snow that looked like Matisse cutouts. But let’s take a closer look at two of Guy’s rocks: do you really think that these two were accidents, or naturally made? They seem too face-like, too intentional, to be natural formations to me. Or am I guilty of pareidolia?
We have more from Guy and Basque Country here, as he has sent me several more amazing photographs … but I wanted to post this now to get the discussion started. We’d love to have any thoughts or feedback shared in the comments section below.
For more on the story about our portable rock art blog posts and the coverage of rock art and face effigies at Artsology, read this page here as a starting point.