Modeling Consciousness in Archaeology: A Non-Invasive Approach

Presenting at the 2014 Undergraduate Research Symposium presented by the Humboldt State University Library

Abstract: Modeling the thoughts and beliefs of ancient persons is an arduous calling for archaeologists, as this data falls into the intangible realm. Often the most direct material link to the ancient mind is found in rock art. With resilience to the elements and time, rock surfaces presented an ideal canvas for the lasting expressions of past cultures. Many of these sites, however have been damaged or compromised due to invasive recording practices. Researchers and tourists continue to utilize outdated methods, as a result of misinformation or naivety on the subject. A non-invasive, conservation-based approach to rock art recording is presented, with the intention of diminishing unintentional site vandalism. Symbols of headdresses, messengers, and lobed circles appear across differing chronological and regional rock art style categories. These elements are often interpreted in relation to altered states of consciousness and ceremony. The petroglyph panel at the Spirit Bird Cave site in southeastern Utah provides evidence of all three of these elements and is thus well suited for this project. This poster presents the current status of the project, with a discussion of methods and preliminary field results. This project combines standard and innovative methods of field mapping, lighting and close-range photogrammetry to produce visual models which can be analyzed in a laboratory setting without concern for panel damage. These visual models can expand access to immovable data such as rock art, allowing researchers a truly non-invasive approach.