OREGON ROCK ARTCREATORS AND RECORDERS UPDATED 12/2013
Oregon is a state of great regional diversity.
The Columbia River and its various tributaries define most of the northern part. It has a rich heritage of rock art, however many of the sites along its banks both in Oregon and Washington have been inundated by water as a result of the building of hydroelectric dams. Some of the petroglyphs were removed before the water rose and now reside in parks and museums. A guide book to many of these sites, WHERE TO SEE ROCK ART WASHINGTON OREGON IDAHO , by Micnhimer and Johnston, is available by clicking the title. For thousands of years Native Americans used the plentiful resources of the river, particularly salmon, for their own sustenance and for trading with peoples who did not live as close to the river.
The southern part of the state lies on the northern most edge of the Great Basin. Pluvial lakes and intermittent rivers and streams are found in much of this high desert area. Ancient Native Americans and their predecessors visited and often lived near these water features. The rich traditions of Great Basin rock art styles they left behind still remain today, much as they were when they were made perhaps as long ago as twelve thousand years.
Also in the south is the Klamath River Basin, another resource rich area that has been inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years. It has its own unique rock art style.
The Cascade Mountain range runs from north to south through the state and consists of a series of dormant volcanic peaks. At places, these volcanoes created volcanic glass, or obsidian. Obsidian was used for the making of projectile points and other tools and was a valuable trading item. The few rock art sites known to exist in the mountains are located near trading routes over them.
The Pacific Ocean forms Oregon's western border. It too has been peopled for many thousands of years and has a number of rock art sites, although they are far fewer than in other regions.
For a detailed discussion of these areas with photographs please see http://bradshawfoundation.com/oregon/index.php on the prestigious Bradshaw Foundation website.
Formal study of Oregon rock art began with Luther S. Cressman. Often referred to as the father of Oregon archaeology, Cressman, while Professor of Anthropology at the University of Oregon, spent three years beginning in 1932, visiting and recording rock art sites. That seminal work was published by the University of Oregon in 1937 with the title Petroglyphs of Oregon. In the book he lists sixty sites and accompanies the site descriptions with drawings of the elements at them. He took photographs of the sites, but publishing more than a few of them in the book was cost prohibitive at the time. He states optimistically that the sixty sites cover upwards of ninety percent of the sites in the state.
In 1982, avocational archaeologists J. Malcolm Loring and his wife, Louise, published a two volume monograph titled Pictographs & Petroglyphs of the Oregon Country. In 1960 they became active in the Oregon Archaeological Society. They served on a committee within that organization whose task it was to survey and record Oregon rock art. In 1963 Malcolm retired from the U.S. Forest Service and by that time the committee number had dwindled to just the two of them. From 1964 through 1967 they traveled, by their own account, at least 43,000 miles discovering, photographing and recording rock art sites. In 1967 and 1968 they recorded petroglyphs along the Columbia River that were flooded by the John Day Dam in 1968. They took color 35mm slides, black and white print film photographs, made hand drawn sketches and made rubbings of much of what they observed. The monograph contains the drawings they made and site descriptions for over three hundred sites.
In 2001, avocational archaeologists D. Russel Micnhimer and LeeAnn Johnston, inspired by copies of the works mentioned above, began visiting rock art sites in Oregon and Washington during summer vacations. They have photographed what they have seen at well over one hundred sites as of late 2013. They have discovered and photographed a number of sites that were not included in the Lorings' inventory. In 2010 they published a paper, EXPANDING THE LORINGS' VISION: NEW OREGON ROCK ART DISCOVERIES, in an Oregon Archaeological Society Publication. Russel has developed this website to show case about 13,000 of those photographs. New photos are added as sites are visited. LeeAnn has developed sixteen (and counting) albums with over a thousand pages containing over four thousand 5x7 color prints and copies of the Lorings' drawings correlated with the elements in the photos. Their work has been personally funded with subsidies for five years by a Loring and Loring Grant from the Oregon Archaeology Society. They presented accounts of their work to the OAS at meetings in 2005, 2006 and 2008 and have published several articles in that organization's newsletter, Screenings. One of those articles may be read here. Another here.
They feel their work will help serve as a condition check of Oregon rock art by comparing their records with earlier ones. As well as their work in the field, they continue to study the literature of many other researchers and actively seek information on previously unrecorded sites. They hope their work will contribute to the body of knowledge concerning these valuable and irreplaceable communications from the past. In 2010 they published a guide book entitled WHERE TO SEE ROCK ART WASHINGTON OREGON IDAHO. It is available by clicking on the title. In 2011 Russel wrote and published a book entitled Understanding the Meaning and Purpose of Rock Art.
In 2014, long time researcher and recorder Frank Crosser published Visions by the Water: An Introduction to the Study of Rock Art and Guide to Rock Art Sites in the Upper Deschutes River Basin, which added much to the body of knowledge about Oregon rock art. It is available by clicking the link above.
For those interested in exploring rock art in the surrounding states of Idaho, California and Nevada, many photographs of rock art sites in those and several other states may be found by clicking here.