Current topics in archaeology, cultural heritage & historic preservation

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Petroglyph Team Seeks Images at Columbia Hills State Park

Members of the Washougal Petroglyph Team, lead by artist Rex Ziak (at left in photo), headed to Columbia Hills State Park (formerly Horsethief Lake State Park) on Friday, July 17 to gain experience with rock art and to begin gathering examples of images that could be useful in their project (see previous post for project details, click on any photo to get an enlarged version).

Washougal has broken ground on the new pedestrian tunnel that will re-connect the city to its waterfront. Its not much to look at yet...

...but Rex's concept of including Columbia Plateau rock art at the tunnel's entrance should make it a real landmark.

About 7:45 am the team drove east toward Columbia Hills. By 9:00 it was already warm, headed for hot, and there was a high overcast. Not the best conditions for viewing rock art as we found out when we made a short stop in Stevenson to see the large, intensely carved boulder that was moved there from Skamania Landing years ago.

The light was flat and the rock art was almost invisible. For many of the students this was their first exposure to "real" rock art and it was a tough one...but after a few clues and a lot of squinting everyone began to see the symbols and cupules carved into the boulder (the photo at right was taken on a different, rainy day when the rock art was offering itself for easy viewing).

An hour or so later we arrived at Columbia Hills, checked in with the friendly rangers and headed for the parking lot where our tour would begin. We joined our guide, Mike, a park aide (below in green shirt with French foreign legion hat) and several other "civilians" (meaning people who weren't Petroglyph Team members).
Mike gave us an excellent and inspired introduction. We all appreciated both his passion and knowledge about the rock art of the area.

As the sun beat down and the temperature rose above 90 we trekked into the rimrock and down the trail to get up-close and personal with some of the most incredible rock art in North America.

We quickly started to see pictographs and petroglyphs on the basalt cliffs to our North. Some were more visible than others...but then that's the way it always is with rock art.

Mike stopped often and explained to everyone what they were seeing. All of us were riveted by the images and by the information that was shared about the ancient cultures and traditions that have been part of our region for so many thousands of years.

Here are a few of the many, many rock art images we were priviledged to see...

So our guide, Mike, lead us across the landscape, pointing out rock art, sharing knowledge, gently herding us along. After about an hour or so we walked up a hill, around a corner and...BANG!

...Tsagaglalal...She Who Watches...stunning...bigger than life...staring across history!

So what better place to end the tour? The team experienced rock art first-hand, examined and photographed many candidate images for the tunnel project, gained a wealth of knowledge and an increased appreciation and respect for another culture.

All in all, not a bad day's work!

Thanks to Nabiel Shawa, Rex Ziak, and everyone who made the trip possible.

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