Rock art symposium visits Bluff
Sep 20, 2018 | 650 views | 0 0 comments | 87 87 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The annual Utah Rock Art Research Association symposium for 2018 will be held at the Community Center in Bluff Oct. 4-8.

The event includes one day of workshops, two days of field trips, two days of presentations and a business meeting. There will also be a banquet, auctions and a watermelon social.

“With the San Juan River to the south, Cedar Mesa and Comb Ridge to the west, Montezuma Creek to the east, and Blanding to the north, Bluff is surrounded by thousands of years of archeology and rock art,” said a statement from event organizers.

This year’s keynote speakers are Ellen Dissanayake, University of Washington, and James Farmer, Virginia Commonwealth University.

The title of Dissanayake’s presentation is, “Geometric Rock Art: Questions and Answers." Can we explain why the earliest rock art (in the Americas as elsewhere) should consist of geometric or abstract primitives? What hypotheses best account for the origins and functions of these non-representational markings? Most paleoarchaeologists assume (assert) that all rock art is symbolic, yet recent discoveries of marks made by early hominins belie that assumption. If they aren’t symbols, what are they? Why did mark-making arise in the first place and what does it tell us about the early human mind?”

Drawing from her recent book (co-authored with Ekkehart Malotki), Early Rock Art of the American West: The Geometric Enigma, Dissanayake will discuss these questions.

James Farmer will speak about: “‘Ignorance, Knowledge, and De-Romancing the Stone: On the Evolution of Southwestern Rock Art Research and the Case of the Barrier Canyon Style.‘

“American rock art research and scholarship has evolved rapidly during the past 20 years. Rock art studies have long been hampered and marginalized from mainstream academic disciplines by several problematic areas of analysis. However, recent advances in the scope and techniques of basic documentation, technical means of recording and analyzing rock art imagery, dating techniques, and updated use of ethnographic information have vastly expanded the understanding and interpretations of original contexts and purposes of the creation of ancient imagery,” Farmer said.

“In addition, redefined roles and closer engagement of rock art research with and within the more traditional academic fields of study (such as anthropology, archaeology, and art history, among others) have elevated rock art research to a more respected position in the fields of ancient American research,” he said.

This year URARA was awarded a grant from Utah Humanities for the symposium. The grant will help fund efforts to offer members and the community of Bluff an opportunity to gain more knowledge and enhance their experience with rock art as URARA pursues its mission to visit, educate, and protect rock art. For more information on Utah Humanities grants, visit

To register on-line for the URARA symposium or learn more about URARA, visit

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