Petroglyph Dumbea River New Caledonia
New Caledonia

Can you find the spiral petroglyph carved into a river rock in this sphere image? Look around. It's right there.

One of the things I love about petroglyphs is that nobody can determine who made them, why they were done or even when. The designs could be 100, 1000 or 10,000 years old. Most authorities agree they were made by prehistoric people - but they have been found all around our planet and certainly there was never one single prehistoric people whose culture included the secret of carving designs into solid rock. 

Some of the rock etchings show ancient sailing vessels - and that certainly offers a clue as to when they were made. But most of the etchings are abstract designs, like the spiral in this sphere image. The ancient artists liked spirals and they are found just about everywhere that petroglyphs have been found.

People who study this ancient artwork (Petroglyphologists?) have worked out some of the methods used and creating the designs wasn't easy - I mean petroglyphs don't seem, to me, like the spray painted graffiti done by lunatics or love-addled scratchings like "John loves Daisy" that infest our modern world. Petroglyphs were a serious effort taking time and care. No matter what kind of tool they used - and they didn't have metal tools - the rocks they selected to decorate (or at least the designs that survived) are normally very hard rocks. It took the artist a long time to do it. Days, maybe, or maybe weeks. 

Which brings me to the second aspect of petroglyphs I find fascinating. They are like little treasures, hidden in wilderness, quietly sitting there in the sun along a river or on a mountain side overlooking a valley. When you stumble upon one it is always a joy, "Hey, over here! I found a petroglyph!"

Judging from the locations where I have found them, I think the artists liked to do these when they were isolated and alone in nature - kind of like some ancient form of meditation.

I get a real thrill when I discover one - even more so when I smile at it in the lazy satisfaction of post-discovery and think how that spiral petroglyph there on that rock alongside the Riviere Dumbea in New Caledonia has striking similarities to petroglyphs found in the European Neolithic period, and on rocks in Mexico, Hawaii, Spain, Great Britain, Australia, Papua New Guinea.... How can that be????

Spirals, circles, crosses, stars, were popular designs with the ancient artists and often they are so similar  I can't imagine the art was not passed on from one artist to the next. But that's pretty unlikely. After all, how could neolithic humans from Europe pass on an artistic technique to an ancient artist in the Pacific Islands? Yet there it is, proof positive that long ago some human wanted to, and was able to, fashion a spiral on a rock when tools were, themselves, stones.

So, riddle me this - why a spiral?

I think I'll go look for some more.

Copyright: Richard Chesher
Type: Spherical
Resolution: 12950x6475
Uploaded: 21/05/2012
Updated: 26/05/2014


Tags: petroglyph; new caledonia; dumbea river; culture; rock art
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More About New Caledonia

New Caledonia is the closest South Pacific Island to Australia and New Zealand. It is a French Territory and although the official language is French the culture is a blend of Melanesian, European, Polynesian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian, and more. There is one large mountainous island called Grande Terre and 6 smaller islands - the three Loyalty Islands, Belep and the Isle of Pines.The islands are remarkably unpopulated and there are vast areas of wilderness. There are hundreds of kilometers of walking treks, camp grounds, more than 42 parks and reserves, and crystal clear rivers with sparkling waterfalls. Almost one third of the population is located in the capital city of Noumea. Nickel mining is the primary industry and is the major contributor to the high standard of living in the country. Grande Terre is surrounded by the second largest barrier reef in the world and the protected lagoon created by this barrier reef is the largest in the world. Listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008, the lagoon is 24,000 square kilometers and supports a diverse and luxuriant fauna of fish and invertebrates.The vibrant, clear and rich colors are one of the first things that visitors notice when they arrive. Noumea has a complete range of hotels, resorts, restaurants, and activities to welcome visitors.