—Contributed by Laila Barakat
The early morning dew and aroma of freshly-picked produce greet visitors to the award winning Aptos Farmers Market. Vendors selling eclectic assortments of produce, bread, flowers, seafood, teas, wild mushrooms, herbs and cheese line the aisles. A booth nestled on the cusp of two aisles sticks out from the rest. Its large turquoise banner reads: Santa Cruz Archaeological Society.
“Well this is quite unusual,” comments a curious passerby. “What do we have here?” She points to a four-by-six greeting card with oddly-shaped characters painted on the front.
The characters are replicas of petroglyphs and rock paintings (also known as pictographs) discovered at a place called Hospital Rock in Sequoia National Park. According to the Santa Cruz Archaeology Society, the pictograms are hundreds of years old and were painted by the native people who inhabited the area at the time.
At last weekend's market, the recreated pictographs were on display at the Santa Cruz Archaeology Society's table to spread awareness about National Archaeology Month taking place in October. Archaeology Month is a national program sponsored by The Society for California Archaeology to promote the preservation of America’s heritage. Several exhibits and events (including an excursion!) will take place in the Bay Area to honor archaeological artifacts and the rich history of our land.
“Archaeologists have determined that evidence found in [Sequoia National Park] proves it was once occupied by approximately 500 Native Americans belonging to the Potwisha sub-group of the Monache, or Western Mono Indians, as far back as 1350 A.D.,” according to the Sierra Nevada Geotourism website.
Artists Karen Loeffler and Noli Wilfong recreated the original designs on stationery using a linoleum block printing process, said Char Simpson-Smith, member of the archaeological society for over 20 years. The historical pictograms of Hospital Rock have generally been uncharted territory over the years, never garnering much attention or thorough researched. Given how rapidly the paintings were deteriorating, archaeologists were afraid that the pictograms would dissolve and the native works of art would be lost forever, or at the very least, left incomplete, never to be fully recovered.
Loffler and Wilfong spent three years conducting archaeological field surveys with the help of members of the Santa Cruz Archaeological Society and other archaeology-buff volunteers to complete a detailed documentation of Hospital Rock: a feat that included 300 scaled drawings and thousands of photographs.
While three years may seem like a long time for conducting research on rock paintings, archaeologist Eric Zaborsky explains that the process of archaeological research is long and sometimes tedious, but something that must be done to ensure a thorough inspection of an area before “digging or an excursion—like you see in the movies—can take place.”
For more information or to plan how your family will experience Archaeology Month this October, visit scahome.org.