The International Rock Art Database Project: Introduction
Henry Walt (1), Bruno David (2), John Brayer (3), and Chris Musello (4).
- 508 Hermosa SE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87108, USA. E-mail: email@example.com
- Dept. Anthropology & Sociology, The University of Qld., Qld. 4072, Australia. E-mail:
- Dept. Computer Science, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131, USA. E-mail:
- Dept. Anthropology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131, USA. E-mail:
We have recently submitted a proposal to the U.S. National Endowment for the
Humanities (N.E.H.) to carry-on with a computerised rock art database and analysis
system (from here-on referred to as a database system) begun in Australia and the United
States. Over the last two years we have been working on this project and have begun to
input data into an early version of the system as part of its development. However, we
feel this work has only just begun.
The goals of our proposed N.E.H.-funded project are four-fold:
The primary objective of the project is to facilitate a means of access to data that is
for all practical purposes inaccessible because it is not computerised. For despite an
enormous growth of interest in rock art worldwide, scholarship in this field remains
critically fragmented. The proposed project is designed to eliminate many of the primary
barriers to rigorous analysis and the sharing of research both nationally and
- to refine and implement an internationally applicable computerised database system
for the storage and analysis of rock art;
- to establish a computer-based relational database containing graphics, images, audio
ethnography and text of rock art from three internationally significant regions;
- to complete the development and implementation of new and technologically current
recording procedures; and
- where appropriate, to provide access for this data and database system in the most
complete and convenient way possible.
The project will produce:
More broadly, our employment of three rock art assemblages will permit the project
to test and demonstrate: a), the application of the database system to rock art from widely
divergent social, cultural, historical and environmental settings; and b), the application of
the database system both on a post-hoc basis to a pre-existing corpus of research data (the
Wardaman archives), and in a field setting as it guides data collection and the creation of
a new database (New Mexico).
- a database system capable of storing and analysing large amounts of rock art and
related data covering various media (e.g. sound, video, photography, text). This data
may have been collected in a variety of different ways and following different
standards (e.g. photography, motif lists, drawings); and
- a series of common databases documenting pictographs and petroglyphs from three
important rock art regions - one in the American Southwest, another in north
Queensland (Australia), and the third in Wardaman country, Northern Territory,
Australia. These databases will permit exhaustive study of rock art in each area and
will facilitate a range of comparative analyses previously too difficult to attempt.
The resulting database system will be widely available through On-line services, CD
Rom, and other portable media. Once established, the system will serve as a means of
storing and analysing rock art data, and will be available to scholars and park managers
world-wide. Under strict guidelines granted by the indigenous owners of the rock art
considered, the three case studies considered here will also be used subsequently for
demonstration purposes to promote research with the database system and the adoption of
international standards of recording and analysis.
As scholars in the humanities have attempted to understand the nature of human
experience and the history of different cultures and social groups, one profound form of
human expression has often eluded systematic analysis - rock art. Rock art -
including, paintings, drawings, engravings, prints and stencils - is one of the most
visible components of the archaeological record, occurring in all continents of the world
barring the south pole. As such, it has long attracted the attention of archaeologists,
historians, social scientists, art historians, visitors and vandals alike. To archaeologists,
rock art often represents the most graphic and expressive medium that remains of
prehistoric societies or those without writing. To indigenous people, it is often likewise
the most readily visible expression of their culture, past and/or present. For those
working with contemporary societies, rock art also offers a rich archive of symbolic
In these contexts, rock art serves as a valuable source of information about the history
of a people, the art itself often having a long and definable antiquity in any given region.
It is also an important visual means by which indigenous peoples can pass-on cultural
information from one generation to another. Distinct conventions and styles can often be
identified, testimony to patterns of change and continuity in indigenous societies. Often,
the unfolding and emergence of such styles can be traced all the way to the ethnographic
present (e.g. David et al. 1994). The nature of this imagery can frequently enable us to
investigate social life in so-called non-literate societies, upheavals in their history,
patterns of movement and/or spheres of activity, religious and ceremonial elements of
their culture, stylistic continuities in their expressive traditions, and even methods of
subsistence and elements of their technology.
Problems Confronting Rock Art Scholarship
Despite its promise, rock art has remained difficult to examine in a comprehensive
way. Being a product of history, rock art is a non-renewable cultural resource. Once
damaged, it can never be returned to its original condition. In the face of ever-increasing
visitor traffic to archaeological sites, rock art sites are being subjected to unprecedented
levels of destruction. There is therefore also a very real and urgent need to
systematically record rock art before it is degraded, and to store this information in a
medium that will not fade or otherwise disintegrate with time.
Rock art sites are today being increasingly studied by a broad spectrum of scholars.
This is a trend evident all over the world. In Australia, for example, archaeologists have
begun to focus on rock art sites more so than any other type of archaeological site (e.g.
Clegg 1971; David 1989, 1990; Rosenfeld 1982 ). In South Africa, major debates have
emerged as to the meanings of specific rock art motifs (e.g. Lewis-Williams 1982; 1989).
In France and Spain, Upper Paleolithic rock art has been a focus of prehistoric studies for
many years and a major asset to the prehistory of those countries. The value of these
sites and their fragile state is well demonstrated by their closure to the public, restricting
access in spite of their renown, with parts of many of these (e.g. the soft floors of caves)
not being accessible even to researchers (for fear of damage). In the United States, the
systematic recording of rock art has been more recent, but is rapidly gaining momentum.
This has been encouraged by a number of indigenous initiatives aimed at the systematic
recording of the rock art of particular native American tribes. In India and some African
and South American countries, extensive bodies of rock art have begun to be
There is, therefore, a considerable amount of work being done world-wide, but it is
all essentially inaccessible. While much petroglyph and pictograph recording today
involves extremely detailed and sophisticated documentation it remains largely
unanalysed and, we would add, not easily analysable - both for those creating these
collections of data as well as for others who would like to examine the documents. This
remains the case because, except for a few rudimentary computerized databases,
documentation in the field is limited to paper forms, hard copy photographs and
drawings. The data is usually recorded by hand and must then be painstakingly sorted
and analyzed by hand. Because recorded sites typically include tens of thousands of
images (there are approximately 20,000 glyphs at Petroglyph Park, and more than 40,000
recorded glyphs in the Wardaman region), systematic analysis through any hand-sorting
scheme tends, of necessity, to be limited to small portions of an individual region. In
many cases the detailed analysis meant to follow the documentation is simply never
accomplished. Because the costs for the duplication of hard-copy records are substantial,
rock art research is also typically restricted to the one locale where the materials are
archived. Regional rock art projects have for this reason not been able to make their data
available to other researchers. This in itself creates severe access problems and any
research devoted to comparative analyses and/or simple cross-referencing has faced
enormous financial and logistical obstacles. Complete-site and cross-site research thus
remains impossible, incomplete, or impressionistic. Clearly, the sheer volume of
material to be analyzed requires a complex, automated system for data storage and
Rock Art Recording
No shared standard of recording now exists. An additional limitation of
contemporary research is thus the idiosyncratic nature of much data collecting. Field
recording is often designed to facilitate management of a site or very specific research
issues. Both the data collected and the subsequent organization of data are thus of
limited utility to scholars working on other issues or questions. Many collections of data,
for example, restrict their documentation to pictographs and petroglyphs as discrete
phenomena. They offer little information on how images relate to one another, are
organized within a site, or relate to other cultural features. These data sets as a result
incorporate insufficient information to accommodate any kind of contextual analysis that
may be useful to broader or collaborative studies and thus restrict many avenues of
No readily available database system analogous to the one proposed here now exists.
In addition, no single governmental or scholarly organization has provided any form of
broadly usable or widely available database system for rock art, either nationally or
In order to understand the state of the field, two of us (Brayer & Walt) conducted a
survey of rock art scholars and managers in 1994 as part of a project for Petroglyph
Monument, Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A. What we found was that there are no
prevailing and accepted protocols for rock art recording or storage. Scholars, managers,
and institutions each have their own field methods and accepted recording procedures
and there has been little or no effort to standardize means of data storage or systems by
which data can be analysed. Although some conventions have crept into the recording
process over the years, many of these methods are now outmoded due to advances in
newly available technologies. For instance, rock art continues to be photographed on
black and white film, largely for archival purposes. However, colour photographs
contain a great deal more information and may be scanned or digitised for preservation
Efforts to develop a computerized database system have to date also been
rudimentary. The U.S. National Park Service has a limited archeological site database,
but has included little rock art. Numerous small sites have been placed in databases, but
usually for narrowly defined research-oriented purposes. In Australia, some projects
have incorporated GIS systems into surveys that include rock art sites. At least three
state agencies in Australia, the N.S.W. National Parks and Wildlife Services, the
Queensland Department of Environment, and the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Studies, also use a database called 'Minarch' to include rock art
data. However, to date the only data entry has concerned Ďsitesí rather than any form of
detailed information on the art.
All respondents to our inquiries during the Petroglyph Monument Project expressed
interest in a computerised data storage and analysis system and agreed that digitization
and automation are necessary for the advancement of the field. In addition, while strict
conformity of recording methods is not called for, all also felt a need for a data storage
and analysis system that is capable of handling a broad range of rock art data types -
that is, there is a need for a database system capable of handling the various standards of
recording employed by rock art recorders around the world.
A successful database system needs to be of a type that will be of major interest to the
diverse, international collection of scholars involved in the study of rock art. Managers
of state and federal parks and preserves overseeing rock art sites have already expressed
strong interest in the database, both for its potential research value as well as its utility as
a tool for preserving and maintaining site inventories. These agencies also recognize a
potential use for the database in visitor education through such things as interactive
computer displays. Our work with local Indian and Aboriginal communities has
provided a clear indication that these groups are also interested in using the database to
help preserve and communicate traditional knowledge.
History of the Project
Preliminary Research and Planning
The proposed N.E.H. project has been preceded by extensive research on two fronts.
Bruno David has worked for many years in northern Queensland and the Northern
Territory, Australia, documenting two extensive bodies of rock art in the process. Walt
and Brayer have completed a number of preliminary recording and pilot projects at the
Petroglyph National Monument, New Mexico. Through the course of this work they
have tested a range of recording procedures and database solutions; systematically
analyzed the potential of a wide range of recording and storage technologies; and created
a small database of glyphs from the Monument. They are currently in the process of
adding a GIS application to the system. The years spent in this research have brought
some of the problems confronting rock art scholarship into focus for the project team and
provided the foundation for the work proposed in the current project.
The Wardaman study serves as a model for in-depth, multidisciplinary rock art
recording on a regional scale. The Wardaman are an Australian Aboriginal group whose
traditional lands are found near the township of Katherine (Northern Territory),
Australia. They are one of the last tribal groups in Australia who still retain a detailed
knowledge of the rock art of their tribal lands (Flood & David 1994; Merlan 1989). Rock
paintings and engravings have been continuously created by the Wardaman and their
ancestors for at least 5000 years (as determined archaeologically), continuing well into
the 20th century (Flood et al. 1992). Many of the current Wardaman elders either saw
their parents or other relatives undertake rock art, or created it themselves earlier this
century (Arndt 1962). Therefore, the creation of rock art in Wardaman country occurred
within living memory, enabling archaeologists, social anthropologists, linguists and other
social scientists an avenue to study, in detail, the relationship between social formations
(e.g. clans, language groups, exchange networks) and material behavior in a distinctly
non-Western society (indeed, one that was virtually isolated from the Western world
until ~100 years ago).
Bruno David and Dr. Josephine Flood, along with a team of research associates,
began systematically recording the rock art of Wardaman country in 1988. In addition to
the rock art sites and images themselves, information was also recorded on the social
contexts of the art - for example, the clan estates in which the rock art sites were
located, the identities of the individuals who held knowledge of the art of each site, the
kin affiliations of the individuals who held traditional rights to the various rock art sites,
the Dreaming stories associated with each area, site and image, and so forth. Five major
field seasons (1988-92) were undertaken to record the rock art of Wardaman country and
its associated information on Wardaman social networks. During that time, rock art sites
and rock pictures (engravings, paintings, stencils and prints) were recorded from various
clan estates (David et al. 1991a, 1991b, 1992; David & Flood 1991). The Dreaming
stories of most of these sites were recorded, along with the meanings that the rock art had
to the members of the Wardaman community. These meanings were recorded under a
number of different contexts, including in the presence of single individuals only; groups
of people (sometimes of a single gender, sometimes including both men and women);
sometimes with elders only and sometimes with both initiated elders and uninitiated
youths (David & Flood 1993; Flood & David 1994). The end product has been an
extremely detailed body of oral information elicited under various conditions. These oral
testimonies have been incorporated into an exhaustive body or rock art data, none of
which has yet been incorporated into an adequate computerised database system.
During the course of this project, over 40,000 images from more than 200 sites have
been recorded. These records include detailed and annotated drawings, photographs,
descriptions of the imagery, and physical and cultural contextual data.
North Queensland Project
Since 1985, one of us (BD) has been systematically recording the rock art from
various parts of north Queensland, Australia. Already recorded are significant numbers
of rock art sites from Chillagoe (in Wagaman Aboriginal country), Ngarrabullgan (Kuku
Djungan country) and Bonny Glen and the Mitchell-Palmer limestone zone (both in
Kuku Yalanji country). Each of these regions possesses extensive bodies of paintings,
with lesser numbers of stencils, prints and engravings. So far, we have recorded ~1000
rock pictures from each of Wagaman, Kuku Djungan and Kuku Yalanji country. As part
of the current project, we plan on a), inputting this data onto the computerised database
system, and b), undertaking more fieldwork and recording new sites to test the systemís
ability to incorporate data collected in different ways from the same region, and
additional data from existing sites onto the database. Our first field season towards these
aims was held in June-July 1996 by David, Brayer and Walt.
Petroglyph National Monument
Petroglyph National Monument, in New Mexico, preserves 7160 acres of petroglyphs
and associated archeological remains. Contained within the 28km length of the
Monument are over 20,000 petroglyphic inscriptions, created for the most part in
prehistoric times by inhabitants of neighbouring Pueblos. Puebloans believed responsible
for this site have inhabited this area for at least 1000 years. Their modern descendants
reside today in the nearby Tiwa-speaking Pueblos of Sandia and Isleta.
There has been no systematic effort to record the rock art of the Monument. The size
of the area, which encompasses one of the world's largest collections of rock art, and the
difficulty of the terrain, have impeded studies of the archaeological materials in
Petroglyph National Monument. As a consequence, the rock art of the Monument has
been only partially and poorly recorded.
A preliminary assessment of the Monument's glyphs was made by Walt and Brayer in
1994, funded and supported by the National Park Service. The goal of this project was to
evaluate previous and current recording protocols and applicable technologies, and to
gauge their feasibility for the Monument. This included a review of the current status of
rock art recording, the field recording of image and non-image data, and the processing
and storage of images and data to include both hardware and database options. This was
followed by a field recording project at the Monument in 1995. Assisting Brayer and
Walt were members of Sandia Pueblo, descendants of the glyph's creators. Project
members documented a geographically-bounded portion of the Monument. Glyphs thus
recorded were subsequently entered into a database that served as the initial entries in our
We continue to document glyphs in the Monument, with some modification to our
technology and logistics. We believe that by directly entering data and images into the
computer we can become more efficient, cost-effective, and improve the quality and
correctness of the database. During the summer of 1996 we experimented with the use of
digital cameras and laptop computers in the field in order to refine these methods.
Resources Available to the Project
John Brayer is a tenured Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the
University of New Mexico. He has full access to his department's facilities, including
scanners, PCs, mainframes, and Internet access provided through the University.
Graduate students in Computer Science and Anthropology/Archaeology are to participate
in the project. We have also accumulated equipment through the course of our various
rock art research projects that is being applied to the present project. This includes a
Macintosh Power PC, Mac and PC laptops, three PC systems, scanners, printers, disk
storage systems, tape drives, CD Rom facilities, and modem access. Software needed for
this project is up and running, and includes GIS, specialised image analysis software, and
appropriate interfaces. The project also has field equipment that includes various format
cameras, laptops, surveying equipment and GPS units. We plan on adding a high
resolution digital camera in the near future.
Henry Walt, Ph.D., project co-director, will share administrative duties and oversee
the field recording at Petroglyph National Monument. He will also take part in the
shaping of the database and it's ability to incorporate divergent data. Walt is an
archaeologist and art historian with many years of experience in the Southwest. He has
worked closely with numerous American Indian communities and has a research interest
in Puebloan expressive media.
John Brayer, Ph.D., project co-director, will help administer the project and will
oversee all aspects of recording, storage and access technology development. He will
also take part in the shaping of the database system and itís ability to incorporate
divergent data. Brayer has many years of research interest in interdisciplinary
applications of information technologies to the humanities.
Bruno David, Ph.D. and project co-director, is participating in defining the structure
and logic of the proposed database system. He will direct the input of data from
Wardaman country, both for its own sake and to help develop the final format of the
database system. His on-going fieldwork in north Queensland,
in particular the Mitchell-Palmer limestone zone and
Ngarrabullgan (Mt. Mulligan), is being used as a test case in
the fine-tuning of the proposed database system. David has recorded and written
extensively about the rock art of northern Australia. He is currently a Post-doctoral
Research Fellow at the University of Queensland.
Chris Musello, Ph.D., will record the ethnographic data at Petroglyph National
Monument with knowledgeable community members from nearby Pueblos. Musello is
an adjunct assistant professor of anthropology at the University of New Mexico and a
consulting scholar who has worked extensively with Indian communities in New Mexico.
He has worked with the Pueblo of Sandia - one of the Tiwa communities most closely
associated with the petroglyphs of Petroglyph Park - as a consulting scholar on a
variety of projects in the past and is currently engaged in research documenting the
history of tribal lands.
In addition to the above, an advisory board of scholars with specific rock art
experience includes Robert Bednarik, Jerry Brody, John Clegg, Josephine Flood, Polly
Schaafsma and Kurt Schaafsma. The participation of several other international scholars,
including rock art researchers from Andean South America, Great Britain, India, South
Africa and the Upper Palaeolithic of France/Spain, was still being arranged at the time of
writing. Preliminary advisory sessions have been held separately in New Mexico and
Queensland with board members from the United States and Australia. These meetings
were held prior to the commencement of work and will continue to be held to confirm
work plans and establish landmarks and standards for evaluating the progress and quality
of the work that follows.
Rock art, in all it's diversity, by definition shares certain basic features of locational
permanence and medium. The objective of our database system is to take these shared
physical and locational characteristics, incorporate the wide range of conventions rock art
exhibits, include associated cultural information, and create a computerised system with
the flexibility and inclusiveness required of it.
In the New Mexico and north Queensland portions of the project, which involve
original field recording in the creation of a new database system, we will be involved in
1), testing various versions of the system in the field; and 2), establishing means by
which data, including digitised imagery, can be directly input into the computerised
database. The use of two very different field case studies will help us ensure that the
recording forms we will be using and the system itself are flexible enough to handle
diverse types of information and recording methods. The Wardaman case will further
test the systemís ability to handle a pre-existing set of data recorded without any attempt
to make it fit this system.
There remain no internationally-accepted standards for recording rock art, much less
any accepted computerized database format. The former is not necessarily a bad thing,
as any given recorder will only have the time and resources to collect the data needed for
their particular research or management needs. Nevertheless, this can create difficulties
for the creation of a broadly usable database and analytical system. Such a system thus
needs to be able to cope with a broad range of approaches to rock art recording. From
the early stages of this project, we have thus also believed that it is essential to maintain
and enhance our communication with as large a potential range of rock art researchers as
Having said this, one way of enhancing the database systemís potential will be to use
a standard set of field recording forms. We stress that these forms must not be critical to
the success of the database system as a usable tool, as many researchers and managers
will be, for a variety of perfectly legitimate reasons, reluctant to abandon their own
recording practices (including forms). Hence, the proposed set of forms must be flexible
enough to allow each researcher to record only the set of data that they wish. However,
the advantage of such forms would be their pre-adaptation to the
Our field recording forms are hierarchically organized, from general to specific (or
one may view these the other way round), beginning with a 'Rock Art Site Form' which
is an overarching description of the entire site. Below this highest level are four other
forms recording increasingly more specific and smaller portions of the whole, in the
following order: 'Rock Art Site Section Form', 'Rock Art Panel Complex Form', 'Rock
Art Panel Form', and 'Glyph Form' (each of these forms will be
described in a later paper). In addition, we have developed forms for specific
interests and problems, such as conservation and vandalism, ethnographic entries, and
larger archaeological site complexes. The more general forms, in particular that for site,
will be more or less common to all recording contexts. The more specific forms, in
particular, the glyph form, may need to be modified or even redesigned for each regional
study. The database system has been organized to make allowances for these case-
specific variations. We have devised this set of nested forms so that we are able to record
the relationships between glyphs in a larger structural and site context, a significant
attribute of the medium that has too often been overlooked. Hence, the inherent structure
of the forms and the database system encourages as much commonality as possible, while
allowing flexibility for specific site variations within the context of the standard. Rock
art recorders wishing to use their own forms and/or record their own specific information
can still use the database system but may not be maximising its potential per unit time
spent recording and inputting data.
We will build the database system to a size and complexity that will credibly test its
adaptability and inclusiveness. As previously discussed, we believe the choice of three
widely divergent sites - one involving an existing archive of Australian rock art,
another a combination of existing recordings and new field data of predominantly
paintings, and the third a newly created database of Puebloan glyphs (mainly engravings)
- will provide a rigorous test for the adaptability of our database system and recording
protocols. We will develop criteria for evaluating pre-existing data and will make note of
this in the database. Reliability and completeness of all entered information will be
entered as a matter of course.
It should be noted that we have already been through two cycles of co-ordination
between New Mexico and Queensland, reviewing and revising the forms and database
The primary goal of the project is to increase the accessibility and usability of rock
art data. Our database will promote accessibility in three ways. First, our interest in
creating a broadly usable data storage and analytical system will encourage broader
access. Second, the software we have chosen to manipulate the database is widely
available. Finally, the media on which the data is provided, will be as convenient as
The selection of Microsoft Access as the database application should promote
access as it is one of the most widely available and inexpensive software packages. We
recognize that software choices are quickly evolving and we continually monitor these
for their applicability to our concerns.
Our emphasis is on convenience and timeliness for the scholar, manager and
indigenous groups. For any given body of rock art, the system needs to be able to
present both the raw image data (i.e. digitised rock art and site imagery) and a portable
version of the full database in a number of formats, as different groups may have access
to different computer hard and software. The data should be produceable on CD-Rom
in a DOS directory format and in a Kodak Photo CD format. In some cases, a given
database may be partially or totally restricted (i.e. not accessible to other researchers)
because of management or cultural reasons, while in other instances complete databases
may be accessible to a widespread group of interested researchers. In the latter case, the
system and the appropriate databases need to be rapidly communicable to a broad
In addition to simply entering the recorded data into a standard commercial relational
database, there are two primary computer-related goals for this project. First, we want to
explore methodologies for computer assistance in the field. There are several important
benefits to using a computer on-site while recording.
Second, we want to improve access to the data by:
- Data entry can take place and be verified in real time at much lower cost than it
would by returning later to the field;
- Computer processing of digital camera images can improve the quality of the
recorded imagery and in some projects may help determine when hand drawings are
- Printouts of recorded imagery can be used to guide the execution of hand drawings.
- Standardizing the user interface to rock art databases from diverse sources;
- Standardizing the structure of rock art databases from diverse sources;
- Where appropriate, increasing the accessibility to data by CD-Rom and the Internet.
Amount of Material
At Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, we plan to record approximately
1/3 of the Monument's petroglyphs. These are in the northernmost portion of the
Monument in an area called Piedras Mercadas Canyon. It is an area selected in
consultation with the National Park Service, based on criteria of image quality, threat of
vandalism, geographic continuity, and logistics. For this study, we will need to digitise
images of about 8000 glyphs, 2000 panels, 500 rock complexes and 100 site sections.
We also expect to record about 5000 pages of written material on the various forms, each
of which will need to be input into the computerised database.
Glyph images will be digitised at a resolution of about 15 pixels per centimeter. This
leads to a typical image size of about 300x300 pixels for a 20x20 centimeter glyph.
Panel images will be recorded at a resolution of about 5 pixels per centimeter which
leads to a size of about 500x500 pixels for a 1 meter square panel. Similar calculations
for other images lead to a total storage required for the digital imagery of about 5-10
The coded text data will require much less storage space, less than 100 megabytes.
Our database also has the capability of storing and editing audio ethnographic data and
Rights to Reproduce
We have the full support of the U.S. National Park Service in our endeavors. The
initial pilot project of field recording techniques was sponsored by the National Park
Service and they have continued to encourage and fund our efforts. Native communities
that are descended from the creators of our subject glyphs have been involved in the
Monument projects from the start. The Pueblo of Sandia partially funded our second
recording project at Petroglyph Monument and have encouraged their young people to
participate. Likewise, the Wardaman people of the Northern Territory and Kuku Yalanji
of north Queensland have taken active roles in the recording of their heritage. All
recorded data will be made available to the respective American Indian and Australian
Aboriginal communities. They will withhold any sensitive materials which they will
have the option of retaining in their own versions of the database, and direct us as to the
types of information we are allowed to publish and/or share with other researchers.
How Material will be Processed
In the projects conducted thus far at Petroglyph Monument, data for each panel was
manually recorded on field forms while taking conventional photographs. The data were
then entered into the database by keyboarding and photo prints were scanned by desktop
scanner. Survey data was also recorded on forms and later entered by keyboard.
Accuracy of the data was aided by quality checks during database entry but still had to be
verified by a return to the field.
In this project, we plan to directly enter some of the recorded data into a laptop while
in the field. This will include survey data which potentially can be directly downloaded
from the survey instrument or GPS unit. We will also use a digital camera to record and
enter the image data directly into the database, although in practice this option may have
to await the commercial availability of cheap high quality digital cameras, which are not
yet on the market (predicted to be available within five years). Formatting will be
accomplished by recording protocol software set prior to entering the field. Images in the
database will use the JPEG image data compression algorithm. Experiments will be
conducted to determine the proper value of the quality parameter. Near real-time field
verification of the computerized database entries will ensure quality control.
Organization of Digitized Material
The text and image data will be stored in Microsoft Access, a relational database.
Access provides the basic functionality we need and is widely available to other
researchers. More importantly, data stored here can be exported in a standard format to
whatever database we decide to use in the future. As a relational database, Access can
store and edit various kinds of multimedia data including text, images, graphics and
drawings, audio scripts and video. Access provides standard search capabilities, based on
SQL queries or on specially developed user query interfaces. At this stage we do not plan
extensive development of specialized interfaces.
Plans for Storage and Access
We plan to provide backup and redundancy for each database by storing them in
multiple places, where permission is given by indigenous groups. We will have copies of
the data at the University of New Mexico (where the Internet access will be provided), at
the National Park Service Visitor Center (eventually the National Rock Art Research
Center), and at Sandia Pueblo. In Australia, the data will be stored through the
University of Queensland. Again, where permission is given by traditional owners, the
database will also be provided to bona fide interested researchers in a variety of formats
on a variety of media, including disks and CD-Roms.
At present we have a WWW home page on the Internet at
This internet page contains a brief
description of our project with Sandia Pueblo, a few sample images, and links to pages
for the Petroglyph National Monument, for Sandia Pueblo, for the American Rock Art
Research Association, and finally a link to our report on rock art recording technology.
We envision the development of an internationally interlinked network of such pages in
the near future.
Our WWW page is a modest initial attempt to provide information. We would like to
see rock art information provided on the Internet directly via an image database through
one of the developing formats now gaining in popularity. To see the full extent of these
offerings, one can initiate a search with keywords, "image database" using one of the
search engines such as INFOSEEK or LYCOS. Image database information presently
seems to be offered in several ways, either as clickable (or nonclickable) indices (such as
), clickable thumbnails (such as
), or even as
browser/search engines such as (
Internet index or browsing information can be an invaluable time saver for scholars
exchanging at least preliminary information. We expect this technology to evolve rapidly
and to move into the mainstream as a vehicle for research information by the time this
project nears completion. We propose an evolutionary development of the database
system in a way that takes maximum advantage of existing and widely available
A differing set of activities and tasks will take place in New Mexico and Australia.
We will keep in close touch, however, and monitor progress closely in both locations.
The project will be administered in New Mexico where most computer-related and field
recording activities will take place.
In New Mexico, we will conduct technology development, database and software
development, field recording and verification, and the conforming of the database.
Effort will also go toward making the database structures and interfaces accessible and
transportable. In Queensland, work will center on developing the database structure,
refining the system during its developmental and construction stages, and entering data
that has already been recorded; i.e. on conforming the database and the subsequent field
verification of that data in the Northern Territory and north Queensland.
We believe that a universally standardized database system is possible if developed in
an evolutionary and incremental way, over various locations, involving different rock art
types and cultural settings. We have already completed two cycles of review between the
U.S. and Australia and will conduct further cycles as part of this proposed project. Each
cycle consists of alternating periods of field recording, verification or data entry and
periods of discussion and evaluation of the field forms, the database structure, database
search tools and database report generation. After each evaluation, modifications are
made to the database and associated methodology before the next recording period. To
try to get input from other kinds of projects and other researchers, we plan several
strategies. Our panel of scholars will review our results at the project midpoint and near
the project conclusion. We will also get input and advice by seeking comments from an
on-line listserv group, at professional meetings, and by publishing our results and
eliciting comments on the Internet and through Rock Art Research.