Finnish rock art exhibition


I am delighted to have received an invitation to Ismo Luukkonen’s exhibition Marked on Rock – Photographs of Prehistoric Rock Paintings at the National Museum of Finland in Helsinki. The exhibition is open June 16th to September 18th, 2011. More information and a few photos here.

I know Ismo has photographed rock art in many countries so I queried about it and he confirmed to me that all the photos in this exhibit are of prehistoric rock paintings located around different areas of Finland. Do check out Ismo Luukkonen’s extensive website, especially the Finnish pictographs.

This is a subject close to my heart on many levels so I’m sad that I will not be able to be there for the opening and meet the photographer, nor is it likely that I’ll see the exhibition during its long run (unless the goddess of rock art waves a magic wand and a plane ticket in my direction).

My congratulations and best wishes to Ismo Luukkonen on this exhibition. I hope some of my Finnish readers and anyone else who may be in Helsinki will visit the exhibition and share impressions and photos!

Related: Previous posts about Ismo Luukkonen and his work in July 2004, February 2005, and most recently February 2011.

Gabriola Petroglyph Park

Back to our visit and explorations a month ago (already!) on Gabriola Island. I previously featured a few images taken of some petroglyphs we found on one forest trail.



The next day we visited the Gabriola Museum. Though closed mid-week we enjoyed a stroll on the grounds, named Petroglyph Park with its numerous reproductions of many of the petroglyphs found on the Island, with the aim of preventing further erosion of the originals as well as showing less eroded images than those originals are now. Most are flat stones and some are upright, all placed in a natural setting with spreading moss and lichen.

The Museum’s pages have information about the history of the petroglyphs and about the background on the reproduction project.



Some years ago, when I became interested in learning more about BC’s own native petroglyphs and pictographs, one of the books I acquired is Gabriola: Petroglyph Island by Mary and Ted Bentley. The back cover states that the Bentleys have explored and recorded the rock carvings of Gabriola Island since 1969. They discovered a major site of over fifty carvings in 1976, then thirty more glyphs at four more sites. They are committed to the preservation and to promoting an understanding of the native culture that produced these and have been very involved in the reproduction project at the Museum.


I’m so thrilled to have at last seen even a small fraction of these works on Gabriola, both the original and the well done reproductions. Perhaps one day we’ll go back to see more.

Gabriola’s petroglyphs 2





Learning of our interest in petroglyphs, our excellent B&B host on Gabriola Island told us of one accessible trail to one collection of them. We were warned that many are so worn that it is hard to spot them so were pleased to find several though not all photographed well. The best photo of the lot was featured in the previous post. Here are a few that I was able to digitally but gently enhance in order to see the carved images. The last photo is of a glade that we came upon on that trail. We could just imagine a group of long ago First Nations doing a spirit ceremony here, in the quiet stillness in the middle of the forest.

More information to come on Gabriola’s petroglyphs soon…

Gabriola’s petroglyphs

a Gabriola Island petroglyph

I have more photos plus notes to share on the petroglyphs we saw on Gabriola Island, along with many more rock photos…. when I have some time.

I’ve been quiet on this blog for we have good friends visiting this week, former Vancouverites who will soon be moving back here after over two decades living in other Canadian cities. We are very pleased since many other friends have moved away over the years. Then next week our middle daughter and her two daughters will arrive from the UK for a two month visit. Busy but happy times….

a silver quarter


I give you a brief break from Gabriola rocks to tell you about curiosity and an unusual looking Canadian silver quarter which I found in the pile of change on husband’s dresser. On one side it has three figures that look like native petroglyphs, dated February 1999 Fevrier… and you know my love of petroglyphs.

Wikipedia tells me it is one of the Millenium quarters. This one is designed by Lonnie Springer and called ‘Etched in Stone”. No image was given there but I found one here and have borrowed it above. (My scan was lousy.)

This supposed-to-be-just-a-quick search then sent me looking into my archives for my posts about Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in Alberta where we’d seen a few petroglyphs similar to these on the coin. I still want to go back there and see the others we missed!

See how I can get distracted and “waste time”? Not this time, I say, for I love these sudden little finds and connections, and how I’m reminded again about looking very closely even at supposedly ordinary coins. No, I’m not a coin collector though I’ve occasionally saved the odd special one, now including this one.

Back to spring cleaning – company’s coming!

birthdays and valentines


A blog-friend who knows and shares my love of rock art and images of hands captured this wonderful pictograph** and created this lovely birthday card for me. Thank you for this, Siona. Siona’s blog is a treasure of beautiful, sensitive, poetic writing which is also a gift to her readers, do visit!

We’re having a pleasant weekend at home, quietly celebrating my birthday (it was on Friday) and Valentine’s Day tomorrow, all in one as we usually tend to do. As I’ve been too lazy to make a Valentine to put here, I ask instead, dear readers, that you imagine these artists’ hands waving to us across the ages, making a long ephemeral thread of connection to our ancient past. Doesn’t that give you a shiver, better than heart shaped cards and chocolates (ok, maybe not better than the latter)?

Happy Valentine’s Day tomorrow! Happy Friendship Day to my Finnish readers!

**Siona could not remember the source of the image, whether Australian or South American or? If you should recognize this, do let us know.

UPDATE Feb.15th: We have the answer!! As you can read in the comments from ‘il’, who is Ismo Luukkonen of Finland, the hands are from Carnarvon National Park, Queensland, Australia. I’m so excited, not only to have the answer, but to hear from Ismo himself for I’ve written before about his stunning photographs and website on Finnish rock art. Kiitos!

math in cuneiform

I’m no mathematician but I’d like to point you to a fascinating review in the New York Times: Masters of Math, From Old Babylon. I wish I could see this this exhibition in person, however the online information and photos are very good. These clay tablets used in ancient mathematics predate Pythagoras by more than a thousand years, so they are truly an incredible discovery.

I like the look of cuneiform script as a type of ancient writing on tablets and I particularly love them just as sculptural art forms. I recall last year admiring the (non-math) cuneiform tablets in the British Museum such as the one below which I scanned from a BM postcard I’d picked up. It is very much younger being only from the 7th century BC.



Related in a fun way is this long ago post on cuneiform writing.

the art instinct

I heard a fascinating podcast quite some time ago on CBC Radio’s IDEAS Podcasts and had saved the link, meaning to share it on my blog. Forgotten though it was, I found it again today as I was going through some files this afternoon. The Art Instinct was aired last February 8th, 2010 so it’s not currently available online. If you have about an hour to listen to it, I hope the link works for you and you enjoy it as much as I did.

Here’s the introduction:

Human tastes in the arts are evolutionary traits shaped by natural selection. So says Denis Dutton who argues that our love of beauty is inborn and shaped by evolution. Beauty, pleasure and skills are essential human values.

Right click to Download The Art Instinct
 [mp3 file: runs 54:01]
After hearing this excellent interview, of course I want to read the book! I know it’s been out for a couple of years. Have you read it?

little sketchbook


As some of you know, we visited Montreal last June and met in person long-time online friend Beth and her husband. I’ve been wanting to show this special and beautiful gift Beth gave me, a little sketchbook about 10 x 12 cm. (4″ x 4.75″) that she skillfully crafted. I treasure it and think of Beth every time I look at it. Today, better late than never, I did my first little sketch into it.


Inspired by an image I saw somewhere a few years ago of a prehistoric rock carving in Roughting Linn in Northumberland, UK, I’d done a quick pen doodle on scrap paper and later taped it into my larger working sketchbook/notebook. As I contemplated doing a series of rock art images in Beth’s book, I remembered that image. I used graphite aquarelle pencils, a black aquarelle stick and a damp little paintbrush – what fun!

rare Lascaux photos

Rare, Unpublished: Lascaux Steer Photo: Ralph Morse/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images Jan 01,1947

This is exciting, if you love ancient cave paintings as much as a I do. has a gallery of previously unpublished rare photos, the first ever taken inside the Lascaux Caves of France. The caves were discovered by accident on September 12, 1940 by two schoolboys but it wasn’t until 1947 that…
LIFE’s Ralph Morse went to Lascaux, and became the first photographer to ever document the astonishing, vibrant paintings. Here, on the 70th anniversary of the discovery of the cave and its treasures, in a gallery featuring rare and never-published photographs, Morse — still vibrant himself at 93 — shares with his memories of what it was like to encounter the long-hidden, strikingly lifelike handiwork of a vanished people: the Cro-Magnon.

“In [Cro-Magnon man’s] most expert period,” LIFE noted in its issue of Feb. 24, 1947 (in which a handful of Morse’s photos appeared), “his apparatus included engraving and scraping tools, a stone or bone palette and probably brushes made of bundled split reeds. He ground colored earth for his rich reds and yellows, used charred bone or soot black for his dark shading and made green from manganese oxide. These colors were mixed with fatty oils. For permanence, the finest pigments of civilized Europe have never rivaled these crude materials.”

It’s a fascinating story with great photos that, to me, inspire awe and admiration for the skills and artistry of these early humans of 17,000 years ago.

Many thanks to ionarts for this link!