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Abstract

The Rock Art Stability Index (RASI) is a rapid, quantitative approach to rock art condition assessment. Research carried out at Petrified Forest National Park, USA, demonstrates that, following a 2-day training session, site evaluators obtained replicable results, facilitating a condition assessment of over 3500 engraved panels. Two electron microscopy case studies allowed us to identify the specific rock decay processes and major causes of destruction on panels that were RASI-scored as in high threat, suggesting potential avenues for future conservation interventions. This approach illustrates a holistic strategy for rock art conservation.

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... Moreover, several indexes exist to scientifically estimate the stability of rock art and they are based mostly on biogeomorphology observations and in situ measurements [34,116]. Stability indexes offer the first effective tool to plan investigation and preservation strategies, as in the case of the Rock Art Stability Index [117,118]. Possible gaps between carbonate deposition and rock art production A wide range of geochemical techniques have been used to characterize the composition of rock art and ochre materials ( [107,119] and references therein), in which the mineral composition could be identified by thin section petrography, X-ray diffraction (XRD), Raman spectroscopy and Fourier transformed infrared spectrometry (FTIR). Elemental analysis could be carried out by semi-quantitative methods such as scanning electron microscopy coupled with dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX) and X-ray fluorescence (XRF), or the concentration of elements could be determined by inductively coupled plasma and atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES), neutron activation analysis (NAA), and laser ablation inductively coupled mass spectroscopy (LA-ICP-MS), in which NAA and LA-ICP-MS are considered the most sensitive to trace elements [120]. ...
Article
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Rock art is a widespread cultural heritage, representing an immovable element of the material culture created on natural rocky supports. Paintings and petroglyphs can be found within caves and rock shelters or in open-air contexts and for that reason they are not isolated from the processes acting at the Earth surface. Consequently, rock art represents a sort of ecosystem because it is part of the complex and multidirectional interplay between the host rock, pigments, environmental parameters, and microbial communities. Such complexity results in several processes affecting rock art; some of them contribute to its destruction, others to its preservation. To understand the effects of such processes an interdisciplinary scientific approach is needed. In this contribution, we discuss the many processes acting at the rock interface—where rock art is present—and the multifaceted possibilities of scientific investigations—non-invasive or invasive—offered by the STEM disciplines. Finally, we suggest a sustainable approach to investigating rock art allowing to understand its production as well as its preservation and eventually suggest strategies to mitigate the risks threatening its stability.
... VNIR-SWIR spectroscopy is extremely sensitive, and should, therefore, detect organic molecular absorptions in rock art paint if organic materials are present. The determination of their potential as anthropogenic will then depend on further forensic investigation to exclude natural organic constituents of the ochre (Clarke, 1976:134;Horn, 2018;Lenehan et al., 2017) and weathering effects over time such as UV light (Horn, 2018;Horn et al., 2019) heat, moisture, and biotic interactions that might affect paint and rock surfaces (Bednarik, 1994;Cerveny et al., 2016;Pillans and Fifield, 2013;Ramanaidou and Fonteneau, 2019). ...
Article
This paper reports on the search for organic binder materials in rock art paintings at Genealogy and Stickman Rockshelters in Wajarri Yamaji country, Weld Range (Western Australia). Portable visible, near infrared and shortwave infrared (VNIR-SWIR) reflectance spectroscopy requires no physical sampling or surface preparation. Eleven motifs were analysed in-situ. Only one of the motifs had absorption features characteristic of organic molecular bonds and resembled hematite and blood experimental paint reference materials. Constituent hematite and clay pigment minerals defined the spectra of the remaining ten motifs. This pilot study demonstrates that non-invasive VNIR-SWIR spectroscopy is an effective field characterisation tool for assessing painted rock art motifs for constituent organic materials and mineralogy including clay minerals and iron oxides. Without the need to take samples, the technique will be invaluable for rock art conservation, and as a screening tool in the search for organic materials suited for C¹⁴ direct dating in mineral pigmented rock art paint.
... On the one hand, the products, sand grains and sinkers accumulate in the flat part owing to the weathering of the parent rock. On the other hand, as a tourist site, human activities may interfere with the weathering process, especially at the locations near tourist boardwalks (Cerveny et al., 2016). As a consequence, these locations had higher formation rates of soil organic matter, with more nutrient supply toward rapid plant growth and reproduction (Liu et al., 2015). ...
Article
The accumulation of soil organic matter and nutrients is an important pathway in effectively understanding the mechanisms of plant settlement and rock weathering, while the characteristics of soil organic carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) under different vegetation remain unclear. In this study, the stocks and stoichiometry of soil organic C, N and P were determined in different positions and types of vegetation on the surface of the Leshan Giant Buddha. We found that the total stocks of soil organic C, N and P were 1689.77, 134.6 and 29.48 kg, respectively, for the Buddha. The stocks of soil organic C, N and P under vascular plants were higher than those under other vegetation, with highest values observed under herb. Higher stocks per unit area (m2) of soil organic C, N and P were found on the left and right arms, shoulders, and two platforms. These results provide a full primary picture in understanding soil organic C, N and P accumulation and distribution on the surface of the Buddha, which could supply the fundamental data on weathering management of the Buddha and other similar open-air stone carvings.
... The CARE Toolkit supports Agnew et al.'s (2015) and Cerveny et al.'s (2016) recommendation that rock art monitoring should be easily repeatable. We suggest that this aspect of the CARE Toolkit will be enhanced by its conversion into a high-quality mobile app (Turner et al. 2018;Mazel and Giesen 2018). ...
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Neolithic and Early Bronze Age rock carvings in the United Kingdom and Ireland represent an internationally unique rock art tradition as it is, to the best of our knowledge, the only wholly abstract global rock art tradition. This heritage resource is, however, under threat from an array of factors, such as increasing population densities and agricultural intensity. In this paper, we report on the Condition Assessment Risk Evaluation (CARE) project that had as one of its primary objectives the co-production of a user-friendly, non-invasive condition assessment risk evaluation Toolkit for gathering and organising information essential for the long-term conservation of open-air rock art. We describe the public involvement CARE process through co-experience participatory focus groups, which evaluated the Toolkit, concluding that we can have confidence in the results obtained from the public. Furthermore, the variables that form part of the Toolkit and related management recommendations are presented.
... The initial study should take into account deterioration due to different weathering and anthropogenic processes. A valuable initiative in this regard is the rock art stability index (RASI) (Dorn et al., 2008;Cerveny et al., 2016;Whitley, 2016), based on an extensive database of alteration forms affecting rock art carved in different rocks in different climates around the world. This information is not only a useful starting point for risk assessment related to natural or anthropogenic processes, it can also easily be used by personnel with minimal training. ...
Article
Prehistoric rock art sites are endangered despite conservation efforts. The lack of scientific documentation regarding weathering agents affecting rock art and the absence of specific diagnostic protocols hinder the development of conservation strategies. The aim of this research was to investigate active deterioration processes in a granite petroglyph site located in Mougás (Galicia, NW Spain) by characterizing the granite, conducting a geotechnical study of the outcrop and describing and analysing the main weathering processes. Two main deterioration factors were identified. First, water favours block disjunction at the massif scale and causes pitting and surface erosion at the millimetre scale that affects the readability of the engravings. Second, high temperatures associated with wildfires cause mineral transformations that increase the susceptibility of the rock to weathering. Identifying deterioration factors is a first step in developing appropriate preventive conservation measures, which should aim to reduce rock contact time with water (technically affordable in the short term) and to reduce the probability of wildfire occurrence (technically more complex and possibly with longer‐term results).
... Accordingly, RASI has potential for wide appeal and has been employed in a number of previous case studies (e.g., Allen and Groom 2013;Allen et al. 2011;Groom 2017). The index is interoperable with condition-monitoring approaches such as repeat photography (e.g., Groom 2017), and it can accommodate more technical analyses that provide greater insight on particular stone decay agents (e.g., Cerveny et al. 2016). RASI data can also be integrated into a Geographic Information System (GIS) to visualize the stability of rock art across the landscape and analyze the spatial relationships among stability, stone decay agents, and other factors. ...
Article
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In light of global trends in human population growth and urbanization, burgeoning cultural heritage tourism industries, and climate change, cultural heritage places in nearly every corner of the world are significantly threatened, and will remain so into the foreseeable future. Rock art sites are some of the most imperiled, with their exposed contexts posing unique challenges to conservation. Consequently, effective management of publically accessible rock art sites necessitates a sustainable approach that weighs visitation in regard to cultural significance and site stability. This essay integrates rock art stability and sustainability assessment methodologies at the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site in southwestern Arizona. The study specifically applies the Rock Art Stability Index (RASI) to evaluate the natural and anthropogenic weathering forces impacting the site, and the Heritage Asset Sensitivity Gauge (HASG) to assess site sustainability under existing management practices in relation to current and forecasted rates of visitation. A spatial analysis of aggregated RASI data shows that visitor foot traffic has had some of the most profound impacts to the petroglyphs. Unrestricted access to the site area is also highly correlated with the presence and location of vandalism and graffiti, and visitor-related trampling has adversely affected the site’s surface artifact assemblage. Application of the HASG projects that, while existing management practices are fairly sustainable, they become less so under forecasted increases in visitation. Further, the HASG appraises the site’s cultural significance as outweighing its market appeal, indicating management efforts should prioritize conservation over tourism-related development.
... The initial study should take into account dete- rioration due to different weathering and anthropogenic pro- cesses. A valuable initiative in this regard is the rock art stability index (RASI) (Dorn et al., 2008;Cerveny et al., 2016;Whitley, 2016), based on an extensive database of alteration forms affecting rock art carved in different rocks in different cli- mates around the world. This information is not only a useful starting point for risk assessment related to natural or anthropo- genic processes, it can also easily be used by personnel with minimal training. ...
Chapter
Representing countless societies and cultures, rock imagery and cultural stone are diverse and valuable resources that are, despite their perceived resilience, incredibly fragile and vulnerable to copious geomorphological processes. This article discusses various multidisciplinary theoretical frameworks and field assessment research tools that have been employed to better understand the dynamic nexus of heritage sciences, geomorphology, archeology, material sciences, and more. Additional information on ethical considerations scholars must take when researching sensitive materials is also provided.
Article
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In order to identify those petroglyph and pictograph panels most susceptible to damage, we propose a field-friendly index that incorporates elements of existing strategies to characterize the stability of stone. The Rock Art Stability Index (RASI) has six general categories: Site Setting (geological factors); Weakness of the Rock Art Panel; Evidence of Large Erosion Events On and Below the Panel; Evidence of Small Erosion Events on the Panel; Rock Coatings on the Panel; and Highlighting Vandalism. Initial testing reveals that training of individuals with no prior background in rock decay can be conducted within a two-day period and yield reproducible results. RASI’s use as a tool to promote cultural resource sustainability includes the use of a Geographic Information System to store, display and analyze rock art.Para identificar los paneles del arte rupestre pintado y engrabados más vulnerables a daños, proponemos un fácil-por-el-campo indexo que incorporan elementos de estrategia que existen para la estabilidad de piedras. El Indexo de Estabilidad de Arte Rupestre (RASI) tiene seis categorías en general: el disposición de sitio (factores geológicos); debilidad del panel de arte rupestre; evidencia de grandes episodios de erosión en y debajo del panel; evidencia de pequeños episodios de erosión en el panel; capas de rocas en el panel; y el punto culminante de vandalismo. Exámenes iniciales revelan que personas con no bases anterior en desmoronamiento de roca formara en dos días con resultados reproducibles. Como una herramienta de la sostenibilidad de recursos culturales, RASI se incluyen una pieza de Sistema de Información Geográfica para amontonar, manifestar, y analizar arte de roca.
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In order to identify those petroglyph and pictograph panels most susceptible to damage, we propose a field-friendly index that incorporates elements of existing strategies to characterize the stability of stone. The Rock Art Stability Index (RASI) has six general categories: Site Setting (geological factors); Weakness of the Rock Art Panel; Evidence of Large Erosion Events On and Below the Panel; Evidence of Small Erosion Events on the Panel; Rock Coatings on the Panel; and Highlighting Vandalism. Initial testing reveals that training of individuals with no prior background in rock decay can be conducted within a two-day period and yield reproducible results. RASI’s use as a tool to promote cultural resource sustainability includes the use of a Geographic Information System to store, display and analyze rock art.
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M ost integrative approaches to rock art management necessitate far greater financing and specialty skills than land managers have at their disposal. The rock art stability index (RASI, Dorn et al. 2008) remedies this drawback for cultural heritage resource managers by offering an accessible technique to assess a rock art panel's stability. Unlike other rock art assessment methods (cf. Fitzner 2002; Viles et al. 1997), RASI was created as a non-invasive, cost-effective field assessment technique focusing on approximately three-dozen easily identifiable rock weathering forms (or the breaking-down of rock in place) brought on by different geological processes. By combining these key factors, RASI offers an efficient method to help researchers establish the condition of a rock art panel (Cerveny 2005; Dorn et al. 2008). While still scientifically rigorous enough to yield valid scientific results, RASI also remains available to the amateur student of weathering (Dorn et al. 2008), and has also been shown to be a replicable tool for rock art assessment (cf. Cerveny 2005; Cerveny et al. 2006; Dorn et al. 2008), as well as helping people connect science and art in a field setting (Allen and Lukinbeal 2010). Helping to establish a sense of the most endangered rock art panels, RASI permits rapid evaluation of panels, allowing users to categorize, sketch, and assign a "score" to each panel, noting inherent weaknesses based on weathering phenomena that can be immediately analyzed by a cultural resource or land manager (Figure 1). To illustrate RASI in action and demonstrate the effect it can have on rock art panels, sites, researchers, and volunteers, this essay uses anecdotal examples from our current study areas at Petrified Forest National Park to express how RASI functions as a field method. The first anecdote demonstrates how student researchers involved with RASI continue to take the initiative regarding rock art management, while the two following it express how RASI can have an immediate impact for cultural resource managers. Then, before a quick conclusion on how RASI entwines cultural appreciation and science, we briefly discuss the potential for adding cutting-edge technology to RASI, enhancing the overall examination and management of rock art.
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The Burrup Peninsula and surrounding Dampier Archipelago, in Western Australia, contain the world's largest known gallery of rock art engravings (petroglyphs), estimated to number up to 1 million images. The peninsula is also the site of major industrial development and there are concerns that industrial emissions may adversely affect the stability and longevity of the rock art. We have studied the natural processes and rates of weathering and erosion, including the effects of fire, that affect the stability of rock surfaces and hence the longevity of the rock art, using cosmogenic nuclides. The concentration of 10Be in quartz yields erosion rates in the range 0.15-0.48 mm/1000 years on horizontal rock surfaces and 0.34-2.30 mm/1000 years on vertical rock faces. The former, largely caused by mm-scale surface flaking, are amongst the lowest erosion rates measured by cosmogenic nuclides anywhere in the world. The latter are inferred to represent a combination of mm-scale flaking and very rare centimetre- to metre-scale block falls, controlled by failure along joint planes. Such low erosion rates result from a combination of resistant rocks, low relief and low rainfall, favouring long-term preservation of the petroglyphs - long enough to encompass the known period of human settlement in Australia.
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Thousands of Neolithic and Bronze Age open-air rock art panels exist across the countryside in northern England. However, desecration, pollution, and other factors are threatening the survival of these iconic stone monuments. Evidence suggest that rates of panel deterioration may be increasing, although it is not clear whether this is due to local factors or wider environmental influences accelerated by environmental change. To examine this question, 18 rock art panels with varied art motifs were studied at two major panel locations at Lordenshaw and Weetwood Moor in Northumberland. A condition assessment tool was used to first quantify the level of deterioration of each panel (called “staging”). Stage estimates then were compared statistically with 27 geochemical and physical descriptors of local environments, such as soil moisture, salinity, pH, lichen coverage, soil anions and cation levels, and panel orientation, slope, and standing height. In parallel, climate modelling was performed using UKCP09 to assess how projected climatic conditions (to 2099) might affect the environmental descriptors most correlated with elevated stone deterioration. Only two descriptors significantly correlated (P < 0.05) with increased stage: the standing height of the panel and the exchangeable cation content of the local soils, although moisture conditions also were potentially influential at some panels. Climate modelling predicts warming temperatures, more seasonally variable precipitation, and increased wind speeds, which hint stone deterioration could accelerate in the future due to increased physiochemical weathering. We recommend key panels be targeted for immediate management intervention, focusing on reducing wind exposures, improving site drainage, and potentially immobilizing soil salts.
Article
Rock art conservators are faced with complex decisions to prioritize rock art panels for protection from destructive forces of weathering. We provide a system to facilitate such decision making that blends traditional remote sensing with interactive techniques of exploratory spatial data analysis. Our system, ‘mapping weathering forms in three-dimensional (3D)’ (MapWeF) uses a 3D laser scanning device for sub-centimetre data collection from in situ rock surfaces. After image and digital surface model processing, key rock weathering forms are highlighted through classification. Supervised classification builds training classes as a user probes known weathering forms. Guided by these training classes, the user then interactively brushes and assembles pixels from scatter plots until the user is confident that all manifestations of a particular weathering form have been mapped. The purpose of MapWeF is to construct detailed maps that highlight regions of decay on rock art panels. These maps can help rock art conservators take action on panels in need of urgent preservation or remediation.
Article
At Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta, Canada, weathering is causing deterioration and loss of archaeologically important Indian rock art. A procedure devised for the use of park personnel identified four classes of weathering ranging from largely unweathered rock to severely weathered. The technique employed simple visual, qualitative assessment and photo interpretation of 50 sample sections of sandstone cliff face covering a total area of 354 m2. Schmidt hammer tests indicated large variations in rock strength and provided a numerical basis for the visual assessment. About 43 per cent of the cliffs are severely to completely weathered, 41 per cent show moderate weathering.
Article
To aid rock art conservation, rock temperatures have been monitored at different depths and at low (30 min) and high (1 min) acquisition rates in a painted rock shelter in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park (South Africa). Preliminary data for winter (cold and dry) show that in that season cryoclasty is unlikely to occur (rare subzero thermal events and probable reduced moisture availability) and thermal shocks are improbable (highest measured ΔT/Δt < 2 °C min−1). High amplitude (about 30 °C) rock temperature cycles accompanied by reversals of the thermal gradient have been observed to occur almost daily and hint at the possibility of thermal stress fatigue. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
Trofimov and Phillips (Geomorphology 5 (1992) 203) suggest that the ultimate goal of any science is to predict the behaviour of entire systems. With regard to the decay of building stone, making accurate predictions of stone behaviour remains an elusive goal but given our improved understanding of decay dynamics it should be possible to provide a forecast of likely system behaviour. However, forecasting system behaviour requires classification of the system state with the classification, whether formal or informal, founded on knowledge of the factors that control response. In the context of building stone decay these controlling factors include, structural properties, mineralogical properties, inheritance effects, contaminant loading and natural change. In trying to formalise building stone condition assessment and incorporate a forecast component, an analogy can be made between the requirements for classification and treatment determination of cancer patients and the approach to condition assessment and conservation of stone structures. In medicine, one of the most widely used and refined patient assessment schemes is the TNM Staging System. The rationale underpinning the TNM Staging System has many similarities with approaches to building stone assessment in that it seeks to impose a more formal structure on condition assessment that provides a commonality of approach, language and meaning and a procedure for forecasting the extent of remedial intervention required and outcome in terms of ‘life expectancy’.
Article
The San rock art of southern Africa is an international heritage subject to degradation and loss resulting from weathering. The paintings occur within rock shelters, where many are exposed to direct solar radiation for varying periods, rather than occurring in dark caves. As part of a study on the factors thought to be impacting weathering, data were collected pertaining to rock and pigment temperatures as well as humidity within the rock shelters. In addition, XRD analyses were undertaken on pigment samples, and the pigment to rock and pigment to pigment contacts were investigated by means of SEM. Pigments were found to be composed of ferric oxide (the ochre) and a gypsum-clay mix (the white) and to occur as a layer on top of, rather than penetrating into, the sandstone. Noncontact infrared sensors were used to monitor the temperatures of the actual pigments while micro-thermocouples to monitor the surrounding (nonpainted) rock surfaces. Thermal data show that there are significant differences between the white and the ochre pigments, both in terms of actual temperatures and short-term thermal responses. Noticeably, the white paint exhibits (relatively) large thermal fluctuations, as compared to the ochre or the rock, over the 20-s to 1-min timescale; these thermal variations may induce pigment-to-pigment stresses within the painting. The pigmented areas also exhibit different temperatures to the surrounding paint-free rock, suggesting that there may be both within-painting and between painting and rock (including the rock beneath the painting) stresses that can lead to degradation. Humidity data were found to be inadequate for any meaningful evaluation of the moisture conditions.
Article
Natural processes are known to cause significant damage to archaeological monuments. In fact, the key to understanding the decay of building materials is the internal movement of water through the mineral matrix, which influences the distribution of chemical, physical and biological deterioration processes. Electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) was traditionally used as a surveying tool within archaeology, but a new high-resolution technique that accurately traces the movement of moisture in building materials could provide a vital tool for understanding the decay of many archaeological monuments. This paper considers current progress, the shift of ERT from soil to rock research and the impact that this development could have on future conservation, using Hertford College (Oxford) and Neolithic rock art (Golden Gate Reserve, South Africa) as case studies.
International Scientific Committee on Rock Art
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