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Wushan rock art paintings

02 Aug 2014
Bradshaw Foundation
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In July the Bradshaw Foundation team visited the Wushan rock paintings at Dayanjiao Cave, China. The team consisted of Dr. Jean Clottes, Dr. Meenakshi Dubey-Pathak, and Peter Robinson, with guides from the Guizhou Provincial Institute of Archaeology.

Wushan cave paintings in China

Dayanjiao Cave is located about 30 miles east of Guiyang, near Longli, in the Guizhou Province. The site, situated along the Wushan River, was discovered relatively recently in August 2001. It contains over 500 paintings, which have been dated by the authorities between 500 BC to 200 AD. The images consist of anthropomorths, zoomorphs, finger tip marks and symbols. The overall impression may represent a form of animism - the belief that souls exist not only in humans but also in natural objects such as animals, plants, rocks and rivers.

Wushan rock art with iron oxide

All the images are monochrome, painted in a redish-brown colour from iron oxide, and represented in two dimensions without a sense of perspective or depth of field. There is no over-painting. The paintings occupy the natural strata of the rock, never exceeding each rock panel's vertical limit, so the largest painting is approximately 28 cms in height. The finger tips are the smallest of the painted marks. The site itself possesses a particular 'significance', with a large stream emerging at one point at the base of the cliff. Apart from the panels of rock art, there is a large cupule carved into the rock floor at the cliff base, almost certainly for ritual practice. Indeed, there was possibly evidence of continued ritual practice at the site, with the careful and discreet tying of a red scarf to a conspicuous rock.

Wushan rock art with graffiti

Whilst the general condition of the paintings is very good, the protection of the site is minimal. There are several graffiti marks on the rocks and on some of the lower paintings themselves. Some painted panels appear to have fallen to the floor. The area attracts locals for fishing, and a short distance from the site there is a major construction project underway. The site has, however, been documented by the Guizhou Provincial Administration Department of Cultural Relics and the Guizhou Provincial Institute of Archaeology. This will of course have great bearing on the rock art site's preservation.

The Foundation will be adding the Wushan rock paintings at Dayanjiao Cave to the China Rock Art Archive in the near future. 

http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/china/index.php

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