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Maya petroglyphs at Actun Xkanlol in the Yucatan. The carvings are on a flow stone column in the caves entrance and the carved notches likely held idols. In this part of the Yucatan water is a scarce commodity most often found in caves lime this. Water supplies were often ritually guarded by engravings and idols. Shot by @salvarezphoto on assignment for @natgeo.

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The Maze panel in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument | Vermilion Cliffs is most famous for a geological formation called the wave, but Vermilion Cliffs is also home to ancient stories told in stone.

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A broken Barrier Canyon Style pictograph on the San Rafael Swell in Utah. This is the ultimate fate of all pictographs. Eventually wind, rain sunlight and gravity take their toll. In this case a section of cliff wall has calved off decapitating figure. #utah

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Photo by Stephen Alvarez @salvarezphoto | A Pahranagat-style anthropomorphic figure aligns with the Milky Way just before dawn in the Basin and Range National Monument. Thought to be 3,000 to 5,000 years old, these anthropomorphic figures are associated with the first hunter-gatherer cultures to inhabit this part of the American West, particularly the Pahranagat Valley in southern Nevada. I am in the American West working on an @insidenatgeo and @ancientartarchive project examining rock art in national monuments that were studied for reduction. The Basin and Range was not resized and remains a huge expanse of mostly empty wild space. For more images from this project follow me @salvarezphoto and my nonprofit @ancientartarchive as we explore and preserve humanity’s oldest stories.

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Tito Bustillo Cave, Spain | In the Americas seeing a horse represented in rock or cave art is a good indicator that the painting is historic. But in Europe humans and horses lived side by side for tens of thousands of years. The polychrome horse panel in TitoBustillo. Radiocarbon dating of the paintings in Tito Bustillo marks the oldest as being over 30,000 years old. These horses likely date from the Magdaenian era in the Upper Paleolithic (17,000-12,000 BP). Horses are a common theme throughout the ancient art of Europe. Our ancestors likely admired their grace, power and social complexity. #horse #spain

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Detail of a Barrier Canyon Style pictograph on the San Rafael Swell in Central Utah. These well preserved images are thought to be somewhere between 1500 and 4000 years old. Their detailed nature points toward a complex and rich society that filled the landscape of the Southwest long before European contact. Theses images are part of a large scale, long term project called the Mural of America that traces the pre Columbian tradition of large scale public art work in the Americas. To find out more about the Mural of America and all of our work sign up for the Ancient Art Archive newsletter by following the link in our bio. #muralofamerica #barriercanyon

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The Circle of Friends is a famous rock art.panel in Southern Utah. It depicts 17 figures holding hands and joined by a circle at their feet. #utah

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Yes those are saw marks around these bighorn sheep petroglyphs in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Someone tried and failed to remove this artwork from the wall and permanently defaced it in the process. Its heartbreaking to see things like this. It underscores the importance of preserving the artwork.

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Rock art in Gold Butte National Monument. The antlers on this deer are so elaborate they are reminiscent of the Electric Deer in the Basin and Range.

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Big sheep in the Basin and Range National Monument. These petroglyphs are larger than life. #nevada #basinandrange

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Barrier Canyon Style pictographs on the San Rafael Swell. #utah #bcs #ancientartarchive

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Negative handprints in Bears Ears National Monument. These handprints are just a few of hundreds we have documented in the original boundries of the Bears Ears National Monument. They are a reminder of why the original boundries of the monument incorporated so many archeological sites.

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The ancient and modern worlds coexist in the American four corners region. These ancestral puebloan spirals are literally next to a major roadway.

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A Pahranagat Style anthropomorphic figure at Mt Irish Archeological District in the Basin and Range National Monument. Theses distinctive anthropomorphic figures are known only from the Paharanagat valley and its drainages. #nevada

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These Basketmaker style pictographs date from a two thousand year period in the American Southwest beginning 1500 BCE. These figures adorn the cliff walls of Grand Gulch and are enormous. #standwithbearsears #utah

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Cherokee Syllabary I Manatou cave, Alabama The Cherokee were the only Native American tribe to have a written language. Some of the first examples of it were found in Manatou cave, Alabama. @ancientartarchive board member Jan Simek has published a paper on the writing in the April edition of Antiquity. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/antiquity #cherokee #cave #syllabary

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Heading back to Rapa Nui in just a few days. The island is magical and the artwork represents the final punctuation on the long story of human exploration. #rapanui

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Buckhorn Wash, Utah Barrier Canyon Style Pictographs over look the San Rafael River in Emery County, Utah. A sweeping conservation bill passed by both the House and Senate designates nearly a quarter of Emery County as wilderness. The lands include artworks like these on the San Rafael Swell. This part of central Utah is one of the wildest parts of the American West and wilderness designation will help keep it that way. #utah

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A mud glyph owl from the appropriately named Mud Glyph Cave in East Tennessee. When the cave was rediscovered in the early 1980s it was a sensation in the archeological world. Previously underground art had mostly been known from the paleolithic caves of Europe. Mud glyph spawned a National Geographic story and a book. Since its discovery hundreds of other decorated caves have been identified in North America. #cave #owl #ancientartarchive

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Blombos Cave, South Africa Art may well have started here. The first evidence of paint making comes from this cave on the Southern Coast of Africa. 100,000 to 130,000 years ago people who lived in this cave began manufacturing paint in huge quantities. By 77,000 years ago they were engraving objects. Hats off to Christopher Henshilwood who has led the excavations here. He and his team have proven that human creativity originates in Africa. #cave #southafrica

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Bighorn sheep and mule deer depicted in a Basin and Range petroglyph panel. #nevada

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Chauvet Cave, France The 36,000-year-old paintings in Chauvet are incredible. It is not just their state of preservation, it is that they record a lost world. Bison, Aurochs, Lions and, Rhinoceros are all recorded on the cave's walls. Caves often act as time capsules preserving what things were like in the past. In the case of Chauvet we have an evocative record of what long-extinct animals looked like recorded by attentive artists. There is one detail that sometimes gets overlooked about this cave. The wall is covered by scratch marks from cave bears (Ursus spelaeus). These huge bears hibernated in caves and presumably left the scratch marks while stretching when they wokeup. Seeing the paintings in Chauvet was a profound experience and led me to create the non-profit @ancientartarchive. We use 3D and VR technology to share the experience of standing in front of ancient artworks.

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A procession of human like figures stream above large deer engraved on a canyon wall in the Bears Ears National Monument. I had climbed up to this beautiful petroglyph panel to shoot a time lapse as the milky way rose behind it, but as dawn broke this morning I realized this might be the better photograph. I’m in the west working on an @insidenatgeo and @ancientartarchive project to look at rock art in Western National Monuments. #BearsEars #visitwithrespect

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Barrier Canyon Style pictographs on Utahs San Rafael Swell. BCS pictographs likely come from the late archaic period of South Western archeology (1500-4000 BP). They are often large scale anthropomorphic figures painted on canyon walls.

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A beautiful series of Fremont Culture Petroglyphs seen along the Fremont River in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. The Fremont people flourished in Utah, Nevada and Colorado between 2,000 and 700 years ago. They left behind a series of distinct, enigmatic petroglyphs across a wide swath of the South West. #freemont

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Basin and Range National Monument, Nevada Pahranagat style anthrophonic figures are known only from one valley north Las Vegas. Rock art is notoriously hard to date. Experts say that the age of engravings like this are “not well understood.” Is this figure 500 years old, 1,000, 5,000? We do know that people have occupied the Basin and Range for many thousands of years. I photographed this figure last night as the Milky Way wheeled across the sky. Not knowing an artwork’s exact age adds to the mystery of it. I’m on a trip across the American West looking at rock art in a series of western National Monuments on a grant from @natgeo and the @ancientartarchive. #nevada

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Snakes, desert bighorn sheep, lizards and anthropomorphic figures feature heavily on this faded but impressive petroglyph panel in Gold Butte National Monument. Gold Butte is one of the United States newest National Monuments. It was designated in the waning days of the Obama administration in part because of a trove of rock art like this.

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A beautiful piece of Barrier Canyon Style rock art in Southern Utah. There is a lot of snow in Utah right now but often these grey overcast days are perfect for viewing artwork. #utah #barriercanyon

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We have accomplished so much with the Ancient Art Archive this year. in 2018 we: documented thousands of individual works of art; discovered monumental, unknown prehistoric artworks; mapped one of the largest precolumbian murals in North America; pioneered using VR technology to explore and preserve ancient works of art. Please follow the link in our profile to join the ancient art archive and help us do more next year to explore and preserve humanity's oldest stories

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Family groups depicted in artwork found in San Juan County, Utah. The rock art in the four corners region of the US runs the gamut from extremely complex murals represented in Barrier Canyon Style and Esplanade style polychrome murals to relatively simple paintings like this. I find these paintings humanize the artwork. The figures holding hands with a duck and dog also present are such a domestic scene. It makes me think of my own family and our photos of each other from this holiday time of year.

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Just a few of the thousands of individual petroglyphs in the Waikoloa Petroglyph Reserve on Hawaii's Big Island. The bulk of the engravings date from the 16th to 18th century. #hawaii

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$100 Flash print sale to benefit @ancientartarchive follow the link in the profile. | For the next 7 days @salvarezphoto is selling prints of some of this year's more popular Instagram images. Proceeds from all sales benefit the nonprofit @ancientartarchive. Help us preserve humanity's oldest stories and get a beautiful 8x8" signed archival image. This Image: Three female Basketmaker culture images on a rock wall in Southern Utah. Collectively Basketmaker culture covers the introduction of corn into the Southwestern US.

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$100 Flash print sale to benefit @ancientartarchive follow the link in our profile. | For the next 7 days Ancient Art Archive founder @salvarezphoto is selling some of his most popular Instagram images to fund our work. Get a beautiful 8x8" signed archival image and help a good cause. This image: A rock dove flies through the arched entrance of the mosque next to the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. I have watched grown men reduced to tears by this building's artistic perfection. #tajmahal

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An engraved birdman figure in a rock shelter on the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee.

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Hand Prints Bears Ears National Monument, Utah | photo by @salvarezphoto If there was a single symbol for all humanity it might well be the negative hand print. I've seen hand prints on 6 continents and across all ages of human history. That urge to record our passing in a permanent way, to make art, is innately human. That urge inspired me to create the nonprofit @ancientartarchive. In the time before written language -most of human history- our stories were recorded on rock and cave walls around the planet. We are in a race to preserve humanity's oldest stories before they disappear to climate change, population pressure and mismanagement. This #givingtuesday follow the link in @ancientartarchive bio to join and help us preserve humanity's oldest stories

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The statues of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) are huge and enigmatic. The largest weighs and astounding 86 tonnes. They also represent one of the final points in the story of human exploration. Rapa Nui a tiny speck of an island in the vast Pacific Ocean. It was one of the last places on earth to be permanently inhabited. The original founders of Rapa Nui society not only found the island but guided only by the stars and their knowledge of the ocean, navigated back to their homes in Polynesia to pack up all they would need to live in this new land. The Rapa Nui erected an amazing 900 of these huge statues across the island. By the time of European contact all had been toppled by social upheaval. #rapanui