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Rock-art is a global phenomenon. It takes many forms but it is found on every continent. For millenia we have marked our environment in this way and continue to do so today. It's important. Its mere existence says much of how we as humans interact with our environment. As a part of the extant archaeological record it's a unique, direct representation of how previous generations perceived the world they inhabited. Rock-art is also often enigmatic and difficult to work with because of the frequent absence of informed, contextual evidence.
Whilst there has always been some scholarly interest in rock-art, it is a relatively new and fast developing field of scientific study. Today, its analysis and preservation is a worldwide issue that governments, researchers and societies at large are addressing as more is discovered and found to be under threat from erosion, pollution and development.
Traditional fieldwork methods in rock-art recording have their advantages and drawbacks; computers can enhance the processes of data collection and post-fieldwork analysis, but can be unreliable in extreme conditions. Neither approach is perfect and our project aims to take the best from both techniques in order to develop an efficient and robust methodology.
Rock-art researchers are always ultimately faced with the question of why were these images created and what can they tell us. The issues and questions involved in trying to find an answer are myriad. Can 21st century researchers hope to begin to understand what motivated these people to mark their environment in this way? How much or how little do we have in common with them? Was their motivation wholly ritualistic, to mark the hillside as theirs, to provide waymarkers, merely frivolous graffiti, a mixture of all four or any one or more of many other different reasons? Were all the images carved by the same people? Did they all fulfill the same function, or did different images mean different things to different people? Were they intended to be understood by everybody, or by only a few individuals? Does its presence and form reflect an ordered, stratified society, or one in turmoil, chaos and disorder?
Meticulous scientific study of the rock-art can provide many clues if the right questions are asked. What images are found where, which can be seen from a distance and which are intended to be hidden from view? Why are some rocks chosen for marking whilst others are not? Are there any discernible statistically significant stylistic, locational and juxtapositional patterns within and between the glyphs, panels and panel complexes and the immediate and broader local landscape? Is there an identifiable relationship with the extant archaeological record?
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Rock art images from the Rocks of Paidahuen in the Aconcagua Valley
The Open Source online database which drives the website contributes to the field of rock-art studies. Researchers working on other rock-art projects, or indeed on the analysis of any visual media, can copy, use and modify the software at no cost.
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CamRAD is an interdisciplinary project. It addresses a variety of archaeological, technological, cultural and educational issues. CamRAD is based in Cambridge, but colleagues in Chile (Santiago and Los Andes) take an active role in its development.
Global access to the website promotes Chilean culture and that of the Aconcagua Valley, in particular. Publishing the data online makes it available to academics, educators and the general public alike. Rock-art is traditionally expensive to publish, the website democratizes access to the data and makes it freely available to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection.