Rock art by ancient Native American artists includes images of large mammals that are now extinct, the hunting weapons that people used, and much more. We can learn valuable information about ancient lives, traditions, and landscapes from rock art images when they are fit into the context of cultures and time.
Masked faces on ancient life-sized, mummy-like figures form a long line on the rock wall of a shallow alcove in a remote part of southern Utah. Known as the Great Gallery, the 200-foot-long (61 m) panel contains around 20 eerie looking triangular-shaped bodies with small heads. many researchers consider them among the finest examples of rock art in the Americas.
Deep in equatorial Africa, a high mountain range known as the Mountains of the Moon played a prominent role for centuries in myths about the source of the Nile River. An absorbing history of these mountains is published in a blog post in Volcano Café. As Albert, who wrote the post, states “They are mountains without a cause.”
The deep and steep-walled Rio Grande gorge in northern New Mexico is remarkable. This large gash is developing because the Earth’s crust is pulling apart, creating a linear depression, or rift, that provides a convenient location for a large river to develop. On a recent trip I admired the river -- and desert bighorn sheep.
Volcano-watchers have had lots of excitement lately with the ongoing eruptions on the Reykjavik Peninsula in Iceland and Soufriere, on the West Indies island of Saint Vincent. So far both eruptions are fairly small. Colorful graphic representations of the relative sizes of volcanic eruptions are intriguing, although variability in natural events confounds human attempts to assign neat boxes or bubbles to these phenomena.
The ghosts of famous artists–and of several hundred dinosaurs who perished in disastrous floods–could be roaming the landscape of Ghost Ranch in north-central New Mexico. This high desert region with steep cliffs and colorful rocks has a long and rich history. Finally visiting Ghost Ranch during a recent road trip, I was captivated by the beauty and the history of the place.
California encompasses tremendous diversity, and this includes rocks of virtually every age, reflecting a long and dynamic geologic history. I'm fond of all types of rock, but my favorites are shales, sandstones and limestones that preserve evidence of ancient plant and animal life. The older the fossils, the more interesting.
Traveling to explore new landscapes–and returning to favorite ones–will be one of many joys gradually reopening to us after the months of just-stay-at-home guidelines. This winter I’ve been planning future road trips in California and beyond, and I can recommend some great books about the geology in the western states.
Watching a volcano erupt is exciting–and people all around the world now have opportunities to see these dramatic performances! The new volcano on the Reykjavik Peninsula in Iceland is getting lots of attention, as is Mount Etna in Sicily. Also, the eruption that began at Kilauea on December 20, 2020 is continuing and the lava lake is deepening.
The Andes Mountains influence the modern world in many ways, and recognizing these is a fascinating aspect of my journey in writing about this region. One connection that might be a surprise: St Patrick’s Day celebrations–and potatoes. Potatoes have had profound effects on human societies that are matched by few other plants.