The Pecos Project: Semiotic models for the study of rock art
Bass, Patricia Marie
McIntosh, Roderick J.
Doctor of Philosophy
The Rice University Pecos Project gathered data from rock art sites located in West Texas along the Rio Grande, Devil's and Pecos rivers. The models used to analyze this information were adapted from semiotic models used to study language, film and rock art in California. A successful attempt was made to systematize classes of observations at twenty-two shelters. Larger issues of framing, symmetry and association were effectively raised. Shaman patterns were illuminated bringing into focus the typology of defining a shaman image. A frequency or pattern of vegemorphs was also suggested along with an association to, what appears to be, typical hunting paraphernalia. The results from the data analysis seem to suggest to the author a gathering component to the art which may reflect women's division of labor and thus metaphorically illustrate more of the totality of the culture than otherwise supposed. The implications of the project suggest that the vision of offering semiotic models to enable a global exchange of interpretations is not a far-fetched goal. Each rock art region must of course continue its own research tradition but it is possible to feed insights into some sort of central reservoir to elucidate 'universals' about rock art such as its use as a communicative device. The author feels the Pecos project reaffirmed the prediction that the patterns and repetitions discovered in West Texas served as such devices for their producers and original viewers.