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Visions cast on stone : a stylistic analysis of the petroglyphs of Gabriola Island, B.C. Adams, Amanda Shea

Abstract

This study explores the stylistic variability and underlying cohesion of the petroglyphs sites located on Gabriola Island, British Columbia, a southern Gulf Island in the Gulf of Georgia region of the Northwest Coast (North America). I view the petroglyphs as an inter-related body of ancient imagery and deliberately move away from (historical and widespread) attempts at large regional syntheses of 'rock art' and towards a study of smaller and more precise proportion. In this thesis, I propose that the majority of petroglyphs located on Gabriola Island were made in a short period of time, perhaps over the course of a single life (if a single, prolific specialist were responsible for most of the imagery) or, at most, over the course of a few generations (maybe a family of trained carvers). The bulk of all petroglyphs were, I argue, produced during the Marpole culture phase (2400 - 1000 BP) and their primary raison d'etre pertained to the acquisition of supernatural power. In other words, 'art' in the service of: "the vision, the ritual world, the ancestors, and wealth" (Suttles 1983:69). My conclusions are based largely on a comparative stylistic analysis between petroglyph motifs/design elements and those found in the Northwest Coast mobiliary 'art' repertoire as documented and discussed in Margaret Holm's 'Prehistoric Northwest Coast Art' (1990). Some interpretive possibilities for the use of petroglyph sites (both past and present) are also put forth in this thesis' conclusions.

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