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Cognitive Neuroscience, Shamanism and the Rock Art of Native California

David S. Whitley
1COMOS Rock Art Committee 447 Third Street Fillmore, CA 93015


The combination of ethnographic and cognitive neuroscience research provides considerable insight into the origin and symbolism of Native Californian rock art. Although made by different social groups for different purposes in various parts of the state, the ethnographic record demonstrates that the art depicts the mental imagery and somatic hallucinations of trance, taken to represent supernatural experiences. When this art is viewed from a cognitive neuroscience perspective, it suggests that the shamanistic state of consciousness was far from primarily "ecstatic," instead often involving the generation of unpleasant emotions; and that biochemical changes during trance necessitated the making of rock art if the memory of these supernatural experiences was to be preserved.

No aspect of the archaeological record has captured the imagination and frustrations of anthropological archaeologists more than rock art. Although employed for decades as cover art for professional monographs, the commonness of this use of rock art motifs precisely belies the intellectual history of rock art research. Traditionally this has been marginalized in the United States because of difficulties in dating the art combined with the dominant materialistadaptationist worldview of American archaeology. Art, along with related concerns such as ritual, belief, cognition and consciousness, are considered "epiphenomenal" from this perspective, and therefore intellectually irrelevant (Whitley 1992a). Despite American archaeology's traditional disregard of rock art, a revolution in rock art research nevertheless has occurred during the last decade (Whitley and Loendorf 1994)- Technological advances in chronometric techniques, for example, have made the direct dating of rock paintings (pictographs) and engravings (petroglyphs) feasible (e.g., Chaffee et al 1994; Dorn 1994). This has allowed the incorporation of rock art into regional culture-histories, and has demonstrated (among other things) that much of this art is recent in age (e.g., Whitley and Dorn 1987; Whitley 1994a). Inspired by the research ofDavid Lewis-Williams (e.g., 1980, 1981, 1982) in southern Africa, attention in North America has also turned to the ethnographic and ethnohistorical records, long said to contain no useful information about rock art (e.g., Steward 1968). This has revealed a rich source of indigenous commentary on the art (e.g., Whitley 1992b, 1994a, 1994b, 1994c, 1998, in press/
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a, inpress/b, in press/c), and further confirms the recent age of much extant rock art suggested by the chronometrics. Finally, combinations of cognitive neurosciences research with the ethnography (e.g., LewisWilliams and Dowson 1988, 1989; Lewis Williams in press) have yielded more detailed understanding of the origin of motif forms, and the symbolism of graphical metaphors portrayed in the art (e.g , Hedges 1982, 1992; Whitley 1988, 1994a, 1994b, 1998). In this essay 1 outline certain of the conclusions about Native Californian rock art derived from these different lines of research. In particular, I attend to the implications of recent cognitive neurosciences research for interpreting this art and the cultural trad it ions responsible for its creation, as well as for understanding the "shamanistic state of consciousness" more generally.

Native Californian Rock Art The interplay of chronometric, ethnohistorical and cognitive neuroscience research is well illustrated in California, a region inhabited until recent times by huntergatherers. These forebears left us a particularly rich record of rock art: over 3,200 rock art sites are known in the state (cf. Sonin 1995), including some of the most renowned sites in the world. The Coso Range located in eastern California, for example, contains the single largest petroglyph concentration in the western hemisphere, and one of the largest such concentrations of engraved art in the world (Figure 1). Similarly, the mountainous territory backing the central coast around Santa Barbara is renowned for its Chumash pictographs (Figure 2), many of which are among the most elaborate polychrome paintings left by hunter-gatherers. Indeed, the richness of this record is such that it has intrigued a number of the most significant historical figures in American anthropology, including Alfred Kroebcr (e.g., 1925), Julian Steward (1929) and William Duncan Strong, among others. Although various interpretations have been offered for this art, there has been widespread agreement since Kroeber published his Handbook of the Indians of California in 1925 that much if not all of Native Californian rock art was a product of shamanism (e.g., Steward 1929; Gayton 1930, 1948; Driver 1937, Hcizer and Baumhoff 1958, 1962;Grant 1965,1968; Blackburn 1977;Hedges 1976,1982,1983, 1992, Garvin 1978; Hudson and Underhay 1978; Riddell 1978, Wellman 1979;

Figure 1. A petroglyph from the Coso Range, eastern California. This is a socalled "patterned body anthropomorph" typical of this region. The quail topknot headdress shown on this figure was a characteristic ritual accouterment of rain shamans. The concentric circle face, also common in this region, symbolizes the whirlwind which, like the shaman, concentrates supernatural power. (Scale- 10 cm).


Anthropology of Consciousness


Wilbert 1981, Hudson and Lee 1984; Whitley 1988,1992b, 1994a, 1994b, 1994c 1996, 1998, in press/a, in press/b, in press/c; Christensen 1993, Dickey 1994, Parkman 1994, Ritter 1994, Stoney 1994), albeit there have been disagreements over the precise nature of the shamanistic practices involved. For example, Heizer and Baumhoff (1958, 1962) and their followers (von Werlhof 1965; Grant 1968) argued that rock art in eastern California resulted from shamanistic hunting-magic. Because all ethnographic informants categorically denied such a practice, these archaeologists further inferred that the art was necessarily prehistoric rather than potentially ethnographic in age, and that it then had no cultural ties to historicalNativeCalifornian cultures. This served to strip these groups of Figure 2. A pictograph from the Pleito part of their cultural patrimony. Creek Chumash site in south central Kroeber (1925), in contrast, provided California. Painted in red and blue, the an earlier suggestion for a connection figure portrays a very stylized between rock art, hallucinogenic drugs and anthropomorph with a body "exploding" out of the shoulders of a lower torso (note shamans' altered states of consciousness arms and fingers), ultimately terminating (ASC), implying that the art portrays the in the large 'starburst' motif. (Scale mental imagery of trance. In part due to the 10 cm). numerous empirical short-comings and logical inconsistencies of the hunting-magic hypothesis (see Steward 1963,1967;Rector 1979,1985;Mundy 1982), a developing consensus has now accepted Kroebers early interpretation (see Blackburn 1977, Hedges 1976, 1982,1983, 1992,Garvin 1978, Wellman W78; Wilbert 1981; Dickey 1994; Parkman 1994; Ritter 1994, Stoney 1994) This acceptance has been bolstered by recent detailed research (Whitlev 1988, 1^2h, 1994a, 1994b 1994c, 1996,1998, in press/a, in pres.s/b, which demonstrates that, during the ethnographic period at, rock art was explicitly made to depict the visionary imagery of trance. Note, however, that among different cultural groups this art was made by different social groups and for different reasons, even though the intent to portray visionary imagery was widely shared. In southwestern California and along the Colorado River, for example, the ethnographic record indicates that rock art wa> made by both .shamans and by puberty initiates, on the Modoc Plateau it was made by these two social groups and by adults during life-crisis rituals, wherea.s in the intervening areas of .south-central California and the Great Basin it appears to have been the exclusive work of shamans (Whitley 1992b, 1996, 1998). Moreover, the ethnography indicates that the purpose behind a shamans entering a trance and subsequently portraying visionary imagery could also vary. Although trances most

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commonly were intended to facilitate the acquisition of supernatural power in the form of an animal spirit helper, with the resulting rock art illustrating this spirit tutelary and/or the shaman himself transformed into a spirit being, a shamans' trance and rock art might also derivefromrain making, sorcery or other shamanic activities. The creation of non-shamanic (but still shamanistk) rock art, on the other hand, appears to have exclusively involved the portrayal of spirit helpers and power "signs" (Whitley 1992b, 1996, 1997). The depiction of visionary imagery, in other words, is the unifying characteristic of Native Californian rock art, even though the creators of this imagery, its specific meaning, and its intended symbolic and ideological functions varied considerably.

Cognitive Neuroscience, the BraiivMind Paradigm and Rock Art

Though variability in the production and meaning of Native Californian rock art existed, the unifying pattern that underlies this variability cannot be overemphasized: pictographs and petroglyphs throughout Native California were intended as graphic illustrations of trance experiences. This fact makes relevant recent research in cognitive neuroscience, the combination of the sciences of the brain (neurobiology) and the mind (cognitive science). Great advances have been made in cognitive neuroscience in the last decade, particularly with reference to the brain-mind paradigm, which have significantly altered our understanding of human consciousness (Castillo 1996). From the perspective of western science, at least, an understanding of Native Californian rock art is then to some degree contingent on this improved apprehension of human consciousness. Among others, such an apprehension precisely belies Vitebsky's (1995) recent argument that the prehistoric shaman's state of mind is entirely unknowable. Not only does cognitive neuroscience allow us insight into the shaman's mind, but it can also help us access the prehistoric shaman's emotions, as I discuss below. The Brain-Mind Paradigm The brain-mind paradigm is an ongoing development of recent cognitive neuroscience research on human consciousness that at least in part has resulted from the Mac Arthur Foundation Brain-Mind Network. J. Allan Hobson, one of the network's participants, has outlined his view of this paradigm in The Chemistry of Conscious States (Hobson 1994; see also Kosslyn and Koenig 1992). According to Hobson's synthesis, the brain-mind paradigm has a series of basic principles, the first of which is the conclusion that the brain-mind is a single, unified system that (contrary to Freudian theory) has only two strata: consciousness and nonconsciousness ("unconsciousness," in contrast, isamedicalcondition). Consciousness is the brain's awareness of its own mental state, while non-consciousness is the information (memories, emotions and so on) stored at the cellular level in the physical brain but not immediately accessible to us at all times. Second, three primary brain-mind states (or modes of operation) exist: waking, sleeping and dreaming. These and other brain-mind states (such as trance) are controlled by the interactions of the aminergiccholinergic chemical systems in the neural structure of the physical brain. These interactions comprise a condition of dynamic tension: while awake, the physical brain's chemical state is mediated by the aminergic system


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in which amine molecules such as norepinephrine dominate; during dreaming the cholinergic system dominates brain chemistry, in particular through its primary mediating molecule acetylcholine. In other brain-mind states intermediate or variant chemical interactions and equilibria prevail. Thus, physical brain chemistry determines (and can explain) psychology but, likewise, psychology can explain physiology, because mental and psychological states and brain neurochemistry are inextricably linked. As Kosslyn and Koenig (1992:4) put it: "a description of mental states is a description of brain function". Third, since we may be aware of a dreaming state (to the degree that we remember our dreams), this is, strictly speaking, consciousness, as of course are other brain-mind states such as ASC, which may include self-awareness. The imagery and emotions of dreams and hallucinations in these brain-mind states then are not the result of nebulous interactions between different layers of the mind, as Freud argued, but instead are fully contained within the non-conscious. Dreaming, ASC and even organic mental illness can then be understood as the brain-mind accessing, through neurochemical changes, and bringing to the level of consciousness the information stored at the cellular level in the non-conscious. Fourth, while these conclusions might be taken to suggest neurobiological determinism, a kind of reductionism in which behavior and consciousness are reduced to predictable functions of neural (or other lower order) principles (cf. Gardner 1987), in fact no such determinism is implied. This is partly because of the inherent randomness of brain-mind function which, nevertheless, is mediated (but not fully specified) by deterministic rules. As Hobson (1994) notes: "The brainmind paradigm offers us security via the reliability of our own cellular processes, yet guarantees us freedom through the unpredictability that these processes can bring." The brain-mind, like all complex systems, exists in a dynamic interplay between chaos and unpredictability, and self-organization and orderliness. This unpredictability is partly due to the fact that while genetics accounts for certain innate neural structures in the brain-mind, other neural networks are shaped by an individual's lifetime of experiences. "Genes provide for one brain component with precise structure," Damasio contends, "and for another component in which the precise structure is to be determined" (1994*112, emphasis in original; see also Kosslyn and Koenig 1992). The paradigm then allows us to understand different brain-mind states in organic terms, without recourse to poorly defined and unelaborated psychological and emotional concepts, because it explains how and" why these different states exist and develop, yet it stops short of predicting behavior on all counts. Somewhat like culture, it is analogous to a set of rules within which thought, emotion and behavior may develop, but it is not a computer algorithm within which all such phenomena are predetermined or foreordained (cf. Castillo 1996). Implications for Native Califomian Rock Art The implications of the brain-mind paradigm for understanding Native Califomian rock art turn on the fact that the origin of this art lies in the graphic portrayal of trance imagery; that, in essence, the art is a by-product of ASC, which constitutes a class of brain-mind states. Hobson points out that: [Alterations of the brain-mind obey reliable and specifiable rules. Whether

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the states are normal delirium, like dreaming, or an abnormal delirium, like alcohol withdrawal, they always have the same formal features and the same kind of cause. The common features of normal and abnormal delirium are disorientation, inattention, impoverished memory, confabulation, visual hallucinations, and abundant emotions. The common cause of normal and abnormal delirium is a sudden shift in the balance of brain chemicals. (Hobson 1994:62) There are two key concepts in this passage. The first concerns "formal features." ASC (and the reactions thereto) are structurally similar cross-culturally and temporally, in the sense that they share characteristic features, even though the content (in the sense of a specific hallucination or vision) may varyfromculture to culture, person to person, and/or case to case. This means that shared structural characteristics of ASC can be used to understand Native Californian visionary imagery, notwithstanding the fact that cultural conditioning, local context and personal expectations also effect the generation and content of this same imagery (Dobkin de Rios 1984; Dobkin de Rios and Winkelman 1989), thereby further emphasizing the non-deterministic nature of the brain-mind paradigm. The second key concept is "delirium": although the equivalence is imperfect because each brainmind state has its own constellation of features, "normal" REM (rapid eye movement) dreaming serves as a general model for ASC due to the features the two brain-mind states share, as La Barre (1980) also noted some time ago. This is valuable because cognitive neuroscience research on ASC is in its infancy while REM dreaming is a better studied, and understood, brain-mind state. Research on REM dreaming can be used, then, as analog for ASC. One implication of REM dream studies for Native California rock art, and shamanistic states of consciousness more generally, involves the reconstruction of prehistoric emotions. The Emotions of Trance While recent research on the neuropsychology of trance has pointed out the relevance of both the mental imagery and the somatic effects of ASC to rock art production (e.g., Lewis-Williams and Loubser 1986; Lewis-Williams and Dowson 1988; Lewis-Williams in press; Turpin 1994; Whitley 1994b, 1998), the brain-mind paradigm suggests another important cross-culturally shared characteristic of trance. This is the phenomenon of abundant emotions, noted above as one of the common features of delirium. Although science traditionally shunned the study of emotions (Hobson 1994), Damasio (1994) has recently shown that emotions are no more epiphenomenal than are intellect or sensory perceptions but that, like these other faculties, they are also chemically encoded in and created by the brain-mind (see also Kagan 1994; LeDoux 1994) Using neuroanatomical and clinical evidence, Damasio argues convincingly that emotions and feelings are necessary adjuncts to reasoning and rationality; that, without emotions, human reasoning is seriously impaired. Further emphasizing the importance of emotions, none other than Charles Darwin first demonstrated their adaptive significance in his 1872 book, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (Darwin 1965). Neurally focused in the "evolutionarily older" brain stem, basal forebrain and limbic system (Damasio 1994; Restak 1994), emotions as


Anthropology of Consciousness


powerful manifestations of drives and instincts clearly "evolved" as adaptive mechanisms for our species (Damasio 1994). Moreover, emotions, originating in chemical brain-mind states, have physiological bases and effects, and therefore somatosensory reactions, commonly called "feelings" (Hobson 1994; Damasio 1994). Anxiety, for example, results in a series of physiological changes in the sympathetic nervous system, including elevated blood flow, heart rate and respiration, as many people know from personal experience. Police investigators use a polygraph machine, which measures changes in skin conductivity resulting from changes in emotional states, because emotions are not epiphenomenal. Instead, emotions are implicated in human adaptation, personal motivation and agency, and are measurable physiological states. Their investigation, combining cognitive neurosciences principles with archaeological data, can clarify aspects of Native Californian rock art. Emotions have been overlooked in rock art research, but are widely even if implicitly acknowledged by reference to "ecstatic trance". Ecstasy, to be sure, is an emotion, and emphasis in the anthropological literature on "ecstatic trance" is at least partly justified in terms of many culturally-defined types of ASC, including our own, in which the popularity of recreational drugs and other mind-altering practices (such as yogic meditation) is precisely tied to the sense of euphoria these specific drugs and practices yield. But this is only a (potentially misleading) part of the picture, for ASC can also result in other equally strong emotional states, many of which are not ecstatic or euphoric at all, as is well-attested by the ethnographic, clinical and pharmacological literature (e.g., Harner 1973; Naranjo 1973; Restak 1994; Colmer 1995). Using the structural analogy between trance generally and REM dreaming, for example, it is useful to review Hobson's (1994) tabulations of 809 emotions described in 200 different dream reports. First, over half (57%) of the recorded emotions were reported as extreme, meaning presumably intensely felt and are, thus, significant if not defining aspects of a dream experience. Second, over two-thirds (68.1 %) of these emotions were unpleasant (fear, anxiety, anger, etc.), not ecstatic or euphoric, with positive emotions (joy, elation, affection, eros, etc.) represented by slightly less than 32% of the reported cases. In REM dreaming about two-thirds of a person's dreams on average then should be emotionally unpleasant, reflecting the fact (as Hobson notes) that anxiety is our most important emotion. The direct relevance of this conclusion for other types of delirium, including ASC generally and the so-called "Shamanistic State of Consciousness" (SSC) specifically, is confirmed by Naranjo's (1973) laboratory experiments with the administration of yogi: about one-fifth of his subjects reported feelings of rage, danger or the grief of their own death. Once it is recognized that our own cultural fascination with ecstasy has contributed to a narrow intellectual view of the range of ASC and SSC brain-mind states, and that Native Califomian's culturally-defined view of shamanistic trance ran the gamutfromREM dreaming to hallucinogenically-mediated SSC (Gayton 1948), the importance of alternative emotional states, such as anxiety, to the SSC is greatly emphasized. The importance of the unpleasant emotions of trance in the Native Californian SSC is revealed in general beliefs about the supernatural, in verbal accounts of visionary experiences, in descriptions of shamans' personalities, and in rock art itself.

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The supernatural was thought inherently perilous and therefore was widely feared. Rock art panels as a result were avoided by non-shamans, even if the sites were located within their villages (e.g., Gayton 1930,


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1948; Latta 1977; z




Narrative accounts of visionary experiences, similarly, commonly begin with a description of a dangerous "test', such as wrestling with a skeleton, climbing through an iii ^M^* ^ avalanche of falling boulders or r_^4niLU passing through clashing rocks; and, PprCl especially, crossing fearsome guardian D^of spirits, most commonly an immense ^ / f rattlesnake and grizzly (e.g., Park 1938; Steward 1941; Whiting 1950; D Zigmond 1977, 1980; Hultkrantz Figure 3. The unpleasant emotions of shamans' 1987). Likewise the main events of trances, specifically aggression, are portrayed in the visionan narratives themselves Coso petroglyphs in a variety of ways. 3A (two reveal a significant incidence of what humans shooting at one another) and 3B (coyote may reasonably be equated with attacking bighorn sheep) depict incidents of negative emotions. A good example sorcery, which were enacted in the supernatural world of trance. 3C is a panel of projectile point of this is Whiting's (1950) report engravings, visions of weaponry yielded fighting that fully 38% of 90 Northern Paiute power. 3D and 3E are anthropomorphs bristling shamans maintained "bullet-wound with projectile points, symbolizing the status of the power" (an historical manifestation portrayed individuals as combative shamans." of an earlier "arrow-wound power"). (Different scales). This was a specialized kind of supernatural potency associated with fighting power. It could be acquired from visions of violence, fighting, aggression and/or weaponry (Kelly 1936,1939;Steward 1938,1941; Olofson 1979),allofwhich implicate non-ecstatic emotional states. The shaman's entry into the supernatural in Native California, which is to say the induction of an ASC, was then not necessarily ecstatic" at all. It was often a perilous test, during which the supplicant had to overcome and conquer negative emotions such as fear and anxiety to obtain supernatural power, reflecting the fact that supernatural power itself was thought amoral and ambivalent (Bean 1976), not solely beneficent. Probably as a result, in many parts of Native California shamans were considered far from friendly or even benign. As men of power" they reflected the common associations of the supernatural, and thus were perceived as aggressive, dangerous individuals, believed to be sexually predatory, who were feared and, to some degree, avoided whenever possible (Gayton 1930, 1948; Toffelmeier and Luomala 1936, Latta 1977, Boscana 1978, Laird 1984). The unpleasant emotions of trance fear, anxiety, aggression and so on are

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reflected in Native Cahfornian rock art in a variety of ways. The dangers of the supernatural, encoded in the belief that it was guarded by perilous animal spirits, for example, are shown by grizzly and rattlesnake paintings found at many pictograph sites in south-central California (Whitley 1992b). But the importance of the negative emotions ut trance to ' s ^ e s t s e e n W l t n re f erence t o a single corpu ^ a r t | P rov 'ded by the petroglyphs of the Coso Range. Aggression is portrayed in this corpus in a variety of ways: humans shooting at one another with arrows, coyotes attacking bighorn sheep; conflations of humans and weapons; and display o( weaponry in general (Figure 3). In the first two cases supernatural visions of sorcery are implied bv these depictions, reflecting two beliefs: shamans could bewitch a victim by propelling a magical disease object into them, with this 'magical airshot linguistically equated (and graphically portrayed) as the shooting of an "arrow", while "dreams of coyote", as they were called, were considered portents of sorcery. In the third and fourth cases, visions yielding warfare and fighting power are implied, with the portrayed weaponry representing the ritual talismans and ceremonial objects said to be recei\ed during trance (Whitley 1994d, in press/c). But, more significantly, one of the most common Native Californian metaphoric referents to entry into the supernatural was death or (in the active case) killing (Whitley 1994b, 1994c). While accessing the sacred certainly could be described or depicted with other more positive or even emotionally benign metaphors (.such as mystical flight, going underwater or sexual intercourse), the violence, aggressiveness and extreme grief inherent in death were singled-out as a primary metaphor for the SSC. Narrative text.s, as a result, commonly describe an individual's entry into the supernatural as "dying" (e.g., K'roeber 1907, 1957; Benedict 1923; Latta 1936, 1977, Oayton and Newman 1940; Uayton '
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Figure 4. The grief of death and the aggressiveness of killing are among the most common unpleasant emotions associated with the shamans ASC, and death and killing were frequently used as verbal and graphic metaphors for this experience. These are shown in the Cosos petroglyphs with killed bighorn sheep (top), and "hunters" shooting sheep (middle and bottom). The bighorn was the special spirit helper of the rain shaman Because the shaman and his helper were indistinguishable, the concept of "killing a bighorn" was a metaphor for the auto-sacrifice of a rain shaman his entry into the supernatural to make ram. (Different scales).

1948; Blackburn 1975; Hudson et al 1977; Zigmond 197, 1980). Confirming accounts, reporting the grief of death as a common yage induced reaction in a laboratory setting, are provided by Naranjo (1973). Reflecting th is death metaphor as well as the fact that a shaman was semantically and linguistically indistinguishable from his spirit helper, Kelly (1936) noted in a key statement that 'rain falls when a mountain sheep is killed. of thus some

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mountain sheep dreamers thought they were rain doctors." That is, rain was made by the rain shaman when he killed his spirit helper, which is to say when he entered the supernatural realm through his trance (Whitley 1994c). Killed animals and "hunting scenes" (Figure 4), then, can be inferred to graphically portray a complex metaphor intended to show that the shaman and his spirit helper alter ego committed an emotionally violent act of auto-sacrifice to enter the supernatural. In the case of the bighorn sheep petroglyphs commonly found in the Coso Range and other parts of the Numic-speaking Great Basin, this specifically pertained to rain-making, because the bighorn was the specialized spirit helper for rain shamans. The so-called "hunting scenes" of Native Californian rock art then have nothing to do with hunting, but instead may be understood as metaphors for the rain shaman's trance (Whitley 1994c, in press/a). The death metaphor for trance and its reflection in rock art, in other words, is partly a function of the physical and physiological analogies between mortal death and an ASC (Whitley 1994b). But it is also partly attributable to the emotions of trance, not all of which are ecstatic. Indeed, these sometimes involved the extreme grief of death, the fear of bodily injury and the aggressiveness of battle, all of which can be triggered in the interaction of the aminergiccholinergic systems during the various shamanistic brain-mind states we gloss as "ecstatic trance." It is then likely that the symbolic and iconographic themes of the shaman's "death and rebirth," as well as the "combative shaman," which are common to many shamanistic cultures (e.g., Eliade 1964; Furst 1977; Wilbert 1987), originated in the non-ecstatic emotions of SSC. Two conclusions derive from this circumstance. The first is that emphasis on "ecstatic trance" (especially in popular literature) as definitive of the SSC reflects our own cultural interest in ecstasy and euphoria more than the cross-cultural realities of specific shamanistic cases, due to the multi-dimensional emotional characteristics of ASC and SSC brain-mind states. Trance can be and perhaps in the majority of cases is ecstatic, but unpleasant emotional reactions are also common, and these reactions have served to influence perceptions (as well as graphic depictions) of the supernatural realm, as well as shamanistic symbolism in general. Second, it is also clear that, by using cognitive neuroscience research, we can in some cases archaeologically reconstruct the emotional states of shamans at specific points in time, and thereby access a realm of the past heretofore thought archaeologically unapproachable.

Rock Art and Shamanism

A final question that has always plagued rock art research is the obvious one: Why did shamans make rock art? Although social and cultural factors were clearly central to any specific historical or prehistoric case, cognitive neurosciences suggests a physiological basis as a partial explanation for this problem. This is the fact that REM dreaming and ASC generally result in impoverished memory: specifically, short-term memory loss due to drops in the levels of norepinephrine and serotonin, which are required for the storage of recent memories (Hobson 1994). It is for this simple reason that most people do not recall their dreams. This suggests that the art was partly made to permanently fix the supernatural imagery that it depicted, before


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this was lost due to the neurochemistry of SSC, and further explains why the concern with not forgetting a visionary dream was so strongly emphasized by ethnographic informants (e.g., Kelly 1932,1939; Gayton 194; Applegate 1978; Hultkrantz 1987). Native Californian rock art then was at one level simply a mnemonic device, albeit one concerned with recording the sacred, rather than counting seasons, moons or hunting kills, as some writers have suggested. As should be clear from this and other essays in this issue, attention to ethnography and the cognitive neuroscience principles of ASC has dramatically improved our interpretation of rock art in many parts of the world, the understanding of which had been elusive for almost a century of investigation. This is not to say that such an approach is an end in and of itself, for there are many other social and cultural issues concerning the production and meaning of rock art that also warrant investigation, as have been explored elsewhere (e.g., Lewis-Williams 1982; Dowson 1994; Whitley 1988, 1994c). Still, this approach provides a key to unlocking the mind and emotions of prehistoric shamans and other creators of rock art, and thereby plays an important part in a better understanding of hunter-gatherer cultures and societies more widely.

Acknowledgments: 1 am indebted to Allan Hobson, who has shared some of his thinking about these archaeological problems with me, and to Gen-Ann Galanti for the opportunity to prepare this essay. An earlier version of it was presented at the Society for American Archaeology meetings, Nashville, 1997. 1 also thank the Commander of the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, the location of the Coso Range petroglyphs upon which much of my research has focused, for permission to conduct investigations on this facility, along with the Maturango Museum of the Indian Wells Valley, which has aided my research in the Cosos for many years. The opinions and interpretations presented here are, of course, my own.

Applegate, R.B. 1978 ?Atishwin: The Dream-Helper in South Central California. Menlo Park, CA: Ballena Press. Bean, Lowell John 1976 Power and Its Application in Native California. In Native Californians: A Theoretical Retrospective, L.J. Bean and T.C. Blackburn, ed. Pp. 407-420. Menlo Park, CA: Ballena Press. Benedict, Ruth F. 1923 The Concept of the Guardian Spirit in North America. American Anthropological Association Memoirs 29. Blackburn, Thomas C. 1975 December's Child: A Book of Chumash Oral Narratives. Berkeley: University of California. 1977 Biopsychological Aspects of Chumash Rock Art. Journal of California Anthropology 4:88-94. Boscana, G. 1978 Chinigchinich: A Revised and Annotated Version of Alfred Robinson's Translation of Father Gerdnimo Boscana's Historical Account of the Belief, Usages, Customs and Extravagancies of the Indians of this Mission of San Juan Capistrano Called the Acagchemem Tribe. (Annotated by J.P. Harrington). Classics in California Anthropology, 3. Banning, CA: Malki Museum Press. Castillo, Richard J. 1996 Culture, Trance, and the Mind-Brain. Anthropology of Consciousness 6:17-34.

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