XIX IFRAO, Caceres, 31Aug.-4 Sept.2015 /
                                                                                             Session #5: Watch your step ! Feet & Sandals in Rock Art

A Pictorial Atlas:

Foot Images in Rock Art...
...the crucial step toward Writing !

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Version française:

Léo Dubal

vla,  virtual laboratory for archaeometry

The thorn in the foot of this delicate young Etruscan 

reminds us that the invention of sandals
is one of the greatest step forwards achieved by humankind.


At foreplay to this last communication of session #5, let’s first
Watch Our Step
& have a careful look at
how an iconic language works.

In the Western World Iconic language
is used in signage.
The Cardboard box in which my
electrical oven was delivered a few weeks ago
carried iconic warnings,

kind of
Watch your step ! ! 
Let’s notice that this icon does not look like
a bare foot,  but like a shoe,
whose heel does a line mark. 
common iconic sign is the one representing ONE person.
f placed in front of this same sign, the resulting composite sign  means people.
the part representing 1 person acts as a key, a component indicating
to which class of general ideas the composite sign belongs.

In the Eastern World, the use of iconic language is common.
For example, the Chinese pictogram showing
two legs means a man, 
the one with 2 men means a company: one
following the other,
and with 3 men  means a crowd. 
Likewise, the pictogram showing  

roots/ ground level and trunk 
means a tree,
the one with 2 trees means a wood, and with 3 trees means a forest.

The same Chinese character may carry at times various roles:
1st as  a pictogram on its own, e.g.: 
a small square means a mouth.     
2nd role, as a component, e.g.:
the ideogram for country is
made out of a large square 
representing the country’s
borders with inside halberds and mouths-to-be-fed.  
rd role,  as a measure word or classifier.
This time, the small square is specifying
a man with a mouth-to-be-fed.
Taken with number 3, it means
the politically correct Chinese family...
a family of 3.    

th role, the pictogram small square is the key for things  related to mouth.  
This key enhances the sense of verbs  like to taste or to sing.

Back to Rock Art…We all know the ease with which Self-representation
has been achieved for at least forty thousands years
by stenciling one’s own hand
In contrast
, the difficulty of stenciling
one’s own foot
explains the scarcity of foot-stencils.
Nevertheless, examples have been found in Africa,
Wadi Sora young people footprints standing next to adult’s hands,
and in Australia, @
Kakadu Nat’l Park,
2 m above ground level, a pair of baby’s feet standing next to an adult’s handprint,
and @
BradyCk the unique foot-stencil I had the chance to take a picture of. 

Feet of nandu, a large flightless South American bird, has been stenciled
@ la Cueva de las Manos next to an handprint. 
In Australia, there are
in the place of nandus,
but according to Don Hitchcock,
only man-made stencils of emu’s feet have been found.
He also reported, @
Carnavon Gorge, 
stencils of kangaroo’s paws next to a stenciled hand.
It might be an iconic representation of
the kangaroo’s hunter,
a kind of
measure word a la Chinese.

While foot-stencils are life-size, there is no way of knowing the real size of the nandus,
whose feet are represented @
Tampalaya Nat’l Park, in Argentina or
of the
emus’s @The Red Lady Gallery and @ The Emu dreaming Gallery in Cape York.

While foot-stencils are life-size,  there is no way of knowing the real size of the nandus,
whose feet are represented @
Tampalaya Nat’l Park, in Argentina or 
of the
emus’s @The Red Lady Gallery and @ The Emu dreaming Gallery in Cape York.

At this point, it sounds appropriate to assume that bird feet images
(stenciled, painted or engraved)
are iconic representations of birds.

How could the image of a single footprint be used as an icon representing an animal? 
Let’s note that
Fossilized tracks are hardly distinguishable
from engraved ones.

This means that fossilized footmarks of dinosaurs must have been an object
of respectful curiosity as well as a very strong emulation.
Short-lived footprints left in mud or wet sand by all kinds of animals are abundant in nature,
such as this emu foot-print in gravel. 
To summarize, 
I would say that
the most salient feature of a living being might well be its footprint.

This imitation of a paw-print near Twyfelfontein in Namibia, is symbolically like
the visiting-card left by Mr. Leopard,
just like the horse’s hoof-prints @
Qiangan Obo sumu in Inner-Mongolia.

And what about engravings of detached human footprints ?….
In La
Vanoise Alps, 2’270 m.o.s.l.,
let’s wonder 
at those deeply engraved
pairs of footprints
They contrast with this single pair
Grimentz, in Wallis and
this standing alone footprint near
Aubrias, in Gard.
We suspect that such engraved feet
lookouts for observing sunrise at solstice.

Outlines of soles are far more frequent than deep engravings,
e.g. @
camunian sites like Zurla & Foppe di Nadro.

Some of those outlines are even decorated with anthropomorphic figures, and others,
with the octaedris calendar.
Compared to
the shoe of my 11 years old son at the time, their small sizes suggest 
the use of man-made patterns out of bark.

In contrast to the numerous engravings of bird's feet, engraved human feet with toes are rare,
here @ Ourense, in Galicia,
Spee tay tiga in Afghanistan,
Listleby in Sweden
and @
Foppe di Nadro in Italy.
Their size looks realistic. 

 We have seen in the introduction, that modern signage uses for this purpose the line of the heel. 
Here @ Lerfall near Trondheim, in this engraving of a giant clog-print,
it is the lace under the sole which appears as the distinctive sign for sandal.
On this shot, 
as a gauge for the size of the glyph, I captured also the clog of our colleague Kalle Sognnes. 
To the right, this glyph deserves a closer examination

In this Mongolian engraving, the poorly shaped figure of a bow was misleading us.
On the contrary, @ Foppe di Nadro, in Valcamonica,
numerous engravings represent unambiguously pairs of sandals.

This 5’000 years old label made of hippopotamus ivory carries a glyph and this glyph  is iconic:
it just looks like the sandals of Pharaoh‘s Den to which this label was attached.
On the contrary, in the
pictography on the right,
the sandal-prints
stand for the ears of a shaman...
Antonio Nunez Jimenez qualified this weird piece of Rock Art de
una figura interesantisima.
   In this painted composition @ La Cueva de Pichardo in Cuba,
the icons of several items
stand for something else, calling to mind not one,
 but several ideas. It is what I call  iconical graphemes .

The carefully painted feet of those animals are
providing redundancy to their overall representation, just like keys in Chinese characters.
Capivara, there are nandus with feet & toes, and,
Jowalbinna, emus, black-storks, hanging flying-foxes with a reduced number of toes,
and even of sugar-gliders with
feet & toes.

@ Sandy Ck , in Cape York, my guide Matt Trezise is pointing his index
toward a dingo & its pup, both with carefully painted toes  and
Wallaroos  Gallery near Jowalbinna, Percy Trezise, Matt's dad with his dingo Lacka,
  were facing (quite a while ago) this giant
wallaroo with carefully painted toes.

@ Gorny-Altaï,  next to the engraving of a ladder,
cropping up from the top of a huge rock,
this bear is
stretching its devastating claws toward a group of anthropomorphs.
On the right blow-ups of the rear and front claws.

Human feet-&-toes with oversized heel may also be part of larger compositions. 
They illustrate what Jan
Deregowski calls « Typical contour". 
Helanshan, the soles are attached to the tip of the legs.
Listebly, two left feet are attached  to the sturdy calves of the hunter. 
@ Emu Dreaming Gallery, the man is represented in front-view,
the big toes belong to feet in back-view,
just like the big toes of the young lady @ Yam Camp Gallery with her breast in front-view.
 In all those cases, the icon
Feet-&-toes appears as an essential attribute,
a kind of key specifying

A cup-mark may call to mind the imprint of a foot on sand or snow.
Hanging at the tip of a limb, it acts as a key for bipeds and quadrupeds.
@ La
Gardette such cup-marks are pendant at the limbs of anthropomorphs (blow-up).
Twyfelfontein  at the legs of an Elephant,    
and  @ 
Zurla at the legs of deers.
By the way, the glyph representing the woods of those
from iconic is transformed into an
iconical grapheme -
a clone of their woods is transplanted as a substitute for their tails.

The key for a ferocious beast, such as the Lion of Twyfelfontein,
is his visiting-card, the imprint of his paw.
An additional paw-print is even transformed into an
iconical grapheme and dominates the whole glyph. 
On the right, the pendant hoof-print of those horned animals
significantly lengthen their legs  @
Twyfelfontein and Gorny  Altaï.

To identify the feminine gender of Rutenian statue menhirs,
the key is
a pair of open legs+toes,
(boosted by additional attributes such as breast & necklace).
 For male gender, the Key is
tight legs+toes,
boosted by attributes such as a dagger and its cross-belt).

 Itus et Reditus, Ida y Vuelta, as one would say in this country. 
This 3
rd century votive stele to Goddess Caelestis for a safe round-trip
leads us to the conclusion of our pictorial atlas:  

he concept of keys & measure words still used in Chinese
shed a new light on
foot images in Rock Art.    And those images ranging
from man-made clones of
dinosaurs foot-prints to man-made sandal-prints
are showing up as instrumental to an early quest of humankind…
the quest for a Complex
eikonical language
not only able to represent something by something looking alike
, namely icons, 
but also, 
at other times, by something calling to mind,
iconical graphemes, in other words,
the crucial step toward Writing.