The Bay Area Rock Art Research Association is a group co-founded by Paul Freeman and Leigh Marymor in 1982 to study, explore, preserve and protect the fragile rock art resources in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.
Rock-Art refers to human made markings found on stone in natural landscape settings in a wide variety of contexts that extend from earliest human symbol making to pre-modern times. In the San Francisco Bay Area the study of Rock-Art is primarily concerned with cultural sites whose authorship is attributed to Native American inhabitants, from the early habitation of our region to the time of European contact. Historic Rock-Art sites of indigenous and non-indigenous manufacture also attract attention within the broad scope of Rock-Art studies.
Rock-Art in the Bay Area was created with a variety of techniques. Pecking, abrading, incising, and scratching into stone are all reductive in nature as they involve a physical process that removes part of the rock surface to leave a mark or design. There are also sites where markings were added to the rock surface by painting and/or drawing on the stone; these are less frequently found - possibly due to the more rapid abrasive effects of wind and rain on exposed painted surfaces. A third type of Rock-Art feature found in the Bay Area is constructed structures: stone walls, stone circles, and other stone enclosures.
Rock Art Studies is an umbrella term that encompasses an interdisciplinary approach to the study of Rock-Art and includes contributions by both professional and amateur investigators.
Rock Art Science refers to the testing of hypotheses about Rock-Art through experimentation that leads to conclusions about the nature and meaning of rock-art that is replicable and falsifiable. For example, a hypothesis about the age of a particular rock painting might be tested by way of chemical analysis of remnant organics that were used to create a binder for a mineral- based pigment. Any conclusion about the age of the painting could potentially be confirmed, or falsified, by other researchers using the same or complimentary techniques.
Rock-Art Interpretation is an endeavor carried out by many researchers in an attempt to arrive at the original meaning or intent of the person(s) who created the rock-art. Often interpretive theories are not falsifiable, that is, there is no factual way to either prove or disprove their conclusions. In this respect, Rock-Art interpretation is an endeavor that often falls outside the scope of Rock-Art science. Interpretations are often interesting in their own right and may be informed by empirical observation, ethnography, archaeology, art history, archaeoastronomy, and numerous other disciplines.
Rock-Art Aesthetics, another area of Rock-Art study, involves the consideration of the universal artistic qualities and values that appear to be inherent in the art and its landscape setting. Perhaps there is a universal appeal of the simple beauty of the created expressions, and the landscapes in which these expressions are found that unites the creator of the rock-art with ourselves, observers from another time and culture, who have been touched in some way across the expanse of years, and pause to wonder.