Last post I was talking about Wanuskewin Heritage Park, and how it was on Canada’s tentative list to become a UNESCO World Heritage site. I mentioned that Wanuskewin gets inscribed onto the list, I’s get another UNESCO site under my belt. It seems that I have the power of prophecy, because I now have an extra site on my list(for those who are wondering, the lottery numbers are 23-36-192-q7-08-𝜋). Presenting my photos of  Canada’s new UNESCO World Heritage Site… Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park!


… look, I never said I was a good prophet.


I visited Writing-on-Stone in 2011; I hadn’t gotten into multi-spectral photography then.  I WAS taking 3D Photos, but didn’t take any at the park, so what follows will be just regular photos.

Writing-on-Stone is in southwestern Alberta, along the Milk River. It lies just above the US border; in fact, the Sweetgrass Hills in Montana are the most prominent landmark seen when driving to the site.

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The river valley is mostly sandstone; in addition to being easy to carve, it is also easy to shape through natural forces. This means that there are a number of rock formations and hoodoos throughout the park.

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Be forewarned, though. When I went there, I had some problems with the wildlife:

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…no, not that wildlife, that was just a pleasant memory. I’m talking about this wildlife:

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On the tour, I has the pleasure of watching a wasp digging a hole, drag a still-living caterpillar into a hole to be eaten by the wasp larvae, then filling in the hole after.

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Wait. did I say pleasure? I meant horror. I get those two confused.

Anyhow, the rock art itself is from the Blackfoot(Siksikaitsitapi) first nations, who call the location Áísínai’pi. I’m sticking with calling it Writing-on-Stone solely because autocorrect keeps trying to change the punctuation, and it is too awkward to keep trying to fix it.

Also for the record, I’m a little leery of posting photos of cultural sites, but the park brochure states that taking photos is encouraged, so I’m assuming showing them is permissible as well. I’m not joking about any of the rock art, as that would definitely be disrespectful.

I mentioned that I was on a tour; with only a few exceptions, most of the petroglyphs are off limits to the public unless they’re with a guide. It is understandable, as the site has been regularly vandalized with graffiti carved into the stone. Tourists have been coming long enough that some of the graffiti might have historic value in itself:

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None of this compares to the Blackfoot carvings, though. the early rock art is impossible to date, but archaeological excavations show that the site was used at least 3500 years ago, and possibly as long ago as 4500 years ago. The region was inhabited for 10 000 years, so people could have visited even longer in the past, but left no traces(or at least, not traces that have been found yet). Currently, the belief is that the majority of the rock art is from 1800 years ago or less. The site was used for recording important events in the Blackfoot History. Some of the earliest carvings are hard to distinguish:

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Others show warriors and battles:

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Some of the more recent rock art can be roughly dated. The difference in the carvings between stone and metal tools are one method, signifying that the carving took place either before or after metal was introduced(possibly slightly before the first European contact, as metal was a valuable trade good). Other methods are the images in the photo themselves. Horses, for instance, arrived around 1730, again, before direct contact with European traders or explorers.

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Some of the most recent Blackfoot carvings even overlap with the time period of the tourists’ graffiti, memorializing significant events such as the first automobiles in the region:

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Other carvings, though, don’t seem to record a specific event, but rather have more of a spiritual purpose:

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It is an amazing experience to silently look at the carvings and imagine the millennia of history inscribed on these cliffs. Life-changing events for people long gone, now forgotten except for some pictures carved in stone.

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And if you close your eyes and listen, maybe, just maybe, you can also imagine the screams of millions of entombed caterpillars being slowly devoured alive.

Enjoy your visit!