September 20, 2020

Maine’s ancient past revealed Indian petroglyphs theme of Unity show

UNITY – An opening into other worlds was unveiled Friday night at the Unity Performing Arts Centre gallery, where a film and a showing of wall hangings disclosed scenes from Maine’s ancient past.

Mark Hedden of Vienna, an archaeologist with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, introduced his film, “Song of the Drum,” on the ancient petroglyphs, or rock carvings, found at several sites in Maine. The show, titled “Other Worlds, Entrances and Exits,” includes a series of “surface prints” made from petroglyphs at Machias Bay as well as sculpture and weavings by Alison Enslin and Carol Hedden.

The prints reveal the original imagery of the petroglyphs, some of which are believed to be about 3,000 years old. Simple lines “dinted,” or pecked, into rock show elongated human figures and animals that Mark Hedden explains depict the activities, dreams, visions and “spirit familiars” of Maine Indian shamans. Their lineage descends back through the region’s Passamaquoddy Indians to the Early Woodland period of Maine’s prehistory. The petroglyphs found at seven sites along Machias Bay are thought to be between 300 and 3,000 years old.

Other petroglyph sites in Maine associated with the practices of native shamans are at Grand Lake Stream, Embden and the Sebago Lake area.

The surface prints were made starting from a technique similar to grave marker rubbings and developed by artist

Sari Dienes. One of Dienes’ wall hangings also is included in the exhibit, along with Carol Hedden’s woven wool hangings based on Indian designs.

“Song of the Drum” offers interpretations and shows the natural settings of the petroglyphs. Mark Hedden wrote the script and assisted cinematographer Ray Gerber, Passamaquoddy linguist and narrator Wayne Newell, and other Passamaquoddy musicians and singers in making the film.

Since the Maine Indians of prehistoric times did not have written languages, Mark Hedden says, “the petroglyphs are clues to the thinking of our ancestors.”

“Other Worlds, Entrances and Exits” will be at the Unity Performing Arts Centre and Centre Gallery until the end of October. The exhibit is open to the public during scheduled events and by appointment. For information, call 568-3147 or 948-7469, or go to In addition, copies of “Song of the Drum” are available on DVD from Acadia Publications in Brunswick.

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