Rock Art

Rock Art - Petroglyphs Utah

Rock Art

What is Rock Art? Definition: Rock Art is a generic term used to describe ancient rock drawings, carvings or paintings. Rock Art is found in a number of places in including rock faces and caves. Other works of art  were created from boulders and stones on the ground.

Many different types of Rock Art was created by ancient civilisations and feature designs, motifs, patterns, figures or symbols engraved, painted or carved on stone. Rock Art was undertaken by the ancients to express artistic or religious meanings, acknowledge special events or were created as a form of magic. Images of  mysterious Mythical creatures and monsters are also featured in Rock Art. Native Americans had their own 'tribal historians' who produced iconographic or written records. Rock art is one of the oldest of these ancient forms of record keeping. For those interested in working with stone please refer to the following articles:

Flint
Flint Knapper
Stone Tools

Types of Rock Art
The term rock art was coined in the 1940s. The different types of Rock Art are described using the following common terms and names:

  • Rock Art Drawings
  • Rock Art Carvings
  • Rock Art Paintings
  • Rock Art Inscriptions
  • Rock Art Pictures
  • Rock Art Sculptures
  • Rock Art Engravings

Many of these different types of rock art are also referred to by names and titles given by archaeologists. Native American rock art takes three major forms: pictographs, petroglyphs and petroforms.  

Rock Art Terminology
Rock Art is the generic term used to cover all forms of pictures that have been created on rocks. The words and terms used to describe different forms of rock art can be confusing when the subject is first researched. The following terms and definitions are used to describe the different forms of rock art which hopefully will clear any confusion related to the terminology used and the difference between Petroglyphs and Pictograms and all the other 'P' words relating to Rock Art!

  • Petroglyphs - Drawings carved in rock
  • 'Pecked' Petroglyphs Rock Art is produced by using a hammer and chisel, as opposed to carving
  • Petroforms are human-made patterns and shapes made by lining up or piling natural stones many large rocks and boulders over open, level ground
  • Pictographs are ancient rock art figures and symbols that are drawn or painted onto a rock face, normally without any pecking or abrasive methods of creating the picture. Paint made from powdered minerals, blood, charcoal, or other substances were used to make pictographs. Pictography means the application of pigments.
  • Patina – The outer layer, or skin, on rock surfaces that differs in color or chemical composition from the inner rock beneath
  • Pictograms are a form of writing which uses a number of painted drawings to tell a story. Pictograms are found on non-rock objects such as weapons and clothing used by Native Americans
  • Panels - Individual markings on Rock Art are called motifs and groups of motifs are known as panels
  • Petrosomatoglyphs - A petrosomatoglyph is a representation of parts of a human or animal body incised in rock - commonly hands, feet or footprints

Rock Art - Pictographs
Pictography means the application of pigments. Pictographs are rock paintings, that were often found in caverns, caves and on rock faces. Pictographs are ancient rock art figures and symbols that are drawn or painted on to a rock face, normally without any pecking or abrasive methods to create the painting. Paint made from powdered minerals, blood, charcoal, or other substances were used to make pictographs.

Rock Art - Petroglyphs
Petroglyphs are rock carvings. Petroglyphs are created by chipping, carving, engraving, scraping or grinding the surface of rocks to reveal a lighter rock of stone beneath.

Rock Art - Petroforms
Petroforms are man-made patterns and shapes on the ground that are made by lining down, or piling up, stones, large rocks and boulders. A ‘petroform’ refers to rocks that have been moved into a new formation. The Klamath Tribe, in south-central Oregon, built many rock cairns or petroforms.

Native Indian Art
Native American Symbols
Native Indian Tribes Index

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