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:
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
- 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.
- 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
- Petroforms are human-made patterns and shapes made by lining up or piling natural stones many large rocks and boulders over open, level ground
- Patina – The outer layer, or skin, on rock surfaces that differs in color or chemical composition from the inner rock beneath
- 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
Ojibwa (Chippewa) rock painting- Lake Superior
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.
Horned Serpent Rock Art Petroglyph
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.
Rock Art - Picture Dictionary of Symbols and Signs
The meanings of signs and the types of symbols used by Native American Indians are fully illustrated and can be accessed via the Picture Dictionary of Symbols. The symbols dictionary provides information and origin of many symbols that are depicted in Rock Art and includes reference to Native American legends and the mythology of the ancient Mound Builders and the fantastic creatures and monsters that featured in their culture.
- Interpretation of Native American Symbol, Signs and letters
- Meaning, symbolism and the Rock Art
- Interpretation of Symbols and Native American drawings, icons, and motifs
- Native American Indians
- The Signs and Symbols
Pictures and Videos of Native Americans
Discover the vast selection of pictures which relate to the History of Native Americans and illustrate many decorations and tattoos used by American Indians. The pictures show the clothing, tattoos, war paint, weapons and decorations of various Native Indian tribes that can be used as a really useful educational history resource for kids and children of all ages and a means to study their interpretation. We have included pictures to accompany the main topic of this section - Interpretation of Symbol. The videos enable fast access to the images, paintings and pictures together with information and many historical facts. All of the articles, such as the Rock Art, can be accessed via the Native Indian Tribes Index.