Rock Art

Early people used rock to make art and share ideas. You can still see this rock art today.

The rock art tells stories with pictures. It shows special happenings and tells about the history of people.

Southwestern US Rock Art

Rock art can be found everywhere in the world. Many places are in the Southwest US. They are found where early people lived and worked.

The pictures were made for many reasons. They marked places, showed hunts, or were just for fun.

'Kopopelli' from Fremont Culture
Cub Creek, Utah

Pictograph or Petroglyph - What's the Difference?

There are two types of rock art: petroglyphs and pictographs.

Petroglyphs are carved in rock. Many petroglyphs are found on rock varnish (photo above right). They are found in many kinds of rock (Inscription Rock shown photo below).

Ancestral Puebloan petroglyph, 'Inscription Rock', New Mexico

Pictographs are painted or drawn on rock. They were in one or more colors. Pictographs were easy to make. There are many shapes (photo on left).

The paint wears off. Some have been saved in caves.

Many rock art are both carved and painted.

Ancestral Puebloan
Hueco Tanks Historical Park, Texas

Rock Art History

People have made rock art for a long time. Rock art shows the history of people. Indians created rock art for thousands of years.

Newspaper Rock State Historic Site. Utah
Then, settlers came to America. They brought new things. Pictures of horses, hats, and wheels were added to the rock art. Newspaper Rock has many pictures from different times (photo above right). How many different things can you see? A big rock saves the picture from the weather. A fence keeps people from touching the rock.

Rock art has pictures of people, animals, and shapes. Sometimes you see plants, masks, and maps.

It is hard to find out the age of rock art. People look for clues in the picture. They look at the animals and tools. They look at the things close the rock art. They also test the rocks.

Potash Road (Hyway 279), Near Moab, Utah

Rock Art of Today

People still make rock art. People paint rocks (photo on left). Some people sell these rocks.

Some Indian artists (below) make crafts that looks like old rock art.

In the 1960s, an artist painted big rocks in Arizona. The colors are still bright after forty years (see below).

More Information

Fences guard some rock art. We need to take care of all rock art places. If it is harmed, it can not be fixed. Do not touch old rock art.

Try a webquest activity.

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Note: All photographs were taken with a digital camera in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah.
Developed by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 04/02.