Exploring Potential
Online Pilot Project

Project Two

Petroglyphs & Pictographs

Rock Art I


Petroglyphs and pictographs are ancient pieces of artwork created on rocks, boulders, cliff faces, and cave walls by humans hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Technically speaking, a petroglyph is a design pecked or chipped out of the rock face, while a pictograph is a design created with pigments on the rock face. Usually the pigments are derived from local plant or mineral resources by the artist. In general, we can refer to pictographs and petroglyphs as rock art.

There are petroglyphs and pictographs in the limestone caves of France that have been dated to some thirty to forty thousand years ago. This is incredibly old: so old that it is very difficult to imagine this length of time! Many archaeologists - people who specialize in studying ancient human beings - believe that petroglyphs and pictographs were used by their creators to express complex ideas, to tell stories, to show where to find things, or to bring help and good luck from ancestors or spirits.

It is interesting to realize that rock art represents a written form of language that came prior to the invention of alphabetic writing. Indeed, studying petroglyphs and pictographs can be a very interesting way of trying to understand the way that ancient humans understood the world around them. Arizona is filled with rock art, and if you are observant, you may even be lucky enough to find some petroglyphs showing deer and other animals in the Estrella Mountain Regional Park. But, please remember, that only the careful observer will be lucky enough to notice these ancient pieces of art. For, they blend in quietly to the surrounding landscape and can be easily missed!



You will find Petroglyphs and Pictographs: Wyoming's Original Artwork Introduction Here.

Petroglyphs and Pictographs Number One: Split Boy, Hot Springs County, Wyoming.

Petroglyphs and Pictographs Number Two: Butterfly Panel, Hot Springs County, Wyoming.

Petroglyphs and Pictographs Number Three: Winged Figure, Freemont County, Wyoming.

Petroglyphs and Pictographs Number Four: Water Ghost Woman, Hot Springs County, Wyoming.

Petroglyphs and Pictographs Number Five: Skeleton Person, Hot Springs County, Wyoming.

Petroglyphs and Pictographs Number Six: Water Ghost, Hot Springs County, Wyoming.

Petroglyphs and Pictographs Number Seven: Water Ghost Woman Two, Hot Springs County, Wyoming.

Petroglyphs and Pictographs Number Eight: Tolar Horses and Riders, Sweetwater County, Wyoming.

Petroglyphs and Pictographs Number Nine: Multiple Dinwoody Style Petroglyphs, Freemont County, Wyoming.

Petroglyphs and Pictographs Number Ten: Standing Bear Petroglyph.

You will also need:
(1) drawing paper and pencil for notetaking and drawing;
(2) a good erasure;
(3) laptop or desktop computer;
(4) dictionary;
(5) crayons, colored pencils, paint, or other type of pigment;
and, last, but certainly not least,
(6) your brain!


A.) First, view the ten images of rock art above. These are from the Chief Washakie Foundation Exhibit: Petropglyphs and Pictograhps: Wyoming's Original Artwork. Make sure to double click on each image to view it closely. Please don't worry too much about what is said about each image! Just look at the images as closely as you can and think about what they might have meant to their creator several hundreds, or several thousands, of years ago. Please remember that the artists creating the petroglyphs and pictographs that your are viewing did not have the technology that you have today. There were no cars, nor telephones, nor emailing, nor ipods, nor even human-made glass or plastics. Keep this in mind!

B.) Take a good chunk of time to try to draw one of your favorite images. Remember that the person who created this image was not using pencil and paper, or even paint and canvas. They were using hard stones against hard stones (petroglyphs), and often pigmants gathered from plants, charcoal, or minerals (pictographs). As you create your drawing, think about how much energy it must have taken to create the image you have looked at, and how it must look different now, compared to how it looked to the artist when they had created it anew.

C.) Write down any words that are new to you while reading any of the information attached to the Chief Washakei Foundation Web pages. If you run into new words that you don't know, please look them up, making sure that you understand how each word is used in the text.

D.) Write a post that includes a list of the words you did not know at the beginning of this project and something that you thought was intriquing about the images that you have viewed.

E.) Locate the counties in which Wyoming's Original Artwork is located on a Wyoming or United States map in your classroom.

G.) Post any questions that you have about the petroglyphs and pictographs that you have viewed in this Project.

H.) Write a post about why you think the makers of the rock art created these pieces. Do you think they imagined that you would be viewing and thinking about them now?

I.) Stretch: The Petroglyphs and Pictographs: Wyoming's Original Artwork Exhibit demonstrates very interesting artwork using rock and pigment. Please create your own rock art on paper, rock, or other material, in order to commemorate an important event in your own life. Please post the finished image (this could be a photo, scan, or short video clip) and a short summary of what this creation means to you.

J.) Double Stretch: The rock art that you have viewed in this project is from Wyoming, almost one thousand miles from where you go to school. Research rock art that is found in Arizona. Write a post about how the Wyoming and Arizona rock art styles differ? How are they the same? If desired, compare the Wyoming and Arizona rock art to those found on different continents, including the rock art found in the limestone caves of France in Europe (see References below). Post your findings.

K.) Triple Stretch: Arrange to visit an archaelogical site in the Sedona area with family or friends. Information about Palatki, a beautiful archaelogical site in the Coconino National Forest, can be found here!

Rock Art Resources:

Information about the Palatki Heritage Site: 6000 Years of Arizona Rock Art.

Information about the Coconino National Forest Archaeolocial Site Etiquette Guide.

Information about Chauvet Cave, France.

Links to Examples of rock art from around the world.

Information about Estrella Mountain Regional Park.

Compiled by Gregory A. Hayes
California Institute of Integral Studies
Doctoral Student, Transformative Learning & Change
School of Consciousness & Transformation


Updated: December 3, 2008

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