For more than 40,000 years, humans have been motivated to create what archeologists contact “rock art”: paintings and engravings top top natural stone surfaces.Read complete overview|Go to first item





An ancient art form

The photographs in this collection depict rock art sites throughout central and southern California. The indigenous peoples who produced this artwork have actually a very long background in the region. In phibìc America, particularly in California and also the bordering region, archaeological evidence suggests that settlement started in the Paleoindian period (approximately 12,000-8,000 YBP, or “years prior to present”), with the biggest use the the area occurring 2,600 to 1,000 YBP.

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It is difficult to recognize when the sites in these specific images to be created, because right now there are few techniques for date rock art. Typically speaking, rock paintings in unprotected environments (like boulder faces) are thought to be less than 500 years old since they room exposed come wind and rain. However carved design in difficult rock favor granite room durable and can last for countless years in a stable environment.


Native American rock art provides us v many ideas in our search for the history of California’s aboriginal peoples. The painted or carved symbols room not writing, together we know it, yet they were produced to convey information. Their interpretations are not always known, and are periodically debated among scholars.

Rock art can selection from basic scratch marks to fancy motifs. Some typical abstract design elements encompass circles, concentric circles, spirals, dots, and meandering lines. Representative designs include human forms and animals. Human forms with horns or radiating wavy lines and animals such as the lizard and rattlesnake space thought come be symbols of power or heart helpers. This picture is believed to be a depiction of a medicine bag, and also this one clearly resembles a person hand.

Ethnographic information has argued that rock art offered several functions. Part rock art styles could be border markers because that clan regions or guides to water and food resources. Others, choose this example, might record historical occasions such as huge phenomena or the arrival of Spanish explorers. It has been established that some rock paints were do as part of girls’ puberty ceremonies; designs most typically thought to be related include red diamond chains and also chevrons. Some rock art motifs resemble the visionary imagery that trance states, which aboriginal American shamans gotten in to connect with the spirit world.


Rock art is characterized by just how it was created and also the products that comprise it. Major types incorporate the following.


Petroglyphs room rock engravings produced by spread (striking the surface ar of the rock v a harder little stone), chiseling (using a hammer stone to pound a sharp stone chisel), abraiding (rubbing or battering the rock surface with a rounded stone), or scratching (using a an extremely sharp edged rock to scrape finer lines).

“Desert varnish,” a red brown or black mineral patina that forms on absent surfaces in the desert, creates a perfect medium for petroglyphs. Designs such together this one to be etched with the patina to expose the lighter rock beneath. Desert varnish forms an extremely slowly—1,000 years for a heavy varnish—and i do not care thicker and also darker with increasing age.


Cupules, a kind of petroglyph, room small, cup-shaped indentations. They are pecked or ground right into the stone and show up randomly or periodically in present or groups.


Pictographs are designs painted on rock surfaces with paints make from natural mineral pigments mixed with animal fats, egg whites, plant oils, or urine to bind them. Hematite (iron oxide) was provided for red paints, limonite because that yellow, kaolin clays for white, and charcoal for black. Paints were used with pen made native yucca fiber or applied with fingers and also hands. The many common shade in southern California is red.

Geoglyphs (Intaglios)

Geoglyphs, likewise known as intaglios, are giant drawings on the ground the depict geometric designs, human forms, and animal figures. These large designs were created by clearing the dark absent of desert pavements and also exposing the lighter fancy rock and also sand below. Plenty of of these figures were made end the critical 2,000 years. More than 200 geoglyphs have been uncovered along the Colorado River, and also many others have been reported roughly the world.

Natural Deterioration

Natural elements such as rain, wind, heat, and also cold have had actually their effect on native American absent art. Pigments have actually worn away and mineralization has actually re-patinated surfaces, calculation the images ever fainter. Heat and also cold have actually caused crumbling and also exfoliation while falling rocks have damaged away designs indigenous their initial locations. Plants acquisition root in cracks, lichen growth, and mosses extending surfaces eventually malfunction rock and also its images. This photo shows a rock—and, as a result, a design—that has broken apart because of natural deterioration. Nevertheless, that is remarkable how well countless of the symbols and designs made thousands of years earlier have survived.

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Vandalism and also Destruction

While the impacts of nature on absent art pictures are sad to watch and result in great cultural loss, nothing is as terrible as the damages done through humans. This devastation takes numerous forms; periodically it is inadvertent however often it is intentional. Plenty of images have survived wind, rain, and also storms for thousands of years just to autumn victim to vandalism. For example, graffiti and also bullet feet obfuscate and can potentially ruin a design. Since they are located on huge swaths of ground, geoglyphs have likewise been negatively impacted by illegal motorcycles, SUVs, and off-highway car activities.