Petroglyphs: Art That
Today's Snack: Did you know that there is a food category called
"stone fruits"? These fruits have "stones" in their middles. But they aren't
really rocks. That's another way of saying that they have pits. "Pits" are
actually the big seeds of the fruit that you find in the middle!
fruits" match today's art activity because you will be learning about art that
uses stones. So why not have a snack with a stone? Try one or more of these
fruits: cherries, plums, apricots,
nectarines or peaches. If it's not summertime, when they are in season, try
Mechanical pencil (no
Styrofoam block of any
shape, with surface for carving
Period: 10,000 Years Ago
you hear the word "prehistoric," what comes to mind? Dinosaurs? That's right:
dinosaurs lived on Earth before humans started recording historical events. So
we call that "prehistoric" times.
you hear the phrase "prehistoric art," what comes to mind? Cave painting? Right
painting is an incredibly old art form with many examples that have survived
through hundreds and thousands of years. They've lasted, because the caves
protected the paint from the sun, rain, snow and wind.
"pictograph" is a word for painted rock art. But another word, with some of the
same letters, designates a lesser known type of rock art that also was around
in prehistoric times:
"petroglyph" is rock art that a carver makes by using a stone tool to peck or
cut lines into a rock to make a picture.
would you look to find a petroglyph? Native American art from North America has
picture shows a petroglyph from a collection called the Thorsen Creek
petroglyphs in British Columbia, Canada. They belong to the reserve of land
held by the Nuxalkmc (pronounced Noo-hawk-mic) people, whose name is also
shortened to Nuxalk.
kind of image do you see in the petroglyph?
of the time, petroglyphs depict animals, animal faces, human faces, and
and archaeologists have also found petroglyphs in the western part of the
United States, west of the Rocky Mountains but east of the Sierra Nevada and
Cascade mountain ranges.
scholars who study these petroglyphs have found two main styles of carvings. One
style is "curvilinear" because the carved lines have curved "o" and "s" shapes
like circles, sun disks, and snakes.
second style is "rectilinear" because the lines have rectangular patterns made
with grids, dots, and crosshatches. Think of crosshatches as like a whole bunch
of little crosses or X's to fill space, like this:
into rocks must be HARD - a hard job on a hard surface! The Native American
artists who made petroglyphs not only had to be strong and skillful with their
hands, but they had to be clever with their brains.
they did not work with paint, they could not use colors to help identify what
their art meant or to create certain responses in the people who viewed the
they didn't use color, what DID they use? They relied on workmanship,
technique, balance, symmetry, and asymmetry in their art to create certain
making your own petroglyph. Only instead of a hard rock, let's use something
lots softer - a piece of Styrofoam.
the subject that you will carve or peck (yes, peck - like a chicken!) into your
you make a picture of something that people can recognize, or make a pattern?
choose whether you want to use the curvilinear style with lots of curved lines,
or the rectilinear style with lots of straight lines.
the tip of a mechanical pencil (you don't need the lead to be exposed) to carve
into the piece of Styrofoam that you use as your rock.
with dragging the pencil tip to make a continuous line, but also see what you
can do by making dotted lines and crosshatches.
art do you like better now?
petroglyph that you just made, or the pictographs you've seen in photos of cave
Oxford Art Online, "Native North
American art, §III: Carving and sculpture"
Oxford Art Online, "Native North
American art, §I: Introduction"