Petroglyphs (also called rock engravings) are pictogram and logogram images created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, and abrading. Outside North America, scholars often use terms such as "carving", "engraving", or other descriptions of the technique to refer to such images. Petroglyphs are found world-wide, and are often associated with prehistoric peoples. The word comes from the Greek words pert meaning stone, and glyphic meaning to carve, and was originally coined in French as petroglyphe.
The term petroglyph should not be confused with pictograph, which is an image drawn or painted on a rock face. Both types of image belong to the wider and more general category of rock art. Petroforms, or patterns and shapes made by many large rocks and boulders over the ground, are natural formations vs. those created by human design. Inukshuks are also unique, and found only in the Arctic (except for reproductions and imitations built in more southerly latitudes).
Most Petroglyphs, Pictographs, Cave Paintings, and Geoglyphs tell the story of creation using the same iconographic motifs no matter where they are fund on the planet. From ancient times to modern times human appear to be encoded with the same archetypes to explain their journey here from beginning to end.
Petroglyphs are sometimes easily defined based on the culture, religious beliefs, mythologies, and legends of an ancient civilization placed on rock formations for their descendants. Many ancient petroglyphs are thought to represent some kind of ritual language often depicting with the same archetypal symbols. It is interesting that the same symbols are found in different parts of the planet created in timelines where the people could not have possibly interacted with each other. Some believe this could be mere coincidence, an indication that certain groups of people migrated widely from some initial common area, or indication of a common origin.
Some theories suggest that petroglyphs were made by shamans in an altered state of consciousness, perhaps induced by the use of natural hallucinogens. Many of the geometric patterns (known as form constants) which recur in petroglyphs and cave paintings have been shown to be "hard-wired" into the human brain; they frequently occur in visual disturbances and hallucinations brought on by drugs, migraine and other stimuli.
Present-day links between shamanism and rock-art amongst the San people of the Kalahari desert have been studied by the Rock Art Research Institute (RARI) of the University of the Witwatersrand. Though the San people's artworks are predominantly paintings, the beliefs behind them can perhaps be used as a basis for understanding other types of rock art, including petroglyphs.
Petroglyphs are images incised in rock, usually by prehistoric, especially Neolithic, peoples. They were an important form of pre-writing symbols, used in communication from approximately 10,000 B.C.E. to modern times, depending on culture and location.
The word comes from the Greek words petros meaning "stone" and glyphein meaning "to carve" (it was originally coined in French as petroglyphe).
The term 'petroglyph' should not be confused with pictograph, which is an image drawn or painted on a rock face, both of which contribute to the wider and more general category of rock art. Petroforms, or patterns and shapes made by many large rocks and boulders in rows over the ground, are also quite different.
The oldest petroglyphs are dated to approximately the Neolithic and late Upper Paleolithic boundary, about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. Around 7,000 to 9,000 years ago, other writing systems such as pictographs and ideograms began to appear. Petroglyphs were still common though, and some less advanced societies continued using them much longer, even until contact with Western culture was made in the 20th century. Petroglyphs have been found in all parts of the globe except Antarctica with highest concentrations in parts of Africa, Scandinavia, Siberia, southwestern North America and Australia.
Ancient rock art's colors come from microbes BBC - December 28, 2010
A particular type of ancient rock art in Western Australia maintains its vivid colors because it is alive, researchers have found. While some rock art fades in hundreds of years, the "Bradshaw art" remains colorful after at least 40,000 years. Jack Pettigrew of the University of Queensland in Australia has shown that the paintings have been colonized by colorful bacteria and fungi. These "biofilms" may explain previous difficulties in dating such rock art.
Nevada petroglyphs the oldest in North America Yahoo - August 14, 2013
Ancient rock etchings along a dried-up lake bed in Nevada have been confirmed to be the oldest recorded petroglyphs in North America, dating back at least 10,000 years. The petroglyphs found on limestone boulders near Pyramid Lake in northern Nevada's high desert are similar in design to etchings found at a lake in Oregon that are believed to be at least 7,600 years old. Unlike later drawings that sometimes depict a spear or antelope, the carvings are abstract with tightly clustered geometric designs - some are diamond patterns, others have short parallel lines on top of a longer line. Scientists can't tell for sure who carved them, but they were found on the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe's reservation land.
Dating Oldest Known Petroglyphs in North America Science Daily - August 13, 2013
A new high-tech analysis shows the oldest known petroglyphs in North America, which are cut into several boulders in western Nevada, date to at least 10,500 years ago and perhaps even as far back as 14,800 years ago. The petroglyphs located at the Winnemucca Lake petroglyph site 35 miles northeast of Reno consist of large, deeply carved grooves and dots forming complex designs on several large limestone boulders that have been known about for decades. Although there are no people, animals or handprint symbols depicted, the petroglyph designs include a series of vertical, chain-like symbols and a number of smaller pits deeply incised with a type of hard rock scraper. Benson and his colleagues used several methods to date the petroglyphs, including determining when the water level the Winnemucca Lake subbasin -- which back then was a single body of water connecting the now-dry Winnemucca Lake and the existing Pyramid Lake -- reached the specific elevation of 3,960 feet.
At the Ancient Ruins in West Central Idaho along the Snake River, the story of beings that came from the Stars and a Galactic War was recorded according to Indian Legend well over 30,000 years ago. The petroglyphs depict the beings that came, their interaction with the inhabitants of the ancient city, and the war and destruction that ensued. We are shown their ships which are curiously triangular in shape. Similar to those that have been recently sighted over Colorado, Arizona and California. We are also shown the portal through which the interdimensional beings came.
The waging of war between the Star Beings is recorded in the petroglyph to the right. The Star Beings and their counterparts, the two horned priests, are wreaking havoc upon the inhabitants of the Ancient City (represented by the smaller beings who are fleeing.)
This petroglyph is located on a rock adjacent to the rock shown above. It depicts the two horned Priest. It should be noted that the dumbbell shaped apparatus held in his hand may represent an archtimeter. Reference to this can be found in Alice Bailey's writings, as well as in the hieroglyphs of Egypt. These tools are said to have wielded the power of life and death.
This being is very similar in appearance to Quetzalcoatl who is the Deity in the fabled city of Chichen Itza in Mexico, renowned for its Mayan Pyramids. He is often depicted at the controls of an ancient airship sometimes triangular in design.
The Yei are supernatural Holy People who communicate between the Navaho and their gods. They are usually shown carrying pine boughs, yucca strips and rattles in healing ceremonies. Each petroglyph is hand crafted reflecting images and messages inspired by the Ancient Ones. Native stones are carefully selected for each petroglyph with no two alike.
Symbols from stone wall in the Village of the Great Kivas in New Mexico. Note the human, animal, snake and spiral figures were common to the area. Each petroglyph is hand crafted reflecting images and messages inspired by the Ancient Ones. Native stones are carefully selected for each petroglyph with no two alike.
Mythology: Hopi Ant People, Snake People, Blue Kachina, Star Gods
Mythology: Hopi Ant People, Snake People, Blue Kachina, Star Gods
Two Males - Ascending Spirit - Two Females
One of the many examples of Hawaiian kiwi pohaku (petroglyphs - ancient rock carvings) found at Waikoloa. The Hawaiian petroglyphs contain many images of the human figure. It is possible that the images evolved in complexity from the simple angular figure to triangle figures and then to muscular figures. Notice the many angles in the petroglyph.
Cave paintings in Mexico: Carvings uncovered in Burgos
Archaeologists in Mexico have found 4,926 well-preserved cave paintings in the north-eastern region of Burgos. The images in red, yellow, black and white depict humans, animals and insects, as well as skyscapes and abstract scenes. The paintings were found in 11 different sites - but the walls of one cave were covered with 1,550 scenes. The area in which they were found was previously thought not to have been inhabited by ancient cultures. The paintings suggest that at least three groups of hunter-gatherers dwelled in the San Carlos mountain range. Experts have not yet been able to date the paintings, but hope to chemically analyse their paint to find out their approximate age.
Petroglyphs in Panama
Call this ancient rock carving 'little horny man' MSNBC - February 22, 2012
A stick figure man with a giant phallus dubbed "the little horny man" by its discoverers is the oldest rock carving found yet in the Americas, researchers say. These findings might shed new light on when the New World was first settled, scientists added. The time frame during which humans first reached the Americas remains hotly debated. One key to settling this controversy would involve uncovering early examples of human artifacts, such as art.
Scientists discovered one ancient sample of such art in a cave named Lapa do Santo in central-eastern Brazil. The region is home to Luzia, the oldest human skeleton found to date in South America. Lapa do Santo is one of the largest rock shelters excavated yet in the region, a limestone cave covering an area of about 14,000 square feet (1,300 square meters). Here, researchers have found buried human remains, tools made of stone and bone, ash from hearths, and leftovers from meals of fruit and small game.
'Little Horny Man': Rock Carving of Giant Phallus Discovered Live Science - February 22, 2012
A stick figure man with a giant phallus dubbed "the little horny man" by its discoverers is the oldest rock carving found yet in the Americas, researchers say. These findings might shed new light on when the New World was first settled, scientists added. The time frame during which humans first reached the Americas remains hotly debated. One key to settling this controversy would involve uncovering early examples of human artifacts, such as art. Scientists discovered one ancient sample of such art in a cave named Lapa do Santo in central-eastern Brazil. The region is home to Luzia, the oldest human skeleton found to date in South America.
The activity of painting or engraving rocks in Colombia may have begun before the formative period. The scarce references seem to refer to activities which occurred much sooner than just a few years before the appearance of Spanish conquistadors. The differences in rock art themes, the variety of zones, the diversity of picture forms and engravings, seem to indicate that there existed long periods of rock art activity from the Paleoindian to the classic Muisca times. More than 700 pictograph and petroglyph zones have been discovered. Some rural traditions and beliefs have developed from some of the rock art design.
Ancient Egypt Link with Australia
Cave Painting Depicts Extinct Marsupial Lion
Live Science - May 11, 2009
Unusual Rock Art Trove Found in Australia
National Geographic - October 22, 2008
Europe is laced with megalithic monuments, cave art, and
petroglyphs, some of which has not been discovered or recorded.
Experts put date to UK rock art - 12,800 years
BBC - April 25, 2005
Stone Age petroglyphs Gobustan, Azerbaijan were not discovered by an archeological expedition. Their revelation came about quite by accident. In the 1930s, work was going on there in a stone quarry. The area is full of huge boulders and rock formations. One of the quarry workers noticed some unusual carvings on the rocks. The more the rocks were cut out, the more the paintings could be seen. (Before they had been hidden from view inside a huge pile of boulders.) Even more paintings were found inside what appeared to be man-made caves. Work at the quarry soon stopped so that the paintings could be examined more carefully.
In 1939, archeologist Isaak Jafarzade began the first archeological investigation of the petroglyphs at Gobustan. Between 1940 to 1965, teams identified and documented approximately 3,500 individual rock paintings on 750 rocks. The most ancient petroglyphs have been identified as belonging to the 12-8th century B.C. However, it is assumed that life existed here even earlier and that Gobustan was one of the cradles of civilization. This research was published in a book entitled "Gobustan" in 1978.
Teimareh Petroglyphs and Star Trails
Teimareh Petroglyphs and Star TrailsNASA - July 12, 2012
Pictographs are images painted on a rock face. Paints were generally made from pulverized minerals. Red, white, and black were the most common colors.
A pictogram or pictograph is a symbol representing an object or concept by illustration. Pictography is a form of writing whereby ideas are transmitted through drawing. It is the basis of cuneiform and hieroglyphs.
Early written symbols were based on pictograms, pictures which resemble what they signify, and ideograms, pictures which represent ideas; it is commonly believed that pictograms appeared before ideograms. They were used by various ancient cultures all over the world since around 9000 BC and began to develop into logographic writing systems around 5000 BC. Pictograms are still in use as the main medium of written communication in some non-literate cultures in Africa, The Americas, and Oceania, and are often used as simple symbols by most contemporary cultures.
The earliest uses of pictograms in Mesopotamia predated the famous Sumerian cuneiforms (oldest of which date to around 3400 BC). As far as around 9000 BC tokens marked with simple pictures began to be used to label basic farm produce, and around 6000 BC, with the rise of cities and spread of basic craftsmanship more complex pictographic tokens were devised to label manufactured goods. Eventually, the tokens were replaced by clay tablets, on which symbols were drawn with a blunt reed called a stylus. The impressions left by the stylus were wedge shaped, thus giving rise to the name cuneiform, wedge-writing.
Though written Chinese is often thought of consisting of pictograms, less than 1% of all characters ever created have their direct origins in pictograms. The letters of the Roman alphabet, however, do have their origins in pictograms. For example, the letter A represented the head of an ox, and if it is turned upside down, a bovine head with horns can be seen.
Pictograms remain in common use today, serving as signs or instructions. Because of their graphical nature and fairly realistic style, they are widely used to indicate public toilets, or places such as airports and train stations. However, even these symbols are highly culture-specific. For example, in some cultures men commonly wear dress-like clothing, so even restroom signage is not universal. Pictographic writing as a modernist poetic technique is credited to Ezra Pound though French surrealists accurately credit the Pacific Northwest American Indians of Alaska who introduced writing, via totem poles, to North America (Reed 2003,p.XIX).
A standard set of pictograms was defined in the international standard ISO 7001: Public Information Symbols. Another common set of pictograms are the laundry symbols used on clothing tags and chemical hazard labels.In countries or regions where two or more languages are used, the typical traffic sign is very often a symbol with no writing on it. This is the case for much of Europe and several parts of Canada. Many of these signs, however, offer an abstract symbol instead of a picture, and they cannot be considered true pictograms.
Cave or rock paintings are paintings painted on cave or rock walls and ceilings, usually dating to prehistoric times. Rock paintings are made since the Upper Paleolithic, 40,000 years ago. It is widely believed that the paintings are the work of respected elders or shamans.
When Europeans first encountered the Magdalenian paintings of the Altamira cave, Cantabria, Spain in 1879, they were considered to be hoaxes by academics. The new Darwinian thinking on evolution was interpreted as meaning that early humans could not have been sufficiently advanced to create art. Emile Cartailhac, one of the most respected prehistorians of the late nineteenth century believed they had been thought up by Creationists to support their ideas and ridicule Darwin's. Recent reappraisals and increasing numbers of discoveries have illustrated their authenticity and indicated the high levels of artistry of Upper Palaeolithic humans who used only basic tools. Cave paintings can also give valuable clues as to the culture and beliefs of that era.
The age of the paintings in many sites remains a contentious issue, since methods like radiocarbon dating can be easily misled by contaminated samples of older or newer material, and caves and rocky overhangs are typically littered with debris from many time periods. The choice of subject matter can indicate date such as the reindeer at the Spanish cave of Cueva de las Monedas which imply the art is from the last ice age. The oldest cave is that of Chauvet, and is 32,000 years old.
The most common themes in cave paintings are large wild animals, such as bison, horses, aurochs, and deer, and tracings of human hands as well as abstract patterns, called Macaroni by Breuil. Drawings of humans are rare and are usually schematic rather than the more naturalistic animal subjects. Cave art may have begun in the Aurignacian period (Hohle Fels, Germany), but reached its apogee in the late Magdalenian (Lascaux, France).
The paintings were drawn with red and yellow ochre, hematite, manganese oxide and charcoal. Sometimes the silhouette of the animal was incised in the rock first. Stone lamps provided some light. Abbe Breuil interpreted the paintings as being hunting magic, meant to increase the number of animals. As there are some clay sculptures that seem to have been the targets of spears, this may partly be true, but does not explain the pictures of beasts of prey such as the lion or the bear. An alternative and more modern theory, based on studies of more modern hunter-gatherer societies, is that the paintings were made by Cro-Magnon shaman.
The shaman would retreat into the darkness of the caves, enter into a trance state and then paint images of their visions, perhaps with some notion of drawing power out of the cave walls themselves. This goes some way towards explaining the remoteness of some of the paintings (which often occur in deep or small caves) and the variety of subject matter (from prey animals to predators and human hand-prints). However, as with all prehistory, it is impossible to be certain due to the relative lack of material evidence and the many pitfalls associated with trying to understand the prehistoric mindset with a modern mind.
Caves at Lascaux, France
Lascaux is a complex of caves in southwestern France famous for its cave paintings. The original caves, located near the village of Montignac. They contain some of the earliest known art, dating back to somewhere between 13,000 and 15,000 BCE, or as far back as 25,000 BCE.
Red dot becomes 'oldest cave art'BBC - June 14, 2012
Watch the Video
The El Castillo Cave in Spain -- The refined dating shows these paintings to be far older than anyone thought. Red dots, hand stencils and animal figures represent the oldest examples yet found of cave art in Europe. The symbols on the walls at 11 Spanish locations, including the World Heritage sites of Altamira, El Castillo and Tito Bustillo have long been recognized for their antiquity. But researchers have now used refined dating techniques to get a more accurate determination of their ages. One motif - a faint red dot - is said to be more than 40,000 years old.
New dating method shows cave art is older: Did Neanderthals do it? MSNBC - June 14, 2012
When archaeologists tried out a new technique to determine the age of Spain's most famous Paleolithic cave paintings, they were surprised to discover that the paintings were thousands of years older than previously thought - so old that it's conceivable they were painted by Neanderthals. The technique just might change the way we think about the paintings, and the way we think about our long-extinct, long-maligned Neanderthal cousins as well.
Tassili n'Ajjer, Sahara Desert, North Africa
Sahara rock art is a significant area of archaeological study focusing on the precious treasures carved or painted on the natural rocks found in the central Sahara desert. There are over three thousand sites discovered that have information about Saharan rock art. From the Tibesti massif to the Ahaggar Mountains, the Sahara is an impressive open-air museum containing numerous archaeological sites.
Tassili n'Ajjer (meaning "Plateau of the Rivers") is noted for its prehistoric rock art and other ancient archaeological sites, dating from Neolithic times when the local climate was much moister, with savannah rather than desert. The art depicts herds of cattle, large wild animals including crocodiles, and human activities such as hunting and dancing. The art has strong stylistic links to the pre-Nguni Art of South Africa and the region, executed in caves by the San Peoples before the year 1200 BCE.
The range's exceptional density of rock art paintings-pictograms and engravings-petroglyphs, and the presence of many prehistoric vestiges, are remarkable testimonies to Neolithic prehistory. From 10,000 BCE to the first centuries CE, successive peoples left many archaeological remains, habitations, burial mounds and enclosures which have yielded abundant lithic and ceramic material. However, it is the rock art (engravings and paintings) that have made Tassili world famous as from 1933, the date of its discovery. 15,000 petroglyphs have been identified to date.
Some of the painting have bizarre depictions of what appear to be spacemen wearing suits, visors, and helmets. resembling modern day astronauts. This takes us to the west African tribe - the Dogon whose legends say they were guided to the area from another part of Africa that was drying up - by fish gods called the Nommo who came in huge ships from the sky.
Buddhist murals from Afghanistan's famed Bamiyan caves are the world's earliest known oil paintings, according to a new chemical analysis. (See photos of the paintings and the cliffs that housed them.) The finds, dated to around the 7th century A.D., predate the origins of similar sophisticated painting techniques in medieval Europe and the Mediterranean by more than a hundred years.
A huge collection of rock paintings in South Africa is far older than previously thought, research has found. Archaeologists using the latest radio-carbon dating technology found that the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg paintings are 3,000 years old. Earlier findings by researchers had indicated that the paintings by San hunters-gatherers were 1,000 years old. The latest research was carried out by the Britain's Newcastle University and Australian National University. There are more than 40,000 rock paintings at the site in South Africa.
Clusters of hand stencils dating back 2,500 years cover the walls of Argentina's Cueva de las Manos in Patagonia. Prehistoric handprints and stencils span all continents and began appearing on rock walls around the world at least 30,000 years ago.
Pech Merle Cave Paintings - Images
Google Earth 2012
A geoglyph is a drawing on the ground, or a large motif, (generally greater than 4 metres) or design produced on the ground, either by arranging clasts (stones, stone fragments, gravel or earth) to create a positive geoglyph (stone arrangement/alignment, petroform, earth mound) or by removing patinated clasts to expose unpatinated ground (negative geoglyph).
Some of the most famous geoglyphs are the Nazca Lines in Peru. Other areas with geoglyphs include Western Australia. Hill figures, turf mazes and the stone-lined labyrinths of Scandinavia, Iceland, Lappland and the former Soviet Union are types of geoglyph. The largest geoglyph is the Marree Man in South Australia.
Mysterious Elk-Shaped Structure Discovered in Russia Live Science - October 11, 2012
A huge geoglyph in the shape of an elk or deer discovered in Russia may predate Peru's famous Nazca Lines by thousands of years. The animal-shaped stone structure, located near Lake Zjuratkul in the Ural Mountains, north of Kazakhstan, has an elongated muzzle, four legs and two antlers. A historical Google Earth satellite image from 2007 shows what may be a tail, but this is less clear in more recent imagery. Excluding the possible tail, the animal stretches for about 900 feet (275 meters) at its farthest points (northwest to southeast), the researchers estimate, equivalent to two American football fields. The figure faces north and would have been visible from a nearby ridge.
Marree Man in South Australia
Nazca Lines of Peru
Stunning Astronomical Alignment Found at Peru Pyramid Live Science - May 6, 2013
An ancient astronomical alignment in southern Peru has been discovered by researchers between a pyramid, two stone lines and the setting sun during the winter solstice. During the solstice, hundreds of years ago, the three would have lined up to frame the pyramid in light. The two stone lines, called geoglyphs, are located about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) east-southeast from the pyramid. They run for about 1,640 feet (500 meters), and researchers say the lines were "positioned in such a way as to frame the pyramid as one descended down the valley from the highlands."
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