Rock Art: Petroglyphs and Pictographs differences

If you hike in the desert southwest, you’ll often see rock art. Messages from the past that we see in the present.

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Thoughts on Rock Art .. Petroglyphs (carved into the rock) and pictographs (painted on rock) are famously found throughout the Colorado Plateau. A message from the past visible today. Are they idle drawings? Ceremonial? A record of events? Honoring essential people of a given area? Probably that and more. We have good guesses, but we won’t know entirely. We lost the messages to time in some cases. .. And though the Colorado Plateau contains some of the more well-known examples of rock art, they are found through the American West. The Comanche Grasslands on the High Plains of Colorado contains some exquisite and memorable examples of pictographs depicting the more recent times of the 1700s. And are just as artistic as the more famous examples done by the Fremont and Puebloan people. … The messages may be, 300, 800, 1000, or even well over 2000 years old in some cases. But the artistry is still entrancing centuries later. Something to cherish, enjoy, and protect for those fortunate enough to see these messages from the past that continue to speak to us in the present. … #moab #utah #moabutah #nps #bureauoflandmanagement #colorado #newmexico #coloradoplateau #rockart #petroglyphs #pictographs

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Though found all over the United States, the dry climate of the Colorado Plateau helps preserves these signs of people who came before us. And stumbling upon art is always amazing.

The generic term is “rock art,” but there two common types you’ll see: Pictographs and Petroglyphs

So, what are the differences?

Petroglyphs are carved rock drawings.

Pictographs are paintings found on the rock.

Extremely rare, at least according to a Utah state park brochure are pictoglyphs. Or painted rock carvings. Of course, perhaps most of the pictoglyphs faded with time. Much like Roman statues.

Great! I found some rock art! How do I preserve these treasures?

  • Obviously, do not deface rock art!

Of course, when does graffiti become historic? Best not to add your contributions in any case. 🙂

  • Do not touch! Your oils can damage these ancient artworks.

Plenty of interesting painted hands abound.

from YouTube

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2 Replies to “Rock Art: Petroglyphs and Pictographs differences”

  1. A fun trick that archaeologists use with these, particularly petroglyphs, is to put a negative filter on the picture if the panel is crowded or partially eroded. It can really make some of the design elements pop out that are otherwise obscured. It works especially well in photo editing software where you can use a slider bar to manipulate the values.

    Great photos, and thanks for always using your platform to promote preservation of these types of resources!

    1. Thx for sharing. I am familiar with the technique, but don’t like the look for non-academic use. I try to keep my use of filters relatively low.
      Just a personal preference! And thx for the kind words!

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