We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Rock-Art of Eastern North America

Capturing Images and Insight

Edited by Carol Diaz-Granados and James R. Duncan, with contributions from Danie

Publication Year: 2004

Showcases the wealth of new research on sacred imagery found in 12 states and 4 Canadian provinces.

In archaeology, rock-art—any long-lasting marking made on a natural surface—is similar to material culture (pottery and tools) because it provides a record of human activity and ideology at that site. Petroglyphs, pictographs, and dendroglyphs (tree carvings) have been discovered and recorded throughout the eastern woodlands of North America on boulders, bluffs, and trees, in caves and in rock shelters. These cultural remnants scattered on the landscape can tell us much about the belief systems of the inhabitants that left them behind.

The Rock-Art of Eastern North America brings together 20 papers from recent research at sites in eastern North America, where humidity and the actions of weather, including acid rain, can be very damaging over time. Contributors to this volume range from professional archaeologists and art historians to avocational archaeologists, including a surgeon, a lawyer, two photographers, and an aerospace engineer. They present information, drawings, and photographs of sites ranging from the Seven Sacred Stones in Iowa to the Bald Friar Petroglyphs of Maryland and from the Lincoln Rise Site in Tennessee to the Nisula Site in Quebec.

Discussions of the significance of artist gender, the relationship of rock-art to mortuary caves, and the suggestive link to the peopling of the continent are particularly notable contributions. Discussions include the history, ethnography, recording methods, dating, and analysis of the subject sites and integrate these with the known archaeological data.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (45.5 KB)
p. -

List of Illustrations

pdf iconDownload PDF (72.9 KB)
pp. xi-xxii

List of Tables

pdf iconDownload PDF (18.2 KB)
p. xix-xix

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (45.2 KB)
pp. xxi-xxii

This volume brings together 20 papers on rock-art research in eastern North America ranging over more than 15 states and four Canadian provinces. Moreover, this volume brings together rock-art researchers froma variety of fields. It is well known in rock-art research that this specialized field, ignored far too long by most professional archaeologists, became the domain of avocational archaeologists...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (22.5 KB)
p. xxiii-xxiii

This volume has come to fruition through the efforts of two major factions: my fellow rock-art scholars of eastern North America and Judith Knight. The eastern states rock-art scholars have been working together for almost two decades to bring the field of rock-art research to the attention of professional archaeologists. In 1996 we formed an official organization the Eastern States Rock Art Research Association (esrara.org) to facilitate com-...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (63.2 KB)
pp. xxv-xxix

No book has specifically addressed the rock-art of eastern North America other than the collection of papers from our 1993 Eastern States RockArt Conference (Faulkner 1996). Before that solitary publication, there was virtually no overview in the literature that focused solely on the petroglyphs and pictographs of eastern North America. Overviews of North American rock-art by Campbell ...

read more


read more

1. Native American Dendroglyphs of the Eastern Woodlands

pdf iconDownload PDF (155.0 KB)
pp. 3-18

The term rock-art was popularized with the publication of Campbell Grant’s book Rock Art of the American Indian (1992 [1967]). The term is now generally accepted for the study of pictographs and petroglyphs left on nonportable rock surfaces by our so-called preliterate ancestors. Charles Faulkner (1986) and others added mudglyphs to the rock-art vocabulary in1986 with the reports of their discoveries in the caves of Tennessee. I would...


read more

2. Ratcliffe Sacred Rock and the Seven Sacred Stones, Iowa

pdf iconDownload PDF (331.2 KB)
pp. 19-41

The intriguing tale of Ratcliffe Sacred Rock is part ancient saga and part modern detective story. Some of the details remain hazy, but significant elements of the history and meaning of the site have been pieced together from American Indian oral tradition, Euro-American oral history,and historical and archaeological research. Though the research is on going and the story continues to evolve, I offer the following account in the hope...

read more

3. Mississippian Cosmology and Rock-Art at the Millstone Bluff Site, Illinois

pdf iconDownload PDF (346.8 KB)
pp. 42-64

Millstone Bluff (11Pp-3) is a late Mississippian village located on a steep blufftop within the Shawnee National Forest in extreme southeastern Illinois (Figures 3.1 and 3.2). Because of the steep terrain, the site has never been plowed. Consequently, a number of surface features are still visible on the site surface. These include 25 large shallow basins, many of which once contained structures, distributed in a circular pattern around a central plaza;...

read more

4. Pica, Geophagy, and Rock-Art in the Eastern United States

pdf iconDownload PDF (159.8 KB)
pp. 65-76

Pica (pronounced “pie-ka”) is the desire to ingest nonfood substances such as rock powder, clay, chalk, dirt, and other material by some humans,especially pregnant women. It is a common phenomenon also seen in many animals. Geophagy (“gee-off-a-gee”) is defined as “a practice in rural or pre-industrial societies of eating earthy substances ([such] as clay) to augment a scanty or mineral-deficient diet” (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary,...


read more

5. On the Edges of the World: Prehistoric Open-Air Rock-Art in Tennessee

pdf iconDownload PDF (202.6 KB)
pp. 77-89

In 1823, John Haywood, brilliant jurist and one of Tennessee’s first historians, published The Natural and Aboriginal History of Tennessee, in which he tried to prove that prehistoric people in the Southeast were descendants of lost Hebrew tribes. To support his thesis, he surveyed and listed numerous prehistoric sites and features on the Tennessee landscape, producing one of the earliest synthetic descriptions of the state’s archaeological record. Among...

read more

6. Rock-Art and Late Woodland Settlement in the Northern Ozarks

pdf iconDownload PDF (358.2 KB)
pp. 90-109

Several site complexes—spatial clusters of temporally and functionally related sites—have been identified on Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and investigated through a combination of survey and test excavation strategies.The two site complexes that have been most intensively investigated are described, and the roles and significance of petroglyphs in Late Woodland settlement systems are discussed. Analysis of the archaeological and landscape con-...

read more

7. Pattern and Function at the Jeffers Petroglyphs, Minnesota

pdf iconDownload PDF (202.0 KB)
pp. 110-125

The Jeffers Petroglyphs site (21CO3) is located in the north-central United States near the eastern edge of the Great Plains in southwest Minnesota(Figure 7.1). Topographically, the site is situated on a high ridge in the Couteau des Prairie, that is, the watershed divide between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers—the two longest rivers in North America. The site appears as an east-west trending outcrop of Sioux quartzite that is exposed at the...

read more

8. Elemental Forms of Rock-Art and the Peopling of the Americas

pdf iconDownload PDF (380.4 KB)
pp. 126-144

Elemental forms are just what the name implies: the most basic meaningful marks attributable to the human species. We may quibble about just what is judged to be “meaningful,” but there can be little argument that dots and lines cannot be further divided in rock-art taxonomies of form. They can, of course, be painted, or the lines may be pecked or incised, and natural forms like vesicles in granitic rocks or glacial striae can be enhanced to pro-...

read more

9. Reflections of Power, Wealth, and Sex in Missouri Rock-Art Motifs

pdf iconDownload PDF (196.3 KB)
pp. 145-158

When we turn on the television, pick up a magazine, or attend a motion picture film, there is no argument that what we are seeing, simply stated, are reflections of our society’s obsession with power, violence, sex, and wealth. Power manifested in violence, politics, and business prowess. Physical power, power gained by beauty, and power garnered by wealth (often the basis for power), and then sex. The exploitation of sex. Sexually explicit tele-...

read more

10. Association between a Southeastern Rock-Art Motif and Mortuary Caves

pdf iconDownload PDF (167.8 KB)
pp. 159-176

For a number of years now, archaeologists in the North American Southeast have recognized and investigated a growing number of decorated cave sites produced at various times during prehistory (Diaz-Granados and Duncan 2000; Faulkner 1986; Simek and Cressler 2001; Simek, Frankenberg,and Faulkner 2001). These sites have proven to be quite variable in terms of their cultural and behavioral contexts, and some are very ancient, extending...


read more

11. Farming, Gender, and Shifting Social Organization: A New Approach to Understanding Kentucky’s Rock-Art

pdf iconDownload PDF (187.6 KB)
pp. 177-189

The emergence of horticulture during the first millennium b.c. may have been an impetus for changing the basic cultural orientation of many groups, especially as it pertained to the shifting gender roles within societies and the creation of petroglyphs. There is a growing body of data to suggest a link between petroglyphs, bedrock mortars, and early horticultural practices within the upper south. This association is thought to represent an...

read more

12. Empowering the SECC: The “Old Woman” and Oral Tradition

pdf iconDownload PDF (281.4 KB)
pp. 190-218

One facet of western Mississippian religious iconography, the abundance of female and female-related motifs, is the principal focus of this study. Female motifs are found both in rock-art and in other archaeological materials. This chapter uses a comparative approach between oral traditions and these motifs. A major figure in Native American oral traditions is a female deity and, at times, her progeny and consorts. We discuss the probable asso-...


read more

13. Recordation, Conservation, and Management of Rock Imagery at Samuel’s Cave, Wisconsin

pdf iconDownload PDF (183.1 KB)
pp. 219-238

In this chapter we illustrate the place of recordation and condition assessment within the overall conservation management planning process (Fig-ure 13.1), using the results of close-up observation and recordation at Samuel’s Cave as an example. Samuel’s Cave (47LC5), also known as West Salem Cave, is situated in the unglaciated Driftless Area of western Wisconsin. It isa long and narrow cave, roughly 10 m deep and 3 m wide, formed along two...

read more

14. Rock-Art Sites on the Susquehanna River

pdf iconDownload PDF (285.1 KB)
pp. 239-257

Slightly fewer than 40 rock-art sites have either been registered with Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Historic Preservation or documented through other sources. The majority of these sites are concentrated near the Allegheny River and its tributaries. Documented sites are nearly nonexistent east of the Allegheny mountains—with the very notable exception of one area. On the Susquehanna River, starting from just below the Maryland line and continu-...

read more

15. The South Carolina Rock-Art Survey

pdf iconDownload PDF (257.5 KB)
pp. 258-276

In February 1997, the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (SCIAA) at the University of South Carolina began a formal survey to find and record the state’s rock-art. The survey, partially funded by contributions from the private sector, is being conducted as a joint venture between SCIAA and citizen volunteers. The project combines a pedestrian survey of selected tracts of land and a media appeal to the citizenry for in-...


read more

16. The Peterborough Petroglyphs: Native or Norse?

pdf iconDownload PDF (189.9 KB)
pp. 277-289

This chapter discusses the ongoing debate over the Peterborough Petro-glyphs and whether they were created by Native Americans or Norse-men. First, a history of the debate is covered positing the various theories. Then, forms of writing that have been compared to the Peterborough Petroglyphs are addressed and their similarities and differences explained. Throughout the chapter, I present evidence that concludes a Native Ameri-...

read more

17. The Bald Friar Petroglyphs of Maryland: Threatened, Rescued, Lost, and Found

pdf iconDownload PDF (363.7 KB)
pp. 290-307

The Bald Friar petroglyphs were located on several small islands in the lower Susquehanna River about three miles below the Maryland–Pennsylvania state line. Carved deeply on rock ledges in a once pristine region, they portray several enigmatic abstract symbols and designs totally unlike those found at the better-known Safe Harbor petroglyph site upriver in Pennsylvania. Located 10 miles upriver from the river’s mouth and the head...

read more

18. Clift’s Rock: Unionism and the Civil War in East Tennessee

pdf iconDownload PDF (151.1 KB)
pp. 308-318

During the American Civil War, the Federal army swelled with thousands of southerners (Current 1992; Judd 1996; Patton 1934). Many were east Tennesseans, known to their friends as “loyalists” and to their foes as “traitors,” “Tories,” and “Lincolnites” (Current 1992:29–60; Judd 1996:2;Livingood 1981:159; Marquis 1978:31; Patton 1934:63). They strengthened the Union, weakened the Confederacy, and ultimately shaped the outcome of...


read more

19. Passamaquoddy Shamanism and Rock-Art in Machias Bay, Maine

pdf iconDownload PDF (321.1 KB)
pp. 319-343

The rock-art of Maine, as in other areas of the Northeast occupied historically by Algonkian-language speakers, seems to have been the work of spiritual leaders who obtained special powers through visionary experiences. Maine, however, is distinctive in having a major set of petroglyph sites on tide-washed ledges where the sequence of style changes can be related to the local rate of sea-level rise during the Holocene. Style changes in these sites...

read more

20. Analyzing and Dating the Nisula Site, Qu

pdf iconDownload PDF (373.3 KB)
pp. 344-360

The Canadian Shield is one of the most important territories of North America where rock-art sites can be found. From northwestern Saskatchewan to eastern Qu

References Cited

pdf iconDownload PDF (277.0 KB)
pp. 361-406


pdf iconDownload PDF (68.6 KB)
pp. 407-410


pdf iconDownload PDF (308.0 KB)
pp. 411-426

E-ISBN-13: 9780817384043
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817350963

Page Count: 456
Publication Year: 2004

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Picture-writing -- East (U.S.).
  • East (U.S.) -- Antiquities.
  • Indians of North America -- East (U.S.) -- Antiquities.
  • Petroglyphs -- East (U.S.).
  • Rock paintings -- East (U.S.).
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access