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

Discovering South Carolina's Rock Art

Tommy Charles

Publication Year: 2012

For years Tommy Charles scoured South Carolina's upcountry for examples of ancient rock art carvings and paintings, efforts conducted on behalf of the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (SCIAA). As SCIAA's collections coordinator, Charles amassed considerable field experience in both prehistoric and historic archaeology and had firsthand involvement in cataloging sixty-four sites of South Carolina rock art. Charles chronicles his adventures in exploration and preservation in Discovering South Carolina's Rock Art. Although Native American rock art is common in the western United States and even at many sites east of the Mississippi, it was believed to be almost nonexistent in South Carolina until the 1980s, when several randomly discovered petroglyphs were reported in the upstate. These discoveries set in motion the first organized endeavor to identify and document these ancient examples of human expression in South Carolina. Over the ensuing years, and assisted by a host of volunteers and avocational collectors, Charles scoured the Piedmont and mountains of South Carolina in search of additional rock art. Frustrated by the inability to find these elusive artifacts, many of which are eroded almost beyond visibility, Charles began employing methods still considered unorthodox by current scientific standards for archaeological research to assist with his search and documentation. Survey efforts led to the discovery of rock art created by Native Americans and Europeans. Of particular interest are the many circle-and-line petroglyphs the survey found in South Carolina. Seeking a reason for this repetitive symbol, Charles's investigation into these finds led to the discovery that similar motifs had been identified along the Appalachian Mountains from Alabama to New York, as well as in the American Southwest and Western Europe. This engrossing account of the search for South Carolina's rock art brings awareness to the precarious state of these artifacts, threatened not only by natural attrition but also by human activities. Charles argues that, if left unprotected, rock art is ultimately doomed to exist only in our historical records.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (150.0 KB)
pp. 1-3


pdf iconDownload PDF (17.6 KB)
p. 4-4


pdf iconDownload PDF (27.5 KB)
pp. 5-7


pdf iconDownload PDF (24.0 KB)
pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

pdf iconDownload PDF (35.7 KB)
pp. ix-xii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (40.3 KB)
pp. xiii-xvi

Unofficially and unintentionally the South Carolina Rock Art Survey began in 1983, when a collector of Indian artifacts reported a petroglyph located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Oconee Couny, South Carolina. Prior to this exciting discovery, it was generally believed that prehistoric rock art did not exist in the state. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (47.1 KB)
pp. xvii-xxii

It is impossible to thank all the many individuals and the various news media that assisted the South Carolina Rock Art Survey. Many supporters have given generously of their time, labor, encouragement, cooperation, money, and media coverage. Without them the survey would not have been possible or successful. ...

read more

Introduction: What Is Rock Art?

pdf iconDownload PDF (38.8 KB)
pp. 1-4

The term petroglyph is derived from the Greek words petros (rock) and glyphe (carving). It is often used to denote any carving or inscription on rock. Pictograph, refers to a pictorial sign or symbol created by drawing or painting without carving on any kind of surface, including rock. Collectively petroglyphs and pictographs are commonly referred to as rock art, ...

read more

1. The Survey

pdf iconDownload PDF (7.9 MB)
pp. 5-25

Long before a decision was made to conduct a formal search for South Carolina rock art, I had begun a search for information that might assist a better understanding of the few previously reported petroglyphs. A search of the South Carolina Statewide Archaeological Site Inventory, managed by the South Carolina Institute of Archaeolon and Anthropolon (SCIAA), ...

read more

2. Rock-Art Motifs

pdf iconDownload PDF (12.0 MB)
pp. 26-54

Having been created freehand, each example of rock art is unique. It is relatively easy to categorize motifs that are universal to human understanding, such as representations of animals or humans. On the other hand, much rock art does not clearly convey the intentions of its creators; thus classification is subject to the viewer’s interpretation. ...

read more

3. Portable Petroglyphs

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 55-62

This chapter discusses portable petroglyphs other than the portable versions of circle-and-line tar-burner rocks, which are covered in the next chapter. The circle-and-line glyph is distinctly diferent rom any other portable glyphs we recorded. Technically speaking, portable petroglyphs may be so large that they can barely be transported ...

read more

4. Circle-and-Line Petroglyphs [Color plates follow page 98]

pdf iconDownload PDF (8.6 MB)
pp. 63-98

Circle-and-line petroglyphs are the only glyphs that exhibit evidence of utiliy. They are second in number only to the unadorned circle among the glyphs recorded in South Carolina. ...

read more

5. Historic-Period Rock Art

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.6 MB)
pp. 99-111

The things we understand are rarely as intriguing as those that we do not, so it is not surprising that for many people historic-period rock art lacks the appeal of its prehistoric counterpart and thus has not inspired an equal research interest. In the American West and perhaps in the eastern states as well, native peoples continued to create rock art long after the arrival of Europeans. ...

read more

6. Prehistoric Pictographs

pdf iconDownload PDF (42.0 KB)
pp. 112-114

Those familiar with the climate of the southeastern Unites States are well aware that the environment is unkind to exposed surfaces. If prehistoric pictographs ever existed on exposed rock surfaces in South Carolina, as surely they must have, they have not been reported and were probably long ago destroyed by forces of nature. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (1.3 MB)
pp. 115-120

After nine years of periodic survey, a reasonable profile of South Carolina’s rock-art sites has been established. Sixty-one petroglyph sites and three pictograph sites have been recorded. Although other rock-art sites will surely be discovered, it appears unlikely that the present pattern of distribution will be drastically altered. ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (39.0 KB)
pp. 121-124


pdf iconDownload PDF (43.0 KB)
pp. 125-130

E-ISBN-13: 9781611172126
Print-ISBN-13: 9781570039218

Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2012