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I'm very surprised to see that there's no mention of Hawaiian petroglyphs under the "Oceania" section, and only a single mention elsewhere (the caption for an image). There's not even any mention of them on this talk page! Why is this? I will try to work up something in the coming months. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Hilokid (talkcontribs) 21:59, 20 August 2016 (UTC)


as an anthropologist i can say that:

Recent analysis of surveyed and GPS logged petroglyphs around the world has identified commonalities indicating pre-historic (7,000-3,000 B.C.) intense auroras observable across the continents.[5][6] Specific common associated archetypes include: squatting man, caterpillars, ladders, eye mask, kokopelli, spoked wheels, and others.

is poppycock and the two citations are the same article. i have a theory that petroglyphs are recipes from god, i write a paper on it, that's citation enough? please remove.-- (talk) 00:33, 31 March 2011 (UTC)


'The oldest discovered petroglyphs date back to 200,000-300,000 years old, in the case of glyphs found in a cave in Bhimbetka, India in the 1990s.' This could use a source, since 1) this is pre homo sapiens 2) and Bhimbetka article gives 9,000 date. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 11:03, 27 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I did a google search and it is obviously bogus: The oldest and largest number of paintings belong to the mesolithic phase, of the stone age. They may be about 10,000 years old, Some of the paintings belong to a period earlier than five thousand years and may be as old as 10,000 years., Indian archaeologists date some of these paintings to the very early periods, including the Upper Palaeolithic (note - around 10,000 BC). I am rewriting the above sentence accordingly. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 11:19, 27 Apr 2005 (UTC)

-= Confused? =-

The article uses a somewhat odd distinction between petroglyphs, pictograms and cave painting. The images do not match. Moomintrollmania 08:52, 12 May 2005 (UTC)

The distinction is rather simple, as explained in the text. The pics may not match, I am not an expert in recognizing them, though (petroglyphs from pictograms). --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 13:16, 12 May 2005 (UTC)

Erm, actually Pictograph, redirects to Pictogram, which has nothing on it about rock art, and cave painting, which overlaps somewhat. I don't think these distinctions are common, it seems like the distinction that we want to make is between carving and painting, perhaps petroglyphs and petrographs. I think we need to re-think this subject a little. Moomintrollmania 01:22, 13 May 2005 (UTC)

I based most of my edits on the book by David Diringer (I wrote an article in about History of Communication, it is in Polish though - but if you run it through some online translator maybe it will answer a few questions. I will reread the relevant portions of the book, google and hopefully find more comprehensive answers soon. The basic idea is that in history of communications (symbols), cave paintigns led to petroglyphs, those led to pictographs, which can be considered the first symbols of the writing systems.--Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 11:01, 14 May 2005 (UTC)


"The difference between cave painting and petroglyphs is twofold: first, petroglyphs are carved or engraved, while cave paintings refer to the images painted on stone. Second, petroglyphs are more evolved symbols compared to the cave paintings, showing specific events more clearly."

Hmmm. This is a pretty sweeping and contentious statement. SOME petroglyphs might show "specific events", but many are purely abstract symbols (or abstract to us, now - we can only speculate as to what they may have symbolised to those people who made them). Many similar symbols to those which appear in petroglyphs were also painted onto cave walls (not all cave paintings are representations of animals). SiGarb 19:48, 18 September 2005 (UTC)

Editing summary[edit]

I agree with the comments above about confusion. I found the article really lacking in clarity and substance, as well as grammatical correctness. I did what I could to edit for clarity, while trying not to change the substance, as I'm not an expert on petroglyphs. At least one sentence was so hard to understand that I'm not sure if I changed the meaning or not, because the meaning isn't clear. But even from what I do know, I found some wrong, confusing or out-of-place statements. I also added a picture, deleted 3 others, and rearranged the layout. The article needs more substantive info IMO.

Jeeb 06:19, 29 October 2005 (UTC)

Delete the apologia for Fell[edit]

This page is getting out of hand! It really isn't the right place for a mini-essay in support of Fell. The controversy can be alluded to, but the more detailed stuff and more extreme claims are too much, imho. SiGarb 23:15, 7 December 2005 (UTC)

Petrogylph vs. pictograph, generalizations, Fell[edit]

Generally, petroglyphs and pictographs fall under the common rubric of "rock art", as studied by archaeologists and art historians (in the United States, at least). Conventionally, petroglyphs are images made by removing part of the rock surface (including by incising, pecking, carving, and abrading the surface), while "pictographs" are images made by applying something to that surface (usually called paint, however, the actual composition of that paint varies widely). Hence, cave paintings (such as Chauvet Cave in France, to give a famous example) are termed pictographs, using these definitions. In the United Kingdom, scholars generally use the terms "carving" and "painting" (and other descriptions of technique) to refer to the image at hand. The term "pictogram" is not one that I have encountered much in the academic literature in reference to prehistoric imagery. However, these terms and definitions are not without controversy.

As for the rest of the article's content, I can only say that it represents a view of ancient imagery that is decidedly out of step with current scholarly research. The linear progression from cave paintings to petroglyphs to pictographs (in the sense of linguistic symbols) is profoundly biased by an understanding of non-Western, non-modern human groups as "primitive" or inferior cultures, progressing along a straight line from savage to civilized. This kind of sequence might be arguably true for some groups and times (Egypt, perhaps, or Mesopotamia) but it is not applicable worldwide.

I agree that the discussion of Fell should be moved--perhaps to an entry of his own? The Ogam idea has affected interpretations of carvings and paintings all over America, and so is important in that respect. However, anyone who wants to know more about it would be wise to check out the external link to "Debunking of Ogam Theory about West Virginia petroglyphs", which explains the (fatal) problems with Fell's work.

The above comments (made by Mander74 on 17 December 2005 at 19:56 (UTC)) confirm my opinion that the overlong section added to the article in support of Fell's theories should be removed. I have done so, reverting to the original version of this section, and adding further confirmation of the muddled thinking involved in interpreting such glyphs as Ogam. I have also inserted some external links supporting this, and made extra wikilinks. SiGarb 14:14, 18 December 2005 (UTC)

Pictures under List of Petroglyph Sites[edit]

Would it not be an idea to move the photos under List of Petroglyph Sites to their respective pages? I find that the pictures on the right hand side of the page leave huge gaps and make it look untidy. Grumpy444grumpy 11:23, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

What browser are you using? The pictures should just sit at the right-hand side of the page with the text flowing round them from the left: they shouldn't create any gaps, except perhaps on a really tiny monitor (or when viewed in a small window). I think it would be a shame to remove all the pics to their respective pages. A gallery would be another option, but then you would have to click on each pic to see it in any detail. At least at 300px some of the detail is visible without having to go to the original file. SiGarb 14:27, 12 January 2006 (UTC)
IE 6.0 on a laptop with a 15.5" screen. There's a gap of c.10 lines between the headlines North America and Europe and its respective links. It would be a shame to move the pics. Would be better to make them flow around the text I think Grumpy444grumpy 14:53, 12 January 2006 (UTC)
Apparently it is a problem with some browsers. I'll check to see if there's a better way of doing it. Otherwise it's shove them all into a gallery (which, as I said before, means most will then be too small to see any detail in without opening each one individually). SiGarb 11:34, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

Pointless links[edit]

I find the links to the various petroglyph sites quite disappointing. Why, for instance is there a link to Northumberland, when the Northumberland article does not even mention rock art? Would it not be an idea to link to articles which actually deal with rock art? Oh, and the text still does not flow around the images (I've tried it on 4 different monitors now...) Grumpy444grumpy 09:45, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

Yes, this is an inherent problem with wikilinks. Some editors will link anything that's linkable (and many that are not, thus creating lots of red links), working on the basis that someone in Outer Mongolia or wherever won't know where Northumberland is, and it's better for them to be able to click on a link to find out, rather than have to type in the name or look in an atlas. Others only want to link to articles that are strictly relevant to the topic in question. I can see both points of view. Northumberland is a big county and an enormous topic, and there are many important things you would want to have in that article before you got down to rock art, so yess, a link there is not directly relevant. An article on the rock art of Northumberland (or at least Northern England) would be more relevant (and would also help locate the area for our hypothetical Outer Mongolian), but it hasn't been written yet. So, until it is, that link is better than nothing! SiGarb 11:51, 18 January 2006 (UTC)
Those lazy Mongolians ;D. Just noticed that there is an external link to Northumberland rock art further down the article, which will have to do for now, I suppose, and I guess we'll just have to wait for someone to take the time to put together an internal article. Grumpy444grumpy 12:10, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

photos of pictographs[edit]

I notice there are some photos of painting on rocks in the article and am just wondering why they are inlcuded. At best they are pictographs in an article on petroglyphs, at worst they illustrate vandalism of petroglyphs ("painted to make them more visible"). Just wanted some discussion before I removed them. Zaui 23:14, 19 January 2006 (UTC)

Painting of petroglyphs is a fairly common practice in Scandinavia. This is mainly done on easily accessible sites (following careful documentation, of course), whereas those less accessible are covered up for preservation purposes. Whether this constitutes vandalism, is of course a matter of opinion. I, for one, don't think you should remove the pictures as they do actually depict petroglyphs. Grumpy444grumpy 08:55, 20 January 2006 (UTC)
A few edits ago the picture caption to the painted petroglyphs stated that they had been coloured in to make them more visible. Someone decided to delete this, in the interest of making the caption briefer, I think. But you make an important point: people studying petroglyphs often used to chalk them in so the designs would show up on their photographs; this is now frowned upon. But, as Grumpy444grumpy states, I believe it is still fairly common in Scandinavia where tourists like to be able to see them clearly. Perhaps the original caption should be reinstated? SiGarb | Talk 18:21, 21 January 2006 (UTC)
Forgot to mention that petroglyphs in Scandinavia aren't as easily spotted as elsewhere in the world. They are normally carved into igneous rock such as granite, which doesn't change colour when carved (as opposed to e.g. the Moab, Utah, USA picture in the article). The only way to see the carvings clearly is in fact by night, using oblique lighting. Without the paint therefore, you'd be looking at a rather uninteresting picture of volcanic rock! Maybe the caption ought to make it clearer that they have been painted in modern times? The way it reads now one could be led to believe they were painted like that originally Grumpy444grumpy 16:22, 22 January 2006 (UTC)
Good point, but it may be rather a lot of info to fit into a caption! Perhaps a mention somewhere in the article would be helpful? The caption might then have a link to the relevant paragraph. Presumably the unpainted carvings are more easily visible at times of year when the sun is low in the sky, perhaps around midsummer, the time of the midnight sun in the far north? I guess it's not unlikely that they were painted in some way, with natural pigments, at the time they were carved; long exposure to the elements would have erased all trace of the original colouration by now, so it would be well nigh impossible to prove one way or another, even with modern forensic techniques. SiGarb | Talk 22:58, 22 January 2006 (UTC)
Maybe a section about the practice of coloring or highlighting petroglyphs should be added, noting the differing attitudes toward this practice. Zaui 21:24, 25 January 2006 (UTC)


The location of most of the petroglyph sites in my neck of the woods (Nevada) is kept secret to prevent vandalisim. I'm not sure if that's common practice throughout the world or just a local phenomenon. I thought about adding that to the List of Sites section, but maybe that would introduce regional bias. Any thoughts? Toiyabe 23:08, 15 May 2006 (UTC)

Why not? I know that in France for example Lasceaux is also protected (they made a copy for the visitors: Lasceaux II, but this concerns paintings and not carvings/petroglyphs). In Libya (Akakus) you can only get to the desert (with the petroglyphs and paintings) with a guide (but Libya as a whole is quite protected). In spite of that in Libya I saw among old carvings a petroglyph of a car (very funny or not - did the Flintstones pass by?) I think it is interesting to mention protection, maybe we can find more different sites that are protected or not at all. --User:AAM | Talk 17:49, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

Petrified Forest section irrelevant[edit]

I removed the section below, most of which is irrelevant here. It would be more appropriate at Petrified_Forest_National_Park.

==Petrified National Forest==
On December 8, 1906 The Petrified National Forest became a national monument. It was not until 1962 that the site earned the upgraded status as a National Park. The origins of this natural wonder reach far back into the Triassic Period when the Arizona area was located at the equator. Volcanic activity to the west released tons of ash into the atmosphere, much of it falling upon the decomposing remains of this forest as great trees in the distant past had been hit by flooding. The dissolution of silica from the residue of volcanic ash entered into the cell walls of these ancient trees, eventually crystalizing to quartz crystal within these interstitial spaces.
The general area has a history that spans 2,000 years. What is known about the ancient people who occupied the area at different times is known primarily through the cave and rock wall art they left in the form of petroglyphs. The site has proven valuable to archeology in discerning aspects of the people who occupied the area. These people left evidence of their occupation though potsherds, rubble, remains of ancient fire sites, and the markings they left upon cave and rock walls. [1]
For more information see: Robert Sherwood. The Petrified Forest. Dramatists Play Service Inc., 1998.

I also removed a bizarre link to the Kyrgyz Republic's CONSTITUTION, as I doubt that it is inscribed on tablets of stone! ;-) SiGarb | Talk 22:17, 26 July 2006 (UTC)

San people[edit]

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 [1]. 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. To quote from the RARI website:

This article was translated and slightly expanded on the Polish Wiki and is now being reviewed as a "Featured article" but there are two sticking points:

  • "San people" seems to be just a "politically correct" name for the Bushmen;
  • There seems to be no research confirming that there is an undisputed link between petroglyphs and altered states of consciousness, just one university study that was never really confirmed.

Lajsikonik 11:52, 16 August 2006 (UTC)

Made a couple of changes, but there are some other things I could do[edit]

I haven't been very active on Wikipedia, and I'm still a complete novice, but this article really needs to be changed. I'll put it on my list of things to do. As a specialist in the field of rock art study, I really ought to be able to come up with something! Mander 19:36, 29 November 2006 (UTC)

I changed some of the words around, and put in a reference for one of the theories to explain petroglyphs. David Lewis-Williams and Thomas Dowson (both previously associated with RARI, but Dowson is now teaching in the UK) are the best-known researchers responsible for linking San rituals with rock art. Their work had more to do with the paintings but I think they have touched on petroglyphs. Although "San" and "Bushmen" are more or less the same (the term "Bushmen" encompasses more than one language group, I believe), you won't find very many recent scholarly resources that use that term. It is admittedly a "P-C" term, but it is also more correct.

I will add more details to this when I get a chance--it is a vast field and there are many more things that could be mentioned. Mander 00:13, 30 November 2006 (UTC)

The word "petroglyph" and age[edit]

The definition at the top should say that this article is talking about petroglyphs of a certain age. An expert could help in determining that number. (The current definition would also cover modern graffiti art.) Tempshill 18:51, 15 August 2007 (UTC)

Splitting the article[edit]

What are your opinions on splitting the article into "Petroglyph" and "List of petroglyph sites"? A good chunk of the article is just listing the sites, and I'm thinking it would be easier for the reader, if they could just read about what a petroglyph is, then if they're interested see a list of the sites where they are. Also, I think it would easily pass WP:N, as I think the notability is evident, and there would definitely be plenty of content. Opinions? FingersOnRoids 22:12, 21 February 2009 (UTC)

Petroglyph v Hieroglyph[edit]

Can someone explain the difference between a petroglyph and a hieroglyph? They're both written on rock. The only apparent difference seems to be that Egyptian hieroglyphs are perceived as 'sacred', but I'm sure petroglyphs of other cultures had some sacred meanings too. Also, some Egyptian hieroglyphs were about mundane subjects. VenomousConcept (talk) 10:31, 20 September 2011 (UTC)

PS shouldn't there be some explanation of this in the article? VenomousConcept (talk) 10:33, 20 September 2011 (UTC)


I've seen various articles online and on Wikipedia which state that the Bhimbetka rock shelters are the oldest Petroglyphs in the world. Dates given range from 30,000 years to as much as 500,000. Javid, Ali and Javeed, Tabassum. World Heritage Monuments and Related Edifices in India. 2008, page 19 — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:52, 20 January 2012 (UTC)

As you've noticed, our article Bhimbetka rock shelters says 30,000. I think we can cite Bednarik (attributing it to him by name) using [2]. I don't think we should be using as a source, or the 500000 year figure. Dougweller (talk) 16:07, 20 January 2012 (UTC)

Two petroglyphs in Ohio not listed[edit]

1. Inscription Rock, Kelleys Island, Erie County, Ohio. 2. Turkeyfoot Rock*, Lucas County, Ohio.

  • I recently photographed it and traced the carving on a sheet of paper, which I used as a template to make an actual-size replica on a hardwood board. Turkeyfoot Rock was originally on the bank of the Maumee River. It is a limestone erratic, about 2 1/2 feet high and 4 1/2 feet long. This part of the river tends to flood, especially during the spring thaw. Consequently, the rock was transported to high bluff about 300 yards away, and now sits in a park called Fallen Timbers State Memorial.

This park is close to a major highway (US 24) and I suspect that Turkeyfoot Rock is being eroded by acid rain.

Musicwriter (talk) 03:47, 19 April 2014 (UTC)

Petroglyphs without linked articles discussing them[edit]

Obviously we can't mention all the petroglyphs in the world, why should we even try? IMHO everything mentioned here should have a linked article discussing it. Needs a clearup. Doug Weller talk 13:22, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

Petroglyphs are cool, they can reflect many historical cultural issues and they are really interesting to appreciation. Nice page.3 — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:12, 30 September 2016 (UTC)