Rock Art Lesson Plan
Title: Art and Culture
Grade Level: High School and College
Objectives: Compare and contrast the ways in which human figures are portrayed in rock art made by ancient Native American artists and in the drawings and paintings of historic European and American artists.
Subject Areas: Art, History, Social Studies
Skills: Use images to identify human characteristics and artistic intentions as influenced by cultural convention.
Overview: Ancient Native American artists commonly depicted human subjects in petroglyph and pictograph forms of rock art imagery. Some of these images are naturalistic and some are highly stylized. Many images illustrate individuals dressed or decorated in particular ways, others show human figures in specific postures or in specific positions relative to other objects or figures. In general, these modes of representation differ significantly from the ways in which historic Euro-American artists portrayed the human form, even when they were depicting Native Americans.
Time: 2-4 hours
Materials: Rock art images from the Rock Art Database using the Search screen (Rock Art Category = Prehistoric Native American; General Motif = Anthropomorph), either printed out (preferably in color) or shown on a computer screen. A selection of art books illustrating drawings and paintings by European and/or American artists such as Karl Bodmer and George Catlin.
Activity: The objective is to have students examine a set of rock art images of human figures and identify features such as clothing, personal ornaments, objects held or otherwise associated with the figures, postures, group arrangements, etc. What general representational modes or patterns can be identified? Next, examine illustrations of Native Americans produced by historic Euro-American artists: what representational modes or patterns are represented in these artworks? What major differences can be identified in comparing the two groups of images (Native American and Euro-American)? How can we account for these differences?
Assessment/Evaluation: Students should be able to identify and describe major differences in Native American and Euro-American modes of representing the human form in two-dimensional art. Explanation of these differences should involved consideration of 1) the purposes for which the artworks were produced, and 2) the cultural frames of reference of the artists, including their world views.
Additional Activities: What additional insights can be gained by considering separately the naturalistic versus the stylized forms of rock art? What can be made of the rock art depictions of human hands and feet? The cultural basis of artistic representation can be further explored by examining additional information on the social and cultural context of the prehistoric and historic artists that produces the works being examined. General information on the prehistoric Indians of Arkansas can be found in Crossroads of the Past and Arkansas: A Narrative History ( Arkansas Archeological Survey Popular Series Number 2 ).