Rock Art Lesson Plan
Title: Mysterious Symbols
Grade Level: 7-9
Objectives: Consider the varieties of symbolic representation in Native American artistic and cultural traditions.
Subject Areas: Art, Social Studies
Skills: Identify and interpret the uses of abstract symbolism in prehistoric rock art.
Overview: Native American rock art includes a wide variety of abstract and geometric forms. Many of these forms are hard to decipher, but some were clearly intended to represent various real world objects while others make sense when considered in relation to Native American cultural traditions and world views.
Time: 1-2 hours
Materials: Rock art images from the Amazing Abstracts and Geometric Motifs Photo Galleries , either printed out (preferably in color) or shown on a computer screen. Optional: paper and writing implements or word processing equipment to produce written work. The activity can also be conducted as a group oral exercise.
Activity: Students (working individually or in groups) begin by examining a set of rock art images depicting abstract and geometric forms. What images (e.g., sunburst motifs) can be associated with elements or phenomena in the real world? What motifs can be associated with Native American cultural traditions and world views (e.g., crosses and swastikas representing the four winds or the cardinal directions)? Students can also be prompted to consider reasons why these abstract and geometric symbols were depicted in rock art, and what the study of these symbols might tell us about ancient Native American cultures?
Assessment/Evaluation: This activity can be used to assess student perceptions of the relationship between artistic expression and culture, and general knowledge of Native American cultural traditions and beliefs.
Additional Activities: Using other illustrated sources on Native American art and artifacts (see bibliography section for suggested references), compare and contrast the use of symbolism in rock art with the use of symbolism in other media, such as pottery, stone or wood statuary, basketry, weaving etc.
Contributor: George Sabo III, Arkansas Archeological Survey