Rock Art Lesson Plan
Title: Rock Art and Ritual
Grade Level: 10-12
Objectives: Determine what kinds of rock art motifs are likely the product of ancient ritual activity.
Subject Areas: Art, History, Social Studies
Skills: Identify connections between rock art symbolism and Native American ritual practices.
Overview: Much Native American rock art is believed to be the product of individual (e.g. vision quest and community shamanistic) ritual activity. The nature of the motifs and the contexts in which they occur often support inferences concerning various kinds of ritual activity.
Time: 2-4 hours
Materials: Rock art images from the various Photo Galleries or from searching the Rock Art Database using the Search screen (Rock Art Category = Prehistoric Native American; General Motif = Anthropomorph, Zoomorph, and Geometric), either printed out (preferably in color) or shown on a computer screen.
Activity: Students can begin by reading the "What is Rock Art and What Can It Tell Us" and "The Petit Jean Painted Style of Rock Art" selections in the Articles section of this Web site. These articles provide general information on the connections archeologists identify between rock art and ancient ritual activity. Then students can examine a set of images from the Photo Galleries or from searching the Rock Art Database and try to determine 1) which images can be associated with ritual activities; and 2) what kinds of ritual activities are indicated? Students should be prepared to offer justifications for their identifications and interpretations.
Assessment/Evaluation: This activity can be used to measure student understanding of Native American culture, ritual activities and symbolic associations, and inferential capabilities.
Additional Activities: Students can use library sources to examine ways in which recent and modern Native American artists depict ritual activities (alternatively, a field trip can be made to an art museum where such works can be viewed, such as the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma). General information on Native American cultural practices and beliefs can be found in Paths of Our Children: Historic Indians of Arkansas ( Arkansas Archeological Survey Popular Series Number 3 ).
Contributor: George Sabo III, Arkansas Archeological Survey