Seeing the World Through Ancient Eyes
Objective: Examine ancient worldviews by identifying real world objects illustrated by Native American rock art artists.
Background: Rock art represents one of the few direct manifestations of ancient thought that are available for study today. When we examine rock art images (or images rendered on other media, such as ceramic vessels) we are viewing representations of the world as envisioned by ancient artists. We may not be able to determine the meanings of every abstract or geometric image, but naturalistic or even stylized depictions of real world objects permit us to glimpse worlds seen through ancient eyes. What elements of those worlds can we identify?
Activity: Search the database (using the Search Screen) by selecting Rock Art Category = Prehistoric Native American and General Motif =Anthropomorphic. Then select Rock Art Category = Prehistoric Native American and General Motif = Zoomorphic, Plant, and Object. What elements of the natural world appear in your search results? Can you think of any elements of nature for which you found no images? What factors might explain these results?
Additional Exercise: Refine your searches to find out if there are any differences in the use of petroglyphs, pictographs, and painted petroglyphs (combination) to depict ancient real world elements. Or you can compare the way real world objects are depicted on other media, such as ceramics or engraved shell.
Contributed by: George Sabo III, Arkansas Archeological Survey