The Sky World, This World, and the Under World
Objective: Learn about Native American cosmology through study of ancient rock art images.
Background: Many Native American communities identified three realms of existence: the Sky World inhabited by "creative" spirit beings and represented by images of the sun, moon, stars, and birds; This World inhabited by humans, plants, and animals and represented by images of those species; and the watery Under World inhabited by "destructive" spirit beings represented by spiders, reptiles, and amphibians. How is this cosmology reflected in Native American rock art?
Activity: Use the Search screen to search the database for images corresponding to these three realms. To find the most images, you probably want to search all of the General Motif categories except for Indeterminate. List and describe the motifs you retrieved and discuss what you think they represent.
Additional Exercise: Go to the library and find an illustrated book on Native American art and/or artifacts (see bibliography section for suggested references) and see how many Sky World, This World, and Under World images you can identify. How do these images compare with the rock art images you found in your database searches?
Contributed by: George Sabo III, Arkansas Archeological Survey