One of the oldest and most significant artifacts of the earliest humans is their art on rock surfaces. Painted pictographs and inscribed petroglyphs have represented everything from daily events to sacred beliefs for at least 40,000 years. The rock art represented in this photo gallery has been culled from dozens of remote sites across the Southwestern United States. These images were made from about one to more than three thousand years ago by several cultures, the earlier ones being hunter/gatherer societies and the more recent, agricultural. Likely tools used to produce petroglyphs included flint or other stone chisels and hammers. Pictographs were painted with fingers and brushes made from human hair, animal hair or yucca fibers and by blowing pigment either directly from the mouth or through hollow bird bones. By combining dyes from plant extracts and inorganic minerals with binding agents such as plant oils and animal fats, ancient painters produced pictographs that have lasted thousands of years. Sometimes it is possible to make educated guesses about the meaning of prehistoric rock art by observing similar styles and symbols in various localities. However, it is important to realize that symbols similar to those of today's cultures may have had an entirely different meaning for ancient artists.
Unless otherwise noted with a single or double asterisk after the title, each image shown below is available as an 8x10 and 16x20 Ilfochrome print. To view any image enlarged, click on it.
*available only in 8x10
**available only in 16x20