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{{Other uses}}{{Multiple issues|{{More citations needed|date=June 2019}}{{Original research|date=June 2019}}}}File:Golpayegan.petroglyphs0101.jpg|thumb|Golpayegan rock art in Iran or teimarehteimareh{{redirects here|Rock carving|other uses|rock art}}File:Libya 5321 Meercatze (Gatti Mammoni) Petroglyphs Wadi Methkandoush Luca Galuzzi 2007.jpg|thumb|right|Rock carving known as (named by archaeologist Leo Frobenius), rampant lionesses in Wadi MathendousWadi MathendousFile:Laxe dos carballos 01.JPG|thumb|European petroglyphs: in , Galicia, Spain (4th–2nd millennium BCE), depicting cup and ring markcup and ring mark(File:Negev camel petroglyph.jpg|thumb|Petroglyph of a camel; Negev, southern Israel.)File:Polonnaruwa.JPG|thumb|Reclining Buddha at Gal Vihara, Sri LankaSri LankaA petroglyph is an image created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading, as a form of rock art. Outside North America, scholars often use terms such as "carving", "engraving", or other descriptions of the technique to refer to such images. Petroglyphs are found worldwide, and are often associated with prehistoric peoples. The word comes from the Greek prefix (wikt:petro-|petro-), from meaning "stone", and meaning "carve", and was originally coined in French as .Another form of petroglyph, normally found in literate cultures, a rock relief or rock-cut relief is a relief sculpture carved on "living rock" such as a cliff, rather than a detached piece of stone. While these relief carvings are a category of rock art, sometimes found in conjunction with rock-cut architecture,Harmanşah (2014), 5–6. they tend to be omitted in most works on rock art, which concentrate on engravings and paintings by prehistoric or nonliterate cultures. Some of these reliefs exploit the rock's natural properties to define an image. Rock reliefs have been made in many cultures, especially in the ancient Near East.Harmanşah (2014), 5–6; Canepa, 53. Rock reliefs are generally fairly large, as they need to be to make an impact in the open air. Most have figures that are larger than life-size.Stylistically, a culture's rock relief carvings relate to other types of sculpture from period concerned. Except for Hittite and Persian examples, they are generally discussed as part of the culture's sculptural practice.See: Rawson and Sickman & Soper The vertical relief is most common, but reliefs on essentially horizontal surfaces are also found. The term relief typically excludes relief carvings inside natural or human-made caves, that are common in India. Natural rock formations made into statues or other sculpture in the round, most famously at the Great Sphinx of Giza, are also usually excluded. Reliefs on large boulders left in their natural location, like the Hittite İmamkullu relief, are likely to be included, but smaller boulders described as stele or carved orthostats.The term petroglyph should not be confused with petrograph, which is an image drawn or painted on a rock face. Both types of image belong to the wider and more general category of rock art or parietal art. Petroforms, or patterns and shapes made by many large rocks and boulders over the ground, are also quite different. Inuksuit are also not petroglyphs, they are human-made rock forms found only in the Arctic.


File:Haljesta.jpg|thumb|Composite image of petroglyphs from ScandinaviaScandinaviaFile:MtnSheepPetroglyph.jpg|thumb|right|A petroglyph of a caravan of bighorn sheep near Moab, UtahMoab, UtahSome petroglyphs might be as old as 40,000 years, and petroglyph sites in Australia are estimated to date back 27,000 years. Many petroglyphs are dated to approximately the Neolithic and late Upper Paleolithic boundary, about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, if not earlier, such as Kamyana Mohyla. Around 7,000 to 9,000 years ago, other precursors of writing systems, such as pictographs and ideograms, began to appear. Petroglyphs were still common though, and some cultures continued using them much longer, even until contact with Western culture was made in the 19th and 20th centuries. Petroglyphs have been found in all parts of the globe except Antarctica, with highest concentrations in parts of Africa, Scandinavia, Siberia, southwestern North America, and Australia.{{citation needed|date=June 2019}}


Many hypotheses explain the purpose of petroglyphs, depending on their location, age, and subject matter. Some many be astronomical markers, maps, and other forms of symbolic communication, including a form of proto-writing. Petroglyph maps may show trails, symbols communicating time and distances traveled, as well as the local terrain in the form of rivers, landforms, and other geographic features. A petroglyph that represents a landform or the surrounding terrain is known as a geocontourglyph. They might also have been a by-product of other rituals: sites in India, for example, have been identified as musical instruments or "rock gongs".Ancient Indians made 'rock music'. BBC News (2004-03-19). Retrieved on 2013-02-12.Some petroglyph images probably have deep cultural and religious significance for the societies that created them; in many cases this significance remains for their descendants. Many petroglyphs are thought to represent some kind of not-yet-fully understood symbolic or ritual language. Later glyphs from the Nordic Bronze Age in Scandinavia seem to refer to some form of territorial boundary between tribes, in addition to possible religious meanings. Petroglyph styles has local or regional "dialects" from similar or neighboring peoples. Siberian inscriptions loosely resemble an early form of runes, although no direct relationship has been established. They are not yet well understood.Petrogylphs from different continents show similarities. While people would be inspired by their direct surroundings, it is harder to explain the common styles. This could be mere coincidence, an indication that certain groups of people migrated widely from some initial common area, or indication of a common origin. In 1853, George Tate presented a paper to the Berwick Naturalists' Club, at which a John Collingwood Bruce agreed that the carvings had "... a common origin, and indicate a symbolic meaning, representing some popular thought."J. Collingwood Bruce (1868; cited in Beckensall, S., Northumberland's Prehistoric Rock Carvings: A Mystery Explained. Pendulum Publications, Rothbury, Northumberland. 1983:19) In his cataloguing of Scottish rock art, Ronald Morris summarized 104 different theories on their interpretation.Morris, Ronald (1979) The Prehistoric Rock Art of Galloway and The Isle of Man, Blandford Press, {{ISBN|978-0-7137-0974-2}}.More controversial explanations of similarities are grounded in Jungian psychology and the views of Mircea Eliade. According to these theories it is possible that the similarity of petroglyphs (and other atavistic or archetypal symbols) from different cultures and continents is a result of the genetically inherited structure of the human brain.Other theories suggest that petroglyphs were carved by spiritual leaders, such as shamans, in an altered state of consciousness,[See: D. Lewis-Williams, A Cosmos in Stone: Interpreting Religion and Society through Rock Art (Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press, 2002).] perhaps induced by the use of natural hallucinogens. Many of the geometric patterns (known as form constants) which recur in petroglyphs and cave paintings have been shown by David Lewis-Williams to be hardwired into the human brain. They frequently occur in visual disturbances and hallucinations brought on by drugs, migraine, and other stimuli.Recent analysis of surveyed and GPS-logged petroglyphs around the world has identified commonalities indicating pre-historic (7,000–3,000 BCE) intense auroras, or natural light display in the sky, observable across the continents.JOURNAL, 10.1109/TPS.2003.820956, Characteristics for the occurrence of a high-current, Z-pinch aurora as recorded in antiquity, 2003, Peratt, A.L., IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, 31, 6, 1192,weblink JOURNAL, 10.1109/TPS.2007.902630, Characteristics for the Occurrence of a High-Current Z-Pinch Aurora as Recorded in Antiquity Part II: Directionality and Source, 2007, Peratt, Anthony L., McGovern, John, Qoyawayma, Alfred H., Van Der Sluijs, Marinus Anthony, Peratt, Mathias G., IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, 35, 4, 778, The Rock Art Research Institute (RARI) of the University of the Witwatersrand studies present-day links between religion and rock art among the San people of the Kalahari Retrieved on 2013-02-12. Though the San people's artworks are predominantly paintings, the beliefs behind them can perhaps be used as a basis for understanding other types of rock art, including petroglyphs. To quote from the RARI website:Using knowledge of San beliefs, researchers have shown that the art played a fundamental part in the religious lives of its San painters. The art captured things from the San's world behind the rock-face: the other world inhabited by spirit creatures, to which dancers could travel in animal form, and where people of ecstasy could draw power and bring it back for healing, rain-making and capturing the game.WEB, Rock Art Research Institute (RARI),weblink University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg., 9 September 2017,

List of petroglyph sites





  • Bambari, Lengo and Bangassou in the south; Bwale in the west
  • Toulou
  • Djebel Mela
  • Koumbala




  • Wadi Hammamat in Qift, many carvings and inscriptions dating from before the earliest Egyptian Dynasties to the modern era, including the only painted petroglyph known from the Eastern Desert and drawings of Egyptian reed boats dated to 4000 BCE
  • Inscription Rock in South Sinai, is a large rock with carvings and writings ranging from Nabatean to Latin, Ancient Greek and Crusder eras located a few miles from the Ain Hudra Oasis. A second rock sites approximately 1 km from the main rock near the Nabatean tombs of Nawamis with carvings of animals including Camels, Gazelles and others. The original archaeologists who investigated these in the 1800s have also left their names carved on this rock.
  • Giraffe petroglyphs found in the region of Gebel el-Silsila. The rock faces have been used for extensive quarrying of materials for temple building especially during the period specified as the New Kingdom. The Giraffe depictions are located near a stela of the king Amenhotep IV. The images are not dated, but they are probably dated from the Predynastic periods.



  • Ogooue River Valley
  • Epona
  • Elarmekora
  • Kongo Boumba
  • Lindili
  • Kaya Kaya



File:Lion Plate at Twyfelfontein, Namibia (2014).jpg|thumb|Lion Plate at Twyfelfontein in NamibiaNamibia







(File:Petrogliph-Ughtasar-Armenia2.jpg|thumb|upright|Petroglyphs at Ughtasar, Armenia)



{{See also|Cliff inscriptions}}
  • Helankou in YinchuanENCYCLOPEDIA, O'Sullivan, Rebecca, Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, East Asia: Rock Art, 2, 2018, Springer, 10.1007/978-3-319-51726-1_3131-1, 1-11,
  • Hua'an Engravings
  • Kangjia shimenzi in Xinjiang
  • Lianyungan Rock Engravings
  • Petroglyphs in Zhuhai
  • Yin Mountains in Inner Mongolia


Eight sites in Hong Kong:


(File:Petroglyphs, Ladakh, NW India.JPG|thumb|Petroglyphs in Ladakh, India) Recently petroglyphs were found at Kollur village in Tamil Nadu. A large dolmen with four petroglyphs that portray men with trident and a wheel with spokes has been found at Kollur near Triukoilur 35 km from Villupuram. The discovery was made by K.T. Gandhirajan. This is the second instance when a dolmen with petrographs has been found in Tamil Nadu, India.Dolmen with petroglyphs found near Villupuram. (2009-09-19). Retrieved on 2013-02-12. In October 2018, petroglyphs were discovered in the Ratnagiri and Rajapur areas in the Konkan region of western Maharashtra. Those rock carvings which might date back to 10,000 BC, depict animals like hippopotamuses and rhinoceroses which aren't found in that region of India.WEB,weblink Prehistoric art hints at lost Indian civilisation, BBC, 1 October 2018,


{{See|Rock art in Iran}}During recent years a large number of rock carvings has been identified in different parts of Iran. The vast majority depict the ibex.WEB,weblinkweblink" title="">weblink yes, 2014-07-19, Iran Petroglyphs – سنگ نگاره های ایران Iran Petroglyphs,, WEB,weblink Middle East Rock Art Archive – Iran Rock Art Gallery, Bradshaw, Foundation,, Rock drawings were found in December 2016 near Golpayegan, Iran, which may be the oldest drawings discovered, with one cluster possibly 40,000 years old. Accurate estimations were unavailable due to US sanctions.WEB,weblink Archaeologist uncovers 'the world's oldest drawings', 12 December 2016,, Petroglyphs are the most ancient works of art left by humankind that provide an opening to the past eras of life and help us to discover different aspects of prehistoric lives. Tools to create petroglyphs can be classified by the age and the historical era; they could be flint, thighbone of hunted quarries, or metallic tools. The oldest pictographs in Iran are seen in Yafteh cave in Lorestan that date back 40,000 and the oldest petroglyph discovered belongs to Timareh dating back to 40,800 years ago.Iran provides demonstrations of script formation from pictogram, ideogram, linear (2300 BC) or proto Elamite, geometric old Elamite script, Pahlevi script, Arabic script (906 years ago), Kufi script, and Farsi script back to at least 250 years ago. More than 50000 petroglyphs have been discovered, extended over all Iran's states.Iran Petroglyphs, Universal Common language (book); Iran Petrogylphs, Ideogram Symbols (book); Rock Museums Rock Arts (Iran Petroglyphs) (book); For more information :weblink ;weblink ;weblink ;weblink ;weblink



  • Awashima shrine (KitakyÅ«shÅ« city)Nobuhiro, Yoshida (1994) The Handbook For Petrograph Fieldwork, Chou Art Publishing, {{ISBN|4-88639-699-2}}, p. 57
  • Fugoppe Cave, HokkaidoENCYCLOPEDIA, O'Sullivan, Rebecca, Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, East Asia: Rock Art, 2, 2018, Springer, 10.1007/978-3-319-51726-1_3131-1, 1-11,
  • Hikoshima (Shimonoseki city)
  • Miyajima
  • Temiya cave (Otaru city)Nobuhiro, Yoshida (1994) The Handbook For Petrograph Fieldwork, Chou Art Publishing, {{ISBN|4-88639-699-2}}, p. 54



(File:Koksu Petroglyphs.JPG|thumb|upright|Hunting scene in Koksu petroglyphs)












File:Cheung Chau Rock Carving 1.jpg|Rock carving on Cheung Chau Island, Hong Kong. This 3000-year-old rock carving was reported by geologists in 1970File:KyrgyzPetroglyphs.jpg|Petroglyphs at Cholpon-Ata in KyrgyzstanFile:Tanbaly.jpg|Tamgaly petroglyphs in KazakhstanFile:Buddhas at ili.jpg|Buddhist carvings at Ili River in KazakhstanFile:Angono Petroglyphs1.jpg|Petroglyphs on a rock wall found in the Sierra Madre mountain range, Rizal, PhilippinesFile:Petoro.JPG|Petroglyph found in Awashima shrine (Japan)


File:Sweden-Brastad-Petroglyph Skomakaren-Aug 2003.jpg|Carving "The Shoemaker", Brastad, SwedenFile:Petroglifo bentayga.jpg|Petroglyph in Roque Bentayga, Gran Canaria (Canary Islands).File:DalgarvenMillCup&Ring.jpg|Petroglyph at Dalgarven Mill, Ayrshire, Scotland.File:Petroglifos do Castrinho de Conxo.jpg|Bronze Age petroglyphs depicting weapons, Castriño de Conxo, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia.File:Labirinto do Outeiro do Cribo.JPG|Labyrinth, Meis, Galicia.File:Laxe das Rodas 01.jpg|Cup-and-ring mark, Louro, Muros, Galicia.File:Touron petr.JPG|Deer and cup-and-ring motifs, Tourón, Ponte Caldelas, Galicia.File:Petroglyphs in Zalavruga, Belomorsk, Karelia, Russia 03.jpg|Petroglyphs in Zalavruga, Belomorsk, Karelia, Russia



  • Hauensuoli, Hanko, Finland


File:Vallée des Merveilles 103.jpg|The sorcerer, Vallée des Merveilles, FranceFile:Vallée des Merveilles 101.jpg|The tribe master, Vallée des Merveilles, France



File:Parco Grosio La Rupe Magna.jpg|Grosio - Rupe MagnaFile:Parco Grosio Rupe Magna 5.jpg|Grosio - Rupe MagnaFile:Parco Grosio Rupe Magna 3.jpg|Grosio - Rupe Magna

Northern Ireland

File:Knockmany Chambered Tomb, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland left.jpg|Leftmost of three central stones, Knockmany Chambered Tomb, Co. Tyrone, Northern IrelandFile:Knockmany Chambered Tomb, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland centre.jpg|Central of three central stones, Knockmany Chambered Tomb, Co. Tyrone, Northern IrelandFile:Knockmany Chambered Tomb, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland right.JPG|A stone on the right of the passage, Knockmany Chambered Tomb, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland File:Sess kilgreen 1.jpg|Sess Kilgreen Chambered Tomb, Co. Tyrone, Northern IrelandFile:Sess kilgreen 2.jpg|Sess Kilgreen Chambered Tomb, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland


{{See also|List of rock carvings in Norway}}


File:Rock Art Foz Coa 01.jpg|Carvings of various zoomorphic creatures, including in particular, a horseFile:Rock Art Foz Coa 03.jpg|Paleolithic rock engravings breaking the natural rock formationFile:Prehistoric Rock-Art Site of the Côa Valley - Penascosa - Bull @ 2011-08-06.jpg|Various zoomorphic creatures, including in particular, a Bull



{{Commons|Petroglyphs in Galicia}}
  • Petroglyphs from GaliciaPhotos. (2007-08-13). Retrieved on 2013-02-12.


File:Петроглифы Сикачи-Аляна 2.JPG|thumb|Mammoth on the basalt stone in Sikachi-AlyanSikachi-Alyan





Central and South America and the Caribbean


File:Talampaya petroglyphs (1).jpg|Talampaya National Park, La Rioja Province, ArgentinaFile:Petroglifo001.jpg|Petroglyph on Tunduqueral hill at Uspallata, Argentina



The oldest reliably dated rock art in the Americas is known as the "Horny Little Man." It is petroglyph depicting a stick figure with an oversized phallus and carved in Lapa do Santo, a cave in central-eastern Brazil and dates from 12,000 to 9,000 years ago.Choi, Charles. "Call this ancient rock carving 'little horny man'." Science on MSNBC. 22 Feb 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2012. File:Serra da Capivara - Painting 7.JPG|Capivara National Park, Piauí, BrazilFile:Ivolandia Rupestres 11.JPG|Ivolandia, Goiás, BrazilFile:Figuras rupestres, Costão do Santinho, Florianópolis 2.JPG|Costao do Santinho, SC, Brazil


File:Settlers at La Silla.jpg|Numerous rocks boasting thousand-year-old carvings.WEB, Settlers at La Silla,weblink, 6 June 2017, File:The Ascent of Man.jpg|Modern science and the spectre of ancient man coexist in this thought-provoking image of a petroglyph.WEB, The Ascent of Man,weblink 28 December 2015, File:Llamas at La Silla.jpg|Llamas at La SillaNEWS, Llamas at La Silla,weblink 29 April 2014, ESO Picture of the Week, File:Motu Nui.jpg|Petroglyphs at Orongo, Rapa Nui (Easter Island). A Makemake at the base and two birdmen higher up


File:Alb.jpg|El Abra archaeological site, CundinamarcaFile:Chiribiquete petroglyph 1.jpg|Petroglyph in the Chiribiquete Natural National Park. (Possible equine)File:Chiribiquete petroglyph 2.jpg|Petroglyph in the Chiribiquete Natural National Park. AboriginalFile:Chiribiquete petroglyph 3.jpg|Petroglyph in the Chiribiquete Natural National Park. (Possible mammal).File:Chiribiquete AJ11calabazos.JPG|Petroglyphs in the Chiribiquete Natural National Park.






File:Fertility symbols found in natural shelter in Amambay, Paraguay.jpeg|thumb|Fertility symbols, called "Ita Letra" by the local Panambi'y people, in a natural shelter in Amambay, ParaguayParaguay






  • c:F(File:Caurita_Petroglyph.jpg|thumb|The only known Amerindian petroglyph in Trinidad)


North America

File:Petroglyphs on a Bishop Tuff tableland-750px.jpg|Petroglyphs on a Bishop Tuff tableland, eastern CaliforniaFile:Pictograph 2 tds.jpg|Southern UtahFile:Pictograph tds.jpg|Southern UtahFile:Petroglyphs in Bryce Canyon.jpg|UtahFile:Ute Petroglyphs in Arches National Park.jpg|Arches National ParkFile:Tracks at Barnesville Petroglyph.JPG|Animal print carvings outside of Barnesville, OhioFile:Petroglyph in Arizona 2007-01-20.jpg|ArizonaFile:Petroglyphs in the Columbia River Gorge.jpg|Columbia River Gorge, WashingtonFile:Upside down.jpg|Upside-down man in Western ColoradoFile:RochesterPanel 01 2008.JPG|Rochester Rock Art Panel in the San Rafael Swell in UtahFile:Spiderweb petroglyph.jpg|Web-like petroglyph on the White Tank Mountain Regional Park Waterfall Trail, ArizonaFile:Chipping petroglyph.jpg|Chipping petroglyph on the White Tank Mountain Regional Park Waterfall Trail, ArizonaFile:Arizona petroglyph 1117.JPG|Sample of petroglyphs at Painted Rock near Gila Bend, Arizona off Interstate 8.File:Puye 1.jpg|Puye Cliff Dwellings, New MexicoFile:ThunderBird Rock Carved Petroglyph at Twin Buffs.jpg|ThunderBird Rock Carved Petroglyph in West Central WisconsinFile:Sky Rock.jpg|Sky Rock Petroglyphs, Bishop, California.File:Sky Rock paint.jpg|Sky Rock Petroglyphs, Bishop, California.



File:ParrasPetroglyphs.jpg|thumb|upright|Near Parras, CoahuilaCoahuila

{{flagu|United States}}

File:Petroglyph on the western coast of Hawaii.jpg|thumb|Petroglyph on western coast of HawaiiHawaiiFile:Hawaii petroglyph men.jpg|thumb|Hawai'i Volcanoes National ParkHawai'i Volcanoes National ParkFile:Petroglyph Point at Mesa Verde National Park by RO.JPG|right|thumb|alt=A color picture of some petroglyphs on a tan sandstone cliff face|Modern Hopi have interpreted the petroglyphs at Mesa Verde National Park's Petroglyph Point as depictions of the Eagle, Mountain Sheep, Parrot, Horned Toad, and Mountain Lion clans, and the Ancestral PuebloansAncestral Puebloans

, Keyser
, James D.
, Indian Rock Art of the Columbia Plateau
, University of Washington Press
, July 1992
, 978-0-295-97160-5,



File:Ku-ring-gai Chase - petroglyph.jpg|Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, New South WalesFile:Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park 20 metre long petroglyph.JPG|Part of a 20-metre-long petroglyph at Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, New South WalesFile:Petroglyph - well endowed.JPG|Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, New South WalesFile:Mutawintji National Park Petroglyph.JPG|Mutawintji National Park, New South WalesFile:Burrup rock art.JPG|Burrup Peninsula, Western Australia

See also


  • HarmanÅŸah, Ömür (ed) (2014), Of Rocks and Water: An Archaeology of Place, 2014, Oxbow Books, {{ISBN|1-78297-674-4}}, 9781782976745
  • Rawson, Jessica (ed). The British Museum Book of Chinese Art, 2007 (2nd edn), British Museum Press, {{ISBN|978-0-7141-2446-9}}
  • Sickman, Laurence, in: Sickman L. & Soper A., The Art and Architecture of China, Pelican History of Art, 3rd ed 1971, Penguin (now Yale History of Art), LOC 70-125675

Further reading

  • Beckensall, Stan and Laurie, Tim, Prehistoric Rock Art of County Durham, Swaledale and Wensleydale, County Durham Books, 1998 {{ISBN|1-897585-45-4}}
  • Beckensall, Stan, Prehistoric Rock Art in Northumberland, Tempus Publishing, 2001 {{ISBN|0-7524-1945-5}}

External links

{{Commons category|Petroglyphs}} {{Clear}}{{Prehistoric technology| state=expanded}}

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