Rock art in Iran, Teimareh region
Rock carving known as Meerkatze (named by archaeologist Leo Frobenius), rampant lionesses in Wadi Mathendous, Mesak Settafet region of Libya.
European petroglyphs: Laxe dos carballos in Campo Lameiro, Galicia, Spain (4th–2nd millennium BCE), depicting cup and ring marks and deer hunting scenes
Petroglyph of a camel; Negev, southern Israel.
Reclining Buddha at Gal Vihara, Sri Lanka. The image house that originally enclosed the remains can be seen.
Petroglyphs of the archaeological site of Las Labradas, situated on the coast of the municipality of San Ignacio (Mexican state of Sinaloa)

A 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 petro-, from πέτρα petra meaning "stone", and γλύφω glýphō meaning "carve", and was originally coined in French as pétroglyphe.

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,[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] 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.

In scholarly texts, a petroglyph is a rock engraving, whereas a petrograph is a rock painting. In common usage, the two words are synonymous.[4][5][6] 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 region.


Composite image of petroglyphs from Scandinavia (Häljesta, Västmanland in Sweden). Nordic Bronze Age. The glyphs have been painted to make them more visible.
(c) Jim Bouldin, CC-BY-SA-3.0
A petroglyph of a caravan of bighorn sheep near Moab, Utah, United States; a common theme in glyphs from the desert Southwest and Great Basin

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; many examples of petroglyphs found globally are dated to approximately the Neolithic and late Upper Paleolithic boundary (roughly 10,000 to 12,000 years ago), though some, such as those found at Kamyana Mohyla, were created earlier than this; some petroglyph sites in Australia are estimated to date back 20,000 years,[7] and other examples of petroglyphs are estimated to be as old as 40,000 years.

Around 7,000 to 9,000 years ago, following the introduction of a number of precursors of writing systems, the existence and creation of petroglyphs began to suffer and tail off, with different forms of art, such as pictographs and ideograms, taking their place. However, petroglyphs continued to be created and remained somewhat common, with various cultures continuing to use them for differing lengths of time, including cultures who continued to create them until contact with Western culture was made in the 19th and 20th centuries.


Many hypotheses exist as to the purpose of petroglyphs, depending on their location, age, and subject matter. Some petroglyph images most likely held a deep cultural and religious significance for the societies that created them. Many petroglyphs are thought to represent a type of symbolic or ritualistic language or communication style that remains not fully understood. Others, such as geocontourglyphs, more clearly depict or represent a landform or the surrounding terrain, such as rivers and other geographic features.

Some petroglyph maps, depicting trails, as well as containing symbols communicating the time and distances travelled along those trails, exist; other petroglyph maps act as astronomical markers. As well as holding geographic and astronomical importance, other petroglyphs may also have been a by-product of various rituals: sites in India, for example, have seen some petroglyphs identified as musical instruments or "rock gongs".[8]

Some petroglyphs likely formed types of symbolic communication, such as types of proto-writing.[9] Later glyphs from the Nordic Bronze Age in Scandinavia seem to refer to some form of territorial boundary between tribes, in addition to holding possible religious meanings. Petroglyph styles have been recognised as having 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.

Petroglyphs 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."[10] In his cataloguing of Scottish rock art, Ronald Morris summarized 104 different theories on their interpretation.[11]

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,[12] 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.[13][14]

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 Desert.[15] 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 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.[16]

List of petroglyph sites


A petroglyph in Bidzar, Cameroon


  • Tassili n'Ajjer


  • Bidzar

Central African Republic

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


  • Niola Doa

Republic of the Congo

  • The Niari Valley, 250 km south west of Brazzaville


  • 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 Crusader 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.


  • Tiya


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


  • Akakus
  • Jebel Uweinat


  • The Draa River valley
Lion Plate at Twyfelfontein in Namibia (2014)


  • Twyfelfontein


  • Life-size giraffe carvings on Dabous Rock, Aïr Mountains

South Africa


  • Nyambwezi Falls in the north-west province.



Petroglyphs at Ughtasar, Armenia
  • Ughtasar
  • Urtsadzor
  • Aragats[18]
  • See also Armenian Eternity sign


  • Gobustan State Reserve
  • Gemigaya
  • Kalbajar
  • Northern Absheron



  • Trialeti petroglyphs

Hong Kong

Eight sites in Hong Kong:


Petroglyphs in Ladakh, India


Map of petroglyphs and pictographs of Iran

During recent years a large number of rock carvings has been identified in different parts of Iran. The vast majority depict the ibex.[26][27] 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.[28]

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.[29]


  • Kibbutz Ginosar
  • Har Karkom
  • Negev



  • Wadi Rum
  • Wadi Faynan


Hunting scene in Koksu petroglyphs
  • Koksu River, in Almaty Province
  • Chumysh River basin,
  • Tamgaly Tas on the Ili River
  • Tamgaly – a World Heritage Site nearly of Almaty


South Korea

  • Bangudae Petroglyphs


  • Several sites in the Tien Shan mountains: Cholpon-Ata, the Talas valley, Saimaluu Tash, and on the rock outcrop called Suleiman's Throne in Osh in the Fergana valley



  • Lumuyu Petroglyphs


  • Petroglyphic Complexes of the Mongolian Altai, UNESCO World Heritage site, 2011[32][33]


  • Ancient Rock Carvings of Sindh
  • Rock art and petroglyphs in Northern Areas,


Saudi Arabia

  • "Graffiti Rocks", about 110 km SW of Riyadh off the Mecca highway
  • Arwa, west of Riyadh
  • al Jawf, near al Jawf
  • Jubbah, Umm Samnan, north of Hail
  • Janin Cave, south of Hail
  • Yatib, south of Hail
  • Milihiya, south of Hail
  • Jebel al Lawz, north of Tabuk
  • Wadi Damm, near Tabuk
  • Wadi Abu Oud, near al Ula
  • Shuwaymis, north of Madina
  • Jebel al Manjour & Ratt, north of Madina
  • Hanakiya, north of Madina
  • Shimli
  • Bir Hima, north of Najran
  • Tathleeth, north of Najran
  • Al-Magar, in Najd


  • The Wanshan Rock Carvings Archeological Site near Maolin District, Kaohsiung, were discovered between 1978 and 2002.


  • Pha Taem National Park


  • Rock engravings in Sapa, Sa Pa, Lào Cai Province
  • Rock engravings in Namdan, Xín Mần District, Hà Giang Province




  • Hauensuoli, Hanko, Finland


  • Vallée des Merveilles, Mercantour National Park, France



Northern Ireland

  • Knockmany
  • Sess Kilgreen


  • Rock carvings at Alta, World Heritage Site (1985)
  • Rock carvings in Central Norway
  • Rock carvings at Møllerstufossen
  • Rock carvings at Tennes


  • Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley, Portugal



Millenarian rock carvings, Laxe dos carballos at Campo Lameiro, this detail depicts a deer hit by several spears


Petroglyph Park near PetrozavodskLake Onega, Russia
Mammoth on the basalt stone in Sikachi-Alyan, Russia
White Sea petroglyphs, Republic of Karelia, Russia





Central and South America and the Caribbean




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.[37]



Costa Rica

Dominican Republic


  • Mt. Rich Petroglyphs



Fertility symbols, called "Ita Letra" by the local Panambi'y people, in a natural shelter in Amambay, Paraguay
  • Amambay Department


  • Cumbe Mayo, Cajamarca
  • Petroglyphs of Pusharo, Manú National Park, Madre de Dios region
  • Petroglyphs of Quiaca, Puno Region
  • Petroglyphs of Jinkiori, Cusco Region

Saint Kitts and Nevis


  • Corantijn Basin

Trinidad and Tobago

  • Caurita
    The only known Amerindian petroglyph in Trinidad


  • Caicara del Orinoco, Bolívar
  • Morrocoy National Park, Falcón
  • Piedra Pintada Archeological Park within San Esteban National Park, Guaraca, Carabobo
  • Sardinata Beach, Amazonas
  • Taima Taima, Falcón

North America



United States

Petroglyph on western coast of Hawaii
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
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 Puebloans who inhabited the mesa



See also


  1. ^ Harmanşah (2014), 5–6.
  2. ^ Harmanşah (2014), 5–6; Canepa, 53.
  3. ^ See: Rawson and Sickman & Soper
  4. ^ Wieschhoff, Heinrich Albert (1945). Africa. University of Pennsylvania Press. Most noteworthy among the relics of Africa's early periods are the rock-paintings (petrographs) and rock-engravings (petroglyphs) which have been discovered in many parts of the continent
  5. ^ "petrograph". Merriam-Webster. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  6. ^ Webster's Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language. Random House. 2001. p. 1449. ISBN 0-681-31723-X.
  7. ^ Finch, Damien; Gleadow, Andrew; Hergt, Janet; Heaney, Pauline; Green, Helen; Myers, Cecilia; Veth, Peter; Harper, Sam; Ouzman, Sven; Levchenko, Vladimir A. (2021-02-22). "Ages for Australia's oldest rock paintings". Nature Human Behaviour. 5 (3): 310–318. doi:10.1038/s41562-020-01041-0. ISSN 2397-3374. PMID 33619375. S2CID 232020013.
  8. ^ Ancient Indians made 'rock music'. BBC News (2004-03-19). Retrieved on 2013-02-12.
  9. ^ Houston, Stephen D. (2004-10-01). "The Archaeology of Communication Technologies". Annual Review of Anthropology. 33 (1): 223–250. doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.33.070203.143724. ISSN 0084-6570.
  10. ^ J. Collingwood Bruce (1868; cited in Beckensall, S., Northumberland's Prehistoric Rock Carvings: A Mystery Explained. Pendulum Publications, Rothbury, Northumberland. 1983:19)
  11. ^ Morris, Ronald (1979) The Prehistoric Rock Art of Galloway and The Isle of Man, Blandford Press,ISBN 978-0-7137-0974-2.
  12. ^ [See: D. Lewis-Williams, A Cosmos in Stone: Interpreting Religion and Society through Rock Art (Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press, 2002).]
  13. ^ Peratt, A.L. (2003). "Characteristics for the occurrence of a high-current, Z-pinch aurora as recorded in antiquity". IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science. 31 (6): 1192. Bibcode:2003ITPS...31.1192P. doi:10.1109/TPS.2003.820956. S2CID 24640096.
  14. ^ Peratt, Anthony L.; McGovern, John; Qoyawayma, Alfred H.; Van Der Sluijs, Marinus Anthony; Peratt, Mathias G. (2007). "Characteristics for the Occurrence of a High-Current Z-Pinch Aurora as Recorded in Antiquity Part II: Directionality and Source". IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science. 35 (4): 778. Bibcode:2007ITPS...35..778P. doi:10.1109/TPS.2007.902630. S2CID 124068782.
  15. ^ Archived 2017-07-30 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2013-02-12.
  16. ^ "Rock Art Research Institute (RARI)". University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  17. ^ Parkington, J. Morris, D. & Rusch, N. 2008. Karoo rock engravings. Clanwilliam: Krakadouw Trust; Morris, D. & Beaumont, P. 2004. Archaeology in the Northern Cape: some key sites. Kimberley: McGregor Museum.
  18. ^ Khechoyan, Anna. "The Rock Art of the Mt. Aragats System | Anna Khechoyan". Xxii International Valcamonica Symposium Rock Art in the Frame of the Cultural Heritage of Humankind l'Arte Rupestre Nel Quadro del Patrimonio Culturale dell'umanità,Centro Congressi - Darfo Boario Terme (Bs) Italy 18Th - 24Th May. Retrieved 2013-08-18.
  19. ^ a b c d O'Sullivan, Rebecca (2018). "East Asia: Rock Art". Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology (2 ed.). Springer. pp. 1–11. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-51726-1_3131-1. ISBN 978-3-319-51726-1.
  20. ^ Dolmen with petroglyphs found near Villupuram. (2009-09-19). Retrieved on 2013-02-12.
  21. ^ "Prehistoric art hints at lost Indian civilisation". BBC. 1 October 2018.
  22. ^ "12000-year-old-petroglyphs-in-india". 8 November 2018.
  23. ^ Kamat, Nandkumar. "Prehistoric Goan Shamanism". The Navhind Times. Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  24. ^ Petroglyphs of Ladakh: The Withering Monuments.
  25. ^ a b Sriram, Jayant (2018-10-20). "The petroglyphs of Ratnagiri". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2021-06-23.
  26. ^ "Iran Petroglyphs – سنگ نگاره های ایران Iran Petroglyphs". Archived from the original on 2014-07-19.
  27. ^ Foundation, Bradshaw. "Middle East Rock Art Archive – Iran Rock Art Gallery".
  28. ^ "Archaeologist uncovers 'the world's oldest drawings'". 12 December 2016.
  29. ^ Iran Petroglyphs, Universal Common language (book); Iran Petrogylphs, Ideogram Symbols (book); Rock Museums Rock Arts (Iran Petroglyphs) (book); For more information : Archived 2011-04-10 at the Wayback Machine ; ; ; ;
  30. ^ a b c Nobuhiro, Yoshida (1994) The Handbook For Petrograph Fieldwork, Chou Art Publishing,ISBN 4-88639-699-2, p. 57
  31. ^ Nobuhiro, Yoshida (1994) The Handbook For Petrograph Fieldwork, Chou Art Publishing,ISBN 4-88639-699-2, p. 54
  32. ^ Petroglyphic Complexes of the Mongolian Altai – UNESCO World Heritage Centre. (2011-06-28). Retrieved on 2013-02-12.
  33. ^ Fitzhugh, William W. and Kortum, Richard (2012) Rock Art and Archaeology: Investigating Ritual Landscape in the Mongolian Altai. Field Report 2011. The Arctic Studies Center, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  34. ^ "British Rock Art Blog | A Forum about Prehistoric Rock Art in the British Islands". Retrieved 2013-08-18.
  35. ^ Photos Archived 2011-03-01 at the Wayback Machine. (2007-08-13). Retrieved on 2013-02-12.
  36. ^ "Umeå, Norrfors". Retrieved 2013-08-18.
  37. ^ Choi, Charles. "Call this ancient rock carving 'little horny man'." Science on NBC News. 22 Feb 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  38. ^ "Settlers at La Silla". Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  39. ^ "The Ascent of Man". Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  40. ^ "Llamas at La Silla". ESO Picture of the Week. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  41. ^ a b "Ometepe Island Info – El Ceibo". Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  42. ^ Petroglyph Provincial Park, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island BC Archived 2004-08-07 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2013-02-12.
  43. ^ "Petroglyph Park - Gabriola Museum". Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  44. ^ Bill Steer (27 Jul 2016). "Petroglyphs - Temagami's Rare Works of Art". Retrieved 23 August 2020.
  45. ^ Keyser, James D. (July 1992). Indian Rock Art of the Columbia Plateau. University of Washington Press. ISBN 978-0-295-97160-5.
  46. ^ Moore, Donald W. Petroglyph Canyon Tours. Retrieved on 2013-02-12.
  47. ^ "Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park".
  48. ^ Grimes Point National Recreation Trail, Nevada BLM Archaeological Site Archived 2006-12-06 at the Wayback Machine. (2012-01-13). Retrieved on 2013-02-12.
  49. ^ Museums & Historic Sites Archived 2007-07-05 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2013-02-12.
  50. ^ "Paint Lick". Archived from the original on 2007-12-26. Retrieved 2013-08-18.
  51. ^ "Petroglyph National Monument (U.S. National Park Service)".
  52. ^ Three Rivers Petroglyph Site Archived 2007-06-18 at the Wayback Machine. (2012-09-13). Retrieved on 2013-02-12.
  • Harmanşah, 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, 1998ISBN 1-897585-45-4
  • Beckensall, Stan, Prehistoric Rock Art in Northumberland, Tempus Publishing, 2001ISBN 0-7524-1945-5

External links

Media files used on this page

Inscriptions of musical instruments in Hejaz.jpg
Author/Creator: Hejazi Israeli, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
500 BC-Inscriptions of some musical instruments (Semsemeya) in Mount of Ekmh in Hejaz region .
Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park 20 metre long petroglyph.JPG
20 metre long petroglyph at Ku-Ring-Gai_Chase_National_Park, West Head
Labirinto do Outeiro do Cribo.JPG
Author/Creator: Froaringus, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Labirinto do Outeiro do Cribo, A Armenteira, Meis, Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain. Possibly dating from as early as the Bronze Age (though rock carvings are notoriously difficult to date with certainty).
Rock Art Foz Coa 03.jpg
(c) I, Henrique Matos, CC BY-SA 1.0
Rock Art – Paleolithic – Foz Côa - Portugal
Chiribiquete petroglyph 3.jpg
Author/Creator: Carlos Castaño Uribe, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Petroglyphs in the en:Parque Nacional Natural Chiribiquete
Buddhas at ili.jpg
Author/Creator: Jonas Satkauskas, Licence: Attribution
Buddhist stone carvings at Ili River, Kazakhstan
Knockmany Chambered Tomb, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland left.jpg
Author/Creator: R0025693, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Leftmost of three central stones, Knockmany Chambered Tomb, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland
Sky Rock paint.jpg
Author/Creator: Kevin Keator, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Sky Rock Petroglyphs is set of petroglyphs located in the Volcanic Tablelands near Bishop, California
Laxe dos carballos 01.JPG
Author/Creator: Froaringus, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Laxe dos carballos petroglyph, in Campo Lameiro, Galicia (IV-II millemium BCE): Cup-and-ring mark and deer hunting scenes.
Ciervo cuernos.jpg
Author/Creator: Certo Xornal, Licence: CC BY 2.0
Detalle do cérvido acosado da Laxe dos Carballos" - Campo Lameiro - Pontevedra - Galicia
Author/Creator: Asef-m-m, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Golpayegan rockart
RochesterPanel 01 2008.JPG
Detail of the Rochester Rock Art Panel in Emery County, Utah
Parco Grosio La Rupe Magna.jpg
Author/Creator: Be.merk.wurdig, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Grosio; Rock Engraving Park; Rupe Magna
Author/Creator: 豊瀬源一, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Petroglyph found in Awashima shrine.
Site archéologique de Bidzar4.jpg
Author/Creator: 2ddanga, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Les gravures rupestres du site archéologique de Bidzar, situées sur la route nationale numéro 1 entre Figuil et Maroua. Gravures ayant plusieurs siècles d'existences.
Koksu Petroglyphs.JPG
Author/Creator: Stomac, Licence: CC BY 3.0
Petroglyphs nearby the river Koksu, Almaty Province, Kazakhstan
Petroglyph 2 tds.jpg
Native American petroglyph taken near Saint George, Utah USA
Petroglyphs in Zalavruga, Belomorsk, Karelia, Russia 03.jpg
Author/Creator: Ninaras, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Petroglyphs in Zalavruga, archaeologist Nadezhda Lobanova, Karelian Research Centre
Motu Nui.jpg
Author/Creator: Rivi, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Moto Nui, Island of the Birdman cult, seen from the Orongo village with Birdman petroglyphs.
Mutawintji National Park Petroglyph.JPG
Petroglyph at Mutawintji National Park
Petroglyphs In Maharashtra.jpg
Author/Creator: Matsyameena sanju, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
The most intriguing of these is the motif of two legs, squatting and spread outward. The symbol is cut off at the hip and is usually deployed as a side motif to the larger, more abstract rock reliefs. “Images from later periods depict a goddess called Lajja Gauri who is similarly portrayed, squatting and with legs facing outward, though in those cases the rest of the body is also shown. We are exploring a link between the two,” Garge says.
Ku-ring-gai Chase - petroglyph.jpg
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park - petroglyph, via Waratah Track. Figure is 1.7 metres long; notable features include the swollen leg and the lack of a neck. Rock is triassic Hawkesbury Sandstone, 220 million years of age. It shows Baiame (ref:Josephine McDonald: Dreamtime superhighway: an analysis of Sydney Basin rock art and prehistoric ...
Lion Plate at Twyfelfontein, Namibia (2014).jpg
Author/Creator: Olga Ernst, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Lion Plate at Twyfelfontein in Namibia (2014)
Chiribiquete petroglyph 1.jpg
Author/Creator: Carlos Castaño Uribe, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Petroglyphs in the en:Parque Nacional Natural Chiribiquete
(c) Jim Bouldin, CC-BY-SA-3.0
A petroglyph of a caravan of bighorn sheep near Moab, Utah, USA; a common theme in glyphs from the desert southwest.
Puye 1.jpg
(c) User:Carptrash, CC BY-SA 3.0
Petroglyphs from Puye in Santa Clara Valley, NM.
Llamas at La Silla.jpg
Author/Creator: ESO/H. Dahle, Licence: CC BY 4.0
This image shows an ancient sun-scorched boulder near ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile, on the outskirts of this desert at a height of some 2400 metres above sea level.

Visible on the boulder are several petroglyphs — rock engravings — depicting men and llamas. Llamas have historically been very important to South American cultures, being used as both a source of food and wool, and also as a pack animal for carrying goods across the land. The importance of llamas was reflected in the beliefs of the pre-Columbian people who inhabited the region — the Inca herders worshipped a multicoloured llama deity by the name of Urcuchillay, who was said to watch over the animals. The name Urcuchillay was also given to the constellation of Lyra (The Lyre) by the ancient Inca astronomers.

The llama is honoured yet again in the Inca constellations. These constellations were formed from dark patches on the bright plane of the Milky Way, rather than from bright, prominent stars — as is the Western tradition. One of these dark constellations was known as Yacana (The Llama), which stretches from the galactic centre towards the Southern Cross, its eye being our stellar neighbour Alpha Centauri.

This image was taken by Håkon Dahle, an accomplished professional astronomer. He submitted the photograph to the Your ESO Pictures Flickr group. The Flickr group is regularly reviewed and the best photos are selected to be featured in our popular Picture of the Week series, or in our gallery.
Serra da Capivara - Painting 7.JPG
Author/Creator: Vitor 1234, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Painting of two animals. This painting is considered the symbol of the park.
Petroglyphs tds.jpg
Native American petroglyph near Saint George, Utah USA
جبال حرة.jpg
Author/Creator: Heritage Commission , Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
نقش أثري في منطقة تبوك
Burrup rock art.JPG
Author/Creator: Tradimus, Licence: CC0
Aboriginal rock carving at Burrup Penninsula in the Pilbara Region, Western Australia
نقوش جبل كويفر الاسلامية.jpg
Author/Creator: Heritage Commission , Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
من النقوش الاثرية في منطقة القصيم
Angono Petroglyphs1.jpg
(c) LFIntalan at the English-language Wikipedia, CC-BY-SA-3.0
* uploaded by Lloyd Intalan (en:User:LFIntalan). Info: * Rock carvings (petroglyphs) from the Philippines. Photo Lloyd Intalan 2005. The carvings pictured are located at Angono in Rizal, Philippines.
Touron petr.JPG
Author/Creator: Froaringus, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Deer and Cup-and-ring motifs in a Neolithic/Bronze Age petroglyph (Tourón, Pontecaldelas, Galicia).
Petroglyphs on a Bishop Tuff tableland-750px.jpg
Author/Creator: User Maveric149 on en.wikipedia, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Petroglyphs on a Bishop Tuff tableland northeast of the Owens Valley, in Eastern California.
Photo taken during a recent trip to Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
Petroglyph - well endowed.JPG
Petroglyph near Waratah Track, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Petroglifo bentayga.jpg
Petroglifos situados en la falda del Roque Bentayga, Gran Canaria, España
Sanilac Petroglyphs - Archer.jpg
Author/Creator: Claytonllibrar, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Detail of a carved archer-like figure at the Sanilac Petroglyphs site in Sanilac County, Michigan
Iran-map 7.jpg
Author/Creator: Teimare, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
سنگ نگاره های ایران
Tracks at Barnesville Petroglyph.JPG
(c) Bwsmith84 at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0
Tracks outlined with charcoal at Barnesville Petroglyphs
Rock Art Foz Coa 01.jpg
Author/Creator: Henrique Matos, Licence: GFDL 1.2
Rock Art – Paleolithic – - Penascosa - Foz Côa - Portugal
Spiderweb petroglyph on the Waterfall Trail in the White Tank Mountains, Arizonia.jpg
Author/Creator: Jlahorn, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Pteroglyph on the Waterfall Trail in the White Tank Mountains, AZ, USA
Knockmany Chambered Tomb, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland centre.jpg
Author/Creator: R0025693, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Central of three central stones, Knockmany Chambered Tomb, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland
Petroglyph on the western coast of Hawaii.jpg
Petroglyph on the western coast of Hawaii
Talampaya petroglyphs (1).jpg
Author/Creator: Jorge Gobbi from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Licence: CC BY 2.0
Parque Nacional Talampaya, La Rioja, Argentina.
Belomorsk petroglyphs00.jpg
Author/Creator: Semenov.m7, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Беломорские петроглифы. (Залавруга, Беломорский район, Республика Карелия)
Chipping petroglyph on Waterfall Trail in the White Tank Mountains.jpg
Author/Creator: Jlahorn, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Petroglyph on the Waterfall Trail in the White Tank Mountains, AZ, USA
Rock art Colombia
Petroglyph in Arizona 2007-01-20.jpg
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence:
Arizona petroglyph 1117.JPG
Sample of petroglyphs at Painted Rock near Gila Bend, Arizona off Interstate 8. Taken late in the day with natural light.
Vallée des Merveilles 103.jpg
(c) Philippe_Kurlapski, CC BY-SA 2.5

La Vallée des Merveilles, France.

Le sorcier
Petroglyphs, Ladakh, NW India.JPG
Author/Creator: DanHobley, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Petroglyphs seen in Ladakh, NW Indian Himalaya. Perhaps Neolithic in age.
Knockmany Chambered Tomb, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland right.JPG
Author/Creator: R0025693, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Rightmost of three central stones, Knockmany Chambered Tomb, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland
Петроглиф Бес, Бесов нос.jpg
Author/Creator: Taksla, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
This is a photo of a cultural heritage object in Russia, number:

Tamgaly World Heritage site
Madain Saleh (6720062703).jpg
Author/Creator: Sammy Six, Licence: CC BY 2.0
Madain Saleh
Chiribiquete AJ11calabazos.JPG
Author/Creator: Carlos Castaño Uribe, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Petroglyphs in the en:Parque Nacional Natural Chiribiquete
Parco Grosio Rupe Magna 5.jpg
Author/Creator: Be.merk.wurdig, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Parco Grosio; Rupe Magna; engravings
جبل دويدة.jpg
Author/Creator: Heritage Commission , Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
من النقوش الاثرية في العاصمة المقدسة
وادي قرن.jpg
Author/Creator: Heritage Commission , Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
نقوش اثرية في وادي قرن
Settlers at La Silla.jpg
Author/Creator: ESO/B. Tafreshi, Licence: CC BY 4.0
Astronomers using the ESO observatories might be a common sight in the Chilean Atacama Desert these days, but they were by no means the first people to call the area home.

Although the desert is now dry and inhospitable, it once experienced more abundant rainfall and possessed a far more diverse flora. It has hosted various human civilisations, from the El Molle culture of 700–800 CE through to the Las Ánimas (800–1200 CE) and Diaguita (1200 CE to mid-15th century) peoples. Following the 15th-century Peruvian Inca conquests, the local culture became a mix of Inca and Diaguita. This lasted until the onset of the Spanish conquest in the 1530s, which put an end to an indigenously inhabited Atacama.

Signs of this past can be found throughout the area surrounding ESO’s La Silla Observatory. Numerous rocks boasting thousand-year-old carvings — petroglyphs — can be found scattered throughout the region, thought to be remnants of the El Molle complex. While some drawings depict humans and animals, usually llamas, most show abstract geometrical figures including rectangles, maze-like designs, circles, and circles with rays.

Two examples of the latter are shown here in this ESO Picture of the Week. These two stones were found at one of the richest engraving sites, located quite close to the ESO 3.6-metre telescope, visible on top of the hill in this frame. This image was taken by ESO Photo Ambassador Babak Tafreshi. An article on the various petroglyphs found around La Silla was published in ESO’s quarterly journal The Messenger, following a detailed photographic and topographic survey of the rock carvings carried out in 1990.
Sess kilgreen 1.jpg
Author/Creator: R0025693, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Author/Creator: Joey Hiller, Licence: CC BY 2.0
Petroglyphs outside of Parras, Coahuila, Mexico
Petroglyphs in the Columbia River Gorge.jpg
Indian petroglyphs in Columbia River Gorge near The Dalles Dam.

A scan from a 35mm photograph which I took at Cholpon Ata in Kyrgyzstan in July 2002. This scan is in the public domain.

This scan is in the Public Domain (however, I retain ownership and copyright of the original transparency and any higher-resolution scans derived from it). SiGarb 00:04, 16 November 2005 (UTC)
Petroglyphs in Bryce Canyon.jpg
Petroglyphs in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, USA
Petroglifos de Las Labradas 08.jpg
Author/Creator: Gzzz, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Petroglyphs of the archaeological site of Las Labradas, situated on the coast of the municipality of San Ignacio (Mexican state of Sinaloa).
Chiribiquete petroglyph 2.jpg
Author/Creator: Carlos Castaño Uribe, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Petroglyphs in the en:Parque Nacional Natural Chiribiquete
Fertility symbols found in natural shelter in Amambay, Paraguay.jpeg
Author/Creator: FrankOWeaver, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Called "Ita Letra" by the local natives, this fertility symbols are believed to be thousand years old.
Parco Grosio Rupe Magna 3.jpg
Author/Creator: Be.merk.wurdig, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Parco Grosio; Rupe Magna; engravings
ThunderBird Rock Carved Petroglyph at Twin Buffs.jpg
Author/Creator: Sixa369, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
ThunderBird Rock Carved Petroglyph in West Central Wisconsin
Sky Rock.jpg
Author/Creator: Kevin Keator, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Sky Rock Petroglyphs, is set of petroglyphs located in the Volcanic Tablelands near Bishop, California.
Libya 5321 Meercatze (Gatti Mammoni) Petroglyphs Wadi Methkandoush Luca Galuzzi 2007.jpg
(c) I, Luca Galuzzi, CC BY-SA 2.5
Rock carving known as "Meercatze" (named by archaeologist Leo Frobenius) in Wadi Methkandoush, Mesak Settafet region of Libya.
Figuras rupestres, Costão do Santinho, Florianópolis 2.JPG
Arte rupestre na praia do Costão do Santinho, Florianópolis.
Picacho Petroglyph.jpg
Author/Creator: Baddyo, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Picacho Mountain Petroglyph site
The Ascent of Man.jpg
Author/Creator: ESO/H. Dahle, Licence: CC BY 4.0
Modern science and the spectre of ancient man coexist in this thought-provoking image of a petroglyph near the site of ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile.

A petroglyph is an ancient stone engraving, examples of which can be found scattered across the globe. In some places they can date back as far as 40 000 BCE, but the one pictured here is much more recent.

Upon the face of the stone, the images of men are depicted alongside llamas or other similar wild camelids. The native nomadic people of the Atacama Desert in Chile would have followed herds of these animals across the largely arid and inhospitable land before they adopted a sedentary culture, creating desert oases where they bred camelids.

The pale glow of the stars over and beyond the mountain ridge and the silhouette of one of La Silla’s telescopes frame the passing of the centuries and the progress of humanity from prehistory to our modern age of space exploration.
Upside down.jpg

William Luster

, Licence: Cc-by-sa-3.0

Petroglyph of upside-down man in Western Colorado

Петроглифы Сикачи-Аляна 2.JPG
Author/Creator: Andshel, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Petroglif of Sikachi-Alyan
Caurita Petroglyph.jpg
Author/Creator: leonchin640, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
The only known Amerindian petroglyph in Trinidad
My own photograph taken to illustrate this section of the article
Petroglyph Point at Mesa Verde National Park by RO.JPG
Author/Creator: Rationalobserver, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
The largest panel of ancient petroglyphs in Mesa Verde National Park are accessed by way of the Petroglyph Trail, which begins near Spruce Tree House.
Negev camel petroglyph.jpg
Author/Creator: Wilson44691, Licence: CC0
Petroglyph of a camel; Negev, southern Israel.
Laxe das Rodas 01.jpg
Author/Creator: Froaringus, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Cup and ring petroglyph at the 'Laxe das Rodas' ('Stone of the Wheels'), Louro, Galicia.
Petroglifos do Castrinho de Conxo.jpg
Author/Creator: Lansbricae, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Petroglyphs of Castriño de Conxo - Santiago de Compostela - Galicia - Spain
Author/Creator: Alejandro edera, Licence: CC0
Petroglifo que puede encontrarse en el cerro Tunduqueral de Uspallata
Sess kilgreen 2.jpg
Author/Creator: R0025693, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
جيال الزيدانية النقش الهيروغليفي.jpg
Author/Creator: Heritage Commission , Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
نقش أثري في منطقة تبوك
Author/Creator: Հանուման, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Ուղտասարի ժայռապատկերների լուսանկար
Prehistoric Rock-Art Site of the Côa Valley - Penascosa - Bull @ 2011-08-06.jpg
Author/Creator: Reino Baptista, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Prehistoric Rock-Art Site of the Côa Valley - Penascosa - Bull
Vallée des Merveilles 101.jpg
Author/Creator: Philippe Kurlapski, Licence: CC BY 2.5

La Vallée des Merveilles, France.
Le chef de tribu.

Le parc mérite d’être cité en exemple : jusqu’à l’été 1989, l’accès de l’ensemble du site des Merveilles était resté totalement libre. Le parc a, très courageusement – après une campagne d’information et de concertation avec l’ensemble des acteurs - limité la liberté d’accès à des itinéraires précis. Les visiteurs peuvent toutefois s’écarter des parcours autorisés à condition d’être guidés par des accompagnateurs agréés. Parallèlement, l’un des monuments essentiels de cette zone, l'original de la fameuse stèle gravée originale dite du "chef de tribu" a été enlevé par héliportage, soigneusement mis à l’abri dans le "Musée départemental des Merveilles de Tende", et remplacé par un moulage. On peut encore découvrir in situ la dalle de l’autel et le Christ. Par contre, le sorcier et la stèle du couple primordial sont désormais situés dans la zone réglementée de la vallée des Merveilles.

Si ces principes de protection étaient perdus de vue, les désirs immédiats d’usage risquent de sacrifier l’objectif de conserver les monuments comme valeurs vivantes dans la conscience des générations futures.
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Ute Petroglyphs in Arches National Park.jpg
(c) I, Jonathan Zander, CC-BY-SA-3.0
Photo of Ute Rock Art, carved by Native Americans around 1650 to 1850 CE. The photo was taken on the trail to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah, USA.