This expedition is for all ages, as the colored smilies show. Bring all of your kids on a field trip to see
cave art near you.
This Pictographs and Petroglyphs expedition is from Unit 1-1 about cave art. Layers of Learning has ideas for expeditions, or field trips, scattered throughout the curriculum. You can get Unit 1-1 for free. Learn more about Layers of Learning.
Cave art, pictographs and petroglyphs, are the art of many early civilizations. We took an expedition to see some near where we live.
What Are Pictographs and Petroglyphs?
Pictographs were done on rock walls, sometimes inside caves, but also under overhangs or on canyon walls. Natural paints made from ground up rocks and plants and mixed with fat or egg yolks were used to make representations of actual events, record accounts or for more mystical religious reasons. Some of it may just be in the nature of graffiti too.
Petroglyphs are pictures or representations made by chipping away bits of the rock.
Step 1: Library Research
Before you head out on your expedition get a few books from your library to learn more about ancient cave art. Here are three suggestions from us, in each of the levels: early grades, middle grades, and high school. But if you can’t find these at your local library try searching for cave art, Lascaux, pictographs, petroglyphs, or ancient art.
Discovery in the Cave
by Mark Dubowski
The Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux
By Emily Arnold McCully
Painters of the Caves
By Patricia Lauber
Step 2: Expedition to See Cave Art in Person
Every continent but Antarctica has pictographs and petroglyphs. Some are very ancient, thousands of years old and others are quite recent, a mere hundred or so years old. There is probably a great example of some petroglyphs or pictographs near you. Go see some in person.
Here is a list of some from all over the US and a few in Canada. If you know of another great place leave a comment letting everybody know.
- Painted Cave, California
- Burro Flats Painted Cave, California
- Chumash Painted Cave Historic Park, California
- Picture Cave, Missouri
- Thousand Hills State Park, Missouri
- Washington State Park, Missouri
- Hueco Tanks State Historic Site, Texas
- Blackwater Draw, New Mexico
- Village of the Great Kivas, New Mexico
- Buckhorn Wash, Utah
- Wild Horse Canyon, Utah
- Rockhouse Cave, Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas
- Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve, Hawaii, Hawaii
- Sears Point, Arizona
- Gold Butte, Nevada
- Colbert County Bluff shelter, Alabama
- Crystal River State Archaeological Park, Florida
- University of Georgia Campus, Georgia (rocks moved from their original location and placed on the campus, outside Museum of Art and in Law School Garden)
- Track Rock Gap, Georgia
- Millstone Bluff National Register Site, Illinois
- Dighton Rock State Park, Massachusetts
- Sanilac Petroglyphs State Park, Michigan
- Jeffers Petroglyph State Park, Minnesota
- Pipestone National Monumant, Minnesota
- Seton Hall University Museum , New Jersey
- Judaculla Rock, North Carolina
- Inscription Rock, Ohio
- Leo Petroglyph, Ohio
- Indian God Rock, Pennsylvania
- Montgomery Bell State Park, Tennessee
- Ceredo Historical Museum, West Virginia
- Roche-a-Cri State Park, Wisconsin
- Columbia Hills State Park, Washington
- Indian Painted Rocks, Washington (in Spokane)
- Wees Bar, Idaho (in the Snake River Canyon, downstream from Swan Falls Dam)
- Jaguar Cave, Idaho
- Pictograph Cave State Park, Montana
- Petroglyph Canyon, Montana
- Pompey’s Pillar, Montana (William Clark also signed the rock in 1806)
- Writing Rock State Historical Site, North Dakota
- Medicine Bear Creek, Wyoming
- Peterborough Petroglyphs, Ontario, Canada
- Petroglyph Park, British Columbia, Canada
Step 3: Present Your Findings
Make sure you take photographs of your expedition because now you can print a few of them and have your kids write some captions about what you saw. Be sure to share the photos and the thoughts about them with the family, giving your children each a turn to present.
Additional Layers are extra activities you can do or tangents you can take off on. You will find them in the sidebars of each unit. They are optional, so just choose what interests you.
When you go see the native art don’t forget to learn more about the people and culture that produced it.
How did ancient people make paint? Learn more then make your own paint out of natural materials near you.
What kind of rock was the cave art you looked at painted on? Learn more about the geology of the area.
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