A petroglyph is a type of artwork made on which type of material?
And the answer: stone.
A petroglyph is a rock carving, created by chipping away at the surface of the stone. Similarly, a pictograph is a rock painting, though petroglyphs tend to last longer, since the art is etched into the rock rather than produced on the surface. Some of the oldest examples of rock art are estimated to be 10-15,000 years old.
Petroglyphs have been found all over the world. From caves in Europe to the mountains of Siberia to the boulders of Africa, these stone carvings are a form of human expression that transcend cultural boundaries. Some images are simple, and depict an animal or herd, while some are deeply complex, and etch a story onto the rock.
Interpretation of these ancient carvings varies widely. Some petroglyph images most likely held a deep cultural and religious significance for the societies that created them. Many others are thought to represent a type of symbolic or ritualistic language or communication style that remains not fully understood even today. Susanna Villanueva, a park ranger at Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico, aptly describes the sensation of the petroglyphs:
"We look at these images and symbols from people who traveled through the Rio Grande Valley [in southwestern United States] hundreds and even thousands of years ago, yet they seem so distant that it is easy to think that they don't matter. But when you hike along the trail and stand in front of a boulder with petroglyphs, you realize that this used to be their world and it was just as alive to them as ours is to us. The Ancestors graciously reach out to us across centuries through these petroglyphs to remind us that they do matter and that they are still connected to this world, to this landscape, and to us, for eternity.”
In the United States alone, there are sites of petroglyphs in over 27 states, and far more worldwide. Check out some of the most notable U.S. petroglyph destinations here.