National Standards Addressed
History & Nature of Science: Historical Perspectives
History & Nature of Science: History of Science
History & Nature of Science: Science as a Human Endeavor
Abilities of Technological Design: Understandings About Science & Technology
Rocks, symbols, ancient cultures, universal themes of nature, symbols as communication, archeoastronomy, solar markers
From the National Park Service Site for Petroglyph National Monument
What are petroglyphs?
Why were petroglyphs made?
From the Arkansas Archeological Society
What’s the difference between rock art and graffiti?
Ideas for Discussion
• What symbols in use today represent universal concepts (water waves, stick figure people, fish, sun)? Can you imagine that rock art depicting these concepts might use similar symbols?
• There is more rock art in the American Southwest than in other parts of the United States. Why would this be? (Hint: It’s not related to the number of people who lived there or whether people made rock art in other places.)
• Archeologists often disagree on the interpretation of rock art symbols. What things could they do to resolve debates? How could we know for certain what a rock art symbol means?
• What role can present Native American cultures play in interpreting rock art?
• Our Time section has more information about Chaco petroglyphs.
• Downloadable PDF files of this activity's graphics:
Ancient sun symbols
Petroglyphs at Chaco
• Imagine that you have to design a petroglyph like the sun dagger, where you’d like the sun to fall across it in certain ways on certain days of the year. What would you need to know to put the petroglyph in just the right place? How do you think the ancient Chacoan people figured out where to place their sun dagger?
• Learn more about how the seasons work with our activity, "Modeling the Seasons."