Hands Over Time
NPS photo at Petroglyph National Monument
- Grade Level:
- Kindergarten-Second Grade
- American Indian History and Culture, Art, History
- 60 Minutes
- Group Size:
- Up to 36
- indoors or outdoors
- National/State Standards:
- K-4 Benchmark I-B. (Grades: 1-4)
K-4 Benchmark I-C: Grade: 2
K-4 Benchmark II-E: Grade: 3
OverviewStudents will recognize that handprint petroglyphs and pictographs may be prehistoric signatures. By leaving behind their own handprints on paper, students will increase their understanding of the value of petroglyphs and the need for their preservation.
Know: Identity over time: Why our fingerprints matter, how they are similar to others and how they are different.
Students will know what a petroglyph is, who made them and how they were made.
Students will know what a pictograph is and then compare the differences between petroglyphs and pictographs. (see petroglyph image handout to help with comparison)
Understand: Everybody has a unique identity and, therefore, everyone has different fingerprints that each tell a story.
Be Able to Do: Create their own handprints.
The sight of a handprint on a pictograph/petroglyph panel always seems to bring the observer just a little closer to the prehistoric artist who put that handprint on the rock. Handprints are personal; like the fingerprints sometimes found on ceramic pottery sherds. Handprints are unique and individual, only belonging to that one person. Some handprints are small and presumably belong to children. Imagine a child painting his or her hand with gooey mud and gleefully slapping a hand on the bedroom wall....something that would cause parents today to shudder!
Why are there so many handprints found on pictograph panels? Handprints may be a signature, a way for a person to say, ‘I was here.’ Some pictographs of hand prints are made by the artist painting artful lines across the hand before placing the hand on the rock. Maybe these have a spritual meaning as well. A way for the artist to leave a part of their spirit at a particular place.
Handprints are found at pictograph and petroglyph sites throughout the world. Just as we identify ourselves with fingerprints, maybe handprints were a prehistoric way for an individual to mark their place.
Pie plates or other pans to hold paint
Acrylic or tempera paint
Roll of white paper or newsprint
(Beforehand) Mix paints and place the paints in pie pans or other shallow containers. Paints can be earth tones or bright; the teacher can use at his or her discretion. Roll out the white paper or newsprint and anchor the end to prevent the sheet from rolling up again. Set the pie pans with paints in the middle of the paper where they will not be stepped on.
Step 1: Discuss with the class how our fingerprints are unique to each student; how no other person has the special designs we have on the skin of our fingers. Discuss how we can be identified by our fingerprints, and that all students have their individual fingerprints.
Step 2: Tie this in with a discussion on how prehistoric Indians did not have a way to sign their names to petroglyph or pictograph sites, but they could "sign" their names by placing a handprint pictograph at the site. This shows an importance of PLACE to a certain individual.
Step 3: Discuss and write on the board other reasons why prehistoric people might have used handprints as symbols in petroglyphs or pictographs. (Hands are important for working, drawing, hunting.) Encourage the students to see the value of a pictured rock as a whole, in that it is the creation of an individual person, someone who is no longer able to create those symbols. Therefore, it is necessary to preserve and protect the pictures on the rock that are left so people today to see the "signatures" of their prehistoric ancestors.
Step 4: Have students kneel down next to the paper. Have them carefully dip their hands in the paint. Have students then place their hands on the white paper, leaving their handprints. Limit each child to one or two handprints, preferably the same hand.
Step 5: Have student sign their pictograph with their name. The reason for this is for students to understand the importance of individuality, especially in a world of multiculturalism. If they desire, they can write something near their pictograph regarding preservation and protection of such sites.
Creation and understanding/explanations of petroglyph handprints by students
After displaying the handprints, cut each individual handprint out so the students can take them home.
Ancestral Puebloan Lifestyles including: culture, traditions and symbols
Have students decorate their hands with several colors of paint, or make wavy lines on their hands before placing them on the white paper.
Instead of a long roll of paper, have each student place a handprint on a single piece of white construction paper. Have them write a short description of what makes their hand unique beneath their handprint.
Have all students use only one color of paint. When they are finished, DO NOT have the them sign their names. When the paint is dry, cut out each handprint individually and try to have each student find his or her handprint.