Communicating Without Words

Indigenous peoples across America left behind symbols painted on or carved in rock. Petroglyphs, images carved into rock, and pictographs, images painted onto rock surfaces, take both abstract forms, such as spirals and lines, and recognizable animal or human shapes. The symbols are both art and a means of communication. In some places petroglyphs and pictographs are so prolific that a national monument was set aside to preserve them. Many are just part of the landscape already protected. Discover stories of how they were found. Find out how we study what they mean. Learn where you can see rock art in the national parks.

Map of the United States showing all units of the National Park System

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Last updated: December 8, 2020