Petroglyphs and Pictographs from Canada - Western Canadian Rock Art

Bradshaw Foundation Introduction

Page 1/3
 
 
Canada Rock Art Petroglyphs Pictographs Bradshaw Foundation
Rock art in Canada represents the oldest and most prevalent artistic tradition. It can be found throughout Canada, from the Maritimes in the east, the Canadian Shield, the Arctic, the Prairies, and to British Columbia. The Western Canadian Rock Art section, authored by Tyler Dixon and initiating the Canada Rock Art Archive, covers 13 sites found in the southern half of the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.
 
The rock art sites contain a variety of both pictographs (paintings) and petroglyphs (carvings), and are thought to be linked to shamanism, vision quests, or the search for helping spirits.

Geographical Region

 
 
All of the rock art sites listed below are located in western Canada. More specifically, the sites can all be found in the southern half of the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.

Introduction

 
Cochrane Ranche Historic Site Cochrane Alberta
Cochrane Ranche Historic Site, Cochrane, Alberta
Tyler Dixon
Tyler Dixon
Rock art can be classified in two ways; pictographs (paintings) and petroglyphs (carvings), both of which can be found in western Canada. It is believed that rock art is Canada's oldest and most prevalent artistic tradition even though accurately dating many of the sites has proven difficult. Much of the artwork found across the western Canadian provinces can be linked to shamanism, vision quests, or the search for helping spirits. In order to distinguish between different artistic styles, archaeologists have broken the country into broad regions or "style areas" based on geographic location. These include, the Maritimes, the Canadian Shield, the Arctic, the Prairies, and British Columbia. All of the sites listed in this section can be found within the Prairies and British Columbia style areas of the country.
 
Due to the destruction and slow deterioration of rock art sites, archaeologists with Parks Canada have been tirelessly working with various Aboriginal communities to preserve, protect, and interpret these culturally important sites. One of the project's stated goals is to protect sites using digital photography. The biggest challenge with this, however, is that many sites are disappearing to time, weather, vandalism, or some combination thereof. With the help of a digital enhancement technique known as decorrelation stretch, or DStretch, archaeologists are able to enhance images for better interpretation and understanding. DStretch is a free plugin for ImageJ software that was created by Jon Harman. Both ImageJ and DStretch are available for free download. Many of the photographs included in the section below have been enhanced using DStretch.

Cochrane Ranche Historic Site, Cochrane, Alberta

 
This site contains a single petroglyph and a single pictograph. The petroglyph depicts the sun, while the pictograph is of a shield-bearing warrior (above). Unfortunately this is all the information I have about the history of this site.

Grotto Canyon, Bow Valley Provincial Park, Alberta

 
The pictographs found on the smooth canyon walls are estimated to be between 500 and 1,300 years old. There are many interpretations as to who painted them and how they arrived at this location. The most popular theory is that they were created by the Hopituh Shi-nu-mu People (Hopi for short) who visited the area. According to legend, the Hopi sent off members of their tribe in the four directions with the intention of meeting again at a common place, which ended up being present-day Arizona. The artwork depicts both human-like figures and animals. There is also one of the flute player, known as Kokopelli, which is a traditional symbol of the Hopi People. In the Hopi culture the Kokopelli represents the traveler and fertility. It is believed that these pictographs are linked to the ones found near Grassi Lakes (see next entry). Unfortunately most of the paintings have been damaged by weather, time, and people touching them. The oils on our skin will destroy rock art and it's also the reason why the paintings in the photographs look glossy or waxy.
 
Canadian Rock Art pictographs petroglyphs carvings Canada Canadian Rock Art pictographs petroglyphs carvings Canada Canadian Rock Art pictographs petroglyphs carvings Canada Canadian Rock Art pictographs petroglyphs carvings Canada
Enlargement Enlargement Enlargement Enlargement
DStretch DStretch DStretch DStretch

Grassi Lakes, Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park, Alberta

 
As mentioned above the pictographs located near Grassi Lakes are thought to have been painted by the Hopi people. They are estimated to be more than 1,000 years old. One of the pictographs depicts a human figure holding a large ring. It is believed that this figure represents a Medicine Man, which happens to be one of the most famous Hopi legends. The Hopi People believe that Medicine Men were not only healers, but were also considered to be seers and philosophers within their own tribes. The artwork at this site is in better condition than Grotto Canyon, but does show signs of weathering.
 
Canadian Rock Art pictographs petroglyphs carvings Canada Canadian Rock Art pictographs petroglyphs carvings Canada Canadian Rock Art pictographs petroglyphs carvings Canada
Enlargement Enlargement Enlargement
DStretch DStretch DStretch

Okotoks Erratic, Okotoks, Alberta

 
The paintings on the Big Rock near Okotoks are estimated to be anywhere from hundreds to thousands of years old. The Blackfoot People used the rock as a landmark for finding a crossing over the Sheep River before European settlers arrived. There are countless First Nation legends associated with the rock, some of which were relayed through pictographs painted onto its surface. According to local Elders, one such painting depicts a journey. The arrows point in the direction of travel (north), while the moons, or circles, tell the time it took to complete the journey. There are seventeen moons in total, meaning it likely took seventeen months to complete the trek. The symbols and figures at the top of this pictograph may indicate why the journey was made.
 
Canadian Rock Art pictographs petroglyphs carvings Canada Canadian Rock Art pictographs petroglyphs carvings Canada Canadian Rock Art pictographs petroglyphs carvings Canada Canadian Rock Art pictographs petroglyphs carvings Canada
Enlargement Enlargement Enlargement Enlargement
DStretch DStretch DStretch DStretch

Zephyr Creek, Highwood Provincial Recreation Area, Alberta

 
Archaeologists believe these pictographs are over 300 years old and were painted by either the Kootenai or Salish First Nation People. Due to their isolated location it is believed that these pictographs are from a successful completion of a Vision Quest ceremony. The site was originally home to a large collection of artwork, but a rockslide in 1975 destroyed most of them. Today there are two very distinct paintings with a few more close-by that have been eroded by time and weather.
 
Canadian Rock Art pictographs petroglyphs carvings Canada Canadian Rock Art pictographs petroglyphs carvings Canada Canadian Rock Art pictographs petroglyphs carvings Canada
Enlargement Enlargement Enlargement
DStretch DStretch DStretch
 
 
Like us on Facebook & Follow us on Twitter to receive news & updates:
 
Canada Rock Art Archive
Bradshaw Foundation
Homepage About the Foundation Contact Us Facebook News Articles Twitter List of Research Papers Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Travel Index About the Expeditions Forthcoming Expeditions Bespoke Expeditions Enquire Practical Information History of Exploration Welcome to the iShop Film Downloads DVD's Sculpture Prints Clothing Messenger Bag eBooks INORA Downloads About iLecture Films Shipping & Handling iLectures In Conversation Video Stories Travel Films Read the reviews Join the free Mailing List Bradshaw Foundation Facebook Friends of the Foundation Archive Index World's Oldest Rock Art Africa Documentary Films South Africa RARI Giraffe Carvings Niger Namibia Western Central Africa Africa Paintings Gallery Tanzania The Tuareg People Tuareg Salt Caravans Gilf Kebir Birnin Kudu Rock Art Center Archive Index San Rock Art Paintings San Bushman San Rock Art Film Origins Centre Johannesburg Archive Index Arizona Baja California Baja California Film Coso Range Talking Stone Film Nevada Oregon Territory Moab, Utah Clovis First Australia Archive Index Introduction Bradshaw Paintings Kimberley Region The Unambal Hugh Brown Leif Thiele Gallery Dan Clark Grahame Walsh Ian Wilson Bradshaws / Gwion Gwion Archive Index Introduction Origins of the British Avebury Stonehenge Sounds of Stonehenge The British Museum British Isles Megaliths Gower Peninsula Rock Art Mendip Hills Prehistory Northumberland Rock Art Red Lady of Paviland Stone Age Mammoth Abattoir Archive Index Introduction Peterborough Petroglyphs Western Canadian Rock Art Writing-On-Stone Wuikinuxv Territory Dinosaur Provincial Park Archive Index Huashan Rock Art Yinchuan Museum Rock Art Festival Field Trip Gallery Itinerant Creeds Inner Mongolia & Ningxia Vanishing Civilization Life in Rock Art (PDF) Tibet Tibet Photographs Dazu Rock Carvings Tiger Motif Archive Index Chauvet Cave Lascaux Cave Niaux Cave Cosquer Cave Rouffignac Cave Portable Art Defining Rock Art Tuc d'Audoubert Bison Dr. Jean Clottes Index UNESCO World Heritage Introduction Cave Paintings Gallery Visiting the Chauvet Cave Return to Chauvet Cave Investigating the Cave Venus & Sorcerer Werner Herzog Film Chauvet Publications India Archive Index Rock Art Central India Pachmarhi Hills India Rock Art Gallery Preservation & Education Dr. V. S. Wakankar Articles on India Rock Art Contemporary Art Middle East Archive Index Middle East Inroduction Rock Art of Iran Rock Art of Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Rock Art Ancient Geometry Middle East Colonisation Scandinavian Rock Art Archive Scandinavian Introduction Alta Rock Art Norway Rock Art in Finland Tanum Rock Art Sweden Thor Heyerdahl Archive Index Introduction America's Oldest Art? Pedra Furada Bolivian Rock Art Campeche Island - Brazil Checta Petroglyphs - Peru Cueva de las Manos Santa Catarina Island - Brazil Rock Art in Britain Campeche Rock Art Petroglyphs El Salvador - Corinto Cave Hand Rock Art Paintings Tibetan Rock Art United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Yinchuan Rock Art Museum Introduction Ice Age Art Gallery Claire Artemyz Jill Cook Interview Cycladic Introduction Cycladic Gallery Introduction Geometric Signs Chart Research Methodology Geometric Signs in France Sign Types/Countries/Regions Bibliography Ancient Symbols in Rock Art Newsletter Archive Download Issues Introduction Genetic Map Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Further Reading Origins of the British BBC Documentary Origins Index Origins Overview 13 Big Questions Stanley Ambrose Homo Floresiensis Herto Skulls Homo Dmanisi Liujiang Skull Introduction Sentinels in Stone Easter Island Rock Art Birdman Cult / Motif Sea & Marine Creatures Design & Motifs Dr Georgia Lee Easter Island Map Contemporary Art Glossary Conclusion Thor Heyerdahl Introduction When & Who Built It? How Was It Built? The Area Sounds of Stonehenge Meaning of a Pyramid Pyramid Studies Pyramid Superstructure Pyramid Substructure Pyramid Preparations Pyramid Building Saqqara Nabil Swelim Temples of Malta and Gozo Research in the Caucasus The Keselo Foundation Homo Dmanisi Ancient Toolmakers Index Introduction Descent into the Cave The Decorated Caves Shamanistic Experience Spring Initiation Rites Summary Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Professor John P. Miller Motif: Eternal Index Banksy Han Meilin Bruce Radke Christian Tuki Gordon Ellis-Brown Site Map Search the Website Glossary of Terms & Definition Podcast on iTunes Other Websites Contact the Foundation