Petroglyphs are pictures or designs that are cut into a rock's surface. In Kansas most petroglyphs were scratched or incised into exposed bedrock producing figures or designs in outline form. They were made by Native American Indians, Kansas pioneers, and are still being made today. Although they seem to be a permanent form of art, petroglyphs at bedrock locations are subject to the erosion. They eventually will be destroyed.
Petroglyphs made by prehistoric and historic Indian people can be recognized partly by their styles and also by the subjects depicted. Men wearing headdresses and carrying shields or spears are found, as are stylized horses and riders. These figures are sometimes arranged as though stories were being told, but more commonly, individual human figures are apparently unrelated to other glyphs at a particular site. Other petroglyphs depict animals or animal tracks, such as bison or deer, and a very few depict animal "monsters" that have no living counterparts. Some glyphs are geometric designs of uncertain meaning.
Petroglyphs are found where suitable rock outcrops occur, especially on the sandstone bluffs and cliffs of central and north central Kansas. Large and small sites have been recorded, but additional petroglyph sites may exist since there are miles and miles of exposed rock faces that have never been examined. Petroglyphs are interesting and oftentimes beautiful traces of the past. Ideally, a detailed record of Kansas petroglyphs should be made for future generations before they are eroded away or destroyed by thoughtless persons. The Kansas state archeologist is on the Historical Society staff and, along with others, works to protect archeological sites in the state.
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: December 2004
Date Modified: April 2011
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