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Petroglyphs and Pictographs - Analysis Of Rock Art

culture information analyses motifs

There are, generally speaking, two ways to look at rock art: descriptively and comparatively.

In descriptive analyses, information about a prehistoric culture is obtained from the picture motifs that appear in that culture's art. Such information, which may pertain to social activities, economics, material culture, ideology, and environmental context, may not be available in other types of archaeological evidence. In the absence of other methods, the picture motifs may also provide a basis for dating the site and objects found there.

As a cross-check to conclusions based on identification of picture motifs in prehistoric art, archaeologists also analyze writings about the past that have survived. Another problem with trying to extract information about a culture from the pictorial content of surviving rock art, is that the pictures, as drawn, were cultural interpretations of reality, and not true representations of the culture's values, beliefs, and so on.

Nevertheless, in some parts of the world, descriptive analyses of rock art have yielded important information about the animals, tools, weapons, economics, and social conditions in vanished cultures.

Comparative analyses are based on selective patterns that show up in the observed distributions of rock art. For example, the geographical distribution of rock art sites may be highly patterned due to such factors as local geology, the way the sites were used, patterns of land use, and belief systems prevalent in the culture.

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