Kids Dig Archaeology Blog

Rock Art

Dr. Arty Fax’s Archy Facts is a blog introducing kids (currently stuck at home) to the exciting world of archaeology!

Manda Guéli Cave, Chad

Did you know that “rock art” is found all over the world?  ROCK ART, human-made markings placed on natural stone, is studied by archaeologists to help understand past cultures.

Rock art is found on every continent except Antarctica and has been produced in many different contexts throughout human history.  The oldest known rock art dates from over 64, 000 years ago!


Rock art can use SYMBOLS, a thing that represents something else.  We use symbols all the time in our everyday lives. Do you know the meaning of the symbols to the left?  I’m sure you do.  That’s because our CULTURE, the customs, beliefs, laws, and ways of living, commonly uses them and you have learned their meaning over time.  However, many of the symbols used in rock art may belong to a culture other than your own and their meaning remains unclear.  Are they used for storytelling, to depict spiritual beliefs, or artistic expression?  Whatever the meaning, rock art is a form of communication utilized before there was a written language.  Communication is an important part of all cultures.


Do you know what archaeological site is pictured at the top?
Scroll down to find out!


Rock art is made by either painting or engraving a rock surface.

Cueva de las Manos, Argentina

PICTOGRAPHS are paintings or drawings that have been made on a rock face.  Such artworks have typically been made with minerals mixed with animal fat, oil, or blood.  Commonly used colors are red, black, and white.  Red paint is usually attained through the use of ground ochre, while black paint is typically composed of charcoal.  White paint is usually created from natural chalk or clay.

Hand print pictographs are found in many rock art producing cultures.  This image can be produced by covering the hand in wet paint and applying it to the rock, or placing the hand against the rock and then blowing the paint over the hand with a tube or spitting the paint.


Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument, Utah

PETROGLYPHS are images engraved or carved into the rock panel.  They are created by using a sharpened stone with a hard hammerstone to peck the surface, or scratching into the surface of the stone with a lithic flake or metal blade.

Similar to the more traditional archaeological sites we have learned about, rock art sites need protection as well.  If you visit a rock art site, never touch, add paint or climb on or around the art.




Create a symbol that represents you or an important event in your life.

Make a Pictograph: Paint your symbol on a rock or a brown piece of paper.  Or create an entire rock art panel, that is a group of rock art figures.
Make a Petroglyph: Flatten a piece of clay into a flat slab.  Using the end of a paperclip, engrave your symbol into the clay.

Share your rock art with friends and family.  See if they can determine its meaning.

Altamira Cave
Cantabria, Spain

Fun Facts:
The Altamira Cave is 971 feet long containing rock art throughout, however humans only lived in the front chamber.  Archaeological remains date the occupation of the cave as early as 36,000 years ago! Around 13,000 years ago, the entrance to the cave collapsed, thus preserving the rock art inside until it was discovered in 1868.



Find out more about Altamira Cave here and here.

Volunteers work in the Center’s Research Library, cataloguing materials and organizing on a computer-based system.

Marketing and Administrative Volunteers assist the Development Office or Administration Office with data entry, updating marketing materials and clerical tasks. Computer experience is a plus.

Docents welcome visitors and answer general questions regarding the Center and exhibits. Docents staff the gift shop and help out with administrative and curatorial tasks.

Volunteers support event activities at the Center, such as the Annual BBQ, lectures, workshops, and fundraising events. Be a part of the party!

Volunteer provide support for K-12 programs offered at the Center. These are fun, hands-on programs that kids really enjoy. Teaching experience is a plus, but not required. Background checks are required.


With the assistance of Center staff, the intern will use photogrammetry to prepare one or more archaeological collections for digital preservation, as well as create a virtual museum exhibit for our Public Archaeology department. Per approval, special projects of the intern’s choosing are also available. During the research and planning, the intern will receive guidance as appropriate to their selected project. Prospective interns should already be familiar with photogrammetric procedures, and Agisoft Metashape.

Collections Management

With the assistance of Center staff, the intern will prepare one or more archaeological collections for curation. During the course of the internship, the intern will learn to identify artifacts and ecofacts common to the San Diego region, including lithics, ceramics, historical objects, and faunal, botanical, and mineral specimens. Center staff will instruct the intern on archaeological laboratory procedures such as basic artifact analysis, manual and computer cataloguing, storage requirements, and preventative conservation. In addition, the intern will become familiar with historical trends in archaeological practice in the San Diego area and will be introduced to current legal and ethical issues in archaeological curation as well as the concerns and rights of culturally affiliated groups with regard to archaeological materials.

Development and Marketing

Under the direction of Center staff, the intern will support the department in various activities, including, but not limited to, fundraising and grant research; e-newsletter development; social media marketing; and website maintenance. This internship will give the intern valuable, real-world experience in non-profit fundraising and marketing.

Geographical Information Systems in Archaeology

Prospective Interns must have completed three courses: Introduction to GIS, GIS Database Management, and Intermediate/Advanced Methods in GIS. The intern will be assigned a project where they will create shapefiles and maps for curated archaeological collections, museum exhibits, and/or public outreach using ArcGIS 10.6. Center staff will instruct the intern on archaeological GIS laboratory procedures such as computer cataloguing, storage requirements, and database management.

Library Science

With the assistance of Center staff, the intern will arrange and catalog materials in the Center’s library. During the course of the internship, the intern will take a leading role in the cataloging, sorting and storing of research files and creating user guides for these collections. Center staff will instruct the intern on archival procedures, computer cataloging, storage requirements, and preventative conservation.

Public Archaeology

Harness your passion for Public Archaeology and gain hands-on experience with K-12 museum field trips, lectures, and public outreach. Additional projects may include creating virtual museum exhibits and activities, assisting in the development and implementation of K-12 curricula programs, planning and presenting public facing content, or educational field trip content of your own design. Must be able to pass a Live Scan.