The Wonderful World Of... Blog

The Wonderful World of ROCK ART

This month, we are delving into the fascinating world of rock art. There are many kinds of rock art but they are all human-made and found on natural surfaces. Different types of rock art can be found all over the world and have been found on every continent, except for Antarctica. In archaeology, rock art is important to study because it can give deeper insight into the cultures that created them. Some of the more well-known types of rock art are pictographs, petroglyphs, and petroforms.


Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain

A pictograph is similar to a painting and is made by mixing minerals and wet substances like animal fat, oil or blood. The most commonly used colors are black, red, and white. Red paint is made from ground ochre, black paint is usually composed of charcoal, and white paint comes from clay or natural chalk. Animals and tools are commonly found images as well as handprints.


This petroglyph photograph was taken by Alan Levine and is located in Winslow, AZ.

Petroglyphs, unlike pictographs, are engravings that are carved into rock. Tools like a hammerstone or sharpened rock would be used to remove unwanted stone and create the desired shapes and symbols. There are many different techniques for creating a petroglyph.


Petroforms are human-made shapes or patterns placed on open ground using large rocks. These are generally much larger than petroglyphs and pictographs and are thought to have many purposes. The placement of these rocks could represent burial or ritual sites, or perhaps have aided in navigation. Much is still unknown about rock art as it many times is highly symbolic.

Preserving Rock Art

Rock art, like other cultural heritage, need your protection. If you visit a rock art site, do not touch, paint, or climb upon the art. Protecting the past is important and these sites are precious.

Learn More

This petroform photograph was taken by Rob Swystun in Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba, Canada.

How would you like to see some of the most famous rock art sites from around the world, without leaving your house? The San Diego Archaeological Center is happy to present a new online exhibition Visions: Rock Art from Around the World. This community curated project gives participants a chance to feature their photographs of rock art with the world! The exhibition will be LIVE on the Center’s website soon.

This exhibition will be ongoing and we are still accepting submissions! You can submit your images on our Rock Art Submission Form.

To learn more about rock art, visit our Dr. Arty Fax’s Archy Facts blog and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Up Next

Thanks for tuning in. Come back again next month to learn about HISTORIC ARCHAEOLOGY.

By Jessica McPheters, Collections Manager



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.