Plains Indian Rock Art

James D. Keyser and Michael A. Klassen

  • $39.95 paperback (9780295980942) Add to Cart
  • hardcover not available
  • Published: 2001
  • Subject Listing: Art History / Native American and Indigenous Art; Native American and Indigenous Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 344 pp., 50 photos, 356 line drawings, 7 x 10 in.
  • Territorial rights: N/A in Canada
  • Contents

The Plains region that stretches from northern Colorado to southern Alberta and from the Rockies to the western Dakotas is the land of the Cheyenne and the Blackfeet, the Crow and the Sioux. Its rolling grasslands and river valleys have nurtured human cultures for thousands of years. On cave walls, glacial boulders, and riverside cliffs, native people recorded their ceremonies, vision quests, battles, and daily activities in the petroglyphs and pictographs they incised, pecked, or painted onto the stone surfaces.

In this vast landscape, some rock art sites were clearly intended for communal use; others just as clearly mark the occurrence of a private spiritual encounter. Elders often used rock art, such as complex depictions of hunting, to teach traditional knowledge and skills to the young. Other sites document the medicine powers and brave deeds of famous warriors. Some Plains rock art goes back more than 5,000 years; some forms were made continuously over many centuries.

Archaeologists James Keyser and Michael Klassen show us the origins, diversity, and beauty of Plains rock art. The seemingly endless variety of images include humans, animals of all kinds, weapons, masks, mazes, handprints, finger lines, geometric and abstract forms, tally marks, hoofprints, and the wavy lines and starbursts that humans universally associate with trancelike states. Plains Indian Rock Art is the ultimate guide to the art form. It covers the natural and archaeological history of the northwestern Plains; explains rock art forms, techniques, styles, terminology, and dating; and offers interpretations of images and compositions.

"An outstanding contribution to rock art studies, of value . . . to those interested in the prehistory and history of the indigenous inhabitants of the Great Plains."
-H-Net Reviews, H-AmIndian, H-Net Reviews, H-AmIndian

Authors' Note
Part I. Introduction and Background
1. Introduction to Rock Art
2. Dating Rock Art
3. Interpreting Rock Art
4. The Area and Its History
5. Native Cultures of the Northwestern Plains

Part II. Rock Art Traditions of the Northwestern Plains
6. Early Hunting Tradition
7. Columbia Plateau Tradition
8. Dinwoody Tradition
9. En Toto Pecked Tradition
10. Pecked Abstract Tradition
11. Foothills Abstract Tradition
12. Hoofprint Tradition
13. Ceremonial Tradition
14. Biographic Tradition
15. Robe and Ledger Art Tradition
16. Vertical Series Tradition

Summary and Conclusions
Appendix. Sites Developed for the Public

"In the empire of rock art (at least on the northwestern plains), Keyser and Klassen reign supreme."
-European Review of Native American Studies

"An outstanding study of the rock art of the northern Great Plains from Colorado to Alberta. This area contains some of the earliest evidence of human occupation in the Americas, and there is rock art covering thousands of years."
-American Archaeology