What’s in a Name: Rock Imagery

You may have noticed that we at UPAN and in the wider State Historic Preservation Office, we refer to “rock imagery” when discussing prehistoric/Indigenous petroglyphs, pictographs, and other culturally meaningful markings on stone. For many years “rock art” has been the preferred term used by archaeologists and other Western-educated scholars… but no one ever asked the descendant communities about the terms they used!

Truly, the Indigenous names for rock imagery are as diverse as the Indigenous communities themselves, so our blanket term “rock imagery” could be seen as not exactly a step forward, but more of a step to the side. For the moment that will have to suffice, and we hope that our use of the term “rock imagery” can show that we are willing to learn and change, and it also symbolizes that we are still evolving in how we talk about, conceptualize, and protect ancient rock imagery. We will undertake a discussion with Utah’s Indigenous peoples regarding their preferred terminology.

If you want to have your voice heard on the topic of what to call rock imagery, please let us know on our Facebook page or on Twitter. We look forward to hearing from you!

Rock imagery near Manila, Utah