Plains Indian Rock Art

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Overview


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.

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Product Details

Table of Contents

Authors' Note on Names
Preface
Acknowledgments
Pt. 1 Introduction and Background
1 Introduction to Rock Art 3
2 Dating Rock Art 16
Interpretation: Superimpositioning at a North Cave Hills Site 26
3 Interpreting Rock Art 28
Interpretation: "All Kinds of Spirits Dwell Up There" 38
4 The Area and Its History 41
Interpretation: Medicine Rocks 55
5 Native Cultures of the Northwestern Plains 57
Interpretation: War Bridles and Otter Bundles 70
Pt. 2 Rock Art Traditions of the Northwestern Plains
6 Early Hunting Tradition 75
7 Columbia Plateau Tradition 93
Interpretation: The Kokopelli of Grotto Canyon 105
8 Dinwoody Tradition 107
Interpretation: Poha Kahni: Where Spirits Live in the Rocks 125
9 En Toto Pecked Tradition 127
10 Pecked Abstract Tradition 139
11 Foothills Abstract Tradition 151
Interpretation: Bear Power, Bear Dreamers 174
12 Hoofprint Tradition 177
13 Ceremonial Tradition 191
Interpretation: Saahkomappi and the Big Dogs 222
14 Biographic Tradition 224
Interpretation: The Battle Scene 254
15 Robe and Ledger Art Tradition 257
Interpretation: Counting Coup at Crossfield Coulee 279
16 Vertical Series Tradition 281
Interpretation: Grooves and Tallies 295
17 Sites Developed for the Public 297
18 Summary and Conclusions 306
Bibliography 314
Index 327
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