Petroglyphs, drawings incised into rock surfaces, represent one of the more unique archeological resources that can be found in Kansas. Petroglyphs in Kansas range from prehistoric depictions of animals, humans, and symbols created by American Indians to modern-day initials and graffiti. Threatened by the elements and humans, this endangered archeological resource is one of the few artistic remnants from our prehistoric and historic past.
The Kansas Petroglyph Survey, undertaken by the KSHS staff in the late 1970s and early 1980s, resulted in extensive notes, photographs, and drawings that are on file in Topeka. Additionally, casts of petroglyphs from several sites in Kansas were donated in the 1960s.
This petroglyph from Ellsworth County is thought to depict a shaman figure. Shaman are often described as the "go-betweens" of the visible and spirit worlds. This figure has a horn on the left side of his head, a row of rays emanating from the top of his head, and a bag or container hanging from his arm.
The rockface pictured here has many petroglyphs inscribed onto it. There is no way to tell if some or all of they are related. They may represent a single year or hundreds of years of artistic tradition.
This petroglyph depicts one of the most important animals that was found on the Plains. The buffalo was central to the American Indian's lifestyle and was a common figure in petroglyphs of the area.
Another animal is shown in this petroglyph from Ellsworth County, this time a horse with a rider. After being reintroduced by Europeans, horses changed the way American Indians hunted, moved, and interacted with other groups.
Two views of the same petroglyph taken ten years apart. Heavy lichen and moss growth is beginning to destroy the rock surface and the petroglyphs. This illustrates the need for further research and monitoring, before this resource is forever lost.
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2014
Date Modified: June 2015
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