The Transformational Properties of Water and Rock Art

Author(s): Johannes Loubser

Year: 2018


Water helps breach the rock surface in both physical and perceptual ways. The addition of water facilitates the production of petroglyphs not only by weakening the bond between particles in sedimentary rocks but also with the moist particles acting as an effective abrasive slurry. The addition of water to natural earth pigment powder allows the colorant to effectively enter pores and interstices. Many virtually invisible petroglyphs and pictographs "magically' appear when covered with a thin layer of water. Southeastern Indians stood on damp surfaces or were partly submerged in water when producing petroglyphs. They also purified in rivers prior to major undertakings, such as producing or visiting petroglyphs. Numerous accounts mention these Indians entering the domain of spirit beings behind the rock surface through a waterfall or river pool. Some still believe that ocean and spring water are connected and practice rituals where ocean water is poured over a petroglyph boulder to animate its surface and to mix potent medicines from different realms.

Cite this Record

The Transformational Properties of Water and Rock Art. Johannes Loubser. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444154)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.735; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -73.389; max lat: 39.572 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 18766