Ancient Petroglyphs Inspire Us Today - Free Art Lesson - Eva Varga

May 2, 2013

While traveling through the many National Parks in Utah and Arizona recently, we had the opportunity to observe several ancient petroglyphs that were carved into the  sandstone cliffs. Let me take you on a short virtual tour of these remarkable archeological sites and then I’ll share a free art lesson you can do with your kids (upper elementary recommended) to integrate art, history, and science.

This is the second post in the – Homeschooling on the Road – marathon blogging series.

Capitol Reef1

By the year 700 until sometime after 1250, the Fremont Culture people lived near the area that is now Capitol Reef National Park growing corn, beans, and squash and also hunting and gathering food. They left few traces, but the images painted on (pictographs) or carved into (petroglyphs) canyon walls can still be seen.


The stylized horse and rider surrounded by bighorn sheep and dog-like animals is typical of Ute rock art.  Carved sometime between A.D. 1650 and 1850, these petroglyphs are visible along the vertical wall along the trail to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park near Moab, Utah.

Today, these rock art panels are important to many Native Americans of the region because they were created by their ancestors.   Inspired by their artistry, upon our return home we ventured to a local landscape supplier in a quest to create our own small pieces of sandstone art.


We purchased a couple small pieces of sandstone (just a few dollars because they were so small) and sketched a simple image onto paper that was unique to our personalities and passions (Sweetie sketched an owl and Buddy created a Viking ship). Using graphite paper, we then transferred the image to the stone surface, using a pencil to touch up the transfer in any area that the image wasn’t clear.  Lastly, we carved into the stone with the aide of modern tools (a Dremel).  The kids loved the activity and were delighted that they had a special souvenir from our trip.

You know the skills and abilities of your kids better than anyone – please use caution before allowing children to use power tools. Depending on age, this lesson may not be appropriate for all students.  If you choose to undertake this activity with your children, you’ll want to have proper eye protection and of course give the kids instruction on how to properly operate the tool.

Oils from our skin hasten deterioration of these fragile and irreplaceable cultural resources. Federal law protects these ancient drawings.  Any person who excavates, removes, damages, or otherwise alters or defaces archeological or historical resources located on public lands may be fined $250,000 and imprisoned for five years. 
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