Devil's river, Texas: Click for Images
Los Almos pictograph, Wellmann 1979



Shamanism | Stylistic interpretations | Gender | Celestial

Although the formulation, questioning and rejection of hypotheses takes place within changing social, political and academic settings, we need not conclude that all descriptions and explanations of the past are simply “constructs”. Some hypotheses are supported by more compelling evidence than others; it is not impossible to discriminate between more true, less true and simply wrong explanations—independently, that is, of researchers' politics.

Below are several interpretive theories and hypotheses that are not mutually exclusive. Hunter-gatherer and historic rock art, unlike most Western image-making, does not necessarily comprise many identifiable categories that deal, independently, with a range of issues, and that serve an almost infinite number of functions.

For example, it is a Eurocentric notion that the rock face was meaningless, a tabula rasa on which artists could paint whatever they wished; in many parts of the world, the rock face is a veil between this world and the spirit realm. Utilizing conventional art history approaches will not necessarily help us discern the meaning of the rock art images.

Some of the most important issues in rock art research today are: Who made the art, and in what social circumstances? Why did they make it? Who viewed the art, and how do viewers derive meaning?

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Shamanism and Entoptics

Stylistic Interpretations

Ethnic and Gender Rites

Celestial Interpretations


Introduction Theories Images Regions Conservation Dating Resources Credits