The following definitions are used by the Survey:

Glyph – any image in a graphic form that conveys an ancient mental thought.
Glyph type:

  • Pictograph - is a glyph painted on a boulder face
  • Petroglyph - is a glyph pecked into the surface of a boulder face
  • Mud glyph - is a glyph painted/drawn on a mud surface, usually in caves
  • Raised relief glyph is one that has had the glyph’s surrounding area pecked away; thus, a raised glyph
  • Images created by shadows or sunlight (temporary).


 

The glyph classification from most of Virginia and surrounding sites can be divided into:


  • Realistic - forms or images of living creatures.
  • Abstract - forms that are graphic (non-living creatures).


 

Several Virginia rockart sites measure the movement of the sun by solstices and daily movement. The process of ground-based constructions which cause sunlight to form observable images is coordinated with a time scale is called clockometrics.

 Commonality among Virginia glyphs, which can be classified as:

  • Animated art shows movement or a screen of images
  • Abstract art has geometric designs the meaning of which is unknown
  • Anthropomorphic art is an image of a living creature
  • Formless art as random designs
  • Nature-orientated designs
  • Humanoid art has a human figure.


 With reported megafauna glyphs being reported herein, rockart dates from the Pleistocene era to Contact. This report also contains portable rockart which are non-stationary forms of art, such as effigies. Their purpose cannot be determined archaeologically, other than surmising they had a social function in the society that made them. The art can also be called mobile art or non-fixed art. The practice dates from the Pleistocene to European contact in Virginia.



 

The Virginia Rockart Survey was started in 1983 by Wm Jack Hranicky to record outdoor inscriptions in prehistory. Later, then State Archaeologist, Allen Outlaw asked him to continue, and he became its director for survey operations (Hranicky 1985 and 2013). For many years, Dale Collins was the assistant Survey Director. The Survey has investigated numerous reported sites as possible rockart sites, but few actually turned out to be valid sites. However, the public has been the major source for information which has produced rockart site locations. With acid rain being so common in the uplands, pictographic sites are disappearing in Virginia. The Survey is the only active organization finding and recording Virginia and surrounding states’ sites. The recording of rockart sites depends on the Survey and its volunteers.

Numerous archaeologists have told the Survey that these sites are modern graffiti, natural geological formations, or not anything. The number of sites investigated and (re-) recorded by the Survey speaks to-or-for an opposite conclusion. Additionally, these same individuals say no ceremony was present because they are not sites. There are hundreds of archaeologists across the county finding and recording rockart sites. These finds are often reported at archaeological conferences, such as the sessions by American Rock Art Research Association (ARARA) at the Society for American Archaeology’s conference or at Southeastern Archaeological Conference (SEA) by the Eastern States Rock Art Research Association (ESRARA).

This report is a complete listing of the rockart sites in Virginia and surrounding areas, as presently known. It also includes rockart sites in neighboring states which have been investigated by the Survey. There is no complete public record of Virginia’s rockart sites; thus, this report is needed for the history and archaeological communities. The listing includes:

  • Rockart glyphs and sites (Tables 1 and 3)
  • Portable artforms (Table 4)
  • And, solstice sites /with clocks (Tables 2 and 5).


 

As a generalized category, all Virginia artforms can be classified as:

  • Fixed, meaning attached to a permanent form such as a boulder
  • Portable, meaning it can be carried from place to place.


 

The Virginia Rockart Survey is a nonprofit, independent organization with a staff of volunteers. The Survey locates and records rockart sites reported to it by citizens of Virginia and surrounding states. It started with two known Virginia sites and has increased the number of sites to over 20. The Survey operates on the following:

  • Always receives permission to visit, study, and record an artform site
  • Never removes any object from the site
  • Never conducts an excavation on the site under investigation
  • Always provides a written report to the property owner(s)
  • Obtains site numbers, if applicable
  • Uses volunteers for recording the site
  • Treats all sites as sacred places
  • Never chalks glyphs
  • Publishes Survey reports of the investigations.


 

Rockart is a universal graphic medium among all human populations which dates to the Mousterian/Neanderthal era. Many of the glyphs are pan-human and found throughout the world. Those glyphs that can be attributed to the prehistoric time and places will probably never be deciphered; they represent symbols and meanings that disappeared with the people who produced them. Many glyph symbols continue to be used in the modern era, especially in artwork and, in some cases, written literature. Rockart remains one of the largest anthro-topics in the world today. And very few archaeologists refer to rockart as ancient cartography. Or in other words, rockart is an ancient form of writing and communication. The basic research question: Do all these forms of art represent a social activity? The assumption here is yes. The answer is not always observable in archaeology and by archaeologists.

Graphics or abstract designs are one factor that makes homo sapiens human beings. This form of communication easily dates 75,000 years and is a pan-human phenomena that is found worldwide. Many of the signs and symbols are found all over the world. Naturally, local varieties occur, but many of them can be considered universal. One design that is common is the concentric ring. We will never know its prehistoric meaning; it is still used today, especially as a decorative element for artworks. We can assume that these forms are a communication from an ancient artist. He or she was writing to their society something that was special to them. Spirits and worldviews were common themes for them. Of course, today we can only appreciate the artistry.

Can art be separated as a cultural entity? True, many art practices can be attributed to specific cultures. Basically, art has three forms or factors:

  • Geological/environmental focus
  • Cultural practices and methods
  • Spiritual or worldviews.


 

These conditions form the baseline of rockart studies. The physical environment is obviously the only entity that can be analyzed archaeologically. The remaining two are usually analyzed using the ethnographic literature. The interpretation of rockart remains a very subjective effort on the part of analysts.

Called glyphs, Virginia has numerous designs and patterns that involve painting glyphs on stone, engraving glyphs into rock, or making actual human/animal figurines. Virginia rockart does not have a single style and covers thousands of years. We attempt to find all their sites, but Mother Nature does a good job of hiding them. This report represents nearly 50 years of finding and recording rockart sites in Virginia. All rockart glyphs have three factors:

  • Image and its color
  • Its boundary and its associations
  • Image texture or base material.