Throughout North American prehistory, Indians left direct artistic representations in the form of decorations on bone, clay, shell, stone, and wood artifacts at both their domestic and ceremonial sites. A less common medium for artistic representation is the "decoration" of prominent topographic features in the regional landscape with pictographs and petroglyphs (rock carvings). Even less common, fragile mud glyphs sometimes survive on cave walls as nearly hidden cultural expressions in the subterranean world. Unlike the glyphs incised into a mud lining on a cave wall or those carved into rock, pictographs were created by applying a natural pigment, or paint, to a rock outcrop.
On Paint Lick Mountain, soft mudstone containing a concentration of iron oxide, or hematite, provides a readily available source of material for the red pigment used to create the pictographs. Eroded fragments of the soft mudstone are found on the mountain slope near the pictographs and are interspersed among the rocky outcrops, cliffs, and "boulder fields" of quartzite and other dense rocks that form the mountain. Pieces of mudstone may have been ground into a powder and mixed with a binding agent to form a red paint applied with a brush or finger. Alternatively, a piece of the soft mudstone may have been held in the hand and used to draw directly onto the rocky outcrop.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Klatka, T. Paint Lick Mountain Pictograph Archaeological Site. (2014, May 30). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Paint_Lick_Mountain_Pictograph_Archaeological_Site.
- MLA Citation:
Klatka, Thomas. "Paint Lick Mountain Pictograph Archaeological Site." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 30 May. 2014. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: April 22, 2011 | Last modified: May 30, 2014