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General Attributes

The attribute sets and attributes for the above class are described below. Minor edits which enhance the current definitions should be made directly to the text. Major changes or revisions that change the attribute key words should follow the directions at the bottom of this page under Proposed Changes.


Single Choice. What type of rock art is the element? Select one of the entries from below that best describes the element. If the element was pecked and then painted, select pictograph. [New window] Examples for General.Type

Rock art manufactured by altering the surface of a rock.
Rock art manufactured by applying paint, charcoal, etc. to a rock surface. Use the Color Attribute to define the colors used.
Rock art manufactured by altering, moving or arranging soil or rocks.
Includes metates, slicks, cupules, grooves, and worked edges.


Multiple choice. How was the petroglyph manufactured? The percussion and hammerstone selections should be checked only if the element was closely examined. [New window] Examples for General.Petroglyph

Scraped with a blunt rock or other object.
Cut with a sharp tool on softer rock. On close inspection, this will appear as a "V" shaped cut. It will be deeper and more precise than a scratch. It may have been created with multiple strokes.
Chipped by hammering or chiselling on the rock. Direct or Indirect Percussion should be used to further define pecked.
Surface cuts that are not deep and are imprecise. A scratch is a thin line made with a single stroke. There may be multiple lines; the lines may be multidirectional.
Direct Percussion
Chipped by striking the surface directly with a hammer rock. This process results in imprecise edges and periodic stray or misplaced dints.
Indirect Percussion
Chipped by using a hammer rock to strike a chisel rock. This process results in precise edges that are difficult to achieve with direct pecking.
Blunt Hammerstone
Chipped using a hammerstone with a blunt point. On soft rock this can be detected through use of a 10X lens and checking for dints that have a rounded shape.
Sharpened Hammerstone
Chipped using a hammerstone that has a sharp or sharpened edge. On soft rock this can be detected through use of a 10X lens and checking for dints that are angular and show the direction of impact.


Multiple choice. How was the pictograph manufactured? [New window] Examples for General.Pictograph

The element was painted with a brush.
The element was drawn with charcoal or a soft stone.
The element was sprayed with paint blown from the mouth or other device. Includes vandalism created with aerosol paint cans. Prehistoric sprayed elements may be negative. For example, a hand may be placed on the rock surface and paint sprayed over the hand to form an outline.
The element was created by applying paint to an object such as a hand and then pressing the hand against the rock surface.


Multiple choice. How was the geoglyph manufactured? [New window] Examples for General.Geoglyph

Butted In Line
Rocks are placed with the shorter ends touching the adjacent rocks and longer sides parallel to the line.
Butted Lateral
Rocks are placed with the longer sides touching the adjacent rocks so as to make a wider and more prominent line.
Rocks are placed with gaps between them creating an airy design.
Flat rocks are overlapped such that the edge of a rock lies on top of an adjacent rock and the opposite edge is overlapped by another rock.
Carefully placed small rocks are employed to fill in gaps to create a more solid looking and uniform line.
Small pebbles are poured over rock alignments to fill in the gaps to create a more solid looking and uniform line.
Surface pebbles are scraped to one or both sides to create a line or object. This is sometimes called an intaglio.


Multiple choice. How was the groundstone element manufactured? Groundstone elements include cupules, slicks, metates, mortars, grooves and worked edges. [New window] Examples for General.Groundstone

The surface has been ground smooth and flat (or evenly rounded) as a result of a to and fro or oval stroke with a mano.
A round hole was ground with a sharp tool.
Includes all of the following. Grooves made in a flat area, possibly as a result of tool sharpening. The edge of a rock has been notched or worked with a small object. A cupule was smoothed with a turning or twisting motion.
Includes all of the following. The outside edges of a metate or mortar has peck marks from the manufacturing stage. The middle of a metate or slick has peck marks created in an attempt to sharpen the grinding surface. A crude cupule was created by pecking.
The bottom of a mortar has been smoothed from repeated pounding with a pestle.
The surface is smoothed but irregular, possibly caused by sitting, walking, dancing, or using the surface as a work area.


Single choice. What level of craftsmanship was required to create this element? Consider the quality of execution, level of detail, size of the element, amount of work, and originality of design. Craftsmanship is not related to the visibility of the element. The condition of the element should not be a factor. Elements that are so deteriorated that they can not be rated should be checked Unknown.. [New window] Examples for General.Craftsmanship

Exceptional craftsmanship and design skills were demonstrated. Edges of lines are well defined, the design is unusual or shows fine details, and the element proportions are consistent.
The element is well made, but has minor flaws in execution, has a simple or common design, or lacks detail.
The element is recognizable and can be placed into a rock art class, but appears to have been manufactured with little effort, time, or skill. The lines of the element are ragged, and proportions are incorrect.
The element was poorly designed and quickly and carelessly manufactured. The edges of the element are imprecise and there is no detail. The element may resemble an amorphous shape. The element is difficult or impossible to classify.
The element is too deteriorated to rate.


Single choice. How visible is the element? The size, contrast, lighting and condition of the element may be considered as factors effecting visibility. The placement of the element should not be considered as a visibility factor. [New window] Examples for General.Visibility

The element is intact and there is good contrast between the element and the natural rock. The element is visible in almost all lighting conditions. The element is large enough that it can be recognized as rock art at a distance of five meters from the panel.
In favorable light, all of the edges of the element are visible. The element may be repatinated, small, sparsely pecked, lightly scratched, or have flaking paint.
Even in favorable light, some edges of the element are not visible.


Single choice. How much patina has redeveloped on the element? This does not apply to pictographs or geoglyphs. The choice indicates a subjective assessment of the amount of patina that has redeveloped on the element in comparison to the amount of patina on unmodified portions of the rock near the element. For elements with varying rates of repatination, indicate the average level. [New window] Examples for General.Repatination

There is no patina on the panel nor on the element.
No repatination has formed on the element.
An insignificant amount of repatination has formed on the element. The repatination does not effect the visibility of the element.
A significant amount of repatination has formed on the element that reduces the visibility of the element.
The repatination on the element appears to be the same or nearly the same color as the natural rock. The visibility of the element is heavily impacted.
The amount of repatination on the element varies from none to medium or slight to heavy.

Obscured by

Multiple choice. What factors obscure the visibility of the element? The damage or alteration is by nature or modern man. Prehistoric desecration of an element should be recorded under Modifications. [New window] Examples for General.Obscured by

The panel is broken or suffers from peeling. A portion of the element is missing.
Cracks have obscured parts of the element.
Bird droppings or other animal scat covered the element at the time of recording.
For petroglyphs, the patina of the natural rock has fallen off in small flakes, for pictographs, the paint has fallen off in small flakes making the element difficult to see.
Lichen covers or partially covers the element.
Mineral Buildup
Seeping or dripping water has stained the element with mineral deposits.
The element view is obstructed because it has fallen or covered by falling rock.
A thin layer of rock about the thickness of an orange peel have broken off.
The element is difficult to see because it has become repatinated.
The element is partially covered by soil.
Vandalism covers or partially covers the element.
The element is hidden from view by vegetation, has been damaged from branches rubbing on the rock or sap dripping from branches.
The element is obscured by seasonal flowing or standing water.


Multiple choice. For petroglyphs, how much energy was expended in creating the lines or solid areas of the element.

Lightly Stippled
Less than half of the surface area is removed, more than half is natural.
About half of the surface area is removed, about half is natural.
Heavily Stippled
More than half the surface area is removed, less than half is natural.
Enough surface area has been removed to create a solid line or area. Pecked lines may have a few adjacent dints that missed the target.
Enough rock surface has been removed to create a groove with a depth less than 1 centimeter (0.4 inches).
Heavily Grooved
Enough rock surface has been removed to create a groove with a depth greater than 1 centimeter (0.4 inches).


Multiple Choice. Are there unusual factors regarding the original placement of the element? [New window] Examples for General.Placement

An edge of this element touches an adjacent element that is recorded as a separate element. Or, there a line connecting this element with another.
The element is large and placed high on a rock to attract the attention of people passing the site. When new, the element could have been easily seen from a distance of 100 meters or more.
The element was created on a panel in direct view of a gathering, work or ceremonial area. The element may be larger than most elements or its placement suggests it may have had a special use.
The element is intentionally hidden from view as if only a selected group should be allowed to view the element. Do not use this selection for elements that are presently hidden because the panels have fallen from their original location.
The element design incorporates a natural feature of the rock such as a hole, bump, crack, discoloration, etc.
The element overlays, placed on top of, an older element.
Abuts Edge
The element ends at the sharp edge of a panel.
Crosses Edge
The element wraps around the edge of a panel onto another panel.


Multiple choice. Has the element been modified? Use these selections to record different types of modifications made to the element. [New window] Examples for General.Modifications

The element has been scratched over or abraded in a deliberate attempt to destroy this element.
Parts of the element are newer and appear to have been added to the original element.

A newer element has been placed over this, the older element. The newer element should be given the attribute Placement.Overlay.

A portion of the element has been repecked. Examples include small cupules or rectangles pecked into the torso of a deer.

Paint Colors

Multiple choice. What colors were used to paint the pictograph? Describe all the colors used to create a pictograph. [New window] Examples for General.Paint Colors


Age Guess

Single choice. What is the age of the element? The primary purpose is to allow the recorder to group various elements within a site by age when there is some means of judging the age differences such as patina, overlay, execution method, or style. Unless the site occupation date has been determined by other means, the choices below should be viewed only as an approximate indication of older versus newer elements within a site.

The groupings below were created by using round numbers of increasing duration with increasing age. The archaeological periods were applied as a best fit.

If all of the elements within one site appear to be of the same age, there is little benefit to be gained by making any selection. If there are age differences, then adding an age attribute will provide a basis of analyzing the differences and similarities between older/newer elements. [New window] Examples for General.Age

After 1950
The element was created after 1950. Graffiti.
The element was created about 50 to 200 years ago. Historic. Former 1850-1950
The element was created about 200 to 400 years ago. Historic or Navajo after contact. Former 1650-1850.
The element was created about 400 to 600 years ago. Navajo before contact.
The element was created about 600 to 800 years ago. Pueblo 3 and 4. Former 1300-1650
The element was created about 800 to 1100 years ago. Pueblo 1 and 2. Former 500-1300.
The element was created about 1100 to 1500 years ago. Basketmaker 3.
The element was created about 1500 to 2000 years ago. Basketmaker 2. Former -1000 to 500.
The element was created about 2000 to 3000 years ago. Basketmaker 1.
Before 1000BC
The element was created over 3000 years ago. Archaic


Multiple choice. Does the element have an intended use or represent a special meaning? [New window] Examples for General.Usage

A clan symbol.
Any element that appears to be emerging from a hole or crack in the rock.
Snakes, cupules, diamonds, etc. that are believed to be fertility symbols or rites of passage.
Hunting Magic
Zoomorphics that have been repecked or modified in a symbolic way.
A line that represents a nearby landscape. May include a rising or setting sun.
Some indication of magic or power such as long fingers or toes.
Spirals or other symbols believed to tell a migration story.
A map of a village, trail, or river.
Crosses or other religious symbols.
The element is part of a scene that tells a story of an event. For example, a hunting or war scene.
Solar Calendar
An element which marks the shadow of the winter or summer solstice or the spring and fall equinox.


Multiple choice. What were the difficulties in recording this element? Describe various difficulties encountered while recording the element, or reasons that prevent future recording activity. [New window] Examples for General.Errata

Debatable Class
The element was incorrectly classified into one of the existing defined rock art classes. For example, it is recorded as an anthropomorphic but may be a zoomorphic i.e. lizard.
The element was destroyed after it was recorded and no longer exists. The destruction may have been caused by man or nature.
The element duplicates another element or elements and is recorded as a secondary interpretation. This must not be checked for the primary interpretation.
Inadequate Attributes
The element could be better described, but the current attributes are inadequate. There are specific changes to the attributes and attribute sets which could be made to clarify the recording of similar elements.
The element is unfinished but has been classified as if it were complete. This should be used only when there is a nearby example of a similar completed element.
Possible Vandalism
The element has been classified as if prehistoric or historic but may be vandalism.
Possible Historic
The element has been classified as vandalism or prehistoric but may be historic.
Possible Prehistoric
The element has been recorded as a historic or vandalism but may be a prehistoric element.
Possible Natural
This element may be a stain, crack, exfoliation or other natural blemish in the rock.
This element is not longer located at this site because it was stolen after it was recorded.

Proposed Changes

If you have suggestions which add, delete, combine attributes or change the word used to define an attribute, then please copy the entire current attribute set definition above (including the attribute set heading) to the end of this page and edit your copy. If you wish to make a comment below your improved version (or someone else's improved version), add a horizontal rule and then your comment.

Minor changes in agreement with the someone's proposed changes should be made directly to the text, competing versions should be documented as complete revised copies including the heading.

To add a new attribute set, create it exactly as it should appear. For suggestions on sequence changes, create an appropriate heading below and add a comment. For other types of changes, innovate.

All documentation should be written for the target audience of volunteer rock art recorders.

GeneralAttributes (last edited 2017-01-20 03:35:12 by RogerHaase)

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