Montana Outdoors

January 21, 2010

Pictograph, or Ancient Art…

Filed under: Montana, Outdoors, Photography, Pictographs — Tags: , , , — montucky @ 4:41 pm


According to Wikipedia, “A pictograph (also called pictogram or pictogramme) is an ideogram that conveys its meaning through its pictorial resemblance to a physical object. Earliest examples of pictographs include ancient or prehistoric drawings or paintings found on rock walls.” While the “pictograph” in this photo does exist on a slab of rock, I would personally consider it a piece of art rather than some kind of a message because it stands there completely alone as though the sheep were wistfully looking out over a very beautiful scene. It is a very small one, measuring about 2.5 inches in height and 3.75 inches in width: to provide perspective, the following photo shows a larger view. (There are several more photos that I would absolutely love to show, but in the interest of protecting the piece from possible theft or damage, I have decided to refrain from showing anything that could possibly lead someone to its whereabouts.)


There is also a story to go along with this discovery:

I did not discover this pictograph myself. Instead, it was “discovered” by my very observant wife who has never even been to that site, and here is how that came about. Almost invariably I bring back photos from my wanderings and almost invariably she reviews them. As she looked at one of the scenes I brought back that day she detected the tiny image of the sheep on a rock right at the edge of the photo. When we enlarged the photo it became clear what it was and that caused me to immediately make another trip to the site to take more photos. (I first printed the one of the scene and using that photo enabled me to return to the exact location.) Without her keen observation it would have been completely missed.

I reported the finding to a person of authority in the area, indeed, I took him to it to see for himself and am assuming that he will put the wheels in motion to take the correct actions to preserve/protect the pictograph. As far as I am concerned, it is a priceless piece of ancient art.



  1. Terry:

    What a wonderful discovery! Hopefully it will become well-protected.



    Comment by Chad — January 21, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

    • I sure hope so too, Chad. I will check back on it and follow up though.


      Comment by montucky — January 21, 2010 @ 7:45 pm

  2. Good job by the Mrs!!! Nice photographs of the tiny work of art as well.


    Comment by kcjewel — January 21, 2010 @ 7:19 pm

  3. This is an incredible find. You should contact a local university, the Nature Conservancy or your local museum of natural history so they can document the find and register it.



    Comment by Jeff Lynch — January 21, 2010 @ 8:42 pm

    • I will be pursuing some contacts to do that. I also think it’s incredible.


      Comment by montucky — January 21, 2010 @ 9:14 pm

  4. How wonderful that we are given the gift to see it in it’s natural element.


    Comment by SuzieQ — January 21, 2010 @ 10:44 pm

    • I’m very glad that I am not the one who will have to decide just how to conserve this piece. I would be torn between the security that would certainly be stronger were it moved to a museum or for somehow keeping it in its original place where it is quite clear to the observer that the artist depicted the pair as looking out over a beautiful scene.


      Comment by montucky — January 21, 2010 @ 10:49 pm

  5. Oh wow – I’m glad your wife saw it and I’m glad you took steps to keep it safe.


    Comment by Stacey Dawn — January 21, 2010 @ 11:06 pm

    • Just the first step. There may have to be others. If it were up to me I’d have posted an armed guard already. The piece is irreplaceable.


      Comment by montucky — January 22, 2010 @ 12:04 am

  6. I remember the debate well: is it art or is it a representation of something tangible? If art, was it done in a religious context or purely for the joy of art?

    To me, this appears to be a marker. It reminds me of similar symbols that predated hieroglyphs in Ancient Egypt. I find the color interesting.


    Comment by burstmode — January 22, 2010 @ 7:54 am

    • I hope to find out more about it. I’ve talked to a retired anthropologist who has good connections to the academic community here and I’ll see what materializes from that.


      Comment by montucky — January 22, 2010 @ 11:57 am

  7. The detail is quite amazing. In fact, the quality leads me to question how recently it was painted!


    Comment by sciencedude288 — January 22, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

    • I have thought about that too and am hoping I can get an expert to look at it.


      Comment by montucky — January 22, 2010 @ 6:58 pm

  8. Amazing! Wow what a find! Neat that your wife noticed…yeah! I’m glad you’ve set out to have this protected. And what a lovely pictograph at that. I do hope you find out more about it. Really amazing!


    Comment by Anna Surface — January 22, 2010 @ 6:09 pm

    • It will be interesting to find out more. I will follow up on it later.


      Comment by montucky — January 22, 2010 @ 6:59 pm

  9. That is amazing! An historic artifact!


    Comment by Barbara — January 22, 2010 @ 6:53 pm

    • I’ve seen others around here, but this one is exceptional, even though it’s very small.


      Comment by montucky — January 22, 2010 @ 7:00 pm

  10. Wow. That is so cool. I was wondering if you come across art like this occasionally in the mountains. But you answered that in your last comment. Hope you will share with us when you find out more information about this artwork.


    Comment by kateri — January 23, 2010 @ 12:02 am

  11. Wow, how beautiful and exciting.


    Comment by Candace — January 23, 2010 @ 7:45 pm

    • It is. I am anxious to show it to someone who specializes in such things.


      Comment by montucky — January 23, 2010 @ 8:27 pm

  12. how amazing! like something out of a movie!


    Comment by silken — January 23, 2010 @ 9:30 pm

    • There is an amazing number of interesting things to be seen in the outdoors if one can be there enough. This one was totally unexpected and exciting.


      Comment by montucky — January 23, 2010 @ 10:13 pm

  13. Wow. This is great. I have never seen anything like that. In my country we have very old rock paintings, but pictographs no.


    Comment by sartenada — January 25, 2010 @ 6:00 am

    • There are a number of pictographs in that general area, but this was the smallest one. I will continue to seek to find more about it. Thank you for visiting, Sartenada!


      Comment by montucky — January 25, 2010 @ 8:00 pm

  14. Regardless of what the experts determine its age to be, it is clear that the artist had a similar respect for and love of the beauty of nature which we all enjoy. Whether over months, years, or centuries the feeling translates well.


    Comment by DaveABirding — January 25, 2010 @ 8:15 am

    • Yes. I have admiration for the artist. THere is a lot of feeling in it. At some point I hope I will be able to post some of the other photos so the whole scene may be visible.


      Comment by montucky — January 25, 2010 @ 8:02 pm

  15. Terry! WOW! What a find! Your wife must be as proud as punch, as the old saying goes. You must have been looking at the larger scene and did not concentrate on the smaller aspects. Are pictographs common in your area? Could these have been drawn/painted at a much later date? Guess the person you reported to knows how to date them.

    Lovely. Great find.


    Comment by Iona — January 25, 2010 @ 9:20 pm

    • Exactly, Iona. I was not looking closely at the rock which was in the foreground of the photo, but somehow she noticed it. Yes, there other pictographs spread around but I’ve not seen anything like this one. ‘m still trying to get in contact with someone who really knows about such things and will keep after it until I find someone. It is clearly possible that this was drawn at a later date that the others I’ve seen and I hope to find an expert who can tell if that’s true.


      Comment by montucky — January 25, 2010 @ 9:44 pm

  16. […] on a very large rock along the river. (Some background can be found in a story I posted then, Pictograph, or Ancient Art…. I initially thought it was an old pictograph because there are some pictographs in the same […]


    Pingback by A visit to an old painting « Montana Outdoors — January 24, 2011 @ 12:29 pm

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