Folk Lore

O desiderato de compreender a arte rupestre não se centrará sobretudo numa questão de proveniência da informação acerca da mesma mas sim numa questão qualitativa, i.e., na qualidade dessa informação e da sua adequada interpretação. Confundir folclore com folk lore não será, certamente, a melhor opção... Tal como confundir cátedra com catedral :)

We recognize the special significance that rock art continues to have in the traditional culture of Plains Indians. Many Native people regard rock art sites as sacred places and consider pictographs and petroglyphs as links to the spirit world. Rock art is thus far more than an archaeological resource to be classified and managed, or an artwork to be admired – it is part of a living culture and a sacred heritage that must be honored.


In traditional Plains Indian beliefs, much rock art originates in the spirit world. Oral traditions often describe petroglyphs and pictographs as “writings” of spirit beings – images that, shifting and changing over time, communicate messages from the spirit realm to living people. In this traditional world view, everything in life reflects a celestial order, and objects and beings possess sacred powers. Events are seen as repetitions of mythic precedents taking place in cyclic time, and human actions repeat those of the spirit ancestors.

In contrast, the scientific or historic conception of the world views objects and people independent of the cosmos. Time is a linear progression, in which each event is uniquely related to the historical past, and current cultural conditions are explained as the result of a series of actions taken by human beings. Based on this view, archaeologists identify rock at as the creation of people at various times in the chronological past.


Too often, rock art researchers have misunderstood or dismissed traditional explanations because they did not fit scientific models. From our viewpoint, traditional explanations offer valuable insights into the meaning and function of the images – in many ways they can be understood as metaphors of how non-Western cultures relate to their world (Whitley, 1994). These sacred interpretations, when understood in terms of their cultural context, often provide information available nowhere else.

James D. Keyser & Michael A. Klassen in Plains Indian Rock Art (University of Washington Press, 2001, pp. x e 28)

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