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Photograph of a Petroglyph

Date: 1840-1900. Photo taken 1891.


Description: This photo shows a petroglyph (from petro, “rock” and glyph, “picture”) found near Macy, Nebraska. Petroglyphs are distinct from pictographs, which are rock paintings, as they are incised into the rock with a chisel rather than painted on the surface. The dark surface rock is chipped off with the chisel, exposing the lighter rock underneath. They are usually associated with prehistoric tribes, including the Native American tribes of North America, but many tribes continued to carve these glyphs well into the historical and post-contact periods. Often tribes used petroglyphs record special events of that year, similar to the Winter Counts of the Sioux tribes. They are also commonly found in areas where it is thought that two different tribes met or came together.


The photograph of this petroglyph was taken by W.G. Linn of Sioux City, while he was on an expedition with J. Herbert Quick, also from Sioux City, in 1891. Quick had heard about these glyphs from an earlier expedition done in the 1850s and wanted to see them for himself. The glyphs are located south of Sioux City near the border of Dakota County and Thurston County in Nebraska; their exact location is protected for fear of vandalism. According to Quick’s notes and research conducted by Professor Emeritus Patricia O’Brien of Kansas State University, these glyphs in this photograph depict some kind of bear fight, with “bear paw” glyphs used by the Pawnee tribe who inhabited the area before their forced removal to Oklahoma. Other glyphs have been found nearby these glyphs around Blackbird Hill in Thurston County. These glyphs contain symbols associated with the Winnebago tribe, who were moved from Wisconsin to this area in 1832. It is unknown if these two petroglyphs are related. A partial cast of the Blackbird Hill petroglyphs can be seen in the Sioux City Public Museum gallery.


Donor: Alice Wakefield


Cast on display

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