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The Shield Motif in Plains Rock Art

  • David Gebhard (a1)


The representation in the prehistoric and the early historic art of North America of circular shields or human figures whose torsos are depicted in the form of a shield provide a revealing indication of how widespread and complex was the diffusion of objects, ideas, and forms on the continent. Drawings of the shields and of shield figures are found in rock paintings and engravings, on paintings and skins, and on incised bark scattered throughout the continent. The origin of the motif is still in question, although present evidence would seem to point to central Mexico. The earliest examples north of the Rio Grande would appear to be in the rock paintings of the lower Pecos area of Texas. It next appears as an important form in the rock art of Utah which has been attributed to the Fremont Culture. From this latter area in late Prehistoric times, it apparently spread to the northern Plains, and thence into the central and southern Plains where it briefly became an element in the rock art and the mural paintings of the late Pueblo cultures. During this late period it also entered into the art of the region east of the Mississippi and into the rock art of the far western part of the continent.



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The Shield Motif in Plains Rock Art

  • David Gebhard (a1)


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