– to wear or scrape away through repeated abrasive movement of a tool.
abrasion petroglyph – a technological class of rock marking, produced by a process of abrasion removing rock mass.
abri – a concavity in a rock wall, formed by one or more natural processes, most commonly of erosion. French equivalent of ‘rockshelter’.
absolute age – a numerical age in calendar years, rarely able to be determined in rock art research or archaeology.
abstract motif – a rock art motif that, to most Western observers, offers no iconic information elements.
accelerator mass spectrometry – a technique of determining the quantities of specific isotopes or nuclides in a sample, by separating them in a mass spectrometer and counting their individual atoms. In rock art science, cosmogenic nuclides may be determined in this way, including carbon-14.
accretion – an externally added, naturally deposited material on a rock surface, usually consisting of chiefly mineral matter.
Acheulian – a lithic tradition of the Lower Palaeolithic, characterised especially by ‘handaxes’, and found widely in the Old World, from southern Africa to India; named after the site of Saint-Acheul, Somme valley, France.
adze – a small stone tool, usually made from a flake, steeply retouched, mounted on a handle and used in wood working.
aeolian – pertaining to, caused by, or carried by the wind; aeolian erosion can affect rock surfaces.
ahu – a rectangular ceremonial platform on Easter Island/Rapa Nui, where it sometimes supports large anthropomorphous stone statues, and on the Society Islands.
ales (pl. alites) – a therianthrope with wings or arms in wing-like posture, found among southern African pictograms.
alignment – an anthropic arrangement of boulders or cobbles in relation to each other.
alluvial – of, pertaining to, or composed of sediment deposited by flowing water.
amino acid racemisation – a dating technique utilising the time-dependent conversion process (called racemisation) of L-isomers, the amino acids in living matter, to D-isomers.
amorphous – without definite shape or form, or lacking crystalline structure.
AMS – see accelerator mass spectrometry.
analogy – a form of logical inference based on the assumption that if two things are known to be alike in some respects, then they must be alike in other respects.
anamorphosis – an image distorted so that it can be viewed without distortion only from a particular perspective.
Ancestral Heroes – in various traditional ontologies, the beings who created the landscape and the living things in it.
animal scratch marks – rock markings made with the claws of a great variety of animal species, found commonly in limestone caves.
anthropic – pertaining to or made by human beings.
anthropogenic – made by human beings.
anthropomorph – an object or picture providing adequate visual information to most contemporary humans as resembling human form.
anthropomorphic – concerning a deity’s resemblance of human form; human motivation or characteristics attributed to animals, inanimate objects or natural phenomena.
anthropomorphous – providing visual information recognised by most contemporary humans as resembling human form.
archaeology – the study of the human past through the recovery of taphonomically distorted material evidence thought to relate to human cultural information; cf. culture.
archaeomagnetic dating – see palaeomagnetism.
archaeometry – the use of techniques of the sciences in interpreting material remains recovered by archaeology.
archaeozoology – palaeontological work in the context of archaeological parameters, which includes also the subjective identification of rock art motifs thought to depict animals.
art – the medium conveying awareness of a perceived reality to the sensory perception of other humans, i.e. the basis of denoting anthropocentric reality. More generally, the production or arrangement of sensory information (sounds, colours, forms, movements) for human use and consumption.
artefact – an object that has been modified, manufactured or even just used by a human or hominoid, usually but not necessarily portable.
ASL system – the sediment classification system of the Archaeological Soil Lab, Australia.
assemblage – a group of artefacts archaeologists consider as a single analytical unit.
astromorph – an object or picture providing adequate visual information to contemporary humans as resembling astral or lunar form.
attribute – a specific variable of rock art, such as size, inclination, colour, groove depth.
Aurignacian – an early Upper Palaeolithic tradition of southern Europe and the Near East, roughly 40-28 ka; named after the Aurignac rockshelter in the Pyrenees, France.
axe-grinding groove – elongate, concave shape abraded into near-horizontal rock, a result of reducing ground axe heads to the desired finish.
Azilian – a final Palaeolithic to early Mesolithic tradition of south-western Europe, roughly 11-10 ka; noted for its schist cobbles bearing red paint markings.B
back lighting
– in photography, the technique of lighting an object from behind, or from an angle between 135 and 225 degrees from focal axis.
bark painting – an Australian painting, traditionally of mineral or vegetal colours, executed on flattened and cured tree bark.
barred lines – a rock art motif consisting of a series of parallel or sub-parallel, usually vertical lines of similar lengths.
bas-relief – a sculpture of low relief, or a carving on a flat surface, in which figures are raised only slightly from background.
bead – a small circular or spherical object, with central perforation or otherwise attachable to string.
bedrock – the solid rock that underlies all sediments or detrital deposits, or lies exposed as the ground surface.
beeswax figure – a rock art motif made by applying shaped beeswax to rock surfaces, found in northern Australia.
bichrome – a pictogram executed in two different colours.
binder – a component of rock art paint, assisting uniform consistency, solidification or adhesion.
biomorph – an object or picture providing adequate visual information to contemporary humans as resembling a biological form.
boulder – a granulometric division, designating the largest fraction of gravel, according to the ASL system larger than 250 mm in diameter.
BP, bp – before present, meaning before A.D. 1950; used for dates in radiocarbon years. These are not calendar years but statistical expressions of radiocarbon ratios.
Bradshaw figure – superseded term, see gwion.
breccia – a rock composed of angular rock fragments larger than the sand fraction, cemented in a fine-grained matrix.
bridging argument – an argument linking the material remains studied in archaeology with their interpretations as components of living cultural systems.
bruise – to pound a rock surface lightly, but sufficient to remove some of its weathering zone.
bruising – a rock marking produced by light direct percussion, through removal of weathered material; see also sgraffito.
burin – a stone tool with a short transverse working-edge formed by the removal of a narrow spall, used in engraving.

– an anthropic mound of stones.
calcification – an impregnation with calcium salts, especially calcium carbonate, with consequent hardening or fossilisation.
calcrete – a sandstone formed with calcium carbonate as the cement.
calibrated age – an age estimate derived from a method determining individual rates of particular processes that must be calibrated by independent chronological control.
calibration – a systematic standardisation of a quantitative expression by means of a reference factor.
carving – a design cut into a surface with a sharp instrument, such as a knife or carving chisel.
cast – a negative impression formed by a mould or matrix, such as a petroglyph cast formed by plaster of Paris.
cation-ratio dating – a technique once thought to date geomorphic and petroglyph surfaces, based on the premise of a time-related decrease of the ratio of calcium and potassium to titanium, now refuted; developed by R. I. Dorn.
cave – a hollow space in bedrock, which may or may not be accessible from the surface, and may contain a variety of solid and liquid bodies, including sediments, speleothems and phreatic systems; cf. rockshelter.
cave art – a rock art tradition found in caves, but not necessarily endemic to them; occurs in all continents except Antarctica.
cenote – a karst phenomenon, caused by the collapse of a cave roof into a phreatic reservoir, resulting in a water-filled sinkhole.
Chalcolithic – a technological period marked by the introduction of copper use, applied especially in India and Near East, elsewhere often termed Copper Age or Eneolithic.
chert – a collective term for sedimentary microcrystalline silica rock formed by selective replacement of limestone; in some regions occurring as flint.
chevron – a pattern of repeated V-shapes.
chronology – the arrangement of past events or manifestations according to their temporal sequence, and the science of providing dates for them.
chronometric dating – the dating methods that report results as numerical age estimations, in most cases qualified by expressions of uncertainty and other factors; cf. relative dating.
churinga – see tjuringa.
cicatrice – a form of body decoration, a deliberately made body scar, usually cut with a stone knife.
clast – a fragment of rock of any size, but used especially to denote cobble-sized angular breakdown debris.; synonymous to detritus.
claviform – being club shaped.
clay – the smallest of the granulometric fractions, according to the ASL system grains of under 2 microns diameter; also a textural class designation relative to sand and silt; and a descriptive term of sediment dominated by clay-size particles.
CLM – see convergent lines motif.
cluster – a configuration of elements gathered or occurring closely together.
cobble – a granulometric division, according to the ASL system designating clasts between 60 and 250 mm in diameter.
cognitive archaeology – the branch of archaeology that investigates the development of human cognition.
colluvium – a loose deposit of rock debris formed at the base of a cliff or slope, such as a talus scree.
colour – the wavelength of light emitted or reflected by an object, perceived as the sum of the constituent values of hue, saturation (chroma) and lightness (tone).
colour reconstitution – the method of recovering original colour information at time of photographic recording, compensating for the photographic process and other distortions through digitised re-calibration against a known standard; cf. IFRAO Standard Scale.
complex, site complex – a group of rock art sites or galleries in close geographical proximity, arranged over an area of up to some square kilometres.
composition – the arrangement of parts of a rock art motif so as to form a meaningfully juxtaposed whole; cf. scene.
concentric circles – an arrangement of two or more circles, each nested centrally within the next larger.
concretion – a coalesced deposit of mineral matter formed through the deposition of a cementing mineral precipitate, such as carbonate, silica or iron salts.
conservation – the practice of preserving from natural or anthropic deterioration by means of specific measures.
contact art – a form of rock art pertaining to the period of initial contact with European colonisers or other aliens, characterised by the occurrence of depictions of imported objects or ideas.
contamination – a chemical or physical component that distorts the result of an analytical process.
context – the circumstances in which a particular event occurred, which may be crucial in an archaeological interpretation of it.
convergent lines motif – a common rock art motif, consisting of two or more lines converging at one end, but not necessarily connecting. When it consists of three connecting digits it is often defined as a bird track, vulva, arrow etc.; see trident.
core – an intact cylindrical sample taken of a solid substance (rock, sediment, bone, ice etc.) by means of a core drill. The term is also used to define the nucleus that remains after stone flakes are knapped.
core tool – a stone tool made from a nucleus, not from a flake or blade, bearing retouch or use wear.
correlated age – an age estimate produced through correlation (association) with independently dated events.
correlation – a causal, complementary, parallel or reciprocal relationship, especially a structural, functional or qualitative correspondence between comparable entities.
cortex – a surface zone on rock which may be the result of weathering, but more often refers to the porous but hard zone of incomplete silicification found on chert nodules.
cosmogenic radiation dating – a technique of estimating geomorphic exposure ages, based on the production of nuclides by cosmic ray bombardment and using noble gas mass spectrometry and accelerator mass spectrometry.
cosmography – description of a perceived world or universe; the way in which a cosmology has been recorded.
cosmology – a belief system or world-view of a society, creating an ordered universe.
CRM – the abbreviation of cultural resource management, which refers to the protection of sites by the state.
cross-dating – the attempt to date an artefact on the basis that what is perceived to be a similar artefact has been dated by a scientific method elsewhere.
cross-hatching – two or more sets of parallel or sub-parallel fine lines in contrary directions, used to fill in some engraved outline motifs.
cruciform – having the shape of a cross.
culture – the transference of practice by non-genetic means, and the behaviour based on such transference.
cuneiform – being wedge shaped.
cup-and-ring mark – a common petroglyph motif in some regions, consisting of a central cupule and one or several concentric circles surrounding it.
cup mark – see cupule.
cupule – a hemispherical percussion petroglyph, which may occur on a horizontal or vertical surface.
curation – the practice of keeping artefacts or manuports in custody for a period of time, of looking after them, and sometimes of reworking them.
curvilinear – consisting of curved lines.
custodian – an indigenous or autochthon person with traditional curatorial rights for a rock art site, often determined by a metaphysical belief system.
cylcon – a cylindrical-conical stone object of unknown purpose with a tapered end, found especially in western New South Wales, Australia, which may or may not be incised with engravings.

– a method of estimating the age of a deposit or artefact.
dendrochronology – a dating technique based on the sequences of annual tree-rings found in the trunks of trees, and in timbers used in anthropic structures. This is the principal method of absolute dating.
dendroglyph – a motif cut or painted into or onto the bark or wood of a living tree trunk.
dent – a small hollow made on a rock surface when struck with a hammerstone by direct percussion; cf. nick.
desert varnish – see rock varnish.
diachronic – pertaining to development through time.
diffusion – a transference of material culture or ideas from one society to another.
digital fluting – see finger fluting.
diluent – a liquid used in the preparation of rock art paint, which may be water, blood, urine or other.
direct dating – the dating of rock art by direct physical relationship of art and dating criterion, and falsifiable propositions concerning this relationship; introduced by R. G. Bednarik.
direct percussion – a method of producing petroglyphs with the impact of one hand-held tool.
drawing – a technological class of pictogram, consisting of dry applied pigment.
Dreaming – a parallel time frame that in Australia overlaps with the present through ceremony and ritual.
dripline – the outline of the furthest projection of the roof of a rockshelter or cave entrance.
dripline, artificial – a barrier erected on the underside of a rockshelter roof to prevent rain water from spilling onto the ceiling area, usually made of silicone applied with a pressure gun.
dry application – an application of pigment to a rock surface without the use of a diluent, usually by crayons of charcoal or iron compounds; cf. drawing.
dynamic figures – a corpus of rock art consisting of anthropomorphs or zoomorphs shown in apparent poses of movement.

Early Pleistocene
– the earliest geological period of the Quaternary, from about 1.8 million years ago to 780 000 years ago.
electron probe microanalysis – a form of non-destructive chemical analysis, in which a sample bombarded by electrons emits recordable x-rays which reveal the presence and concentrations of chemical elements.
electron spin resonance dating – a radiogenic dating technique detecting electrons trapped in charge-deficit sites which result from natural irradiation.
emblemic – pertaining to a distinctive sign of the state, status or class of a person, recognisable by participants in the culture concerned.
Eneolithic – see Chalcolithic.
engraving – a rock marking produced by a process of abrasion with a pointed graver or burin.
enhancement – a process of increasing specific values or contrasts of a photographic or digitised image, commonly by electronic manipulation.
entoptic phenomenon – an image created by the visual neural system without retinal input, as in dreams and through phosphenes or hallucinations.
epistemology – the science of the origins, nature, methods and limits of human constructs of knowledge, evaluating the veracity of human knowledge.
erosion – a natural process by which mineral or earth matter is removed, including dissolution, weathering, abrasion, corrosion or transportation.
ESR – see electron spin resonance dating.
exfoliation – a form of geological weathering, involving the progressive detachment of cutaneous flakes or scales from a rock surface.
extender – a substance added to rock art paint to dilute it or to give it additional body.

– a stratigraphic body distinguished from others by appearance or composition, representing a specific period of time.
faded – having lost original brightness, brilliance or colour contrast.
figurative – providing visual information recognised by contemporary humans as resembling the form of an object.
figure – a design or pattern painted, drawn, pressed or engraved on a rock surface; a rock art motif.
figurine – a sculptural representation providing visual information recognised by contemporary humans as resembling human or animal form.
finger fluting – a form of rock art resulting from dragging human fingers over a soft surface in a limestone cave, usually of Mondmilch, and consisting of sub-parallel grooves (sillons digitaux paralleles).
finger marking – a form of rock art made with human fingers, which may consist of finger-applied paint or of finger flutings.
FLECS – the technique of using combustion by a laser beam to oxidise organic matter contained in mineral accretions under or over rock art for AMS radiocarbon analysis, called Focused Laser Extraction of Carbon-bearing Substances; developed by A. Watchman.
frieze – a continuous panel of rock art located along a vertical wall, usually of considerable horizontal extent.

– a large concentration of rock art, not necessarily continuous, consisting of a number of panels.
genre – a category of rock art perceived by contemporary humans as forming a distinctive entity; cf. style.
geofact – a naturally formed stone object that resembles a stone tool closely enough to be mistaken for one.
geoglyph – a large motif (usually >4 m) or design produced on the ground, either by arranging clasts (positive geoglyph, stone arrangement/alignment, petroform, earth mound) or by removing patinated clasts to expose unpatinated ground (negative geoglyph).
geometric motif – a rock art motif of simple geometrical form or design, such as circle, line, cupule, CLM, barred lines.
gestalt – a unified symbolic configuration having properties that cannot be derived from its parts.
Global Positioning System – a satellite-based navigation system, a network of satellites in several orbits, which enables precise geographical location to be determined with a receiver that calculates the differences in time between receiving the signals from four satellites.
glyph – a petroglyph motif; in archaeology, a symbol in a writing system.
gouge – a scooped out or deeply carved indentation in soft rock, made with a gouging tool.
GPS – see Global Positioning System.
graffito (pl. graffiti) – a drawing or inscription superimposed over or in proximity of rock art and distinctively more recent, often judged crude or unwelcome.
gravel – see pebble.
Gravettian – an Upper Palaeolithic tradition of south-western, central and eastern Europe, about 28 000 to 20 000 years old; named after La Gravette in the Dordogne, France.
grid motif – see lattice motif.
grinding groove – a groove on a rock pavement, the incidental result of making or sharpening a ground stone tool such as an axe or hatchet; also grinding hollow.
groove – an elongate indentation abraded or hammered (or both) into a rock surface.
ground art – a petroglyph produced by abrasive action, especially referring to the infilled area of an intaglio.
Gwion – a small, often animate or dynamic anthropomorphous red painting in the Kimberley region, Western Australia, preceding the region’s Wandjina art phase; this authentic name supersedes the former term ‘Bradshaw figure’.

– a pebble or cobble used in the production of percussion petroglyphs.
hand print – a positive pigmented imprint of a human hand, made by pressing a paint-covered hand against the rock surface.
hand sign language – a form of non-verbal human communication consisting of hand signs, which has been suggested to be depicted in some rock art traditions.
hand stencil – a negative pigmented imprint of a human hand, made by spraying paint over the hand’s outline while it is pressed against the rock surface.
hard water effect – the distorting effect aqueous salts of calcium and magnesium can have on radiocarbon analysis results.
hatching – the parallel or sub-parallel fine lines used to fill in some engraved outline motifs.
history – the generic term of past events.
History – the specific time period beginning with the introduction of writing by some members of a human species.
Holocene – the geological present, the final period of the Quaternary, from 10 500 years ago to the present time.
hypothetico-deductive reasoning – a form of reasoning in which predictions deduced from a hypothesis are tested by empirical data.

iconic, iconographic
– providing visual information recognised by most contemporary humans as resembling the form of an object.
IFRAO Standard Scale – a calibrated colour and size standard used in rock art photography for precise colour manipulation with digital technology; introduced in 1994.
igneous – denoting a rock formed by solidification from a molten or partially molten state.
incision – a shallow rock marking produced with a single application of a pointed tool, consisting of a narrow smooth groove.
increase site – a location where supplication rituals are or were performed that encouraged the propagation of a specific species associated with the site’s Ancestral Hero.
indirect percussion – a method of producing petroglyphs with the impact of a chisel or punch held in one hand, struck by a hammer in the other hand; identifiable by bipolar flaking of mur-e.
indirect superimposition – a superimposition involving three or more motifs, the first and last of which are not physically related.
industry – a group of stone tools archaeologists consider representative of a specific culture; sometimes used as synonym for assemblage.
infill – the treatment of the surface area enclosed by the outline of a rock art motif, which may be additive or reductive.
in situ – being in its original place, usually referring to the location or position of an object’s last use or its burial.
intaglio – a petroglyph motif whose internal surface area is ground or pounded, either to remove a dark varnish (sgraffito) or to create an area of relief; also called an infilled figure.
internal analysis – the microscopic study of engravings to determine various technological details, such as tool type, direction of application, handedness, multiple tool application; introduced by A. Marshack.
intrusion – an intrusive rock mass or facies forced into an existing formation.
isotopic replacement – a chemical process that affects some dating methods, in which an isotope or nuclide used in the dating analysis has been partially replaced by another isotope of the same element.

– the abbreviation indicating ‘thousand years’.
karst – a region of carbonate rock (limestone or dolomite) characterised by underground drainage and various karst phenomena, such as caves, sinkholes, cenotes, dolines, karren and kamenitsa.
keystone – the wedge-shaped piece at the top of a stone arch, regarded as holding the structure in place.

– a gap in a pictogram caused by exfoliation or vandalism.
laser oxidation – a controlled burning of carbonaceous matter in a substance related to rock art, such as a mineral accretion or a paint residue.
Late Pleistocene – the geological period from 127 000 to 10 500 years ago.
lattice motif – a rock art motif consisting of a repeated pattern, particularly of sets of parallel lines crossing each other.
Levantine art – the rockshelter art of Mediterranean eastern Spain, thought to be of the mid to late Holocene.
lichenometry – the technique of estimating the age of lichen thalli from their relative sizes, calibrated against another standard; developed by R. E. Beschel.
linear – of or relating to a straight line, or composed of straight lines.
lithic – having been made from stone; in archaeology referring to stone tools.
lithophone – a rock, stalactite or stalagmite that has been used to produce sound.
Lower Palaeolithic – the oldest chronological division of the Older Stone Age of the Old World, roughly 2.5 Ma to 180 ka.

– the abbreviation indicating ‘million years’.
macaroni art – a form of randomly meandering finger flutings.
Magdalenian – a late Upper Palaeolithic tradition of western and central Europe, roughly 16-10 ka; named after La Madeleine abri, Dordogne, France.
manuport – an unmodified object transported and deposited by humans or hominoids.
mark, marking – a visible trace or impression on a surface, here particularly a rock surface. It may be a xenolith, a glacial striae, an animal scratch, or a petroglyph.
material culture – the physical remains of human activities recovered by archaeology.
maze motif – a rock art motif of an intricate network of lines offering no obvious iconographic interpretation.
meander – a rock art motif of circulinear arrangements offering no obvious iconographic interpretation.
medium – the materials used in producing art, particularly the solvent of paint, and by extension the type of artistic technique.
megafauna – the large-bodied animal species which in various parts of the world suffered extinction during the final Pleistocene and the Holocene.
megalithic art – the Neolithic petroglyphs found on arranged stones such as stelae and tombs.
Mesolithic – the Middle Stone Age of Eurasia, commencing at the end of the Pleistocene 10 500 years ago and ending with the advent of the Neolithic, which differs in various regions.
metamorphism – the alteration in composition, texture or structure of rock masses, caused by heat and pressure within the Earth’s crust.
metamorphology – the science of how forms of archaeological evidence change with time and how they are perceived or understood by the individual archaeologist today.
methodology – the system of assumptions, principles, theories and practices applied in rock art research.
microerosion analysis – the methods of direct petroglyph dating using microscopic erosion criteria, such as the micro-wanes forming on fracture edges of mineral crystals; developed by R. G. Bednarik.
microlith – a small stone tool of under 5 cm length, made from bladelets or blade fragments, set in hafts and typical of the final Upper Palaeolithic, the Mesolithic and the Neolithic periods of Eurasia.
micro-wane – the result of non-kinetic progressive rounding processes on crystal edges, at the microscopic level.
Middle Palaeolithic – the middle chronological division of the Older Stone Age of Eurasia and northern Africa, roughly 180 to 30 ka; in sub-Saharan Africa called the Middle Stone Age and ending later.
Middle Pleistocene – the geological period from 780 000 to 127 000 years ago.
middle-range theory – a set of hypotheses that lead to archaeological propositions about past human behaviour.
mineral precipitate dating – the methods of direct-dating rock art by analysing contiguous mineral accretions, such as reprecipitated calcite (via radiocarbon or uranium series dating) or oxalate (via radiocarbon analysis) layers.
mobiliary art – a form of palaeoart consisting of or made on objects small enough to be easily carried by humans.
Mondmilch, Montmilch, moonmilk – a white speleothem of calcium carbonate, resembling snow or consisting of a dough-like mass, forming the medium of finger fluting.
monochrome – concerning a pictogram executed in one single colour.
motif – an anthropic mark or connected arrangement of marks on rock, perceived by contemporary humans as forming a single design.
mould – a negative cast of a petroglyph, made from an initially fluid or plastic substance which hardens subsequent to application.
Mousterian – a Middle Palaeolithic tradition of Europe, western Asia and northern Africa, roughly 180 to 30 ka old; named after the lower abri of Le Moustier, Dordogne, France.
Munsell Soil Color Charts – a standardised colour identification system used in rock art research to describe paint residues and rock patinae, produced by the Kollmorgen Corporation in Baltimore, U.S.A.
mur-e – a tool used in the production of a petroglyph.
mutilated hand stencil – a hand negative made by spraying paint over a hand, in which one or more fingers are shortened, probably because they were intentionally bent rather then mutilated.

– the stratigraphy of pictogram paint residues, or mineral accretions formed over and under rock art, studied by microscopic excavation; introduced by R. G. Bednarik.
naturalistic – providing visual information recognised by contemporary humans, particularly Westerners, as resembling an object.
naturefact – a portable object which resembles an artefact, but has not been modified or demonstrably used or handled by humans; cf. geofact.
negative – see stencil.
Neolithic – a vague technological division of the Stone Age, referring to traditions of cultivation and domestication which still lack the use of metals for tools; the advent of ceramics and ground stone tools is often falsely attributed to the Neolithic.
niche – a concavity found especially in sedimentary rocks, formed by exfoliation and measuring no more than a few metres.
nick – a small hollow made on a rock surface when struck with a chisel in indirect percussion; cf. dent.
non-figurative – providing no visual information recognised by contemporary humans as resembling the form of an object.
non-iconic – see non-figurative.
non-utilitarian – possessing characteristics that seem to exclude interpretation as utilitarian, suggestive of possessing artistic or ritual significance.
normative – relating to a deterministic view of culture, in which each society produces a uniform patterning of archaeologically visible material remains through standardised practices.
notational – possessing attributes that may represent numbers, quantities or other facts or values.
numerical age – an age estimate derived from a method yielding results on a ratio (or absolute) scale, that may have uncertainties attached.

object imprint
– a form of pictogram made by pressing or throwing paint-covered objects against a rock surface.
object stencil – a form of pictogram made by holding an object against a rock surface and spraying paint around all or part of its edge.
ochre – an earthy mineral oxide or hydroxide of iron of red, brown or yellow colour; the most common surviving pigment of pictograms.
open site – a place of occupation, artefact manufacture, mineral extraction or rock art production which is fully exposed to weathering processes.
optically stimulated luminescence dating (OSL) – a radiogenic technique in which the luminescence emitted by individual mineral grains when exposed to visible light is measured to determine when they were last exposed to sunlight.
orientation – the positioning of a rock art motif or panel relative to specified referents.
oxalate – a salt or ester of oxalic acid, often occurring as a mineral accretion with rock art.
oxygen isotope dating – a technique of determining the ratio of 18O/16O of materials, such as calcium carbonate and ice, to determine temperature fluctuation of the past.
oxygen plasma dating method – the technique of extracting organic carbon from rock art paint residues by coupling high vacuum with a low-temperature oxygen plasma, before dating it by AMS; introduced by M. Rowe.

– a liquid mixture consisting of at least a pigment and a solvent, which may also contain a binder, extender, and a great variety of incidental inclusions, such as airborne matter or brush fibres.
painted petroglyph – a petroglyph bearing traces of paint which are thought to have been applied to colour the figure.
painting – see rock painting.
palaeoart – the collective term describing all art-like manifestations of the distant past.
palaeoclimate – the climatic regimes of the distant past.
Palaeoindian – the earliest archaeological period in North America, ending c. 7000 BP.
Palaeolithic – the first 99.6% of human history in the Old World, ending 10 500 years ago.
Palaeolithic art – the surviving palaeoart of the Pleistocene, from the Lower Palaeolithic to the end of the Upper Palaeolithic.
palaeomagnetism – the polarisation of magnetic particles in rocks and sediments of previous geological periods, which indicates that the Earth’s magnetic field has been repeatedly reversed, which is used for approximate dating of these substances.
palynology – the scientific determination of fossil and extant pollen and spores, e.g. those found in paint residues or mineral accretions, which can assist in relative dating and environmental studies.
panel – a group of rock art motifs occurring in very close proximity, on a rock surface of reasonably uniform orientation.
parietal art – rock art located on the walls or ceilings of a cavity, usually a limestone cave.
patina – a visually obvious skin on rock surfaces which differs in colour or chemical composition from the unaltered rock and whose development is a function of time.
pavement – a predominantly horizontal expanse of exposed bedrock.
patterned hand print – a hand print in which a pattern has been painted on the hand prior to printing.
pebble – a granulometric division, according to the ASL system designating clasts between 2 and 60 mm in diameter.
pecked petroglyph, pecking – a rock marking produced by a process of indirect percussion, involving the use of a hammer in one hand and a chisel, gad or bit in the other.
pendant – an object suspended on a string, often but not necessarily perforated near one end.
percussion petroglyph – an anthropic rock marking produced by the removal of rock mass through impact.
petroform – a geoglyph consisting of clasts placed on the ground to form a motif.
petroglyph – a rock art motif that involved a reductive process in its production, such as percussion or abrasion.
petroglyph-producing implement – see mur-e.
petrological microscopy – a technique of examining thin sections of rock samples under a microscope to determine its components from the diagnostic way they refract polarised light.
phosphene – an autogeneous and involuntary phenomenon of the mammalian visual system whose form constants cannot be influenced by cultural conditioning and which seem to be ontogenically stable.
phosphene form – one of the fifteen known standard form constants of phosphenes, most of which are common in very early rock art traditions.
photogrammetry – a technique of extracting three-dimensional modelling information from photographs using a camera of known lens and film geometry taking multiple photographs of a subject.
photomicrograph – a photograph of an object taken by a camera mounted on and focused through a microscope.
phreatic – pertaining to the water of an aquifer or ground water.
pictogram – a rock art motif that involved an additive process in its production, such as the application of paint, dry pigment, beeswax.
pictograph – a writing character of figurative appearance, representing a word or a syllable; a hieroglyph.
pigment – a colouring substance used to produce pictograms, such as rock paintings, stencils and drawings.
pipeclay – a very fine-grained white clay, principally of kaolinite, widely used as white pigment in rock art production.
pisciform – having the form of a fish.
pit, pitting, pit mark – see cupule.
pit and groove petroglyph – an early petroglyph tradition of the Americas, consisting of cupules and abraded grooves.
plaque, plaquette – a flat plate bearing engraved or painted markings, consisting of stone, bone, ivory or other materials.
Pleistocene – the geological period also known as the Ice Age, from c. 1.8 million to 10 500 years ago.
podomorphic – having the form of a foot.
polychrome – concerning a pictogram executed in three or more colours.
portable art – see mobiliary art.
post-processual archaeology – a school of archaeological theory that perceives culture as a system of context-specific symbols and meanings, rejecting its deterministic interpretations.
post-stylistic – referring to the phase of rock art research that eschews reliance on stylistic predictions of alien researchers about rock art ages and cultural attributions.
potassium-argon dating – a radiometric technique of dating volcanic deposits that utilises the decay of 40K to 40Ar to estimate the time when these deposit were formed by eruptions.
pounded petroglyph, pounding – a rock marking produced by a process of direct percussion with a hammerstone.
prehistory – with lower case h: a colloquial and illogical term, as there can be no period before the past; cf. history.
pre-History – the period before the beginning of History, ending with the introduction of writing by some members of a human species; cf. History.
print – a rock marking made by pressing a paint-covered object against the rock surface.
processual archaeology – a school of archaeological theory that emphasises the need to explicitly state assumptions and to use specific scientific procedures; also called New Archaeology.

– the most recent of the major geological divisions of time, comprising the Pleistocene and the Holocene.
quartzite – a metamorphosed siliceous sandstone, the result of recrystallisation under great heat and pressure.

radiocarbon dating
– a radiometric dating technique of late Quaternary carbon-bearing materials that utilises the decay of 14C to nitrogen to estimate when they absorbed carbon from the atmosphere.
radiometric dating – a method of estimating age based on the decay of radioactive isotopes contained in a sample.
Rainbow Serpent – the most powerful Australian Dreamtime being, responsible for creating features of the landscape.
referent – the object or idea which a rock art motif depicts, not necessarily by iconographic resemblance; also signified.
referrer – the rock art motif depicting an object or idea, not necessarily by iconographic resemblance; also signifier.
reification – the treatment of an abstraction or idea as if it had concrete or material existence.
relative dating – a method of estimating age relative to other features, providing no numerical results; cf. chronometric dating.
repainting – the cultural practice of placing a rock painting over an existing motif, closely following the form, colour and style of the previous design.
replication – the method of studying past technologies by reproducing their products as precisely as possible, and under similar conditions.
representational – see figurative.
residue analysis – the study of remaining material traces that have been subjected to reductive physical or chemical processes.
resin – any of a class of semisolid organic substances obtained from plant exudates, and used archaeologically for a variety of purposes, including as paint binder.
retouch – the modification or renewal of a rock art motif, particularly where required by cultural practice.
re-use – the modification of an earlier produced rock art motif, to alter it, to comment upon it, or to renew it.
Rillenkarren – a karst phenomenon, consisting of subparallel solution grooves of regular spacing on a sloping rock surface exposed to atmospheric weathering.
rock art – non-utilitarian anthropic markings on rock surfaces, made either by an additive process (pictogram) or by a reductive process (petroglyph).
rock art science – the systematic study of rock art by means of falsifiable propositions about observations.
rock bruising – a technological class of petroglyph, made by the removal or partial removal of a patina or weathering zone through percussion; cf. sgraffito.
rock-hole – an unmodified depression in bedrock where rainwater collects; cf. waterhole.
rock marking – any arrangement of surface properties on rock discernible by the human visual system; it may be a natural marking, a utilitarian anthropic marking or a non-utilitarian anthropic marking (rock art).
rock painting – a technological class of pictogram, consisting of paint which was applied wet with fingers or a brush-like tool.
rockshelter – a concavity in a rock wall, formed by one or more natural processes, most commonly of erosion; it is wider than deep; cf. niche, scallop.
rock varnish – a ferromanganeous surface accretion on rocks, particularly common in arid regions, of dark-brown to near-black colour; formerly called des ert varnish.
rock-well – a rock-hole modified through enlargement, covering etc.; cf. waterhole.
rubbed petroglyph – a technological class of petroglyph, made by the removal or partial removal of a patina or weathering zone through abrasion; cf. sgraffito.

sacred site
– a locality of particular religious or spiritual significance, a place infused with the creative force of the ancestral being who created that element in the landscape.
sand – a granulometric division, according to the ASL system designating grains between 0.06 and 2 mm in diameter.
scalariform – having the form of a ladder, having rungs.
scallop – a shallow concavity resembling a niche, but where the erosion process is impeded by formations of previously consolidated sub-surface.
scanning electron microscope – an instrument producing three-dimensional images magnified 10-200 000 times, by scanning a surface with a fine beam of electrons, focused by electromagnets.
scene – a presumed depiction of a real or imagined episode involving more than one rock art motif.
schematic – relating to or of the nature of a plan, diagram or scheme.
scratched petroglyph – a technological class of petroglyph, made by shallow linear incision of a rock surface.
secret-sacred – referring to religious information which is of restricted access.
sediment – an aggregate of grains deposited by water, wind, ice or biological agents, primarily of mineral matter but including organic debris.
seismic – relating to, like, or caused by an earthquake or earth vibration.
SEM – see scanning electron microscope.
semantic – pertaining to signs or meaning.
semiotics – the science dealing with signs and sign language.
sequence – a chronological succession of rock art motifs, genres or traditions.
seriation – a technique of relative dating in which perceived motif classes are temporally organised according to their relative popularity.
serpentiform – having the form of a serpent or snake.
sgraffito (pl. sgraffiti) – a technological class of petroglyph, made by the removal of a patina or weathering zone to reveal a differently coloured surface beneath; cf. graffito.
shamanism – the religious practices of certain Asian and North American populations whose professional priests are capable of summoning or consulting the spirits.
sign – an entity that stands for another, a referrer; in the Palaeolithic rock art of south-western Europe, an apparently non-figurative conventionalised motif.
silica skin – a cutaneous accretionary deposit of amorphous silica.
sillons rectilignes – parallel striations observed microscopically in an engraved line which indicate where the engraving function is taken over by alternative projections of a multiple-pointed stone tool.
silt – a granulometric division, according to the ASL system designating grains between 2 and 60 microns in diameter.
sinkhole – a karst phenomenon caused by the collapse of a cave roof, a vertical opening in the ground with vertical or overhanging walls.
site – any place where evidence for past human behaviour has been found, or which is of significance to contemporary indigenes.
slope wash – the sediment recently washed down a slope that truncates other strata in section.
soak – an unmodified depression in sand or soil where rainwater collects; cf. waterhole.
soil – an aggregate of grains of mineral or organic materials occurring at or near the land surface.
solute – a substance dissolved in another, usually the component of a solution.
Solutrean – an Upper Palaeolithic tradition of south-western Europe, roughly 19-16 ka; named after the open-air site Solutré, France.
solvent – the component of a solution that is present in excess or that is intended to evaporate subsequent to application.
sorcery art – a rock art motif produced as malignant sympathetic art, as part of a ritual supplicating spirit beings to perform harmful actions.
spall – a small, thin and elongated chip of stone flaked from a stone tool, such as a burin.
spatial – pertaining to or having the nature of space.
spearthrower – a device for increasing propulsion force of a spear or dart, consisting of an elongate form with a small hook at the rear; also atlatl, woomera.
speleothem – a secondary mineral deposit, most often a carbonate, precipitated in air-filled caves from vadose aqueous solution enriched with mineral solute.
spring – a location where an aquifer periodically or permanently discharges; cf. waterhole.
stele (pl. stelae) – an upright stone slab erected in its position by humans, which may bear an inscription or graphic element.
stencil – a technological class of pictogram, made with paint sprayed over an object, usually from the mouth, resulting in a silhouette image; also called a negative.
stick figure – an anthropomorphous or zoomorphic rock art motif in which all body parts are depicted as single lines.
stochastic – denoting or characterised by conjecture, referring to random process.
stone arrangement – see geoglyph.
stratigraphy – the study of the formation, composition, sequence and correlation of layered sedimentary or accretionary deposits, providing a relative reference frame for chronology.
striae – striations made by a clast transported by a glacier over the surface marked by it.
striation – a groove cut into a rock surface, especially one of a group of such parallel marks produced in a single abrasive event; the term applies to microscopic as well as macroscopic forms.
stries parasites – subsidiary parallel striations observed microscopically, found especially on convex aspects of the medium.
structural archaeology – a school of archaeological theory studying past cultures as sets of symbols and codes that determine how individuals acted in society; cf. post-processual archaeology.
stupa – a monument of stone, usually erected by Buddhists.
style – a combination of distinctive features of artistic expression or execution peculiar to a particular person, people, school or era; cf. genre.
superimposition – an instance of one rock art motif having been placed over another, earlier motif; cf. indirect superimposition.
support – the rock surface upon which a motif has been executed, be it a petroglyph or a pictogram.
symbol – an entity representing another by resemblance, association or culturally determined convention.
sympathetic magic – a rock art motif produced as part of a ritual supplicating spirit beings to achieve desired outcomes, such as success in hunt or the death of a person.
synchronic – pertaining to contemporaneity.

tally marks
– a set of sub-parallel vertical marks of similar length and spacing, often suggested to be of notational significance; better referred to as bar set.
talus – loose accumulation of pebble and cobble-size clasts at the foot of a cliff or slope.
taphonomy – the study of the processes affecting rock art after it has been executed, determining its present appearance and statistical properties.
taphonomic logic – a form of logic viewing rock art as the surviving remnant of a cumulative population that has been subjected to continuous degradation which selects in favour of specific properties facilitating longevity.
technique – the method of execution, such as painting, incision, direct percussion.
tectiform – being roof-shaped or dwelling-like.
tectonic – pertaining to structure, which may be that of a building, a cave, the crust of the Earth or a work of art.
terminus ante quem – the reference time before which something occurred.
terminus post quem – the reference time after which something occurred.
therianthrope – a biomorph possessing both human and animal features.
theriomorph – see zoomorph.
thermoluminescence dating – a radiogenic method in which the luminescence emitted by a number of mineral grains when exposed to visible light is measured to determine when they were last exposed to sunlight.
tjuringa – an Australian ceremonial board of stone or wood, often decorated with sacred designs, whose access is restricted to fully initiated men; also churinga, atywerrenge, tywerrenge.
tool marks – a form of anthropic rock marking on soft cave deposits that has been made with tools rather then fingers, and appears to be non-utilitarian.
tracing – a recording of rock art made by placing a flexible transparent sheet over the motif and tracing the image upon it, which may damage rock art.
tradition – the elements of a culture passed down from generation to generation; in rock art, the forms of expression collectively regarded as belonging to a specific ethnic entity.
travertine – a deposit of reprecipitated calcite at springs and in caves, formed by the precipitation of calcium bicarbonate from a solution.
trident – a CLM with three connecting digits, often called a bird track, vulva, arrow etc., frequently without proof.
twisted perspective – a form of depiction found in many rock art traditions, in which different elements of an apparently depicted object, usually a biomorph, are shown from different perspectives; also called bi-angular perspective.
typology – the classification of a series of motifs that are thought to belong to a single tradition, on the basis of subjectively chosen attributes such as perceived morphology.

Upper Palaeolithic
– the final chronological division of the Older Stone Age of Eurasia and northern Africa, roughly 40 to 10 ka; in sub-Saharan Africa called the Later Stone Age and commencing later.
uranium series dating – a group of radiometric dating techniques based on the decay series of the uranium isotopes deposited through precipitation in travertine, marl, coral, mollusc shells, bone, teeth and other materials.
use-wear – the microscopic edge and surface modifications of an artefact that have resulted from its use.
utilitarian – being intended, made or used for practical as opposed to ritual purposes.

– pertaining to ground water that re-emerges at the atmosphere, e.g. in a cave or at the foot of a cliff, often supersaturated with mineral solute.
vandalism – the defacing or destruction of rock art, or impairing of its scientific potential.
vesicle – a small bubble-like gas pocket formed in volcanic rock during solidification.

– a rounded edge on a clast, particularly a boulder, resulting from non-kinetic progressive wear processes such as insolation, exfoliation or solution.
waterhole – a natural depression in which rain water collects, or a location where an aquifer is periodically or permanently exposed; cf. soak, well, spring, rock-hole, rock-well.
weathering – the chemical and physical processes by which rocks exposed to the atmosphere decay to soil.
weathering zone – a cutaneous layer of chemically or physically altered rock whose thickness approximates exposure age.
well – a soak modified through enlargement, covering etc.; cf. waterhole.

– foreign inclusion in igneous rock which may effect a surface marking resembling a petroglyph.
x-ray art – a form of rock art in which internal properties of an object are depicted as if they were normally visible, occasionally found in many parts of the world, but strongly developed in Arnhem Land, Australia.
x-ray diffraction analysis – a technique of studying the atomic and molecular structure of crystalline substances by using the diffraction of x-rays to determine the shape and size of atoms.

– an object or picture providing adequate visual information to contemporary humans as resembling animal form.
zoomorphic – pertaining to a zoomorph.