Although the mysterious markings and images pecked or painted on cliffs and boulders of the West are generally referred to as primitive art it is doubtful that they represent art, as we understand it today. They are efforts at communication and are truthfully messages in the sense that al signatures, road signs, graffiti, religious symbols, trade marks, valentines, cartoons, hex signs, letters, advertisements, secret symbols, doodles and mathematical symbols serve to convey a mental image from one mind to another. Therefore, our booklet is titled Messages on Stone.
If we could in imagination get inside the minds of ancient "artists" as they set to work we would probably find thoughts like these: (1) I have done a might deed, I want everyone to know about it; (2) this is our territory, I will post this notice to keep others out; (3) I must pay homage to my gods, I will create their images and ceremonies; (4) My clan and kin are the greatest we claim this area as ours; (5) this animal is important to me I think about it a lot, I will draw its likeness; (6) I am bored, I will draw something to pass the time; (7) I have had a queer dream, maybe it is important, a picture will help me recall it; (8) My friends and I have had a great ceremony, I will record it; (9) I have returned from a long journey, I will try to show my pathway across the land; (10) My chief has asked me to go here and put up some signs along the trail. I will get it over with as soon as possible; (11) I have a new artistic design in mind, I will record it before I forget it.
From the thousands of objects and symbols we and others have observed we have assembled a number of groups with meanings that are relatively clear. These groups are presented alphabetically with brief comments in the following pages.
A word on definitions is in order. Anything depicted upon a stone surface is called a pictograph; it may be carved pecked, or painted. If the message is carved (or pecked) it is technically called a petroglyph. Some students, giving way to a logical impulse, refer to the pecked messages as pecktographs. This usage may or; may not come into general use.