Many of our artists use a variety of “Petroglyph Symbols” as design themes in their jewelry. Artists such as Myron Panteah, Kee Yazzie, Arland Ben, Lawrence Namoki, and many others have gained widespread popularity creating art with Petroglyph Symbol designs. These symbols have their origin in actual prehistoric petroglyph sites, found throughout the southwest. The symbols found at such petroglyph sites were carved into sandstone walls many hundreds of years ago.
We love Native American art with Petroglyph Symbols, because not only are the designs beautifully simple, but each one is packed with cultural meaning and history. Some symbols can carry different meanings depending on the tribe. But often, there is a shared symbology across Southwest tribes.
Here is a list of common Petroglyph Symbols and the meanings behind them. This list is by no means complete! It is accurate to the best of our abilities, based on conversations with our favorite artists, but may not cover all explanations or potential meanings. If you’re looking for a symbol and not finding it, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add it to the list!
Water serpent, metaphor for winding river
Powerful healer, strength, spiritual journey through life
Transformation, bringer of joy and love (learn more about the butterfly symbol here).
Good fortune, always found near springs and life-giving water, insightful, sees through illusions
Messenger to the heavens, carries prayers, conduit between man and God
Medicine Man, Shaman
Messenger to the heaven. Prayer feathers are hung at the entrance to the home, giving good blessings to anyone who walks through the door. (Learn more about feathers here).
Sacred number four: represents the four sacred mountains, four sacred crops, four stages of life, and more... (Read more about the four direction symbol here).
Two humans holding hands or interlocking crescent symbols. Symbolizes friendship and cooperation.
Helping, healing, oldest symbol of humanity
Calm and patience
Freedom, great stamina, strength
Beautiful messenger, healer
Connecting between heaven and earth, closely associated with the Thunderbird
Represents the circled migration of Native American tribes to end up where they currently live. Metaphor for life's journey. (Read more about the migration symbol here.)
Symbol for protection and "warding off evil". (Learn more about najas here).
Bringer of good fortune, fertility
Rain clouds bring live-giving water, essential to survival in the arid southwest
Transformation (shedding of skin), metaphor for winding river
Giver of life, critical for all growth of plants
Earliest explanation of thunder was a bird so large that every time it flapped its wings, it created thunder and storms. (Learn more about the Thunderbird here).
Healing symbol used most often in Navajo ceremonies. (Learn more about the Whirling Log symbol here).
Loyalty, intelligence, teacher, and pathfinder