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Deer pictographs

Deer Pictographs

Site ID: 15Lr93

Kentucky Archaeological Survey
Unless specified, we cannot provide site location information.


​​Archaeologists and other archaeology preservationists have worked to record and protect an important Native American rock art site in Letcher County, Kentucky.  The pictograph panel (painted images on rock) at this site consists of several drawings painted in red pigment on a large sandstone boulder. Native artists may have selected this site for its good view of the surrounding countryside. ​

Deer pictograph panel - two upper figures and several lower figures - with a scale to the left.


​Documentation of the pictographs revealed what remains today: images of six deer (arranged as a group of two deer and a larger group), several vertical lines, and an anthropomorphic (human-like) figure, all in red pigment. The anthropomorphic figure is faint, but may be holding a stick-like object - perhaps an atlatl (or spearthrower - a tool used to extend the range of a thrown spear). 

Pigment analysis and photographic enhancement suggested that the images may have been painted at different times and by more than one person. The pigment is an iron oxide mineral mixed with a clay and gypsum binder. Use of the latter is especially interesting, as Native artists would have carried the gypsum to the Letcher County region from elsewhere in the state. It is very difficult to date the pictographs, but experts have dated similar examples to after 1000 AD.

Deer pictographs painted with red pigment.

What's Cool?

​Stylized But Realistic​

The best preserved images in this panel are of deer. They are strikingly realistic.  ​Because of what look like raised white tails, some may be indicating an “alert mode” posture (also called "flagging" - when a deer exposes the white fur of its tail and rump to alert others in the herd of danger). Some of the deer figures ​​​have thicker bodies than the others, which could represent pregnancy.

Closeup of deer pictograph.

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