Rock House Cave
A natural stone arch forms the
entrance to the cave which is
known for its ancient artwork.
A Bear Claw
Among the symbols visible on
the walls and ceiling of the
cave is a "bear claw" design.
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Ancient Indian Art of Rock House Cave, Arkansas
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Ancient Indian Art of Rock House Cave, Arkansas
Rock House Cave - Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas
Ancient Art of Rock House Cave
Rock House Cave at Petit Jean State Park preserves
a display of ancient Native American art.
Signs of the Ancient Past
While Arkansas is known for its beautiful
scenery and mountain terrain, few people
know that there is an equally fascinating
world beneath the hills and valleys of the
Natural State.

Both the Ozarks and Ouachita Mountains
regions are riddled with unique rock shelters
and caves. Many of these unique natural
features also hold clues to the ancient past
of Arkansas. They were often used by early
Native Americans for a variety of purposes.

Rock House Cave at
Petit Jean State Park,
for example, offers visitors a unique chance
to see outstanding examples of early Native
American art.

While many such paintings in Arkansas have
been destroyed through carelessness,
neglect and looting, the artwork at Rock
House Cave is well-preserved and still quite
visible, even though it may well be over 1,000
years old.

Rock House Cave, really an unusually deep
rock shelter, is located down a short trail
from a parking lot off Petit Jean's Red Bluff
Drive opposite the main road and lodge area.

The cave is down a short trail  and is situated
in the bluffs overlooking Cedar Falls. The
paintings have faded with time, but can
quickly be discovered by using a flashlight
and looking carefully.

Their significance and exact age are
unknown. Archaeologists believe, however,
that the paintings in Rock House Cave are
probably more than one thousand years old.
Excavations in and around the cave revealed
that it was used by Native Americans for
thousands of years. There is no way to know,
however, exactly when the unique paintings
were done.

They are consistent with paintings found in
other caves in the region and may be over
1,000 years old.

Places where the public can easily see such
fascinating Native American art are extremely
rare, a fact that makes Rock House Cave at
Petit Jean a real treasure for those interested
in the ancient past of the South.
The paintings in Rock House Cave represent
different things that were obviously important
to the ancient people that used the shelter.

One drawing is obviously of a bear claw and
another appears to be a salamander or
some similar creature.

Other symbols, however, are mysterious and
subject to various interpretations. They may
be ceremonial in nature or may reflect the
artist's conception of something that we are
unable to understand today.

The trail to Rock House Cave is well-marked
on park maps and easy to follow. The walk
back up the hill is a little strenuous. At the
cave itself, exhibits explain the significance of
the paintings and provide other information
about the cave.

The trail also offers a chance to see a
number of the unusual "turtle rocks" of Petit
Jean Mountain. So named because they look
like the backs of giant turtles, the rocks are
especially popular with children.

Below the cave, the trail leads on to an
overlook that provides a view of Cedar Falls.
Rock House Cave
The cave entrance is
accessed by a short hiking
trail that also leads to an
overlook of Cedar Falls.
Ancient Artwork
The paintings and etchings in
the cave may be over 1,000
years old.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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