Seven Hollows-Petit Jean Mountain Site #1

Seven Hollows-Petit Jean Mountain Site #1Restricted - Conway
Address Restricted
Listed in National Register of Historic Places on 9/20/06

View PDF


The Seven Hollows/Petit Jean Mountain Site #1 (3CN168) is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, under criterion D that this property has yielded or is likely to yield information important in prehistory or history, and also under criterion C, in that it possesses high artistic values. It is significant statewide. 3CN168 is located in Petit Jean State Park, which is part of the Arkansas State Park System. The site�۪s pictographs contain information that will help to understand the Mississippian Period (AD 1000-1500) peoples of this region of Arkansas. Avenues of research where this site could prove important include studies of religious symbolism, Native American art, past communications systems, Native American history, archeology, and the identification of who originally created these works (George Sabo III personal communication 8-23-2005). Within rock art research there are several important areas of study. There are differences in the techniques and methods used to create rock art and the study of why the artists created it at all is important (G. Sabo and D.R. Sabo 2001). Regional differences in art styles suggest that rock art may discern cultural boundaries geographically. The invention and testing of minimally or noninvasive dating techniques for rock art is also important.


The Mississippian Period lasted from AD 1000 to 1500 and was geographically located in what is known as the Eastern Woodlands. Archeologically it was characterized by the widespread adoption of maize-based agriculture, the construction of platform mounds, the appearance of chiefdoms or other forms of ranked society, distant trade in exotic goods such as copper and shells, and ceremonialism which is often represented today by art objects (Rolingson 2004;540-544). While Mississippian peoples were agricultural societies with large regional influences they personally left no written records of their history. But due to their relatively recent history, there are ways to learn more about this culture than would be possible with groups further in the past. One method of researching the history of Native American groups is through archeology. Rock art studies of Mississippian Period sites provide another avenue of research into this time period. 3CN168 provides a chance to study rock art from this period and it will provide insight into its creators, people who likely resided in the surrounding area. The region around this site and the rest of Arkansas contains hundreds of Mississippian settlements which will contribute to this research and help us to better understand Mississippian ceremonialism and lifeways.

During the Mississippian Period a new type of religious symbolism flourished and was expressed in many artistic media. The rock art at 3CN168 is likely to be a part of this florescence. Rock art is linked through motifs to other media from the Mississippian Period, in particular pottery, incised shell, copper repousse plates, and stone pipes and statuary. Symbols that are similar to those of the Mississippian Period can also be found in the oral history and rituals of contemporary Native American groups that descended from Mississippian cultures. Through studies of symbolism in these media, through careful examination of recorded oral histories of likely descendant groups, informant interviews with descendant groups, as well as other techniques, researchers of Mississippian symbols and art can gain a better understanding of the religious beliefs and practices of this period (George Sabo III personal communication 2005). These techniques may also explain Mississippian Peoples�۪ reasons for creating this rock art and the reasons for locating it in specific places and not in other places that are similar. These rock shelters are important repositories of art that will be useful for continuing research on these topics. The three pictographic elements described above, along with those from many other recorded rock art sites in Arkansas are being used in an active attempt to understand the religious beliefs and practices of the peoples of the Mississippian Period. Rock art sites in the Eastern United States are rare and the small but significant number of them in Arkansas are an important cultural resource in this state. Most rock art sites in Arkansas have been found in the Ozark Mountains and in the vicinity of Petit Jean Mountain.

One area of research in rock art includes the study of the actual art and the processes involved in its production. There are three forms of rock art found in Arkansas: pictographs that are created with paint, petroglyphs that are pecked or carved into the rock, and those elements that use both techniques. Pictographs are made using the following methods, brushing the paint on, daubing it or using one�۪s fingers, and stenciling. Petroglyphs are made with one of two techniques, incising with a sharp object and pecking at the rock with a harder rock. Within these categories, rock art researchers in Arkansas recognize four major types of motifs found in the state. These are anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, geometric, and indeterminate designs. They also recognize some more specific motifs that have been seen regularly, including: circles/ovals, sunbursts/rayed figures, masks, spirals, mammals, reptiles, hand/footprints, arrows, and etc.

Art is an important mechanism of human communication and the study of these pictographs and others will be useful in determining the types of messages the producers of this art were conveying. The study of variation in symbolism between the several different media used during this time period may help us to discern who the intended audience and practitioners of rock art were. Reilly (2004:125) says that art and ritual provided the symbolic and metaphorical means by which the people of the Mississippian world visualized their spiritual relationships with the supernatural and that it often displays an encoded symbolic system that portrayed the locations and inhabitants of a perceived, yet unseen, reality. Recent studies by George Sabo III and others try to match symbols found in rock art and other media with oral symbols and ritual behavior. Because of this, the rock art of Mississippian people is an important part of the study of the symbolic and spiritual life of this time period.

The integrity of the Seven Hollows/Petit Jean Mountain Site #1 is good. These pictographs are still in their original locations, and their designs, materials, and workmanship have not been modified except by weathering. With the exception of the historic still, the rock shelter likely has a similar feeling as it did originally and the site is still associated with Native Americans. This rock art provides tangible evidence of the enduring presence of local Nations of Native American Peoples in this area for modern members of these Indian Nations like the Caddo, Quapaw, and Osage, and for other contemporary residents of this area. All of these aspects of integrity make this rock art site significant and allow it to yield potentially important information about Mississippian symbolism and culture.


The 3CN168 site is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criteria C and D. This site should be added to the 1981 thematic nomination for rock art in Arkansas in which 28 rock art sites were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is likely a Mississippian site and is significant under the categories: Prehistoric Archeology, Art, Communication, Native American Ethnic Heritage, and Religion. The three pictographs at 3CN168 are likely to provide important information in these areas of significance at the state level.


Arkansas Archeological Survey
2001 Rock Art in Arkansas, Electronic Document. 8-25-2005. Arkansas Archeological Survey.

Fritz, Gayle J. and Robert H. Ray
1982 Rock Art Sites in the Southern Arkansas Ozarks and Arkansas River
Valley. In Arkansas Archeology in Review. Edited by Neal Trubowitz and Marvin D. Jeter. Arkansas Archeological Survey Research Series No. 15. Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Reilly, F. Kent III
2004 People of Earth, People of Sky: Visualizing the Sacred in Native American Art of the Mississippian Period. In Hero Hawk and Open Hand: American Art of the Ancient Midwest and South, edited by Richard F. Townsend and Robert V. Sharp. The Art Institute of Chicago and Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.

Rolingson, Martha Ann
2004 Prehistory of the Central Mississippi Valley and Ozarks after 500 B.C. InHandbook of North American Indians: Southeast, Vol. 14. Edited by Raymond D. Fogelson. Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

Sabo, George III and Deborah Sabo, eds.
2005 Rock Art in Arkansas. Arkansas Archeological Survey Popular Series 5. Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

Go Back