Mettre le site en anglais


Go to the bottom of the page


Abstraction (motif)

A graphic element with unknown meaning. This term is often used for geometric motifs.

Anthropogenic (adj.)

Said of a phenomenon that results from direct or indirect human activity.

Anthropomorph (anthropomorphic figure)

A figurative motif of a human-like figure.

Axial Gallery

In the Lascaux Cave, a corridor next to the Hall of the Bulls.


Biographic art

On the Plains, this narrative art tells stories of war, hunting feats or horse raids. These types of images emphasize action, movement and the passage of time. This art, mainly in the form of petroglyphs, was especially created in the 18th and 19th centuries. The tradition of biographic art is also featured on shields, buffalo robes, clothing, tipis and, after European contact, on paper.

Biographic tradition

See “Biographic art.”


Canadian Shield

A large physiographic region stretching from Labrador (Newfoundland and Labrador) to northeastern Alberta. This territory, composed of Precambrian rock such as granite, is characterized by a multitude of lakes and rivers and is dominated by the boreal forest.


A radioactive isotope of carbon used in the dating of organic matter (e.g., wood and bone). Carbon-14, or radiocarbon, decays in a relatively constant manner over time. This phenomenon can be measured to allow for dating.

Ceremonial art

On the Plains, this type of art is a form of communication between artists and the Spirit World. These images are usually static, frontal and isolated. They can represent spirits, sacred visions, warriors with shields, animals, weapons or ritual objects. Ceremonial art, in the form of petroglyphs and pictographs, was created before and after European contact.


An object with magical powers that can bring good luck.


A group of families connected by kinship and a common ancestor.


A chemical product used to solidify rock.


DStretch Software

Software used to better see faint rock paintings. See:



The study of peoples and their cultures.


The study of Indigenous peoples and their cultures through historical records and ethnography.


Figurative motif

A graphic element that tends towards a realistic representation.



Large geometric or figurative representation produced by removing the surface of the ground to create a contrasting figure with the underlying layer.

Glacial erratic

A large boulder moved by a glacier, sometimes over great distances.


Hoodoo or fairy chimney

Stone formation consisting of vertical, friable and eroded rocks surmounted by rocks more resistant to erosion.

Hybrid figure

A figure that combines human, animal and / or plant traits.


Iron Age

A period of prehistory and protohistory in Europe, Africa and Asia characterized by the use of iron in the production of tools. The timeline of this period varies depending on the location. However, it generally corresponds to the first millennium before and after the Common Era. The Iron Age follows the Bronze Age.


A substance obtained from the swim bladder of a fish such as sturgeon. It could be used as a glue-like binding substance for pigment to better adhere to rock surface.


King's Domain (Domaine du Roy)

A vast area of ​​New France that included the northern shore of the Saint Lawrence River as far as the Hudson’s Bay watershed. This territory was delimited in 1652 for harvesting furs.



A more or less complex image created through contrast by scratching the surface of rock covered in lichen.


Megalithic art

Art created with large stones. This term refers mainly to the carved rocks and rock monuments of prehistoric Europe.

Mnemonic characters

Graphic elements that help to memorize and remember.


Set of myths (stories) and teachings of a given culture. Myths speak of gods, powerful beings, heroes, the creation of the world, and the origins of cultural practices and natural phenomena.



A period in prehistory marked by several social transformations and technological developments. Among others, humans developed agriculture and pottery and became more sedentary. The timeline of this period varies across the globe. This era lasted approximately between 10,000 to 4,000 years ago.



An earth pigment that contains iron oxide and varies in colour from yellow to red-brown. Red ochre, often used in the production of pictographs, gets its colour from a mineral called hematite.



A period in prehistory when humans used stone tools and survived by hunting, fishing and gathering. The Paleolithic begins about 2,500,000 years ago and ends about 12,000 years ago. It is towards the end of this period that rock art first appeared.


A part of rock surface with distinct physical characteristics, such as orientation, a particular surface profile (convex or concave) or the presence of morphological features like cracks which isolate and circumscribe a group of images.

Parietal art

Also known as “cave art,” this category of rock art refers to images created in caves or caverns.


An arrangement of stones on the ground that sometimes takes linear, circular, animal or anthropomorphic forms. Piles of stone can also be called petroforms.


A carved motif created by abrasion, incision or pecking.

Phytomorph (phytomorphic figure)

A figurative motif representing a plant-like form such as a tree, a shrub, a plant or a flower.


A painted or drawn motif made by applying one or more pigments to the surface of rock.


Graphic communication system involving figurative and geometric pictures.

Pictorial tradition

In a given culture, a recognised way to represent certain subjects in a particular manner.

Portable X-Ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy - pXRF

A portable form of chemical element analysis instrument that uses X-ray fluorescence technology. This technique can be used to identify the composition of ochre and determine if pictographs were painted with a material from the same or different geological sources.


Rock art

Images found on rock surfaces such as cliffs, rock outcrops or rocks, as well as on the ground and in caves. These images can be painted, carved, incised or pecked. Rock art is also created by moving rocks on the ground.

Rock art complex

A group of rock sites found in a defined area.

Rock art site

A place with rock art. It can be a cave, a cliff or a rock outcrop.

Rock outcrop

Bedrock (a layer of the Earth’s crust under surface soil) exposed mainly through erosion.

Rock painting

A pictograph or motif painted or drawn.



Motifs produced on the surface of a rock by removing the top layer to reveal the contrasting layer underneath.

Sympathetic magic

A type of magic where a person can be affected by certain actions performed on objects or representations related to that person. For example, manipulating one’s image can lead to illness or even death.



A human who turns into an animal.


In the Northwest Coast oral traditions, a powerful being with the power to transform the elements around it, such as animals or landscape formations, to give them the shape that they have today. Such beings also taught humans and animals how they should live.


Classification of types, for example, images.



In the beliefs of Indigenous peoples, a layer of the Universe related to particular beings, such as Thunderbirds.



Set of phenomena that contribute to the deterioration of rocks on the surface of the Earth. They are both mechanical - when rocks are gradually broken into small pieces (e.g., freeze-thaw cycles) - and chemical - when the mineral composition of rock is changed (e.g., by interaction with water).


Zoomorph (zoomorphic figure)

A figurative motif of an animal-like figure.