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Contextualizing the Reindeer Lake rock art



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The rock art that is found in the region of Reindeer Lake, Saskatchewan is part of a larger category of rock art known as the Shield Rock Art Tradition. At present, there are more than 400 known and recorded rock art sites throughout the Canadian Shield region. These sites are found over an extensive geographical area and can be found from south-western Quebec across the Shield westward, up to north-western Saskatchewan. The majority of these rock art sites are comprised of imagery that has been painted on rock surfaces. The rock art sites at Reindeer Lake, or “panels” as they are called, depict a variety of symbols and characters that portray humans, animals, anthropomorphs, ceremonies and motifs of a spiritual nature. A variety of explanations have been proposed as to the function and meaning of rock art in general. Among the more accepted explanations are that rock art paintings were created by shamans; that they depict dreams or visions of an individual seeking medicine or participating in a vision quest/puberty rites; that they are a form of hunting magic whereby the author in capturing the animal in a painting assures capture of the animal in life; or that they serve as markers for travellers. Regardless of function and meaning, all of the rock art sites on Reindeer Lake are of immense heritage value and should be regarded as sacred locations. Very little is known about the rock art in the Reindeer Lake regions. Before any significant analyses of their meaning can be conducted, they must first be relocated and properly documented. At present there are only a very small number of publications that document or mention the Reindeer Lake rock art. This thesis surveys the rock art of Reindeer Lake, Saskatchewan. It discusses the general nature of pictographs from the Shield Rock Art Tradition and how the panels at Reindeer Lake fit into the overall scheme, and applies a systematic method to the recording and analysis of pictographs using a contextual approach. Although the primary focus is on recording the painted imagery, the specific context of each panel as well as the surrounding landscape is also considered. Recording these ancient rock art sites using a proper systematic method has ensured that this significant element of Aboriginal culture will endure not only for future research, but also for the benefit of future generations of the local Cree people.



Pictographs, Rock art, Interpretation, Precambrian Shield, Shield Tradition, Archaeology, Rock paintings, Reindeer Lake, Cree, Red ochre, Recording



Master of Arts (M.A.)






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