Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Anthropology (MA)

Degree Level





George Sabo

Committee Member

Kenneth Kvamme

Second Committee Member

Marvin Kay

Third Committee Member

Jami Lockhart


Archaeology, Cosmology, Geographic Information Systems, Mississippian Art, Rock Art, Spatial Analysis


This thesis uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to spatially analyze rock art distributions in the Salem Plateau section of the Arkansas Ozarks. Statistical tests, such as chi-square and t-testing, are applied to provide an objective view of rock art patterning in relation to the overall landscape. The data collected from these methods allow one to discern the locational preferences for rock art, which potentially reveal cultural details about the people involved with its creation. Multiple analytical perspectives are applied throughout, initially focusing on comparisons with expected values and random points. Later statistical tests use bluff shelter distributions as reference data for understanding rock art location selection. The final analysis compares motif distributions with each other to see whether certain designs tend to appear in different contexts than others. Results suggest that bluff shelter distributions serve as better comparative data, as they reveal which environmental variables are unique to rock art. These primarily include southern-facing aspects, ease of accessibility from mounds, proximal distance from streams, orientation toward winter solstice phenomena, and occasionally strong viewsheds. An analysis of motifs indicates a duality between geomorphic shapes, both basic and celestial, and more “earthly” designs, such as terrestrial animals. Another observation suggests that certain anthropomorphic rock art were reserved for accessibility, while others were placed in relatively secluded locations. The results presented in this thesis potentially shed light on rock art locational preferences, as well as the meanings or activities behind their designs.