A pictograph or pictogram as it may be termed is often deemed an art form but it can also, depending on the nature of the painted or drawn image, be regarded as a form of writing. In terms of ancient use, pictographs are associated with cuneiform and also hieroglyphics. Even today, non-literate cultures may still favor the use of pictographs. Pictographs can be found in most regions of the world and date to the prehistoric period–as far back as the Paleolithic age. A form of rock art, ancient pictographs typically adorned rock and sometimes clay surfaces.
Archeologists tend to speak of pictographs as symbols. They spend years and some even entire careers trying to define and decipher the meanings of each pictograph or pictograph system. As ideas expressed through painting or illustration, a pictograph can tell historians quite a lot about ancient cultures particularly when they can be successfully deciphered and deciphered in accordance with other relics from the same culture and era. Often, however, these pictographs may not be clearly understood leading scholars or the tourists who visit them to simply theorize or guess what their exact nature may be.
As a form of rock art, pictographs can be found in many nations; some contain more than others and some extensive findings have even been deemed UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These sites draw visitors from all over the world as they reflect part of the host nation or region’s historical heritage. Some historically famous pictographs date back to 3000 B.C. to Egypt and the Mesopotamian region. The ancient Sumerians developed the first written language developed from pictographs called cuneiform. Pictographs were also widely used in Asia in countries like China and India; a recent area of Mongolia containing pictographs was recently designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.
Many world regions are celebrated for their pictographs–Oceania, Europe, and even parts of the Americas, for instance. Some famous pictograph sites include Lake Superior Provincial Park, Horseshoe Canyon (Utah), Valcomonica (Italy), Laas Gaal (Somalia), Brandberg Mountain (Namibia), Western Cape (South Africa), Naj Tunich (Guatemala), Nyero rock paintings (Uganda), Pictograph Cave (Montana), Bhimbetka Rock Shelters (India), Zarautsoy Rock Paintings (Uzbekistan), and Mount Grenfell Historic Site (Australia). The symbols designated as pictographs range substantially from lines and swirls to people and animals. Pictographs from the ancient period continued to be a serious subject of study for people around the world. Pictograph and other rock art sites are also popular tourist attractions for the regions that contain them.