• The people of the Mi'kmaq people have lived in
what is now Nova Scotia and the Maritimes for
hundreds of years.
• They have generally expressed their culture and
worldviews in stories and traditions.
• We are able to experience and understand
aspects of Mi'kmaq traditions and culture
through these stories and through the art they
• The Mi'kmaq people for hundreds of years have
created enduring art.
• Some of this art has been carved into the rocks of
• These rock pictures, or petroglyphs, record their
lives and the things they saw around them.
Petroglyphs are sacred to the Mi'kmaq
people. They are seen as traces from the
past; the carvings have stories to tell new
generations , which offers insights and
Petroglyphs are found along shores of soft,
smooth slate and on places like the Bedford
Barrens, an outcropping of rock along a
ledge above the Bedford Basin.
• Many petroglyphs can be found along the
rocky shores of the lakes and rivers of
Kejimkujik National Park, the Medway
River and McGowan Lake, in southwest
Kejimkujik National Park
• Petroglyphs have also been created at
several other locations around the
• However, the smooth, fine-grained slates
found in the Kejimkujik area are the best
known, and have made an excellent
surface for recording images.
• The lines were cut, scratched, or pecked
using stone or metal tools.
• The Mi'kmaq recorded images of
people, animals, hunting, fishing,
and the decorative motifs women
sewed or painted on clothing.
• With the arrival of the Europeans, the lives
of the Mi'kmaq changed in new ways.
Evidence of this change includes images of
sailing ships, men hunting with muskets,
soldiers, Christian altars and churches, and
small items like coins and jack-knives.
• George Creed, the postmaster at South
Rawdon in central Nova Scotia, made a
series of tracings of the Mi'kmaq
petroglyphs at Kejimkujik and McGowan
Lake in 1887 and 1888.
• Creed's tracings form the earliest attempt
to document the rock art in the province is
an important record of this culture.
• George Creed grouped his
petroglyph tracings into broad
categories depending on the
subject: ships, people, canoes,
• In doing this he broke up
groupings and made separate
tracings of individual images. It
is impossible to tell from Creed's
tracings what the context was, Hand with
or the relationships of the
individual images to each other. European-
• Through the discovery of
the the petroglyphs
throughout the province,
one thing is quite clear,
that it is almost
impossible to accurately
date most of the
• Images of sailing ships,
hunters with guns and
are clearly more recent.
• A few petroglyphs have the year of
their creation carved into the rock
next to them, either from the 1800s or
the early 1900s.
• Constantly exposed to weather, many
petroglyphs have become worn over time.
• In numerous cases, vandals have defaced
the images. In some cases, Creed's tracings
are now the only record that the image
Bedrock with Petroglyphs
The soft bedrock here is being
slowly washed away, thus the
petroglyph images will some day
be no longer visible. Vandals
have scrawled graffiti on the
rocks, but the original petroglyphs
still remain. Rangers now patrol
these areas to protect these
• It is very difficult to
accurately record • Most recordings have
petroglyphs. been done with either
• The shallow cuts and paper or other
lines that make up materials, or by
the image - in the taking photographs.
quartzite and slate
stone favoured by the
artists - are often • Often some technique
eroded by years of was used to prepare
water, ice and the petroglyphs to
weather wearing the make the lines more
edges down and distinct before
making the images recording.
• Tracings have the advantage that they are
exactly the same size as the petroglyphs.
• Photographs of petroglyphs can be misleading if
a scale is not included in the photo so that the
size can be accurately shown.
• Casting, the third method, is the most accurate
way to record rock carvings.
• Originally, blue aniline
pencil was used to trace
• Then, dampened paper • This technique creates
was pressed over the an image on the back
tracing. of the paper that is a
mirror image of the
original, but are
• The moisture in the paper reversed when
transferred the pencil dye compared to the
to the paper. original carving.
• Modern tracings are • Ruth Holmes
typically done on a Whitehead,
transparent material Ethnologist at the
such as mylar. Nova Scotia Museum,
made this tracing of
an early petroglyph in
• The mylar sheet is Bedford, NS, that was
placed over the made with stone
petroglyph and the tools.
lines are traced with
an ink pen, creating a
correct image tracing
of the petroglyph.
Mi'kmaq Petroglyphs - It is necessary to wet
many of the drawings to even begin to see
them. Here you see a drawing of a missionary
along with the outline of a hand in the left
area of the picture.
• The Bedford Barren petroglyphs are very
unique examples of Mi'kmaq carvings.
• They were discovered by Michael Ross in
the hills above Bedford, N.S., in l983 as he
walked along a flat ridge of quartz like
• He took pictures and his mother brought
them to the N.S. Museum to the attention
of Ruth Whitehead. It was determined that
they were of Mi’kmaq origin.
• They were photographed, studied by Brian
Molyneaux, a Research Associate in Archaeology
at the Royal Ontario Museum.
• Molyneaux determined that the that the
petroglyphs had been cut and drilled into the
rock using stone tools. It appeared to date the
petroglyphs back to a period before the arrival
from Europe of metal tools (1500).
• Thus, the petroglyphs predate any other known
petroglyph site in Atlantic Canada.
• The Mi'kmaq people were not notified
of their existence until 1989 by a local
group of residents who wanted to
save the Bedford Barrens from being
destroyed by developers.
• To this date only a portion of the land
has been preserved. Of the 90 acres of
land that is to be/has been developed,
only 4 acres have been set aside.
• The Mi'kmaq people feel that this is
not enough and that the whole area
should be preserved and protected.
• The petroglyphs are found along a
ledge above the Bedford Basin