Traveling Across
Alaska

Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park

Home >> Alaska Home Page >> Alaska State and National Parks


Did You Know
Jokes
Puzzles
Recipes
Tributes

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
DC
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park
Wrangell, Alaska 99929

Some of the best surviving examples of native artistic expression are petroglyphs found in southeast Alaska. Petroglyph is a word derived from the Greek "petra" and "glyphe" for rock and carving.

Petroglyphs are designs or symbols pecked into rocks. They are found on boulders and bedrock outcrops on the shore just above or below mean high tide usually near important salmon streams and habitation sites. The rock is metamorphic and tends to be dark gray, fine grained, moderately hard and durable, and highly fractured.

Petroglyph Beach in Wrangell has the highest concentration of petroglyphs in Southeast and has recently been designated a State Historic Park. Access to the beach was improved in the year 2000. There is an accessible boardwalk to a deck overlooking Petroglyph Beach, the Stikine River and Zimovia Straits. Replicas of several designs are displayed on the deck for visitors to make rubbings on. Access to the beach is provided directly from the deck overlook. During construction of the interpretive facility, two new petroglyphs were unearthed. One of these petroglyphs was long thought lost and its discovery was a delight to the local Tlingit natives and Wrangell residents.

We have no way to discern the true intent or motivation of the artists, nor do we know what the designs really meant to their makers and users. Based on what we know from the archaeological record and cultural ethnographies, petroglyphs may be a form of writing, a method of communication, or a way to record events. There are a variety of possible interpretations: to commemorate victories in war; to document the transfer of wealth or territory in settlement of a feud; important potlatches; shamanistic exploits; or simply the work of visiting Tsimshian or of the Tlingit themselves. They may have a magic-religious significance, using petroglyphs as a ritual device to assure success of the hunt and to increase the supply of game. On the other hand, they may simply have no meaning beyond their artistic conception.

Petroglyph Beach is easily accessible from town (approximately 1 mile from the ferry terminal) and allows direct access to this unique cultural collection. Visitors enjoy searching for the more than 40 petroglyphs located on the beach. But please, document your experience with photographs only, and step lightly in order to preserve this record for the future. Make rubbings of the replicas only. An extensive body of research has shown that constant rubbing of the petroglyphs contributes greatly to their accelerated deterioration.



Pictures and information were provided by the Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park

Alaska Home Page | Alaska Cities | Alaska Historical Buildings | Alaska Historical People and Events
Alaska Lighthouses | Alaska Museums | Alaska State and National Parks

About Us | Contact Us | Did You Know Facts | Jokes | Puzzles | Recipes | Suggest a Site | Tributes

Copyright A View of America 1998 all rights reserved any and all content on this site is protected by law. Any use without written permission is strictly prohibited.