Encyclopedia Article


A visual symbol through which a message is communicated. Pictographs were used in ancient civilizations such as the Egyptian and the Chinese as early forms of written communication, and the symbols, which were first painted outside (on rocks or cave walls), were later developed into a system of writing. Utilizing natural pigments, many indigenous cultures around the world have left their marks, symbols, and representational pictures on the faces of boulders, on rocks, and on the walls of caves and early structures, and the painted images functioned both as a means of communication and as artistic expressions. In the Southwestern region of the U.S., there are many sites with ancient pictographs, as the relatively dry weather is especially conducive for the preservation of rock art.

Modern pictographs can be found in street signs and other public announcements that express a particular message using an image instead of written language. One such example is the "no smoking" sign that can be found and easily recognized all over the world.

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"Pictograph, Buckhorn Wash, Utah, October 15, 2009" by Greg Willis is licensed under CC BY-SA.

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