A. Preliminary Survey

A preliminary survey of rock art, based on existing documentation in the archives of the CCSP (Centro Camuno di Stuid Preistorici, Italy) and on the reports received so far, has enabled us to locate some 780 areas of rock art in the world, including thousands of sites.

It became necessary to define what constitutes an "area" and a "site". Definitions were provided by different researchers, but a formal and final definition is still to come. On the whole, there seems to be general agreement on two points:

1. A rock art site is any place where there is rock art. Its boundaries are traced 500 m. beyond the last decorated rock in every direction. Two clusters of figures which are separated by a figureless distance of over 500 m. are considered two different sites. Over 20,000 sites are documented around the world.

2. A rock art area may include several sites. It is defined primarily by its cultural and typological characteristics. Rock art areas coincide with geographical features such as valleys, plateaus, mountain ranges, etc. In order to be distinct from one another and form different areas, two assemblages of rock art should be at a distance of at least 20 km. from each other, which is the distance that requires about one day's walking. As mentioned already, some 780 areas have been located, but this figure depend primarily on the information that has been made available to date.

B. Major Areas

A selection of areas was attempted in order to identify major areas. A major area is one which provides an outstanding contribution to the knowledge of the intellectual identity of early man. Most of the major areas have over 10,000 figures in a zone of less than 1,000 sq. km., but this is not a prerequisite.

Surprisingly such areas are quite evenly distributed: in no continent are there less than 10 major areas, or more than 40. Over 140 major areas have been identified so far, and are distributed as follows:


24 Countries

31 Areas




The Americas:










69 Countries

148 Areas

Rock art appears indeed to be a world-wide phenomenon.

C. Size of the Artistic Production

Some of these major areas of rock art have an enormous quantity of figures. The Drakensberg range in Lesotho and South Africa includes over 1,000 sites with an estimate of over 1,000,000 figures. Arnhem Land, in Australia, has over 1,000,000 figures. The Tassili' n'Ajjer, in Algeria, has over 400 sites, with at least 400,000 figures. The Negev and Sinai, in Israel and Egypt, include 17 areas, with over 300 sites and at least 350,000 figures. The Alpine range in France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria, numbers 16 areas. Just one of them, Valcamonica (Italy), includes 26 sites with over 180,000 figures recorded and with an estimated total of over 300,000 figures. Various areas in Arabia, India, the Soviet Union, Brazil and Argentina may contain as many figures, though precise surveys are not yet available.

The world production of rock art documented so far numbers over 20,000,000 figures, but we may safely estimate that the total number of rock art figures still preserved should be well over 50,000,000. This constitutes an extraordinary documentation of man's intellectual adventures, and an outstanding world heritage and source for historical reconstruction.