Rock drawings, rock drawings

When I read the term “rock drawings,” I wasn’t sure what it meant exactly, even though I felt it should be obvious. Was a “rock drawing” a drawing of a rock or a drawing on a rock? Yes, I answered! Did I find that answer helpful? No! So, I went on a quest to find out how the term applies for cataloging maps.

OCLC told me that in terms of relief, a rock drawing is a relief rock drawing. Mm-hmm.

  • Rock drawings. Item is a relief rock drawing.

The OED confirmed my question.

  • rock drawing n. (a) pictorial representation of a rock; (b) a picture drawn on a rock.

In the first map cataloging resources that I looked in, “rock drawings” was either ignored or cited with OCLC’s definition. Some of OCLC’s other options for representations of relief could be used to represent rocks, so how did “rock drawings” stand out in cartographic technique from shading, tinting, hachures, pictorial symbols, or land forms?

Then I found references to swisstopo and Imhof, with some examples of rock drawing relief.

“The maps of the Federal Office of Topography swisstopo – the Swiss national mapping agency – are renowned for their combination of shaded relief, contour lines, scree rendering and rock drawing, which creates the so-called Swiss style of topographic mapping…. Swiss style maps generate a strong three-dimensional relief impression by combing shaded relief with rock drawing and scree patterns that together simulate the effect of an illuminated terrain surface.” — B. Jenny, Rock drawing for topographic maps.

Map of Canton of Glarus

So, obviously or not, the answer is that for maps, “rock drawings” refers to the drawings of rocks.


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