Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Anthropology (Cultural Heritage Option)

Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

Kelly J. Dixon

Commitee Members

Douglas MacDonald, Richard Sattler, Gregory Campbell, Hipolito Rafael Chacon


art, communication, historic, inscription, plains, rock


University of Montana


During the 19th and 20th centuries, emigrants on the Northern American Plains engaged in a communication behavior that left messages carved, incised, and painted onto the physical landscape. Often mingling with indigenous pictographs and petroglyphs known as "rock art," the emigrants' messages are called "historic inscriptions" and exist in the form of names, dates, text, and ideographs. This information referred to here as "residual communication" represents archaeological evidence of individuals and groups who influenced and transformed environments and histories in the American West. The goal of this dissertation is to examine historic inscriptions on the Northern Plains to explore how these communication elements convey individual identities, group identities, and cultural values during a period of sudden and drastic transitions in the region. This dissertation research asserts that historic inscriptions are an unexplored cultural resource that can provide information about topics such as cultural identity, the importance of self, and are literal signatures of colonialism via superimposition atop Northern Plains rock art. While many publications have examined the intricacies of rock art, this dissertation is the first of its kind to systematically examine the data potential of historic inscriptions on the Northern Plains as a cultural resource.



© Copyright 2014 Timothy Rostov Urbaniak