Petroglyphs of the Kansas Smoky Hills

Rex Buchanan, Burke Griggs, and Joshua Svaty

Long before the coming of Euro-Americans, native inhabitants of what is now Kansas left their mark on the land: carvings in the soft orange and red sandstone of the states Smoky Hills. Though noted by early settlers, these carvings are little known—and, largely found on private property today, they are now rarely seen. In a series of photographs, Petroglyphs of the Kansas Smoky Hills offers viewers a chance to read the story that these carvings tell of the region’s first people—and to appreciate an important feature of Kansas history and its landscape that is increasingly threatened by erosion and vandalism.

To establish the context critical to understanding these petroglyphs, the book includes a number of photographs for each of fourteen sites in central Kansas, highlighting individual carvings but also the groups and settings in which they occur. An introduction and captions, while respecting the privacy of landowners and the fragility of the carvings, document what is known of the petroglyphs, how and when they were made, and what they can tell us of the early people of Kansas.

“The authors’ informed and culturally sensitive narrative, coupled with specially processed medium format transparencies, lends to the documentary richness and the excitement of discovery in this signal contribution to the art, artifice, and heritage of the American Midwest. Highly recommended.

—Choice

“These magnificent photographs will stand the test of time as thorough, reliable historical records of prehistoric sites that will inevitable erode into dust.

—Annals of Iowa
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About the Author

Rex C. Buchanan, a native of central Kansas, is the director emeritus of the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas and editor of Kansas Geology and coauthor of Roadside Kansas, both from the University Press of Kansas.

Burke W. Griggs, associate professor of law at Washburn University School of Law, is a fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment and an affiliated scholar at the Bill Lane Center for the American West, both at Stanford University. He has published photography in guidebooks for the western United States, including David T. Page’s Yosemite and the Southern Sierra Nevada

Joshua L. Svaty is the fifth generation of his family to farm in Ellsworth County and has worked on natural resource issues with nonprofits and state and federal government. He was the fourteenth Kansas secretary of agriculture.