Author: Thomas Klatka

an archaeologist with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Paint Lick Mountain Pictograph Archaeological Site

The Paint Lick Mountain Pictograph Archaeological Site in Tazewell County consists of a group of twenty pictographs on a rock cliff. First investigated by archaeologists late in the nineteenth century, the geometric-, animal-, and human-form designs likely were made by Virginia Indians of unknown identity and at an unknown time. There are only two known examples of such pictographs in Virginia—the other is at Little Mountain in Nottoway County—and such representations were not recorded by the early settlers of the Virginia colony. The soft mudstone at Paint Lick Mountain, rich in iron oxide, provided the red pigment used to create the pictographs, which collectively likely reflect spiritual and cognitive aspects of Indian culture. As a tangible expression of a prehistoric social connection to the landscape of Southwest Virginia, the site retains a deep significance for Indian communities in Virginia and surrounding states.