Abstract

For thousands of years the image of the rainbow was pecked and painted by native Americans onto the rocks of the Great Basin and the Southwest. This long-lived tradition, which transcended major developments in lifestyles and cultures, underscores the important symbolic significance of the rainbow to the inhabitants of this arid region. The rainbow rock art depictions were usually associated with humanlike ceremonial figures, snakes, clouds, rain, and lightning bolts, suggesting that the rainbow symbol was employed as part of an elaborate sacred tradition. Although such ceremonial usage of the rainbow image tends to lead to abstraction and symbolic representation, there are examples, including a properly colorized rainbow painting from central Utah (approximately a thousand years old), that indicate observationally based rainbow reproductions of relatively great antiquity.

© 1991 Optical Society of America

Full Article  |  PDF Article
OSA Recommended Articles
Possible halo depictions in the prehistoric rock art of Utah

Kenneth Sassen
Appl. Opt. 33(21) 4756-4760 (1994)

Atmospheric optics in art

Stanley David Gedzelman
Appl. Opt. 30(24) 3514-3522 (1991)

The rainbow as interactive art: modeling the Elaisson Beauty installation at SFMOMA

Kenneth Sassen and Jiang Zhu
Appl. Opt. 47(34) H171-H175 (2008)

References

You do not have subscription access to this journal. Citation lists with outbound citation links are available to subscribers only. You may subscribe either as an OSA member, or as an authorized user of your institution.

Contact your librarian or system administrator
or
Login to access OSA Member Subscription

Cited By

You do not have subscription access to this journal. Cited by links are available to subscribers only. You may subscribe either as an OSA member, or as an authorized user of your institution.

Contact your librarian or system administrator
or
Login to access OSA Member Subscription

Figures (18)

You do not have subscription access to this journal. Figure files are available to subscribers only. You may subscribe either as an OSA member, or as an authorized user of your institution.

Contact your librarian or system administrator
or
Login to access OSA Member Subscription

Tables (2)

You do not have subscription access to this journal. Article tables are available to subscribers only. You may subscribe either as an OSA member, or as an authorized user of your institution.

Contact your librarian or system administrator
or
Login to access OSA Member Subscription

Metrics

You do not have subscription access to this journal. Article level metrics are available to subscribers only. You may subscribe either as an OSA member, or as an authorized user of your institution.

Contact your librarian or system administrator
or
Login to access OSA Member Subscription