This small shelter provides additional examples of rock art in Petit Jean State Park. Though the interior floor space can accommodate only a few people, artifacts found on the shelter floor suggest intermittent occupation during the Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippi periods. There are 24 pictographs and two petroglyphs on the walls and ceiling and on breakdown boulders embedded in the shelter floor. The rock art appears to have been created during the Mississippi period (ca AD 900-1500).

Among the more interesting pictographs is an image of a fiddlehead fern, possibly the bracken fern species Pteridium aquilinum, drawn in the curled form typical of the early spring growth stage, when these plants can be gathered and eaten. As this plant matures, the buildup of bitter toxins renders them unpalatable. This is one of many images that reflect the extensive environmental knowledge of the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the region. While it is hardly surprising to discover evidence for this type of knowledge, it is most interesting to see it in the form of rock art.

Near the fiddlehead fern image is another possible plant image having a long stalk with several narrow leaves extending from it; there is also a pod at one end and, at the opposite end, what may be a root mass. The image could be a more-or-less naturalistic depiction of a chenopodium stalk. Chenopodium (or lambs quarters) was domesticated in the Ozark region during the Late Archaic era and served as an important source of food until the Mississippian era of corn production. Alternatively, the image might depict knotweed (Polygonum erectum), another local domesticate, though the leaves on that species are considerably wider.

Other naturalistic rock art at Indian Cave depicts a quadrupedal animal, a possible rabbit, and a badly worn anthropomorphic figure with well-preserved legs in a running pose.

Geometric images include an arc of closely spaced radiating lines, and a field of closely spaced nested diamonds with central dots.

There are also two reasonably well-preserved abstract designs along with several badly faded images that defy identification. One of the petroglyphs consists of several closely spaced cupules; the other is too worn to identify as to shape or subject matter.

Rock art at this site consists of a field of nested diamond motifs along with images of people, plants, and animals. The scattered locations of the images within the shelter and some degree of differential weathering point to the likelihood they were added on multiple occasions. Given the evidence for long-term, intermittent use of the shelter, it is possible that this rock art imagery is the product of several sojourns, created to motivate storytelling, vision questing, or perhaps even teaching activities in which various forms of cultural knowledge were passed from elders to younger members of the community.

Petit Jean | Indian Cave