Petroglyphs are designs carved into rocks (vs pictographs, which are designs, painted on rocks). The rocks that are used are light colored basalt rocks that over thousands of years have been covered over by "rock varnish".  Rock varnish is formed in two layers. The actual color of the rock is a gray volcanic basalt rock. On top of that is a light tan colored layer formed by a combination of iron oxidation and the accumulation of dust and clay particles. After that layer is formed, the black patina is forged over approximately 14 thousand years. The black color is produced by the oxidation of magnesium contained within minute dust and clay particles as well as organic residue from the remains of lichen, moss, microscopic bacteria and other biological matter. Eventually the black patina covers the entire exposed surface of the rock. In fact, archeologists at petroglyph sites can tell which rocks are oldest by this natural process. The patinization process gradually covers up the markings that ancient peoples have made, making their earlier designs fainter than the newer carvings.  Ancient peoples created petroglyphs by striking one rock against the other exposing the light tan (iron oxidation) layer beneath.

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