Many Ways We Tell Our Stories: Carving

June 11, 2019

Beautiful HandsPeople everywhere love to eat. And there is something else we love and seek,  another kind of nourishment.

We love a good story.

“In my canyons the Ancient Ones
built their homes,
painted pictures,
carved messages,
and left handprints.”

Everywhere and throughout the ages, people have created ways to tell their stories. This is the first in a series of posts that will describe the many ways of sharing story—through dance, song, poetry, tattoos. To begin—for thousands of years and to this very day, one way we tell stories is by carving them in wood, etching them in stone, or painting them on walls:

Story Boards, Pictographs and Petroglyphs

The wood-carver on the island of Palau surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean says, “This is how I tell my story. With pages from a strong tree.  With my chisel and hammer. I begin with a smooth blank board and I listen for the stories whispered by my ancestors, waiting. In the tree, singing. And I begin to carve.”

Wood Carving Palau

Wood Carving Palau

Wood Carving Palau

Wood Carving Palau

The Ancient Ones of the southwestern deserts who explored the canyons and high mesas told their stories by carving pictures on the red walls of sandstone cliffs. What do you think their story is about? Directions to a water source, essential for life? Good hunting if you travel north … watch out for the enemy. Perhaps their petroglyphs identify “this is a sacred place, here is where the spirits come and listen.” Handprints are left. What does it say to us, centuries later?

I was. Here. Alive once. Like you.


Tell Your Story

When I am in the desert and I gaze at a handprint hundreds of years old, my heart is touched.  I look down at my own hands and feel a powerful connection. To whom? I do not know.


Try making handprints: Beautiful Hands written and illustrated by Kathryn Otoshi and Bret Baumgarten, an imagination-inspiring book that asks, “What will your hands do today … touch… hearts?”

With friends, make a rainbow mural of handprints!

Books and articles that show petroglyphs, pictographs, or wood-carvings:

books about cave paintings

Cave Baby, Julia Davidson, illus by Emily Gravett, Pan Macmillan, 2011

Cave Painters: Probing the Mysteries of the World’s First Artists, Gregory Curtis, Knopf, 2006

Discovery in the Cave, Mark Dubowski, illus by Bryn Barnard, Random House, 2010

Books about Cave Paintings

First Drawing, Mordecai Gerstein, Little, Brown, 2013

Newspaper Rock: Will Stories in Stone Disappear?” Travel for Kids, 4 Aug 2017

Sand to Stone and Back Again, written by Nancy Bo Flood, photos by Tony Kuyper, Fulcrum, 2009

Books about Cave Paintings

Secret Cave: Discovering Lescaux, Emily Arnold McCully, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010

There Was an Old Man Who Painted the Sky, Teri Sloat, illus by Stefano Vitale, Henry Holt, 2009


Copyright © 2019, Nancy Bo Flood. All rights reserved.

Nancy Bo Flood

As a fish-brain surgeon or a rodeo poem wrangler, I have loved stories. I strongly believe that words – in poetry or prose – help heal our hearts and give us new eyes to see the world. I was first a research psychologist studying brain development at the University of Minnesota and London University before following my passion – writing for children. Learn more...