Mazinaw Pictographs, Bon Echo Provincial Park, Ontario


The Mazinaw pictographs consist of over 260 images spread along 2.5 kilometres of imposing cliff-face overlooking the deep waters of Mazinaw Lake in Bon Echo Provincial Park, southeastern Ontario. An extensive and complex example of Indigenous rock art in the southern Canadian Shield, this is the only major pictograph site in southern Ontario.

“Mazinaw” is an Algonquin word meaning “picture” or “writing.” The pictographs are painted in red ochre and depict stylized human-like and animal-like figures, as well as a large number of abstract and geometric symbols. Their original meanings have been lost in time and their age is unknown. Most of the pictographs are scattered in narrow bands just above water level, suggesting that they were painted from boats. Many of the images are now extremely faint and while efforts have been made to carefully record them and monitor their condition, some have been damaged by wave splash and vandalism.

The Mazinaw pictograph site shares qualities with other pictograph sites in Canada, where landscape is a central aspect of site choice. Like others, this site is associated with a narrowing or channel in a body of water, and the pictographs are positioned at a place that has special visual and acoustic properties. In this particular case, the pictographs are well illuminated by the reflection of the sun and water in a place that has a distinct echo effect. They are also associated with what appears to be an effigy formation of the natural rock in the shape of a turtle. A testimony to the cultural significance of this place, the pictographs attest to the traditions and storytelling techniques of their Algonquin and other Indigenous creators. The Algonquin people of today remain proud of their ancestral link to this special place.

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