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Bedford Petroglyphs National Historic Site of Canada

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1994/11/24

Petroglyphs at Bedford Petroglyphs National Historic Site of Canada, 2005.; Parks Canada | Parcs Canada
Petroglyphs at Bedford Petroglyphs National Historic Site of Canada, 2005.; Parks Canada | Parcs Canada
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Other Name(s)

Bedford Petroglyphs National Historic Site of Canada
Bedford Petroglyphs
Pétroglyphes de Bedford

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2013/01/07

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Bedford Petroglyphs National Historic Site of Canada consists of two glyphs covering approximately 2 square metres of a quartzite outcrop surface that forms one of the parallel ridges of the Bedford Barrens. The setting is an open, natural area of about 36 hectares within the community of Bedford, Nova Scotia, and overlooking the head of the Bedford Basin. Official recognition refers to a circle of 6 metres radius centred on the 2-metre square rock surface upon which the glyphs are carved.

Heritage Value

Bedford Petroglyphs was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1994. It is recognized because:
- the petroglyphs are of particular spiritual importance to the Mi’kmaq

Extensive input from Mi’kmaq knowledge-holders indicated that the petroglyphs were symbolically important as was the stony, ridged landscape in which they were situated. The glyphs appear to be representations of the fertile power of the Sun and of the Oldest Male Ancestor Person as supported by study of early Mi’kmaq iconography.

The Bedford Petroglyphs differ from other petroglyph sites in the Maritimes, such as those at Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site where clusters of images are mixed with European-influenced imagery and were made by incising with metal tools. Although petroglyphs cannot be easily or precisely dated, the Bedford petroglyphs were likely made using stone tools and have traits that point to great age. For instance, the lines of each glyph have uneven depth, width, and trajectory from having been pecked and abraded by a stone tool. The margins between the carved and uncarved stone are weathered, and some parts of the grooves are interrupted by unbroken rock. There are no defined edges, linear sections, or corners typical of iron tools.

The site is isolated in its geographical location but also as a cultural entity because field surveys have shown that there are no other early Mi’kmaq or Indigenous archaeological sites in the area, although there is historic and oral evidence of Mi’kmaq living in the Bedford area.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, November 1994.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- its uniqueness as a small, isolated petroglyph site in the open, natural setting of the Bedford Barrens with their stepped, quartzite outcroppings known as whalebacks, and overlooking the Bedford Basin;
- its likely dating to a time before the use of metal tools (before ca. CE 1500);
- the association of the two carvings with traditional Mi’kmaq iconography;
- a larger glyph of an eight-pointed circular symbol of the southernmost measuring 41.7 to 45 cm across. It encloses several design motifs, the main one a possible star with two points to each of the four cardinal directions, where one of the diagonal lines is oriented directly to true north;
- a smaller glyph slightly to the north and west of the circle measuring 42 x 23 cm. It consists of connected cross-hatched parts that may represent a humanoid figure with associated symbols;
- the glyphs’ possible connection with early ritual life of the Mi’kmaq.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Philosophy and Spirituality

Function - Category and Type



Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Aboriginal Sacred Site

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Indigenous Affairs and Cultural Heritage Directorate Documentation Centre 3rd Floor, room 366 30 Victoria Street Gatineau, Québec J8X 0B3

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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