Nevada Rock Art

When we were vis­it­ing my mom in Nevada last month, one of the activ­i­ties she arranged for us to do was to take a guided tour of Grimes Point Archae­o­log­i­cal Area. Grimes Point lies about an hour an a half east of Car­son City, near the town of Fal­lon. For much of the last 10,000 years, a lake existed in the area — mak­ing it an attrac­tive place for native peo­ples to set­tle. Fluc­tu­at­ing water lev­els resulted in mul­ti­ple dis­tinct areas and lay­ers of occu­pa­tion. Today, the site sits sort of out in the mid­dle of nowhere, with no siz­able body of water in the imme­di­ate vicinity.


Grimes Point has two main draws: Hid­den Cave and the Pet­ro­glyph Trail. Hid­den Cave is only open a cou­ple of times a month, so we’ll have to do that on another trip. The Pet­ro­glyph Trail is always open, but we had a spe­cial guided tour. I’ve seen pet­ro­glyphs in a num­ber of places in Ari­zona and New Mex­ico, but never in as high a con­cen­tra­tion as there is at Grimes Point. Just about every siz­able rock had some sort of rock art on it, and many were prac­ti­cally cov­ered. Some of the old­est pet­ro­glyphs (roughly 8,000 years old, I think) have been almost entirely reclaimed by the desert, and are only vis­i­ble from cer­tain van­tage points or in cer­tain light. (Most pet­ro­glyphs in the Amer­i­can South­west are cre­ated by scrap­ing the dark patina — known as ‘desert var­nish’ — off of rocks. The ‘var­nish’ is rede­posited over time, mean­ing that the old­est glyphs are now almost the some color as the sur­round­ing rock.)

We saw quite a range of iconog­ra­phy and tech­niques. Some of the ear­li­est carv­ings are deep snake-like grooves and lit­tle round depres­sions known as ‘cupules.’ Later work ranges from seem­ingly abstract geo­met­ric sym­bol and designs to things that are more obvi­ously rep­re­sen­ta­tional: ani­mals, peo­ple, and the like. Some motifs are sim­i­lar to glyphs at Pet­ro­glyph National Mon­u­ment and oth­ers I’ve seen, but the style is com­pletely dif­fer­ent (as one would expect from dif­fer­ent cul­tures liv­ing in sim­i­lar but dis­tant areas). One par­tic­u­lar exam­ple is the spi­ral — a motif the seems to be pretty com­mon across the south­west. Spi­rals I’d seen before have very thin lines, lots of rota­tions, and are quite com­pact. The one spi­ral we saw at Grimes Point was con­structed from a very wide line that only makes two-and-a-half or three rotations.

I took lots of pho­tos on our walk, many of them attempts to cap­ture the same glyphs from dif­fer­ent angles. I cut the col­lec­tion down quite a bit, and posted 22 pic­tures in a gallery. Click any of the pho­tos above to view the whole set.

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4 Responses to Nevada Rock Art

  1. Pat Wells says:

    The town is Fal­lon, NV.

  2. Dave says:

    Whoops… there was sup­posed to be a web link to a Fal­lon tourism site. I screwed up the HTML, and nei­ther the link nor the town’s name showed up.

  3. Firstly, dig the pet­ro­glyphs.
    Sec­ondly, thanks for the story. It was def­i­nitely what I needed to hear, at least from the stand­point of know­ing that I’m not alone in hav­ing some­thing like this hap­pen. I am, how­ever, so sorry that you had to go through an even big­ger ordeal! I’m glad you were able to get it all put back together even­tu­ally– I think I may get the big gouge looked at by a local instru­ment restorer and then send it off to Fox after my Novem­ber recital to have the rest redone.
    It’s so strange that these things you think are unimag­in­able can actu­ally hap­pen. El Gau­cho claims to have a cou­ple fool proof pack­ing up pro­ce­dures to use in the future, but I’d be curi­ous to hear yours too. Take Care,

  4. Dad says:

    Nice job on the pho­tos! Do you know how these com­pare in age with the ones we saw near Albu­querque? (Yeah, I know, I could look it up.…)