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.