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Native American Rock Art & Petroglyphs

Nevada Rock Art

Grimes Point - nevada

What is Rock Art?

Rock art is markings, either painted (pictographs) or engraved (petroglyphs), on the surface of rock or geoglyphs (large figures produced by either removing the surface of the ground or alignments of stone on the surface of the ground). Rock art is worldwide and is one of the most visible remains of past human activity, providing a glimpse into the world view and culture of those who created it. These engravings and paintings made on boulders and cliff faces represent one of the most fragile expressions of Nevada's prehistoric and historic cultural heritage. The original cultural significance of this ancient art is not completely known although most theories concur that the art reflects the rituals, beliefs and practices of its makers. Because the ancient people of North America left no written records of their cultures, we rely on clues left behind in the remains of their villages, monuments and artifacts for us to gain an understanding of what happened here in ancient times. Despite appearances, rock art is actually quite fragile. In addition to natural processes of weathering and exfoliation, human actions can even unintentionally cause damage. Try to avoid touching the rock art and never use chalk or other materials to "enhance" your photographs. For more information on rock art and site etiquette visit the Nevada Rock Art Foundation.
The lodging options in Reno make it the perfect modern day base camp for rock art history seekers.  In addition, visitors will find extensive dining and entertainment options after a day of exploring these special areas surrounding Reno. 

kyburz cupules

Grimes Point & Hidden Cave

Considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the western US, the Grimes Point Archeological Area is about 12 miles east of Fallon on Highway 50, approximately 50 miles from the Reno/Sparks metropolitan area.  Many of the petroglyphs in this area may be up to 10,000 years old.  The caves, situated along a horseshoe-shaped shoreline of ancient Lake Lahontan provided shade, shelter and storage and a remarkable vista from which the people could relax and overlook the lake.  This important site is a must-see while visiting America’s Adventure Place.

Hickison Summit & Toquima Cave

Hickison Summit is located further east on Highway 50, just past Austin, Nevada. This area provides a self-guided walking tour and a campground all located within a beautiful pinyon pine forest. Much of the rock art located at this site is more than likely related to female fertility ritual, although some engravings suggest the seasons and the elements.  Plan a half-day drive to reach this special place.

Toquima is just down the road from the Hickison site off of Highway 50, so both sites can easily be explored within a day trip.  This well-preserved gallery of pictographs (painting upon the rock) vibrates with color and spiritual voice.  The Western Shoshone consider this place sacred: according to tradition, this area has special spiritual qualities where spiritual leaders could communicate with the spirit world.

Kyburz Flat Interpretive Area

The Kyburz Flat Interpretive Area will guide you through 2,000 years of human history in the high Sierra.  There are three stops on this driving or walking tour, each less than five minutes apart.  Interpretive and directional signs at each stop will help you understand who lived here, how each group used the environment in different ways, and the unique marks each left on the landscape.  You can experience the entire area in less than an hour, although it is recommended to pack a picnic so you can linger longer in the stunning beauty of this valley.  Directions to this site are as follows: Travel north on Hwy 89 from Truckee, California. Approximately 16 miles north, turn right at the sign, "Kyburz Flat".

Henness Pass Stage Stop

Just across the road from the ancient capule site, be sure to visit the archeological remains of More's Station, an important stage stop on the old Henness Pass Road used by passengers and freight traffic in the 1860s.

Wheeler Sheep Camp

Your last stop on this tour is the Wheeler Sheep Camp (c.1913 - 1958) which will provide you with a glimpse into the early Basque sheep grazing operations in the high Sierra meadows.  At the site is a brick oven, once used to supply the shepherds with breads and stews, which was carefully restored by the UNR Basque Studies Program.

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