Ancient art waits in our back yard |

Ancient art waits in our back yard

Keith Sheffield
Nevada Appeal News Service
Keith Sheffield/Nevada Appeal News Service Rock art found at Grimes Point often bears markings that are difficult to interpret. Another piece of rock art shows a different design, below left.

FALLON – Growing up in California’s Central Valley, my parents often packed the family in the van and headed east up Highway 198 into Sequoia National Park. Just inside the park is a place called Hospital Rock, where the Monachee people left their marks on the granite slabs in the form of pictographs and bowls carved on the tops of rock faces where they ground acorns into meal.

The site fascinated me as a child, and last weekend I found a site equally as fascinating, Grimes Point, an area on U.S. Bureau of Land Management land that’s home to a vast treasure of rock art. Grimes Point is off Highway 50, about 12 miles east of Fallon, an hour east of Carson City.

Ancient peoples of North America left their mark on the land thousands of years before recorded history. They were paleo-Indians – American Indian ancestors who inhabited the continent as long as 10,000 years ago, and perhaps even further back.

The people carved images into the basalt rock that covered the landscape. Much of this region was under the waters of Lake Lahontan. As the lake receded, the people stayed close to its edge, where their food source also remained.

Throughout the centuries, their carvings consisted of line drawings or divots in the rock, and later started taking the shapes of things we’d recognize as animals or other humans.

The rock art is an amazing spectacle, and so are the caves one can find Grimes Point. The region gives one a sense of the land before recorded time, when humans weren’t at the top of the food chain.

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 potentially gives a unique understanding of the world view and culture of those who created it.

Why it’s important

Rock art is worldwide, and is one of the most visible remains of past human activity. The most famous examples of rock art are the painted caves of Europe or the paintings of the Australian Aborigines. Although different from these, Nevada’s rock art is equally significant and deserves to be documented, protected and brought to the attention of a wider audience so we may understand our role in the evolution of our past.

How it’s dated

During the past few decades, the knowledge and methods of modern archaeology have advanced tremendously. Today, researchers use technologies such as radiocarbon and tree-ring dating, ground penetrating radar, pollen analysis, and trace-element analysis to glean information from the archaeological record. Few of these technologies existed 50 years ago. For this reason, it is important significant records of rock art sites are kept so archaeologists and scientists in the future, with even more advanced knowledge and technologies, will have access to it.

– Source:

• Keith Sheffield grew up in California’s Central Valley, is the editor of the Tahoe World in Tahoe City, Calif., and loves the wide open spaces of Northern Nevada.