Prehistoric Rock Art of Nevada and Eastern California


In the field of the history of art, the last century has seen a whole new dimension added with the discovery of the great galleries of Paleolithic cave paintings in France and Spain (for example, at Lascaux and Altamira). Paintings made by man twenty or thirty thousand years ago are common in western Europe. From more recent times and of a much simpler order (but not less interesting as art) are the painted and engraved rocks of North American prehistoric peoples. The present work is an attempt to make available to the interested public the known facts of the petroglyphic art of the prehistoric occupants of one part of the and interior plateau of western North America.

For the reader's general interest we review briefly the wider occurrence of petroglyphic and pictographic art in the rest of the world.

The first serious attempt to determine the nature and occurrence of petroglyphs in North America was made by Mallery (1886, pp. 19-33), who cited evidence from the New England states, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Rock paintings or pictographs are mentioned by Mallery (op. cit., pp. 33-37, passim) from Virginia, Tennessee, New Mexico, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado, California, Utah, Idaho, and Arizona.

Steward (1937) briefly surveyed the occurrence and styles of petroglyphs in the United States, and Tatum (1946) published a valuable, though brief, summary of the occurrence of petroglyphs, with a list of reported localities by state. The total number of sites listed by him is in excess of 2,200, but it is certain that this is only a rough or minimal estimate, since the archaeology of no single state is sufficiently well recorded to guarantee an accurate figure. Thus Tatum (op. cit., p. 124) lists over 130 petroglyph sites for California, and yet fourteen years later records and locations of 600 petroglyph sites in the state can be noted in the manuscript files of the University of California Archaeological Survey at Berkeley, and we estimate that half again as many sites are recorded in the files of other California institutions and organizations, and further, that these 900 sites are probably not more than two-thirds of the total number of such sites in the state. Thus for California alone there may be about 1400 petroglyph sites. Tatum's list was derived from published sources, and his record of nine states . . .


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.