South Nevada rock art, part 1

I’m thrilled to introduce Loretta as a guest contributor who will be most generously sharing her observations and amazing photos of rock art that she has found in her home region in southwest US. Loretta has done all the hard work for this short series we are doing so please welcome her with your comments. Now in Loretta’s own words….

Greetings from the Mojave Desert in southern Nevada. When I discovered Marja-Leena’s blog, I felt a kinship due to her interest in ancient rock art and a shared Finnish heritage. All of my grandparents immigrated from Finland prior to World War I, arriving in Upper Michigan. I had the good fortune to visit Finland, in 2001 and 2007, with my sister. We discovered long-lost cousins who greeted us with warmth and gracious hospitality. While there, I became aware of the images that the Sami people in the far North of Finland – still known as Lapland to most of the world – use to decorate their drumheads and other objects. The images reminded me of the Native American pictographs and petroglyphs found in the West.

Reading Marja-Leena’s blog and seeing her petroglyph photos sent me searching through my photos (pre-digital!). I wrote to Marja-Leena and offered to send her some of my photographs of petroglyphs and pictographs found in southern Nevada to compare. She graciously offered to allow me to share them via her blog.


Petroglyphs and rock paintings (pictographs) appear in many locations around southern Nevada, most often near water. Although the origins and meanings of the markings are under discussion, clearly they have been created by ancient people recording events in their daily lives.

The two photos here I find most fascinating. My husband and I found this location after reading about it in a local newspaper. It is in a low range of mountains a mile or so off a main highway running across a wide valley containing a dry lake bed. Although seldom seen in the desert, water leaves evidence of its existence all around – dry lakes, streams, and rivers abound. Running water carved the rock formation pictured over eons, yet there is not a visible water source above it. It is at the end of a short slot canyon that opens out onto an alluvial fan sloping down across a busy highway to the dry lake bed.


As we turned our backs on the highway and entered the canyon, the sound of silence enveloped us. I walked under a low hanging rock ledge along the canyon and happened to look up to see two faint paintings on the ceiling above me – a figure with encircling arms and a sun, perhaps? They are not visible to anyone unless you walk under the ledge and look up. They reminded me of the first rock painting that I remember seeing – a red hand print on the wall of a cliff, high above a trail in Montana at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Sun River. My good fortune is to have seen these reminders of those who have gone before me.

All photographs © Loretta
Further reading: Nevada Rock Art Foundation
and the rest of the series:
South Nevada rock art, part 2
South Nevada rock art, part 3
South Nevada rock art, part 4

May 2, 2010 in Culture, Rock Art & Archaeology by Marja-Leena