Petroglyphs And Pictographs In Southern Nevada

Rock Art – Petroglyphs And Pictographs:

Rock art comes in two varieties, petroglyphs and pictographs. The difference between the two types is the manner in which they were made. Petroglyphs were pecked into the surface of the rock. Pictographs were painted on the rock and are usually found in sheltered locations such as rock overhangs or caves. In Red Rock Canyon, a coating of dark “desert varnish” on lighter sandstone provides the perfect medium for petroglyphs, which are the most common of the two types of rock art found at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. If you want to discover some of the Petroglyphs and Pictographs firsthand at Red Rock Canyon, the Brownstone Canyon area is your destination. The Cottonwood Valley is also a great destination for Petroglyphs. Other popular destinations for Petroglyphs in Southern Nevada include Valley Of Fire and Grapevine Canyon.

Prehistoric Cultural In Red Rock Canyon:

Over the thousands of years of human activity, in southern Nevada, as many as six different Native American cultures may have used the Red Rock Canyon.

The key to the area’s prehistory is water. In the desert areas surrounding Red Rock Canyon and the Spring Mountains water is scarce. However, Red Rock Canyon contains more than 40 springs, as well as many natural catchment basins (known as tanks or tinajas). With the presence of dependable water, plant and animal life is richer and more concentrated than in the surrounding desert. The abundance of plant and animal food sources made Red Rock Canyon very attractive to hunters and gatherers such as the historical Southern Paiute and the much older Archaic, or Desert Culture Native Americans. These cultures traveled in small mobile groups that ranged over large areas of land following the ripening of various plant foods. Red Rock Canyon was an important stop on their seasonal rounds.

Even the more settled agricultural groups such as the Patayan Culture, from the banks of the upper and lower Colorado River near Hoover Dam, and the Anasazi either traded or traveled to Red Rock Canyon for its resources. Red Rock Canyon is considerably higher in elevation than the river valley homelands of these two groups. Because of the increased elevation, Red Rock Canyon has several higher altitude plant and animal types that would have been unavailable at the lower elevations.

Prehistoric Cultural In Southern Nevada:

The earliest evidence of humans in the Las Vegas area has been found at Tule Springs and indicates humans were present approximately 12,000 years ago. Southern Nevada was moister then and shallow lakes filled several of the lower valleys. The water attracted animals and provided a lush environment to support early humans. These first people probably moved through the area as few sites are found dating to this time period.

About 10,000 years ago, climatic conditions became drier and people moved seasonally in search of food and water. Seeds were harvested wherever they ripened, mesquite beans were collected in the valleys and piñon nuts were gathered in the mountains. Parts of other plants were used to make such items as clothing, dart and arrow shafts, baskets, cordage and nets. People lived in temporary camps near springs and other water sources and some of these sites may show thousands of years of use. Caves and other natural shelters were used for protection from the elements. Due to the dry Nevada environment, these sites may preserve organic remains such as basketry and fur blankets for more than 10,000 years. Gypsum Cave shows evidence of over five thousand years of human occupation as well as earlier use by now extinct animals like the giant ground sloth.

As early as A.D. 100, prehistoric people who archaeologists call the Virgin Anasazi settled along the Muddy and Virgin River valleys. These people were more sedentary than their neighbors living in the west and cultivated corn, squash and beans. They built permanent houses and storage structures of stone and adobe. Although the archaeological evidence shows these people came to depend increasingly on agriculture, they still relied somewhat on wild foods. They acquired resources from as far west as the Spring Mountains although it is not clear whether they gathered the resources themselves or traded for these goods with the more mobile people living there.

The Cultural Chronology Of Southern Nevada:

  • Southern Paiute 900 to modern times
  • Patayan Culture 900 to early historic times in the 1800s
  • Anasazi 1 AD to 1150.
  • Pinto/Gypsum (Archaic) 3500 BC to 1 AD.
  • San Dieguito 7000 to 5500 BC.
  • Paleo-Indians (Tule Springs) 11,000 to 8000 BC.

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