Nevada Petroglyphs Are Oldest In North America

oldest petroglyphs discovered in nevada
Larry Benson, AP

It’s been a big week for scientific discoveries in the Americas. Not only have researchers found the first carnivore species to be discovered in the Western Hemisphere in the past 35 years (bonus: it looks like a teddy bear), but news of the unearthing of the oldest recorded petroglyphs in North America has also surfaced.

Don’t know what a petroglyph is? It’s a prehistoric drawing akin to Egyptian hieroglyphs, except etched into rock. The ones found on a reservation near Pyramid Lake in Nevada date back at least 10,000 years, and depict geometric designs and patterns.

“We initially thought people 12,000 or 10,000 years ago were primitive, but their artistic expressions and technological expertise associated with these paints a much different picture,” said Eugene Hattori, the curator of anthropology at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City

Since the petroglyphs were found on tribal lands, it’s unclear whether or not travelers will be able to see them with their own eyes any time soon. For now, check out these places where you can see Native American rock art in the United States.

Ancient Native American Mound To Be Destroyed To Build Sam’s Club

Native American
Wikimedia Commons

It’s been a tough year for ancient monuments, what with subway workers in China accidentally demolishing 3000-year-old tombs, a limestone quarry destroying part of the Nazca Lines, and pyramids in Peru and Belize being bulldozed by “developers.”

Now Alabama is getting in on the game. The city of Oxford, Alabama, has approved the destruction of a mound of stones and the hill on which it stands in order to use the dirt as fill for a Sam’s Club site. City mayor Leon Smith says it’s a natural formation and was only used to send smoke signals, but the State Historical Commission disagrees and says it’s about 1,500 years old and eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Artificial earthen and stone mounds were common features of prehistoric Native American civilizations and are found in many parts of North America. Some were used for burials while others appear to have been ritual sites. There have already been protests against the destruction.

For more on this issue, check out this article by The Institute for Southern Studies, which includes many links to local newspaper articles and official reports.

Canadian Company Will Mine Uranium Near Grand Canyon

Anyone with plans to visit the Grand Canyon in the near future might want to consider bringing bottled water along with them. To the dismay of environmentalists and nearby Native Americans, a Canadian company has been given the go ahead on mining uranium just six miles from the National Park’s South Rim entrance.

Even though the government banned uranium mining around the park early last year, Canadian company Energy Fuels Resources says its rights to mine in the area, which were granted in 1986, should be grandfathered in. According to the Arizona Republic, it seems the Forest Service agreed.

Three environmental groups and the local Havusupai Tribe have come together to file suit against the Forest Service. Not only does pollution from the mine provide a potential threat to the air and water in the area, but the mine is situated on a site sacred to the Havusupai and other tribes. Until mining starts in 2015, pay attention to those warning signs at the Grand Canyon (pictured above), and here’s to hoping something is done before they get more plentiful.

[via Grist]

[Photo credit: Flickr user Al_HikesAZ]

Part Of Wounded Knee Massacre Site To Be Sold

Wounded Knee
Part of the Wounded Knee massacre site, the scene of one of the worst attacks on Native Americans in U.S. history, may soon be sold to private interests, the BBC reports.

In 1890 in South Dakota, there were widespread fears among the white population that the Sioux were going to stage an uprising. A drought and insufficient government rations had led many Native Americans to the brink of starvation, and some had turned to the Ghost Dance religion, a revivalist faith that many whites interpreted as warlike.

The U.S. military tried to relocate the local Sioux to the Pine Ridge Reservation but one band refused to go and fled in the middle of the night. They were eventually tracked down to Wounded Knee Creek. On December 29, the soldiers tried to disarm them. One Sioux refused to give up his gun. A soldier tried to grab it and it went off. The nervous whites then fired into the crowd.

In the ensuing battle 25 U.S. soldiers were killed, but the death toll among the Sioux was far higher. It’s unclear exactly how many were killed but estimates vary from 250 to 300, with at least half of them being women and children who hadn’t resisted. One mass grave, shown here, was used to bury 146 bodies.

Ever since that bloody day, the massacre site has been of deep significance to the Sioux and the Native American community in general. Little has been built there, however, and now a 40-acre plot that’s owned by someone outside the tribe is up for sale.

Some Sioux are calling on President Obama to make the land, already a National Historic Landmark, a National Monument, a status that would give it more federal funding and protection.

The landowner says that he has tried to sell the land to the tribe but was rebuffed. He’s giving the tribe until May 1 to come up with the $3.9 million price tag before he puts it on the open market. Sioux leaders say the Pine Ridge Reservation, one of the poorest regions in the country, has little money to spare and that the asking price is far above market price.

[Photo courtesy Library of Congress]

VIDEO: Prehistoric Art Of Panther Cave Reproduced In 3D


Panther Cave in Seminole Canyon, Texas, has some of the country’s best-preserved prehistoric cave paintings. A colorful frieze of leaping panthers, feathered shamans and strange abstract shapes have puzzled researchers for decades. It appears to be telling a story of some sort, but what does that story say?

Now this new 3D video allows you to study it for yourself. Color enhancement brings out details hard to see with the naked eye. It also brings the cave (really a rock shelter) to the general public. Panther Cave is only visible from the opposite bank of the river or by a specially scheduled boat trip with a park ranger.

The paintings date to the Archaic period, a vague label stretching from 7,000 B.C. to 600 A.D. Judging from the condition of the paintings and the relatively shallow depth of the rock shelter, this former archaeologist thinks they must date to the last few centuries of that period. Take that with a grain of salt; my specialty was the Anglo-Saxon migration period.

The site is managed by Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site and Amistad National Recreation Area. Sadly, Past Horizons reports that the site is now endangered by flooding related to the construction of Amistad Reservoir. As prehistoric art across the nation falls prey to “development,” vandalism and time, these detailed videos become important records of our past.

For a look at some cave paintings from the opposite side of the globe, check out my post on the painted caves of Laas Geel in Somaliland.