The Rock Art of Nevada, America


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Nevada Rock Art America USA
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The Lagomarsino Canyon Petroglyph Site is one of only eight rock art sites in Nevada to be honored on the National Register of Historic Places. In August 2009 the Nevada Rock Art Foundation completed its summary report on its long-term documentation project and a synopsis provided here.
Lagomarsino is a large petroglyph site, a quarter of a mile in length, containing 2229 rock art panels located on an east-west trending, fine-grained basalt cliff and associated talus slope below. The site is located in the hinterland of the Comstock Mining District (Virginia City), and the modern urban centers of Reno, Sparks, and, Carson City are not far away. The site is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts of all varieties yet remains relatively intact with graffiti and other vandalism only noticeably increasing in the last 20 years, despite the high level of unsupervised public visitation.
Lagomarsino's Importance In North American Rock Art Studies
The Lagomarsino site has been well known for a very long time; Julian Steward (1929) recorded the site as "208 Pt Virginia City, Nevada" based on a 1904 report from a local Reno resident. The site was later recorded by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley in the 1950's (Baumhoff et al. 1958). This archaeological inventory estimated that Lagomarsino comprised 600 rock art panels, of which 439 were photographed, and analyzed; line drawings of 160 panels were made from these photographs (Heizer and Baumhoff 1962:294-303). The work of the University of California, Berkeley, was the only official archaeological recording of this important site until Nevada Rock Art Foundation's documentation project began in June 2003.
Lagomarsino's importance in the history of western Great Basin rock art studies derives, in part, from its role in the development of Heizer and Baumhoff's (1962) classification of the region''s rock art styles. More importantly, these researchers established the hunting magic approach as the dominant interpretation of rock art in the region until the 1980's. Their variant of hunting magic was inspired, in part, by their experience and analysis of Lagomarsino (Baumhoff et al. 1958; Heizer and Baumhoff 1962). They pointed to the site's favorable hunting environment and motif types (mountain sheep and possible portrayals of piñon cones) that they argued depicted "natural objects, the increase of which would be advantageous to the Indians' economy" (1962:290-291).
The Lagomarsino Canyon Petroglyph Site Documentation Project
Despite Lagomarsino's importance in the history of Great Basin rock art studies, no adequate documentation of the site existed prior to Nevada Rock Art Foundation's work at the site. Alanah Woody's vision to realize an archaeological inventory of the site that would serve the needs of culture resource management, public interpretation, and research was one of the motivations behind the establishment of nraf. She recognized that the goal of an exhaustive site inventory of such a large site would require an organization that could harness public support from across the state. A particularly off ensive act of vandalism that occurred to one of the central panels in April 2001 highlighted the need for action. Until that time, graffiti had generally been done either on separate boulders or away from the main areas where rock art occurs. Nevada Rock Art Foundation, in consultation with the land holder Storey County, concluded that it was important to mitigate this damage to prevent copycat graffiti superimposed on other rock art images at the site. Accordingly the damage was camouflaged by inpainting, with the work done by a professional conservator (Dean 2003).
This episode raised the issue of how Lagomarsino could be protected in the future. To enable programs of public interpretation and effective site monitoring, a complete archaeological inventory of Lagomarsino was necessary, and in 2003 the Nevada Rock Art Foundation in partnership with Storey County, the Nevada State Museum, nrcs, and other agencies, commenced a program of detailed archaeological documentation at the site.
Field Work And Documentation Methods At Lagomarsino
The fieldwork phase of the documentation project began on June 6th, 2003 and finished five years later, after a total of 10 fieldwork sessions, 143 workdays, and 10,908 volunteer hours on October 30th, 2008. The project produced a staggering quantity of data and materials: approximately 2,800 field drawings, 2,800 digitized panel drawings, and 10,3000 photographs (digital, black-and-white, and color slides), in addition to the imacs rock art attachment records and field logs.
All rock art panels, graffiti, and vandalism were recorded in the field using Nevada Rock Art Foundation's standard noninvasive methods. All panels were assigned a unique alphanumeric identifier tied to the spatial control grid that was established. Originally it was planned to relate identifi ed rock art panels to natural groupings defined by topography and setting. However, the experience of the first fieldwork session in June 2003 demonstrated that this would not be practical for a project envisaged to last several years if total survey coverage was to be achieved.
Although there are areas of the site where rock art is distributed in dense natural groups, the general pattern is of rock art spread throughout the talus slope at the base of the cliff in varying densities, over an area of some 325 acres in Sections 5-11; Section 12 covers an area of approximately 220 acres but has just two rock art panels.
Accordingly, after rock art was recorded in Section 8A in June 2003, a baseline grid was imposed on the site. This grid was ideally conceived as composed of rectangular blocks (or sections) of equal size (10x25m), oriented north-south (numeric designator) and east-west (alpha designator). This ideal grid could not be realized in practice due to variations in site topography (aspect, elevation, etc.). Therefore, the individual sections vary somewhat in size, but most cover an area of approximately 200 m2 and off er a useful guide to spatial variation in the density of panel distribution across the site. As the purpose of the grid was for survey planning and ensuring total documentation coverage, the variability in section dimensions is not significant. The corners of the grid sections were marked in the field by placing rebar at their intersection so that the sections could be relocated and re-established each year.
The cliff face and Locus A are the only areas of the site that were defined by distinctive, natural topographic features rather than the arbitrary grid. The cliff face and its immediate vicinity to the intersection of the highest arbitrary grid section were recorded as Rim Rock sections 6-12. The vast majority of rock art panels in the Rim Rock sections is located on the cliff face, some on boulders in front of the cliff face, and a few are located on the plateau above the cliff face. They form natural groupings, though the divisions between the Rim Rock sections are arbitrary. Locus A is a small grouping of rock art panels located next to a dirt road that leads into the site.
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