Saturday, May 26, 2012

Trailing archaeology: abstract images of the Lagomarsino Petroglyph panels

The Lagomarsino Petroglyph Site in Northern Nevada is a quarter-of-a-mile-long talus slope and basalt cliff with painted boulders and rock walls. Most of the ancient rock art is abstract, composed of design elements like dots, straight lines, grids, circles and waves. The primary technique used by the artists was pecking, but abrasion and scratching techniques can also be found [1]. An interpretive panel at the site asks the question What Does Rock Art Mean? and gives the following answer:

The ancient peoples of North America left no written records of their culture. For us to gain an understanding of what happened here in the past, we rely on clues these early Americans left behind in the remains of their villages, monuments, and artifacts. Like artwork today, the images here at Lagomarsino likely had many different functions: spiritual, cultural and practical. While we can never know for sure what the artists who created it were thinking, we do know that what you see before you had spiritual and cultural significance to both the artists and their audience.

According to systematic field work by the Nevada Rock Art Foundation (NRAF), rectilinear and curvilinear forms outnumber circular designs [1]. Although abstract imagery is dominating, one can find some anthropomorphic and zoomorphic forms. The combinatorial diversity of motifs is mind-boggling. The motivation and the meaning of the abstract figures or the intent of the people who created them a long time ago is not known to us. But do we understand all the artistic styles and ideas expressed by contemporary artist?

Keywords: archaeology, anthropology, cultural heritage, pre-columbian art.

References and links
[1] The Nevada Rock Art Foundation: Lagomarsino Canyon Petroglyph Site [].
[2] The Lagomarsino Canyon and how to get there by hiking via Long Valley Creek Trail.

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