The world’s oldest petroglyphs have been found in Nevada, and scientists say the discovery has changed much of what we believed about early humans.
The oldest petroglyphs range between 10,000 and 15,000 years old, and we don’t know exactly how old the etchings discovered on limestone boulders near Pyramid Lake in northern Nevada are precisely.
Previously discovered petroglyphs were discovered in a similar dry lake bed in Oregon, and dated to be 7,600 years old. But Eugene Hattori, the curator of anthropology at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City, co-authored a paper on the oldest petroglyphs and says that the Nevada set is older — and illuminating:
“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.”
Radiocarbon testing was used to date the oldest petroglyphs, and lead author Larry Benson says:
“Whether they turn out to be as old as 14,800 years ago or as recent as 10,500 years ago, they are still the oldest petroglyphs that have been dated in North America.”
Dennis Jenkins, a University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History archaeologist, said the oldest petroglyphs haven’t conclusively been linked to any ancient peoples:
“When you get back into this time period, if you speak with Native Americans they will tell you they were made there and that is obviously their people and their artwork. But approaching it from a scientific point of view — what we can prove — at this point, it is impossible to connect these to any tribal group.”
The oldest petroglyphs are described as less pictorial, and more geometric patterns.