The Paleoindian record … is noteworthy for its paucity of unambiguous items of art and ornamentation. The real fluorescence of symbolically laden material culture in North America comes during the subsequent Archaic period, several millennia after the last vestiges of Paleoindian lifeways had disappeared from the archaeological record. -John Speth, 2013
There are four or five sites in Oregon that qualify as Paleoarchaic, that is archaeological components chronometrically dated in excess of 11,500 cal B.P.: Paisley Caves, Newberry Crater, Connelly Caves, and Indian Sands (Curry County) (See Davis et al. 2012 for Paleo discussion.) Rimrock Draw Rockshelter (Harney County) may be considered another.
However, as yet no rock art in North America has been firmed dated to older than the end of what Davis defines as the late-Pleistocene marker of 11,500 BP (cal years), presumably the transition from Paleoarchaic to Archaic or the Early Holocene era.
Benson et al, in their ground-breaking study at Winnemucca Lake (2013), which cites Cannon and Ricks’ (1986) Great Basin Carved Abstract style, conclude, “We consider the Winnemucca Lake petroglyphs to represent an early archaic style characterized by distinctive design elements and motifs created using deeply carved lines and cupules. … specific motifs that are common to both Winnemucca Lake and Long Lake sites are also found elsewhere in the western Great Basin from Oregon to southeastern California.”
As we revel this Newer Year, let's respectfully enjoy this very old Carved Abstract rock art – four panels selected from a site in the southeast Oregon highlands near Long Lake tilting south toward Winnemucca Lake. Settle into the beauty of the rock art itself flowing through times’ mysterious portal. Offer gratitude to the makers who crossed the lands and gazed upon the stones, the bones of the earth, long ago. And to those who explore the measure of human presence in these lands.
Benson, Larry V., et al. 2013. Dating North America's oldest petroglyphs, Winnemucca Lake subbasin, Nevada. Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol 40:12.
Davis, Loren G., Samuel C. Willis, and Shane J. Macfarlan. 2012. Lithic Technology, Cultural Transmission, and the Nature of the Far Western Paleoarchaic/Paleoindian Co-Tradition. In Meetings at the Margins: Prehistoric Cultural Interactions in the Intermountain West, Rhode, David, ed., University of Utah Press, 47:64.
O’Grady, Patrick, Margaret M. Helzer, and Scott P. Thomas. 2012. A Glimpse into the 2012 University of Oregon Archaeology Field School at Rimrock Draw Rockshelter. Current Archaeological Happenings in Oregon 37(2-3):4-7.
Speth, John. 2013. PaleoIndian big-game hunters in North America: are we misreading the evidence? Quaternary International, Volume 285, 197-198.
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