This tufa boulder formed under the waters of a southeast bay of pluvial Lake Lahontan in northwest Nevada. These deeply carved petroglyphs are undated; the land now desert. This boulder’s location is proximate to the justly famous oldest dated petroglyphs in North America, also carved on tufa. The dated petroglyphs look to the east over Winnemucca Lake located east of Pyramid Lake - both remnant lakes of pluvial Lake Lahontan. The Winnemucca petroglyphs were determined by Larry Benson and associates in 2013 to date to at least 10,500 years ago and perhaps even as far back as 14,800 years ago.
Tufas, like mineral flowers, emerge, protrude, and fragment as the lake recedes. Bud, blossom, seed, suspended high and dry. Tufas congeal in crenate patterns, constellated, crystallized, caverned, calcified froth. The petroglyphs on this boulder appear as emblems of desire, as invocations, perhaps entreating sexual fecundity, necessary replenishment. In these landscapes as marvelous, saturated dream-space, I am reminded of Max Ernst’s frottages and paintings.
Above: Tufa Petroglyph Boulder; Below: Max Ernst, The Gray Forest 1927