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  • Wading into the River called Carson

    They say the world is spinning around
    I say the world is upside down
    They say the world is spinning around
    I say the world is upside down
    Joe Higgs [1]

    The sign says fishing permitted.  As long as you do not eat them.  Wading into the River called Carson* quickly becomes surprising and a bit mucky.  Why even try? For me, it is not for fishing. It is to sense place, in the two senses of sensual and common. And to simply cross the river to the dark boulders — the petroglyphs active and dense, the stone deeply imbued with water and wind, the landscapes clear and compelling.  

    Recent history, in this case 1859-1861 with slight detours into the early 20th century, becomes an confounding thicket for an outsider — like me from Oregon country.
    — Carson River, toxic enough to be Nevada’s only Superfund site. Gold and silver discovered in 1859 Comstock immediately spawned an rough influx of seekers. Mercury imported to extract the metal became part of the effluent, 15 million pounds in refuse, penetrating and contaminating river and basin waters as far as the Stillwater Marshes in the northern Carson basin.  Poisonous quicksilver,  accumulating in tissues, is a health risk. [2]
     — A violent incident at a “a stage and grog stop” in May 1860 catalyzed increasing tensions between the Paiutes and encroaching miners and settlers.  This incident occurred along the Carson River not far from this petroglyph site and launched the brief and deadly Pyramid Lake War. [3]
    — During the winter flood of  1861-1862 Mark Twain lodged for a few harrowing days at the above stage stop, Honey Lake Smith’s, described in Twain’s 1872 “personal narrative” Roughing It (217-228).
    — In the early 20th century extensive water projects diverted, channeled, and dammed the lower river directly affecting the lands and scapes surrounding this distinctive petroglyph place. [4]  

    World Spinning around.  Upside down.  

    For close-up photos of selected:  Carson River Petroglyphs   

    *This river’s modern name?  Bestowed by John C. Fremont in the 1840s to honor scout and “Indian fighter” (aka “Indian killer”) Kit Carson.
    {1] The 1970s single by Joe Higgs, father of Reggae: The World Is Upside Down  (YouTube)
    [2] “Mercury-contaminated sediments in the Carson River, Lahontan Reservoir, Carson Lake, and Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge are the cause of elevated levels of mercury in fish and wildlife in and near the contaminated areas. The contamination presents a health risk to those who consume mercury-contaminated fish.”  EPA Carson River Mercury
    [3] Jerome Edwards recounts a version on the Nevada Humanities website. Pyramid Lake War 
    [4] Water in the West - more than complex.  For the Carson and Truckee Rivers, two places to begin:  The Newlands Project  & Pyramid Lake/Truckee-Carson Water Rights Settlement (1990)

  • Grimes Point of View: One boulder, a worldview

    Art engenders becomings, not imaginative becomings - the elaboration of images and narratives in which a subject might recognize itself, not self-representations, narratives, confessions, testimonies of what is and has been - but material becomings, in which these imponderable universal forces touch and become enveloped in life, in which life folds over itself to embrace its contact with materiality, in which each exchanges some elements or particles with the other to become more and other. Elizabeth Grosz [1]

    Grimes Point Archaeological Area, an extensive, fully accessible, and signed field of dark boulders with archaic petroglyphs, is adjacent to Highway 50 east of Fallon.

    The locale looks west and south over the Carson Sink, a terminus of the Carson River, in Churchill County, Nevada. Well-managed by the BLM, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Some boulders bear arrays of deeply patinaed cupules. These ancient “conical pits” associated occasionally with lines or grooves led to Baumhoff and Heizer’s in 1958 (and 1962) typing the “pit-and-groove” petroglyph style. They conjectured that this style represented the earliest petroglyphs in a wide expanse of the Great Basin. Though they cautioned their proposal as tentative pending dating, many rock art writers in the ensuing decades reified this style as fixed truth. I do believe these cupuled boulders are, in many of the instances I’ve seen in the northern Great Basin and Columbia Plateau, early Holocene (7,000+ years before present time [BP]). However, the designs and configurations are not rightly constrained as fixed cultural “elements,” while solid dating remains elusive. A worldview beyond grasp. What we have is the beauty of the densely-colored, dimpled desert boulders recalling watery eras – a sensible materiality. 

    This is one boulder: Point of View

    [1] Elizabeth Grosz. Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth (2008) p.23

  • Winnemucca Lake petroglyphs dated as North America's oldest

    An important paper is receiving high media visibility this month, for good reason.  It is titled: Dating North America's oldest petroglyphs, Winnemucca Lake subbasin, Nevada. The paper by LV Benson, et al., appears in the Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 40, Issue 12, (December 2013).  Highlights, from the Journal's website:

    -Petroglyphs in the Winnemucca Lake subbasin, Nevada, were carved prior to 10.5 cal ka.

    -A deep lake in the Pyramid and Winnemucca Lake subbasins persisted until ∼9.3 cal ka.

    -The designs of the Winnemucca Lake glyphs are similar to those found at Long Lake, Oregon.

    Recommended: Robert E. Connick and Frances Connick’s important descriptive and analytic work of this site 20 years ago. They devoted thoughtful consideration to “The Question of Age” and included excellent photographs. (The Hitherto Unrecognized Importance of Nevada Site 26WA3329: A Monumental Site with Southwestern Connections, Rock Art Papers, 1992. #28 vol. 9:73-99, San Diego Museum of Man.)

    For selected images, see Winnemucca Lake Petroglyphs