The Loneliest Road in the US was Lonelier in 7,000 BCE… Petroglyphs of Grime’s Point

I took this photo while standing at Grime’s Point Archeological Area just off Highway 50 about five miles east of Fallon, Nevada on an earlier trip. The terraces above the basalt boulders were cut into the side of the ridge by the ancient Pleistocene Lake Lahontan as it rose and fell. Had I been here 10,000 years ago I would have been under 700 feet of water. Traveling over today’s Highway 50 route would have required a submarine.
Turning around from where I was standing was more basalt and a view of Highway 50. A pickup pulling a trailer makes its way over ‘The Loneliest Road in America.” Looking across the valley you can see ranges fading into the distance that are part of the Basin and Range complex of Nevada, which is part of the Great Basin of the Western US.
Had you arrived on the scene much later, say around 5,000 BCE or 7,000 years ago, you would have discovered that Lake Lahontan was much shallower as glaciers receded to the north and warmer temperatures prevailed. The area would have been marshy and filled with abundant wildlife. Ancient peoples had arrived on the scene and were pecking away at the rocks, creating some of the earliest petroglyphs in Nevada and North America. Grime’s Point features these petroglyphs. A copy of one of the petroglyphs is on the left.
The pit and groove petroglyphs here are among the oldest petroglyphs found in Nevada.
As to what they mean is anyone’s guess. One thought is that they were used in hunting rituals by shaman to assure success.
This basalt boulder was covered with pit petroglyphs. Ancient peoples and later Native Americans would use rocks to peck away the desert varnish that covers rocks to show the lighter rocks underneath. One way of measuring the age of petroglyphs is to see how much desert varnish has since re-covered the rock petroglyphs. The color of these pit and groove petroglyphs has returned to the original varnish color. Translate old.
In contrast, this is a much more recent petroglyph, probably carved in the last 500 years. To me, it appears to be a big horn sheep. But then again…
Most of the petroglyphs fall somewhere in age between the ‘sheep’ petroglyph above and the pit and groove style of petroglyphs. I like the almost-polished look of this basalt boulder. If you look carefully, you can see petroglyphs stretching down and out on both sides of the rock. Following are several examples of the petroglyphs I found wandering around among the boulders. It’s like a treasure hunt. Fun.
I’ll conclude with a final view of the landscape at Grime’s Point Archeological Area. Remains of what may have been a rock fence used to drive deer and antelope to the dinner table is found up near the top of the ridge.

BLOG-A-BOOK TUESDAY: Join me on the first 100-mile backpack trek I ever organized. Leading 61 people aged 11-71 across the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, I was lucky to escape with my life and career in tact.

TRAVEL BLOG THURSDAY: Peggy and I continue our Back Roads of America Series by stopping off at another petroglyph site along The Loneliest Road in America: The Hickison Petroglyph Area. This time we will be featuring some out-of-this-world rocks and, uh, puberty rites.

34 thoughts on “The Loneliest Road in the US was Lonelier in 7,000 BCE… Petroglyphs of Grime’s Point

    • It does seem to represent human’s ceaseless need for expression, doesn’t it, Peggy. One of these days I would love to make it to Australia and see some of the country’s early petroglyphs. –Curt

  1. Missed these on our travels across.
    Loved our stop in Great Basin National Park although the roads still had a lot of snow on them at the time.
    Occasionally I have wondered if petroglyphs weren’t just the equivalent of modern graffiti: a statement “I was here.”

    • Peggy and I have been to Great Basin a couple of times as well, Ray. Missed it this time because of scheduling. We also hit it early in the season when there was snow on the ground. A beautiful area with a grove of ancient bristle cone pines we have yet to visit.
      As for petroglyphs, it certainly could have been one of the reasons. Not only I was here But maybe this is my territory. Some seem like scribbles but others are much more sophisticated. They are certainly found worldwide. –Curt

    • They are very different from other sites that Peggy and I have visited through-out the Southwest, MB. I’m hoping to find more in the area. Their age alone makes them fascinating. Thanks. –Curt

    • Like many artifacts, large numbers of petroglyphs, pottery, etc. were collected and sold commercially before laws were passed to protect them, at least on public land. Graffiti has been another serious problem. Beyond that, they are pretty hardy, G, given that they are carved in stone. There is a museum in Fallon five miles away that features Grimes, but unless my memory fails me, I don’t recall seeing any actual petroglyphs from the area in it. Grimes was one of the most undisturbed sites I have ever seen. You get the feeling that it is pretty much the same as it would have been 5,000 years ago. –Curt

  2. What an incredible post and adventure of Grime’s point and the petroglyphs Curt! I have driven by here many of times but never before stopped and had such a rich history lesson. I love the smooth boulders with the etchings and always love to surmise what the meaning it. I never thought about being immersed in water traveling back in time and needing a submarine no less. I will have to keep my eyes open and out of the book on our travels more often. I spotted a zebra no less on the way to the lake the other day in someone’s yard no less, and I’m going to stop next time to get the history. Interesting to know how to depict the ages of the petroglyphs. The biggest take home is we ignore ( or I do) our own back yard, traveling everywhere to find these things on special far away places. It’s just opening our eyes. Beautiful shots as well to go with your great post. Have a great weekend Curt! ❤️❤️❤️ Cindy

  3. Basalt. That was my favorite rock in my childhood collection. I think it came from Colorado, but it might have been from Nevada. I certainly can visualize that shiny black surface, and feel the weight. It was about the size and shape of a hefty baked potato — so nice.

    I love looking at the maps of the interior Western sea and such. We are on a living planet, and its features have been changing since it first came into being — however that was! The forests and beaches and prairies that we love are nothing more than frosting on the geological cake, and there’s no better place than the American west to get a taste of the cake.

    • Great seas, great deserts, massive lakes and swamps… all recorded in the rocks. I had a rock collection as a kid, Linda. It led me to a life-long fascination with geology that my years of wandering have only increased. I am now reading a book on the roadside geology of Oregon that has captured me. One of the recent entries was on pillow basalt that developed when volcanoes erupted under the sea and were later scraped off onto the edge of the continent during plate tectonics. It’s still going on. I’m reminded each time Peggy and I go to the coast and see all of the tsunami warnings.

  4. Curt, the style of these petroglyphs is new to me, and compared to the more detailed ones I’m accustomed to seeing they do look quite ancient. Seeing how widespread petroglyphs are in the American west, it makes me wonder how many of these ancient artworks are hidden by moss, lichen, and vines in the eastern US?

    I don’t know this area at all, so on our next trip out that way we may have to check out this lonely road. Thanks for the idea. ~James

    • As it was to me, James. Geologically speaking, they date to a time before the desert dominated the area. More are found to the north around Pyramid Lake. My post next Thursday will be on the Hickison site which is also along Highway 50 and reflects yet a different style from what we have come to expect in the Southwest.
      Highway 50 is well worth the journey. You can get some of it from traveling I-80 across Nevada but the remote nature of 50 gives it a different feel. –Curt

  5. Just recently a major mining company went ahead and destroyed an important indigenous site here in Australia in order to mine the area. It included cave paintings thousands of years old.
    What ‘s worth of living but art?
    Great photos of American art, Curt.

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