Paiute Rock (in the Mt. Irish Archaeological District)

{Click on an image to enlarge, then use the back button to return to this page}

(Fig. 01)
Mt Irish Road Map-2
(Fig. 02)
Directions: Mt. Irish Rock Art and Archaeological District is located in the Pahranagat Valley (Fig. 02), about 110 miles north of Las Vegas. From Las Vegas, drive north on I-15 to US Highway 93. Turn left onto US Highway 93 and drive north past the towns of Alamo and Ash Springs to the intersection of Highways 93 and 318. The entrance and gate to Mount Irish Rock Art Site is 3.9 miles from the intersection of State Route 375, State Route 318 and U.S. Route 93 (the “Y”). Traveling north on State Route 318, towards Ely, it is on the left (west) side of the road just past Key Pittman Management Area. A yellow BLM marker is just to the left of the gate. Go through the gate, and continue approximately 11 miles to Paiute Rock, the second petroglyph area (Fig. 03).
Hiking Route at Paiute Rock-2
(Fig. 03)
01/21/2015 Trip Notes: Paiute Rock is the first site you come to when visiting the Mt. Irish Archaeological District. The Paiute Rock area, along with several other locations in the Mt. Irish Rock Art District served as a camping activity center for thousands of years. The predominant rock art style is the Great Basin Pecked Style. This includes the substyles of Great Basin Representational, Great Basin Curvilinear Abstract, and Great Basin Rectilinear Abstract (Heizer and Baumhoff, Prehistoric rock Art of Nevada and Eastern Californai, pp. 197-208; 1962).                                        
The BLM’s Mount Irish Rock Art and Archeological District Trail Guide [Mt. Irish Trail Guide.pdf] provides descriptions for nine identified panels scattered throughout the rocks found in this rather large outcrop. As with many of the petroglyphs that I have encountered in the Pahranagat Valley area, many of its panels seem to have symbols that are representative of different native peoples that once inhabited the area. Scroll to the bottom of this page for more information on the ancient peoples that created these petroglyphs.
(Fig. 04)
(Fig. 05)
The first rock (Fig. 04), located directly behind the Mt. Irish interpretive sign is known as atlatl rock. Located near the top right side of the rock is the commonly accepted symbol for an atlatl (Fig. 05), an engraved throwing board used as a hunting implement to launch small dart-like spears prior to the appearance of the bow and arrow, which occurred at approximately AD 500. Typically, atlatl petroghyphs appear to have been schematized as a small circle bisected by a long line. Although the complete replacement of the atlatl by the bow and arrow may have taken a few centuries to effect, as a general rule of thumb we can consider atlas motifs to be greater than 1,500 years in age.
(Fig. 06)
(Fig. 07)
(Fig. 08)
As you begin hiking around the rocks in a counter clockwise direction from the sign-in register (Fig 03), the next grouping of boulders, see the arrows in (Fig. 06) approximately three feet up from the ground, contains a grouping of four anthropomorphs (human figures) that are standing side-by-side. It has been suggested that they might be representative of a ‘family’ (Fig. 07). Above and to the right, there is a single Desert Bighorn Sheep motif in a natural rock pocket (Fig. 08).
(Fig. 09)
(Fig. 10)
(Fig. 11)
Because the numerous examples of zoomorphic figures in the form of Bighorn Sheep (Figs. 09-11) throughout the site vary significantly, one has to assume that they were created over time by different tribes or cultures. There are also two examples of zoomorphs (Figs. 12 & 13) that portray what appears to be either a deer or elk; my favorite being a very detailed, well preserved one (Fig. 13) near the back side of the outcrop.
(Fig. 12)
(Fig. 13)
As you can see by the examples below (Figs. 14-17), several panels contain human motifs and abstract sheep combined with dots, curvilinear elements and multiple circles. After hiking all the way around the outcrop, the largest of these is the final panel you come to back near the road (Figs. 18 & 19). This is the most densely covered panel at this site. Due to its positioning behind a large open area, it is not hard to imagine that this area may have been used as a gathering place for activities both social and spiritual. Besides the many curvilinear and abstract elements, there are sheep, lizards, (Figs. 19 & 20) and what I find the most interesting, a drawing that appears to be a tribal shield (Fig. 21). It is sad to see how the effects of thousands of years of weathering are slowly damaging the rock surfaces. One can only imagine what images may have existed in the areas where the surface has flaked and fallen away. 
(Fig. 14)
(Fig. 15)
(Fig. 16)
(Fig. 17)
(Fig. 18)
(Fig. 19)
(Fig. 20)
(Fig. 21)

Site History: It is believed that today's Paiutes and Shoshones are direct descendants of the last hunter-gathers in southern Nevada. Peoples who, during the past several thousand years, were experts in living in an arid environment. Roaming on a seasonal basis in search of natural resources (water, plants and seeds) and game (bighorn sheep and deer), they lived in caves and brush structures in small open camps. Petroglyphs, as well as other archaeological finds, suggest that these sites were occupied from around 1000 B.C. to the 1860's.

The rock art found in the hills surrounding the Pahranagat Valley are representative of the three different cultures and have been classified with three distinct styles: The Great Basin Abstract Style, that is predominately abstract symbols (circles, grids, etc,); the Pahranagat Representational Style (bighorn sheep, deer and anthromorphs – human-like characters with rectangular bodies and solidly pecked out bodies and heads); and the Fremont Representational Style, that resembles the classic trapezoidal bodied Anthromorphs and Quadrapeds.

It is believed that various distinctive cultures, known today as the Desert Archaic, Fremont, and Southern Paiute, visited these areas. By AD 1300, the Fremont had disappeared from the archaeological record of Southern Nevada, perhaps as a result of long-term droughts or other, as yet, unknown factors. Most of the petroglyphs have been classified as the "Great Basin Representational" style (A.D. 1-1500). In general, the Pahranagat Valley was a winter site for a group of peoples known as the "Pahranagats", one of several Southern Paiute groups. In recent years, archaeological evidence indicates that some Southwestern groups co-existed in this area along with the Pahranagats c. AD 500-1250. Evidence of the Pahranagats and their way of life can be found throughout Lincoln County's network of interrelated rock art sites including: Ash Springs, Crystal Wash, Mount Irish, Rainbow Canyon, Shooting Gallery and White River Narrows. Click the following link to learn more about Nevada Rock Art ... Understanding Nevada Rock Art