Crystal Wash Rock Art - Main Site

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(Fig. 01)
MAP-Crystal Wash Main Site
Site’s Cultural History: Evidence found in these rocks and the hillside beyond, indicates that this area was frequented by an ancient culture of people known as the Pahranagats, one of several known Southern Paiute groups. The Pahranagats represented a long-standing tradition of hunter-gatherer life ways over a period of time covering several thousand years. The size of this site is large enough to have accommodated a village of several small families, most probably during the winter months. Archaeological findings consisting of ceramic sherds, projectile points, four hearths, several cupules and some cobblestone alignments have been found on the site. Though not located in the more commonly occupied Pinyon-Juniper regions found in the 5,000-8,000 foot range, this site (between 4,100 to 4,200 feet) received water from the snow melt off from the surrounding hills and, with its large boulders, offered suitable protection against the wind, making it climatically more desirable than the lower valleys which were colder during the winter months. There are even several “cave-like” areas within some of the large rocks that show evidence of habitation. Like almost all ancient tribes, they etched the rocks with abstract images and representational figures of bighorn sheep and human images. Although we may never really know what most of the rock art here means, we can suspect that it was deeply significant to those who created it. We know from the study of many other sites, that it often represents ceremonial representations, marking of game trails, designation of cultural territories and even possible astronomical markers pertaining to such phenomena as the solstices and equinoxes. Click this link to view the page on the crystal wash entrance site … Crystal Wash Rock Art - Entrance Site.
(Fig. 03)
(Fig. 04)
Petroglyph Marker
(Fig. 05)
11/12/2015 Trip Notes: On this visit I hiked the Crystal Wash main site with the rock hounds (Figs. 03 & 04) from Henderson’s Heritage Park Senior Center. We approached the site from the east by taking the Crystal Wash Main Access Road that runs north from highway U.S 93. From the parking area (upper right of Fig. 02) where we picked up some of the site’s handouts from the metal site register, we began walking down Crystal Wash towards the site (Fig. 01). As you can see from (Fig. 02), there are 10 designated boulder areas containing petroglyphs and other evidence of habitation. In addition to some cairns, the BLM has placed metal markers (Fig. 05) at each site area described in the handout. Due to the soft surfaces found on many of the rocks found here, it is obvious that hundreds, if not thousands of years of exposure to the natural elements of sun, rain and wind had taken a toll on these petroglyphs. Many of the boulders have begun to “flake away”, making many panels impossible to identify and or interpret. Below, by number, I have attempted to provide pictures and descriptions associated with the majority of these sites.
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Site Marker #2: As you can see, besides many non-representational motifs or designs, there are also unmistakable drawings of anthromorphs of what appear to tiny mountain sheep. Although we cannot be sure what most rock art found here means, we suspect it was deeply significant to those who created it. In addition there are a third type of rock art know as Cupules or Pit-and-groove rock art. These evidence of habitation are thought to be the oldest form of rock art, appearing in the parts of the Great Basin 7,000 years ago (Fig. 06). Though the glyph in the lower right (Fig. 08) of this large standing boulder (Fig. 07) at Marker 2 may be representative of a humanoid figure, the remaining symbols defy any real interpretation.
2015 Crystal Wash #2
(Fig. 06)
(Fig. 07)
(Fig. 08)
Site Marker #3: At this site there is a grinding slick and some sheep-like figures (Fig. 09). Though extremely difficult to discern, it is alleged that there is a representation of an atlatl, or spearthrower, a device which enabled an individual to hurl a spear at a greater distance.
2015 Crystal Wash #3
(Fig. 09)
Site Marker #4: At Marker 04, there are three tall, upright boulders (Fig. 10) on the skyline across the wash and up on a low hill. The boulders make for a good landmark. Some of these glyphs were so clearly visible it leads one to think that they may have been re-pecked by more than one culture over time. Superposition occurs when petroglyphs are engraved over already existing ones, an indication that the worked-over petroglyphs were made at an earlier time. This site also contains another grinding slick on a flack rock face in front of these boulders.
2015 Crystal Wash #4
(Fig. 10)
Site Marker #5: At this location (Fig. 11) there are several flat boulders engraved with a great deal of remarkable imagery. Though almost not of it is possible to know the meaning of these images, they undoubtedly contain information that was meaningful to the Pahranagats. It is also possible that some of these drawings were superposition.
2015 Crystal Wash #5
(Fig. 11)
Site Marker #6: Archaeologists have found evidence that this site(Fig. 12)  was the location of a wickiup, or typical structure used by the Pahranagats. These shelters were constructed of frameworks made of poles covered with grass brush, rushes, or arrow weed. They were often conical in shape and usually had a smokehole. For fuel, the Pahranagats would have use local brush, which back then was in ambple supply. To the left of this marker is a dark stain on the ground indicating the remains of a hearth, and in front of it is a flat boulder with several “pocked” impressions known as Cupules. There is also a larger hole, or mortar, which was used along with a stone pestle to process seeds, nuts, or possibly to mix pigments.
2015 Crystal Wash #6
(Fig. 12)
Site Marker #7: These glyphs found at Marker 7 (Fig. 13) were on the inside of a somewhat protected “cave-like” wall in a large boulder that may have been used as a shelter. This site contains the only panel that displays pigment, or pictographs (rock art that is painted). The red pigment was a frequently used color obtained from hematite, a form of iron oxide. It is likely that at one time more color was present on this panel, but because pigment deteriorates very quickly, most of what originally existed has mostly disappeared.
2015 Crystal Wash #7
(Fig. 13)
Site Marker #8: The panel here is a striking assemblage of anthropomorphic figures and is unique to the Crystal Wash site (Fig. 14). It has been put forth that this structure of boulders may have been used as a speech platform. There is ample room to accommodate an audience, and the rock art itself suggest a gathering of people. You might be able to distinguish the human figures better in the black and white close-up. If you look carefully, you should be able to make out nearly a dozen human figures. This is even further emphasized by the rough sketch (Fig. 15) that was found on the cover of the BLM handout. It should also noted that this is the highest point of this site and would have acted as an excellent look-out.
2015 Crystal Wash #8
(Fig. 14)
BCBS Pymt004
(Fig. 15)
Site Marker #9: Because this location is somewhat outside of the normal composition of boulders that normally comprise a living area, it may have been some type of marker. The etchings (Fig. 16) on the two large boulders at Marker 9 were quite weathered and hard to discern due to the poor lighting by the sun. Unfortunately these symbols are quite abstract and tend to lack any great detail. It has been said that certain petroglyphs may have functioned as maps.
2015 Crystal Wash #9
(Fig. 16)
Site Marker #10: This final location is yet another example of a rock shelter (Fig. 17).The private and less accessible nature of this shelter, as well as the cramped space within it, suggest it had special significance and was therefore set apart from the routine of daily living.
2015 Crystal Wash #10
(Fig. 17
Cupules & Grinding Slicks: There are several examples of small cupules throughout the site. Cupules are generally considered rock art. In short, cupules are hemispherical, cup-shaped, non-utilitarian, cultural marks that have been pounded into a rock surface by human hand. In addition there were several examples of grinding slicks (Figs. 18-23). These are larger, deeper, flat basins set in granite or flat rock surfaces that were commonly used for grinding or crushing of foods with a stone mortar. Without digging down into any of these and destroying their integrity, it is impossible to determine how deep they actually are. I sure that over hundreds, if not thousands of years they have somewhat filled up with sand. A couple of these, located on the top of some boulders, may have been used to get much needed rain water. There appears to be a series of small holes surrounding one which may have been used to support a tripod–like structure. Could this have been used as a fire pit for cooking?
(Fig. 18)
(Fig. 19)
(Fig. 20)
(Fig. 21)
(Fig. 22)
(Fig. 23)
09/02/2014 Trip Notes: On our way back from a day of riding the quads around the Hamlight Flats and Lake Valley, east of Pioche, Nevada, Harvey and I decided to try and locate the Crystal Wash Rock Art Site along Highway 93. Unbeknownst to us at the time, there are actually two entrances to this area; one titled the “Crystal Wash Access Road” and one called the “Crystal Wash Main Access Road”. We entered the area using the Crystal Wash Main Access Road (Fig. 02). Using this entrance actually provides the shortest, and by far the easiest hike to and around the main site. The picture in (Fig. 01) was taken looking west towards the sight from the trailhead from the parking area, upper right corner of (Fig. 02). Because we were on our way home after an already long day, we hastily hiked about the site following the markers as best we could, paying very little attention to the handout provided at the register at the trailhead. Though we did find many interesting petroglyphs, it appears that our findings were hit & miss. Later research has shown that we missed several glyphs and possible some habitation areas. The BLM has actually done a good job of placing steel markers at each of the main petroglyph panels, however, because I didn’t take the time to make notes on what pictures went with what marker, it was very difficult to correlate the pictures I took during this visit with the written descriptions in the handout. The pictures and information noted in the trip notes above was the result of my second visit to the site.