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Great Basin Rock Art

Archaeological Perspectives

Agnus Quinlan

Publication Year: 2007

Published by: University of Nevada Press

Front Matter

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pp. v-vi


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pp. viii-ix

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pp. x

This book is a collection of essays by twelve scholars that explores Great Basin rock art from an archaeological perspective. The goal of the volume is to show how archaeology has helped us understand the meaning and purpose of rock art in the daily lives of the Great Basin’s indigenous peoples. In the past decade, the archaeological examination of the physical environment...

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pp. xii

Editor: The development of the essays in this book benefited greatly from the insightful commentary and review by the original session discussant, Catherine S. Fowler. The editorial staff of the University of Nevada Press, particularly Margaret Dalrymple, were always helpful and supportive. The manuscript was thoughtfully and thoroughly copyedited by Jan McInroy; Ralph Bennett prepared...

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1. Integrating Rock Art with Archaeology: Symbolic Culture as Archaeology

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pp. 1-8

Rock art is currently enjoying something of a boom in public and archaeological interest, although in North America its study and practice still occur predominantly outside the world of academic and professional archaeology. Only a handful of doctoral dissertations are written each year on the subject. It is largely absent from academic curricula, and only a very...


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2. Stories as Old as the Rocks: Rock Art and Myth

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pp. 11-19

In this chapter we discuss a pictograph site on the west side of Agai-Pah (Trout Lake) or Walker Lake, near the mouth of Copper Canyon on the east side of the Wassuk Range in western Nevada (see figure 1.1). The red iron oxide pictographs are found on the northwest face of an immense boulder (more than 3 meters high and 6 meters long) (figure 2.1). There are several...

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3. The Mountain Maidu Homeland: Native and Anthropological Interpretations of Cultural Identity

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pp. 20-33

Maidu people of the northeastern Sierra Nevada (see figure 1.1) trace the creation of the world along a series of landmarks in Plumas and Lassen counties, California. They identify the Trail of Worldmaker as he moved along the rivers between Quincy and Susanville. Traditional anthropological investigations of the area suggest that the Mountain Maidu were relative latecomers...


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4. Toward a Gender-Inclusive View of Rock Art in the Northern Great Basin

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pp. 37-51

Androcentrism in the interpretation of the archaeological record has been recognized as a problem for many years (Conkey and Spector 1984; Gero and Conkey 1991; Leach 1999), and it is one that many researchers have tried to eliminate from their work. In at least one area of archaeological research in the Great Basin, however—the study of rock art—male bias seems...

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5. Grinding Stone and Pecking Rock: Rock Art of the High Basins, Spanish Springs, Nevada

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pp. 52-68

Though western North American rock art has been a subject of sporadic archaeological interest since the nineteenth century (Mallery 1893), research has resulted in only vague understandings of the properties of the imagery represented and its associated site contexts. For example, in Nevada approximately 1,000 rock art sites have an official state record, but...

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6. A Regional Settlement System Approach to Petroglyphs: Application to the Owyhee Uplands, Southeastern Oregon

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pp. 69-91

Archaeological interpretations of rock art imagery have tended to focus on methods of production and subjective readings of the art’s apparent references and to neglect the role of rock art in the experience of daily life. I argue that interpretation can be enhanced by viewing rock art as an archaeological feature that occurs in conjunction with other material culture and by considering...

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7. The Study of a Rock Art Site in Southeastern Oregon

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pp. 92-106

This study was made possible by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Snake River Area Office, which contracted with Archaeological and Historical Services at Eastern Washington University to locate and document the rock art along a section of the Owyhee Reservoir in southeastern Oregon. About 160 acres were surveyed, 121 boulders with 137 panels of petroglyphs...

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8. Contexts in the Analysis of Rock Art: Settlement and Rock Art in the Warner Valley Area, Oregon

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pp. 107-125

Much has been made in recent years of the importance of ethnographic information in the study of rock art. Using ethnographic data collected from California and the Great Basin from the 1900s onward (Driver 1937; Steward 1938, 1941; Stewart 1941), Whitley has built complex interpretations of the art, including the reasons rock art was made, the ceremonies that accompanied...

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9. Petroglyph Dating on the Massacre Bench

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pp. 126-139

While many archaeologists show great interest in rock art, direct dating remains critical to the integration of rock art research into mainstream archaeology. When the production of rock art can be situated in time, it can be analyzed alongside other concurrent cultural practices and a more richly textured study of prehistoric human behavior developed. Only when rock...

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10. Rock Art as an Artifact of Religion and Ritual: The Archaeological Construction of Rock Art’s Past and Present Social Contexts

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pp. 140-149

This chapter examines why rock art researchers tend to assume that rock art is in some sense religious or ritual in its original context of use and explores how such an assumption shapes discussions about the public’s appropriation of rock art imagery. Academic interpretation defines what constitutes rock art’s discursive field, as well as the individuals authorized to interpret...


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pp. 151-178


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pp. 179


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pp. 181-184

E-ISBN-13: 9780874177183
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874176964

Page Count: 168
Illustrations: 11 B/W PHOTOS, 1 MAP, 15 LINE ART
Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Petroglyphs -- Great Basin.
  • Great Basin -- Antiquities.
  • Indians of North America -- Great Basin -- Antiquities.
  • Rock paintings -- Great Basin.
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