Winnemucca Lake: The oldest petroglyph site in North America
I had the opportunity to visit this site on the recommendation of a friend in 2012. It was obvious at that time that this was an incredible site, but I had no idea of the significance of what I had seen until the newspaper articles about the site came out in August 2013. Due to the number of sites that we visit in any given year, it often takes a while to get the site information and pictures actually uploaded; because of the recent publicity this site has gotten, I decided to move it to the top of the list.
On the afternoon that we arrived at the site, the weather was sunny and mild. We took a few photos, but mainly took the time to familiarize ourselves with the site thinking we would have plenty of time and sun “tomorrow” to get great photos. Boy was that wrong. The next day it was overcast, threatening rain, and the wind was blowing over 40 mph, so I have some sunny photos and the rest are not-so-sunny.
The rock art at the now-dry Winnemucca Lake was deeply carved on limestone boulders and is currently the oldest-known petroglyph site in North America dating to at least 10,500 years old to as much as 14,800 years old. If the petroglyphs are in the area of 14,000 + years old, that would put them on par with the currently accepted theory of when some of the first people migrated to North America from Asia.
The petroglyphs were carved during one of the dry periods when the lake levels fell enough to put the boulders above the water. When the boulders were submerged, they formed a carbonate crust, which was Radiocarbon dated to determine the date of the petroglyphs. The carbonate film underneath the rock art was around 14,800 years old, and the crust on top of the rock art was around 11,000 years old. This put the carving of the petroglyphs sometime between 10,500 and 14,800 years ago.
For more information on the Winnemucca Lake site and the dating of the rock art, just Google “Oldest petroglyphs in North America” or something similar to that.
Please Note: The slide show on this site contains many duplicated photographs as some were taken on the first day under sunny conditions and the rest were taken the next day under really adverse weather conditions. I decided to include all the photos because certain parts of the petroglyph panels are better viewed under different lighting conditions. If you are fortunate enough to visit this site, the best time is early morning on a clear day.