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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Notes on a Portable Rock Art Piece from Western Nevada

  • Author(s): Clewlow Jr., C. William
  • Wells, Helen F
  • et al.

As with all Great Basin carved effigies, the piece may be classed as rather crude and experimental. A best guess at its species would be mountain sheep, an assessment with which Tuohy (personal communication) is in accord. As Wellmann (1979:56) has noted, mountain sheep are by far the most common animal portrayed in petroglyphs of the Great Basin. They are also the most faithfully executed and accurately rendered of all the quadrupeds, allowing for their easy modern-day recognition. Most other petroglyphic portrayals of animals are more aptly described as amorphous zoomorphs. Such figures could represent abstractions of known species, totally mythical or imaginary "dream" species, or non-realistic composites of the above. Such terms could also be used to interpret the piece described herein. It is suggested that such pieces would receive more attention if they were perceived as a type of rock art. Although portable, and admittedly at the other end of the spectrum from pictographs, petroglyphs, and geoglyphs (intaglios), they are nevertheless made of stone and are generally felt to be functionally magico-religious. If placed under the rock-art rubric they might become more attractive as objects of serious interpretive efforts.

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