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Nevada petroglyphs the oldest in North America

The petroglyphs found on boulders in northern Nevada’s high desert are at least 10,000 years old.

Larry Benson/USGS VIA AP

The petroglyphs found on boulders in northern Nevada’s high desert are at least 10,000 years old.

PYRAMID LAKE, Nev. — Rock etchings along a dried-up lake bed in Nevada are the oldest recorded petroglyphs in North America, dating back at least 10,000 years, scientists said Wednesday.

The petroglyphs found on limestone boulders near Pyramid Lake in northern Nevada’s high desert are similar in design to etchings found at a lake in Oregon that are believed to be at least 7,600 years old. Unlike later drawings that sometimes depict a spear or antelope, the carvings are abstract with tightly clustered geometric designs. Scientists can’t tell for sure who carved them, but they were found on the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s reservation land.

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‘‘We initially thought people 12,000 or 10,000 years ago were primitive, but their artistic expressions and technological expertise associated with these paints a much different picture,’’ said Eugene Hattori, the curator of anthropology at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City who co-wrote a paper on the findings earlier this month in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The petroglyphs could be 14,800 years old, said Larry Benson, a geochemist who used radiocarbon testing to date the etchings.

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