White River Narrows

The White River Narrows Archeological District, approximately 90 miles south of Ely, Nevada, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. The area is especially scenic because of its rhyolite cliffs on which much of the Archaeological District's rock art is situated.

One of the more well-known rock panels found at the White River Narrows is the subject of multiple interpretations. The panel itself is very large and follows the natural contours of the cliff face for perhaps as much as 16 ft. (5 m) or more. The motifs include large linear features, depictions of large mammals (common for the eastern part of the state), and a number of motifs that might be representations of human footprints, as well as large numbers of non-representational motifs. The inscriptions that prove the most difficult to evaluate are “rakes” (a series of vertical lines that touch, or are struck through by, a horizontal line). R. F. Heizer and T. R. Hester interpreted the rakes as the depiction of a “game drive,” with the lines representing some kind of trap for the animals. There is little ethnographic evidence, however, to support the idea that aboriginal game drives included the construction of “picket” style fences, which makes that reading of the imagery unconvincing. Grace Burkholder thought that the rakes were a solar marker, with the petroglyphs aligning during major celestial events, such as the summer solstice. Yet there is no definitive interpretation.

Unfortunately, the unprotected panel was vandalized twice with graffiti—the names “Ricky” in 1976 and “Steve” in 1977. This damage permanently impacted the experience of future visitors. Vandalism of archaeological sites is against Federal Law and is punishable by large fines and imprisonment.

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