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There is some suggestion that scratched petroglyphs were made into historic times using metal instruments such as a nail or a knife.
Very close examination of the incised line may reveal traces of metal within them verifying their historic age.
Many Native Americans believe that their ancestors were created here at the beginning of time, but most archaeologists agree that people have lived in Nevada for at least 10,000-12,000 years.
Of the pictographs and petroglyphs that are found in Nevada, petroglyphs are by far the more common of the two.
There are instances of proto-historic and prehistoric pigments being made using pulverized sappy plants, blood, or other organic materials.
This would allow the pigment to be directly dated using standard Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating techniques.
Such motifs are found throughout the world and form the basis of all visual traditions of art.
This makes interpretation of such imagery very difficult and the tendency to look for “universal” meaning is strong.
However, one need not look far to find that the meaning of a simple geometric form changes from place to place around the world and through time.
By giving a motif an interpretive label (e.g., calling a wavy line a “snake” or “river” or “path”) rather than a neutral descriptive label creates meanings that have more to do with the contemporary observer than the rock art's original makers and users.
Additionally, the act of creation is only the first stage in rock art's cultural-use life—through time rock art is encountered and reinterpreted by later peoples, so its “meaning” is not necessarily inherent, but is instead constructed, negotiated, and reinterpreted for as long as it is perceived as having cultural resonance.
Very few rock art sites offer thematic indicators of their age, such as the depiction of extinct animals, or the portrayal of diagnostic artifacts which forms the basis for identifying historic period rock art (for example the portrayal of wagons, people wearing cowboy hats and riding horses, etc.).