Teaching American History Project Lesson
  Careyn R. Hallstrom

Author: Careyn R. Hallstrom

Unit Title:  First Inhabitants of Nevada

Lesson Title: Petroglyphs of Nevada: Petroglyphs and Artifacts of the Anasazi

Subject:  U.S. History

Level:  7th Grade

Length of Lesson:  Two 75-minute periods

Within the state of Nevada traces of the Anasazi can be found.  The Anasazi are considered the oldest group of Native Americans to occupy the different arid regions within the Great Basin.  Traces of the activities of the ancient Native groups can be found on different rock outcroppings in the form of petroglyphs. 

The different areas that one can find the petroglyphs are scattered throughout the Great Basin.  One particularly famous grouping can be found just east of Fallon known as the area of Grimes Point.  There are a plethora of petroglyphs that include figures of snakes, lizards, antelope, and humans.  Some of the more particularly interesting ones are of the many dots and circles.

Another popular clutch of petroglyphs by the name of Lagomarsino Canyon, can be found just north of Virginia City.  This grouping of petroglyphs is a bit tougher to access due to the road being unimproved and accessible  only by four wheel drive.  The uniqueness of both Grimes Point and Lagomarsino Canyon is that the petroglyphs are very similar and it is conjectured that possibly the same group of Anasazi may have traveled between the two areas.  In fact, most of the Great Basin Anasazi writings are all very similar leading experts to believe that the ancient people did trade with each other and/or have contact in some form.

No one is quite sure what the petroglyphs mean, but conjecture has it that the petroglyphs are accounts of the Native Americans who traveled and hunted the  surrounding area.  One can only imagine that the surrounding area was once the shoreline of the great Lake Lahonton that spanned from the northern border of Nevada down into the southern most tip of Nevada.

The lesson is to provide background about the Anasazi writing and to introduce the students to the petroglyphs.  By allowing the students to look at and ponder the possible meanings of the writings they will begin to understand that early civilizations had different ways to communicate regarding food sources, water sources, and shelter.


Students will be able to visualize and evaluate different petroglyphs presented to them during this lesson.

Students will gather different types of petroglyphs and will be able to write a story using the pictures they have collected.

The students using the pictographs in a historically accurate story will observe the final outcome in a written document. 


Nevada State Content Standards:

History Content Standard 3.0:  Prehistory to 400C.E. Students understand the development of human societies, civilization, and empires through 400 C.E.
Benchmark 3.8.5. Describe the lifestyles of Nevada Desert Archaic people. (Prehistoric Nevada inhabitants, such as the Lovelock Cave People)


In Class Activities:

Students will be given photos of petroglyphs and artifacts and will use the photo analysis sheet and the artifact sheet that is provided.  Students are to work in groups of 4 to look at and conjecture about the petroglyphs and the artifacts.

The artifacts will be broken into stations, which will be used as rotations for the students.  7-10 minutes at each station will be allowed. 

Students will complete the attached form and then move into the next group, grab the next analysis sheet and begin to observe and conjecture about the artifacts and photos.

Attached are the two documents that are necessary in order for the students to review and work with the primary documents.

At the end of this day the students are to turn in their individual assessments for each artifact and photo that they had observed.

Students will now have background knowledge about the petroglyphs and how they were used for possible communication by the Native people of Nevada.  Students will have attended a fieldtrip to Grimes Point and have observed the petroglyphs and have read the background of the origins and possible reasons for the writings.

Students will be given a handout with figures that represent the petroglyphs.  There are translations of the figures under each character.  The students will read an example story and will then brainstorm a story of their own. 

Students then will write the story using English writing and then they will translate the story into the pictographs.  I stipulate that the story should contain at least 20 pictographs when finished.  (They may make up their own pictographs as well.)

The next step is the making of the leather for the final product.  Students are to take a paper bag and cut out a square that is large enough to write the pictographs on.  The students are to crumple and crush the paper bag in order to make it appear as leather.

Once the paper bag has been made into the leather the students are to draw their pictograph story onto the leather.  Students can use markers or colored pencils to add color and depth. 

Download Supplemental Lesson Documents
Image - Archaeology 1
Image - Archaeology 2
Image - Archaeology 3
Image - Archaeology 4
"Indian Rock Writers of Lagormorsino" Article
Image - Scrapper and Hammer
Image - Tule Duck


Extended Enrichment Activities:

1. Students are now able to access the internet and will compare and contrast the petroglyphs that are found in Nevada with those found in other areas of the United States and the World.  Students are to share their ideas about the comparisons and contrasts in a short presentation to the class.
2. Students are now able to theorize about what the petroglyphs mean and will write a short essay regarding their theories. Students are to incorporate the use of the Anasazi weapons such as the Atlatl and the tools used for dressing the game after the hunt.


Materials List 
- Students are to bring in from home one paper grocery bag.
- Each student is to have notebook and writing utensil.
- Scissors
- Markers and or colored pencils
- Photos of artifacts and petroglyphs
- NARA historical analysis sheets for photos and artifacts websites following:
*websites are http://www.archives.gov/digitalclassroom/lessons/analysis_worksheets/artifact.html



1. The first assessment will be the accuracy of the analysis worksheets.  Students are to have filled them in with information they have learned through textbooks and their visit to Grimes Point.
2. The second evaluation will be the final product of their own petroglyph story.  This will include the English version and the pictograph story as placed on their leather.  The stories should reflect an understanding of what Anasazi life might have been like with no “silliness” being reflected.  For example the story might start…”The young hunter looked on the horizon…he saw many antelope…” –not…”Aliens came down to inhabit the lands…”



Secondary Sources

Nevada Rock Art

Please see attached filesJ
4.  Cerveri, Doris, “Indian Rock Writers of Lagomarsino”, The West, May 1964

**Primary Documents PHOTOS
      All photos are provided courtesy of the Nevada Historical Society
The following documents can be found in Archeaology 315-590

ARTIFACT 1.  Archeaology, #337, VII-F, Story County (looks like Lagomarsino Canyon)

ARTIFACT 2.  “”,#338, “”

ARTIFACT 3. “”#376, “” NEG ORIG 3-30-94

ARTIFACT 4.  PAM. 571.5 C12 NO.43, Lagomarsino Petroglyph Site Storey County, Nevada: A report by the University of California Archeaological Survey provided at the Request of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation,  Reprinted from Univ. Ca. Arch. Survey Report No. 43, 1958 , Plate 1 Lagomarsino site and petroglyphs