Ancient art hidden in plain sight near Las Vegas, and Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon

Valley of Fire petroglyph

Petroglyphs at Valley of Fire State Park, northwest of Las Vegas. (Duncan Phenix)

MYSTERY WIRE — For more than a thousand years the desert southwest has been home to some of the world’s oldest art.

Petroglyphs and pictographs can be seen in many easy, and not so easy to access areas.

Close to Las Vegas you can find both rock carvings (petroglyphs) and paintings on rocks (pictographs) just 30 minutes from the Strip in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and an hour north of Las Vegas in Valley of Fire State Park.

A little further away in east-central Utah is Nine Mile Canyon. The canyon is nowhere close to nine miles long, and neither is the road. Nine Mile road stretches for at least 48 miles.

But once you enter the canyon and spend some time you have free access to a 40-mile-long art gallery. The rock art is believed to have been created by the ancient Fremont and Ute people.

While some of the rock art can be easily seen as animals such as bighorn sheep and snakes, some of it remains a mystery left up to interpretation by experts and everyday explorers alike.

The petroglyphs of Nine Mile Canyon, and much of the Southwest, are chipped into what’s known as desert varnish on sandstone. This is a dark rock-hard material baked onto the sandstone over millions of years. It served as the perfect palette for these ancient storytellers to create their art.

If you visit one of the areas with ancient art, historians, archaeologists, and officials all ask that you treat this art like you would if it were hanging in a museum.

SEE ALSO: Ken Layne explains rules for seeing petroglyphs up close

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