Nevada Public Radio Listen Live

"As It Happens"
Facebook Twitter Follow Nevada Public Radio

Support Nevada Public Radio
May 12, 2005
Podcasts

ARCHIVE: Petroglyphs

Listen


This week volunteers who want to help the BLM protect ancient native American rock art gathered in St George Utah. One of the presentations was by a Nevadan who has discovered an innovative way to date the art. Ky Plaskon reports.

PLASKON: Farryl Lytle grew up 200 miles north of Las Vegas outside of Pioche in Eagle Valley. He had always known about petroglyphs, but not much about the two dimensional figures that appeared to be no more than scribbling in the rock. Then he went off to be a scientist and for decades he worked as a Boeing materials engineer in Seattle. When he returned to Eagle Valley 12 years ago to retire he still had the same questions about the mysterious petroglyph.

LYTLE: How old are they, who made them?

PLASKON: All scientists know is the Anasazi and Freemont Native Americans lived in this area until about 700 years ago, and then they disappeared from the acheological record in the midst of a drought. One of the most well known remnants of the culture are the petroglyphs. But the rock art's age could range in the tens of thousands of years. Lytle thought he might be able to apply his materials engineering knowledge to determine their age by studying what's called the desert varnish.

LYTLE: The native American pecked away the desert varnish to make their designs visible and when they did that they cleared off the old desert varnish and so the clock started then.

PLASKON: The desert varnish slowly grows back over the petroglyph after the Native American chipped it away. By measuring the amount of varnish currently on the rock and calculating the rate the desert varnish grows, Lytle says he can estimate how old these petroglyphs are.

LYTLE: It's a thousand, plus or minus 200 years.

KAFFMAN: That's impressive, wow I am not sure.

PLASKON: Viki Kaffman Assistant professor of Anthropology at UNLV says scientific methods to date including carbon dating and weathering haven't been that accurate. Anthropologists have looked at the desert varnish, but not the way Lytle has. The brownish varnish on the rock is left by microbes that eat dust. By using a 30-thousand dollar Niton Portable X-ray Fluorescence Machine he bought himself he can measure manganese and iron deposits the microbes leave behind over thousands of years. Lytles discovery may be useful to tell scientists about life beyond even earth.

KELLIHER: We contacted him because one of the hottest things to determinie is an instrument to determine if there has ever been life on Mars.

PLASKON: Warran Kelliher is a senior researcher with NASA and was in charge of the determining components of soil samples on Mars during the Viking Mission to that planet.

KELLIHER: There has been or may be continuing life on mars if we find the same sort of desert varnish on the rocks that we see on mars and from preliminary indications there are some increased manganese deposits on these rocks on Mars.

PLASKON: So Kelliher, Lytle and the University of Texas teamed up to present a three-quarter million dollar proposal for Lytle to study the deposits in Nevada for three years. The idea is to use the study to compare rocks in Nevada with rocks on Mars, looking for signs of the microbes dead or alive. Kelliher says it usually takes 6 months to get an answer from headquarters but the proposal was submitted to NASA more than a year ago. Kelliher thinks burocracy may be getting in the way of the project but he remains optimistic.

Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR

See discussion rules.

Archives

Apr 4, 2009 | Drug Donation Program
Nevada lawmakers are debating the creation of a program that would help cancer patients get expensive prescription drugs for less.

Mar 13, 2009 | Budget Wrangling
As state lawmakers wrestle with Nevada's multi-billion-dollar budget deficit, there are several plans afoot aimed at softening the next economic bust.

Mar 2, 2009 | Autism
The cost of treating children with autism can be $24,000 to $40,000 per child per year according to the Autism Coalition of Nevada. A bill before the Nevada Legislature aims to help families pay for the care.

Feb 16, 2007 | Chinese New Year
This weekend marks a celebration of Chinese New Year. KNPR's Rick Andrews reports on how the holiday is being celebrated by the valley's growing Asian community.

Dec 7, 2006 | Food and Beverage
The economy of scale for food and beverage operations in Las Vegas means any edge in efficiency is real money. Rick Andrews reports on a software product scoring with food and beverage managers looking at the bottom line...and what you're likely to order.

Nov 15, 2006 | Global Gaming Expo
The Global Gaming Expo trade show and conference got underway Tuesday in Las Vegas. Vendors showcase their latest wares including new slot machines.

Nov 1, 2006 | Stardust Memories
When it opened in 1958 the Stardust was the world's largest hotel. Now, after more than 48 years, it's closed.

Sep 27, 2006 | Nevada Northern Railway
The 'Nevada Northern' is celebrating its centenial anniversary. News 88.9's Rick Andrews went on a tour of the museum with executive director Mark Bassett.

Jun 30, 2006 | Standing Up for Ringo
Congresswoman Shelley Berkley tells the story of how she saw the Beatles in Las Vegas in August 1964.

Jun 29, 2006 | Sports Supplements
From fortified cereals to energy drinks to serious sports nutrition, people are willing to spend lots money to supplement their diets. Rick Andrews reports on the business of sports supplements.

May 25, 2006 | Love
Wednesday Cirque du Soleil provided a glimpse of their much anticipated show based on the music of the Beatles. Flo Rogers reports on Love.

May 24, 2006 | Telecommunications
A Senate telecommunications bill currently being considered includes provisions on most everything, but some worry that controversial measures will derail the entire package.

May 16, 2006 | Nanotech
Universities across the country are spending millions to expand nano technology research...manipulating molecules 10,000 times smaller than a human hair. Rick Andrews reports on nano research at UNLV.

Apr 24, 2006 | Earthscope
Hualapai Mountain Park, near Kingman, has been chosen by the National Science Foundation to be home to a seismic monitoring station. Gillian Ferris Kohl reports.

Apr 18, 2006 | Anatomical Donation for Science
In the second of two reports exploring innovative medical facilities in the Valley, Rick Andrews visits the Medical Education and Research Institute of Nevada in Henderson.

Apr 12, 2006 | Immigration Reform Stalled
Immigration legislation in the U.S. Senate is at a standstill. Many in the Republican Party blame Nevada Democrat, Senator Harry Reid for the impasse. Jill Morrison reports from Capitol Hill.

Apr 1, 2006 | New Plans for Nellis
The first of April brings news that a large piece of military land in Las Vegas may be redeveloped.

Mar 28, 2006 | Test Site Worker Compensation
Senator Harry Reid is trying to get compensation for Test Site workers who were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, but never compensated.

Feb 27, 2006 | StoryCorps - Alice Keys
Alice Keys has been active in the African American community for decades and known through her association with the Moulin Rouge Casino. Here's her recollection of meeting one of the great African Americans of the last century.

Feb 21, 2006 | StoryCorps - Alan Morel and Mike Genoshe
When close friends interview each other, the stories are often more intimate and revealing than talking to a reporter. A case in point is Alan Morel and Mike Genoshe talking about their hopes for their adopted son.

© 2014 NEVADA PUBLIC RADIO   
Web hosting facilities provided by Switch.