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8 October 2010
Legend Rock petroglyphs dated to end of Pleistocene

In the arid plains of Wyoming (USA), early humans left their mark. Legend Rock, named by the Shoshone Indians who live nearby, towers 200 feet above the valley floor and extends 800 yards across. For 11,000 years it was a canvas for the native peoples. Animals and human figures have been chipped into the rock face. Some are tiny, but some are over 5 feet in height. The oldest date to approximately 11,000 years BPE. They show an antelope, a human and an adult human hand. The chipping out of the rock created tiny depression that have collected minerals throughout the millenia. It is this accumulation that has allowed scientists to date the carvings. The handprint is estimated to be 10,700 years old plus or minus 1,400 years.
     It was thought that the Shoshone had lived in the valley for only a few hundred years prior to the arrival of the Europeans. More recent archaeological and linguistic research has shown that the arrival was thousands of years earlier. The Shoshone or their predecessors may have created the rock art. It has played a large part in the ritual and religion of the tribe, who believe that the figures were carved by spirits who reside within the stone.
     Legend Rock was made a National Historic site in 1973.

Edited from The Wall Street Journal (18 September 2010)

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