rock art racing

14,800 years before present our ancestors scribe into Nevada stone this symbol

Twenty-one-thousand years ago San Francisco’s shoreline was four miles west of the Farallon Islands. Haight-Ashbury was in this era a distant 34 miles west of this desirable beachfront property. There are a lot of things I didn’t know in 1967. I didn’t know much about marijuana, why a girl wouldn’t shave her armpits, or what Donovan’s cryptic reference to “electrical banana” symbolized. In this era I was dashing about in my ’39 Chevy coupe, still much too young, too inexperienced, and all too sure I wasn’t ready to be sent to a war zone in Southeast Asia.

Those many thousands of years ago the Laurentide ice sheet was over two miles thick in what is now Quebec, to the west the Cordilleran ice sheet covered Alaska, British Columbia and much of Washington. This continental sized ice formation locked up vast quantities of the world’s water atop North American. The oceans of the world were four hundred feet lower than now.

Homo Sapien Flow Chart- A Theory

Squeezed between Siberia and Alaska, with the Bering Sea frozen over was a place that is now no more. Like the Summer of Love, the Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service all has vanished with the sweep of time.

Across Africa, Europe, and Asia an ever more capable animal, homo sapiens, a curious, imaginative creature trekked across Beringia, this now vanished land bridge and pushed east and south into North America.

I was a barefoot hippie teen. I camped out on the beach in Bolinas with my surfing mates. We’d build bonfires, smoke tobacco and drink beer. From out of San Francisco we’d tune our transistor radios to our tribes’ station out and sing our lungs out to Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction.

Twenty-one thousand years ago our first people of the America’s, paleo-Americans were with the sweep of time moving south along the Pacific coast. The further south our ancestors walked the warmer their world became. Ice, in this era, covered Alaska, British Columbia and most of Washington.

Picture from ’67 of my ’39 Chevy

Over the next four thousand years North America’s first immigrants, toiled their way southward until arriving at the Columbia River. Some of this tribe continued south along the coast while others headed up the Columbia River exploring the interior continent to the east. The extent of ice at the lower warmer latitudes was in retreat. Conditions were in this region more favorable for hunting and gathering. The great Chinook and Coho salmon runs choked the sea and rivers. Abundance was a cure for subsistence.

Because I had a boy’s instinctive inquisitive nature I learned in San Francisco there was a woman named Carol Doda, she worked at a strip club on Broadway, and that sailors on shore leave went to see her because she had a really big silicone enhanced bosom. My mom blushing tried explaining how breast enhancement surgery had triggered this new fad, how Miss Doda had become a worldwide sensation, how thrill seekers would pay good money so that they could say they saw the most famous pair of attractions to grace the City by the Bay. My adolescence was overwhelming. I found 1967 to be confusing, and like my mother I blushed. I was still too young and the world too wild. 

Geothermal Potential Lithium Source

When it comes to brains science informs that size isn’t everything. Over the last 200,000 years homo sapiens cranial capacity had remained unchanged. Researchers theorize that the brain’s backbone, its networking, this vast web of nerves evolved over the course of the next 130,000 years, neuron by neuron, brain cell by brain cell, in collaboration with the mysterious wisdom of nature itself and would acquire the evolutionary key to unlocking the power of the mind. Homo sapiens intellectual force like the lights on Broadway went fully present 70,000 years ago.

Fifty thousand years after the mind of man’s lights having been switched on, immigrants from somewhere near what we know as Korea moved into the Americas. With articulate hands these hunters could build stem pointed weapons, hunting tools, by now they had an expanded vocabulary and the capacity to not just describe the physical world but they could speak of interior experiences, how they were feeling, what they believed, what was true and what was not. Shelters were still temporary, they hunted and gathered, were able to build fires, cook what they’d killed. This was no small feat. Cooking enabled homo sapiens to digest more calories, quicker than their competitors, man was not yet the fiercest animal of prey. Mammoth, mastodon, giant sloth, saber tooth cat, and giant faced bears were formidable predators. Our ancestors still lived in a world where you could eat or be eaten.

Four hundred miles east of the Pacific Coast in what is now Idaho the Salmon River flows into the Snake River and then empties into the Columbia River. The first homo sapiens worked their way upriver and then struck out to the south around the Blue Mountains of Oregon to explore, hunt and gather in the Great Basin Desert. You’ll need to imagine a wetter and warmer place than now. Fresh water lakes, some more than one hundred miles in length, a thousand feet in depth, offered our first human explorers’ habitat well suited to hunting and gathering.

In January 1967 in Golden Gate Park at the Polo Fields the San Francisco Oracle announced there would be, “A Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In”. Psychedelic drugs had been outlawed, tensions between the city, state, and national government had erupted. America was a tumultuous brittle uptight tyranny against the impulses of a generation intent upon doing their own thing. Because of the war in Indochina there had been riots, teargassing, and brutal arrests. A massing psychedelically dosed counterculture turning on, tripping, participants experiencing an unanticipated jolt, expressing the psychedelic tripping as having opened their minds and given them access to a higher consciousness. For better or worse LSD  had induced a religious awakening, a tangible enlightening, the drug unlocked perceptions door and expanded their minds, enlarged their sense of soul. 

Our paleo-archaic ancestors hunting and gathering across the Great Basin fifteen hundred centuries ago possessed not just a sense of knowing that they know, but they also possessed imagination. A fully formed ability of such powers of mind that they could create symbols on rocks, and that these carvings are a sign that these people wanted those who would follow to know that they had a vibrant interior life, a penetrating self-awareness.

Sign of Man

The oldest rock art in North America not four hundred miles from the Polo Fields was discovered at Winnemucca Lake in Nevada and dates back 14,800 years before the present. This lithic artifact memorializes the soul of man. Out here on the shores of this now vanished lake our ancestors etched in stone symbols of their being here, knowing that they knew, that they were part of something larger than self, cosmic, some interior cognitive expansion, and they had finally found a way to cut into rock a sign that their people could leave to those who would come after.

And now look at us, the brawling politics and runaway technologies, the chaos and contempt, our tribes’ anger toward one another, our very survival hanging in the balance. Wildcatters in Nevada, near Winnemucca Rock, much like our ancient ancestors are in a race against time drilling down into the earth. Only this time we are cutting into the lithic not to announce humanity’s awakening, but to fend off our civilization’s climate change collapse. That is the remarkable journey of how we have arrived out here in Nevada hunting and gathering for the means to fending off our civilization’s end.

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jennie madrigal
jennie madrigal
2 years ago

Thanks Dana

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