Cave Discovery and Traces of Ancient Peoples


There is considerable back story to how I ended up locating this site. I’d recommend anyone not familiar with my previous adventure out on Lee Flat to read that first for context: https://www.joshpatterson.photo/not-the-usual-places/an-adventure-at-lee-flat

I went back up to my petroglyph find this past weekend determined to further explore the area, convinced there must be something of significance in the area. The ancient peoples didn’t casually create petroglyphs as they traveled their territory. Typically the art is found at important water sources or places of shamanic significance, fertility sites, etc.

I skirted the dry fall I had stopped at the first visit. There indeed is a sink up there that would have allowed some water to collect after rainfall but it wasn’t a large one.

Pushing further up, I navigated around another three dry falls, detouring to promising basalt outcrops to check for petroglyphs but didn’t turn up any further rock art.

Rounding a slight bend in the tiny canyon, however, I spotted an opening in the rock. And there it was: a cave no more than ten feet deep with low stacked stone walls outside to break the wind and smoke stains thick on the back third of the ceiling.

The floor was thick with undisturbed dirt that had drifted in over time and pack rats had built a palatial nest at the very back of the cave.

There was no evidence that anyone had been there in a very long time. It’s such an out-of-the-way spot with no geological features of significance, I doubt anyone has ventured to it in all this time. It was random chance that caused me to stumble across the petroglyphs in the first place, and the cave requires a good hike up the canyon.

Still, I thought, it could be comparatively modern. Maybe some hiker had camped here years ago. There wasn’t anything to suggest otherwise, really.

A glitter on the ground caught my eye. I bent down and lifted the object. It was a nearly pristine obsidian arrowhead. I stared at it, heart racing. Here was the proof it was indeed an ancient site. Searching around I found two other pieces of rock that appeared to have tool marks on them.

I carefully replaced the artifacts, did a little happy dance and set off for Saline Valley and more adventure.