How to do things with petroglyphs : the rock art of Nevada
The focus of this thesis is the rock art of Nevada, a state in the western United States. While the previously dominant models of rock art interpretation (hunting-magic and shamanism) have produced significant bodies of research, I argue that both are based on faulty Anthropological theory and produce theorisations which are one dimensional because of the focus on rock art imagery at the expense of site contexts. Because meaning is not derived from the images themselves, but is rather derived from the social contexts of use and production, it is these which must be reconstructed and which will elucidate the imagery. Therefore, it is necessary to examine the details of rock art site contexts, rather than simply select a model and apply it to the site regardless of fit. In short, rock art must be approached as archaeology, albeit informed by ethnography when possible. In this thesis I examine in detail the official rock art site records for the state of Nevada and identify patterns in the contexts and distributions and examine variation and similarities throughout the state. Based on these, I suggest alternative analyses of Nevada's rock art and discuss the role that it may have played in the colonization of the Americas; the symbolic construction of social and ethnic identities; the identification of ritual spaces in pre-history; and the significance of rock art to modern Native Americans.