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The Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation is what the Paiute people call "home" since time immemorial. However, after an amateur geologist dug a bit deeper into the arid lake, he and everyone else was shocked to witness something that steeped deep into Native American history. Perhaps, no one—not even the indigenous people—had any clue about what this arid lake hid for thousands of years.
Winnemucca Lake might have been arid for years. Perhaps, it was a seasonal situation where the Nevadan lake dried up on and off. Yet, no one had a clue about the horrifying mystery that lay hidden in the lake's sun-soaked valley. Moreover, getting a glimpse of Winnemucca's hidden treasure couldn't have been that easy if it hadn't dried. So, where did all this start? What did Winnemucca have to spook the amateur geologist?
In 1992, Frances and Robert E. Connick, a husband-and-wife team, came up with a shocking revelation about the arid Nevadan site. Furthermore, the couple claimed that Winnemucca Lake had something that would rewrite American history soon. However, their discovery took quite some time to surface. And years later, it was Benson's turn to prove their point with his shocking find.
But did you know that Winnemucca Lake wasn't anything like how it is today? In fact, the historical lake thrived with water just a century ago. It bowled still water despite being situated at the heart of the driest regions of the U.S. So, what contributed to the lake's devastating aridity? Shockingly, the Bureau of Reclamation takes the credit for doing this to the lake...
The federal agency came up with a simple decision that took a toll on Winnemucca's far and near sustenance. The bureau decided to block the Truckee River—and shockingly—this river was the main source that fed Winnemucca. Sadly, this part of the U.S. isn't blessed with sufficient water. Eventually, the federal agency's decision had far-reaching consequences on the Nevadan Lake.
Apart from the wildlife, the end of days near the Winnemucca region took an adverse toll on the native inhabitants too. The Paiute people heavily relied on the Pyramid and Winnemucca Lakes since both were situated within the boundaries of their reservation. Food and economic support fell into the tribal natives' hands through these two lakes. Sadly, their only source of nourishment became a question.
Both the Pyramid Lake and the Winnemucca Lake mean a lot to the native residents in the arid Nevadan region. Eventually, the Paiute people called the Pyramid Lake—"Tupepeaha"—and it sits at the heart of what they consider sacred. In local terms, Tupepeaha means "Stone Mother." And the Stone Mother's tears are believed to be the source of saltwater in the lake. But the area was beyond what fables narrated.
Dubbed as the "Mud Lake," the region tasted some good days after a flood nourished its arid basin with water. Eventually, the parched desert-like valley that gleamed with water was renamed Winnemucca after a Paiute chief. The dry muddy basin eventually flourished with enough nourishment and soon became a major fishing spot. People celebrated the area's transformation, unaware of what would happen next.
In the 1880s, Winnemucca became a hotspot for livelihood. From fishing camps to convenience stores, the local people came up with everything possible to thrive their sustenance in good numbers. The region surrounding Winnemucca sounded of prosperous times until the Federal Bureau of Reclamation decided to erect a dam.
After almost 80 years of getting baked in the sun, the once-thriving Winnemucca Lake surfaced something stunning before the eyes of the Connicks. Remember the couple we mentioned earlier? Well, the married duo recognized something unusually strange in Winnemucca's abandoned boulders while surveying the site in 1992.
Since time immemorial, the Lahontan Basin was a colossal lake. Though it forms a major part of what is known as the Great Basin region of the western United States, it loops a historic connection that's extremely significant. It just so happens that Winnemucca Lake and Pyramid Lake belong to the two of the three sub-basins that map the Lahontan Basin's western edge. So, what did the Connicks unearth, anyway?
It wasn't long before the Winnemucca region sprawled with experts who descended on the site to see what the Connicks had discovered. University of Colorado Boulder geologist, Larry Benson, was one of the intrepid explorers. Though he previously focused his research on climate change impacts on Native Americans, he was determined to dig deeper into the Winnemucca boulders. Soon, he found something that left him speechless...
Shockingly, it wasn't just the discovery that surprised Benson. As we mentioned earlier, Winnemucca wasn't always dry. It did flourish with water on and off periodically. Perhaps, the changes in the rise and fall of the thriving waters had been repetitive occurrences over the millennia. On knowing this, Benson had a little suspicion.
The curious-minded geologist believed that if his hunch proved him right, then the team would just have enough evidence to prove something distinctive about the arid Nevadan region. However, Benson needed substantial data to prove his point. That's when the team from the University of Colorado Boulder brushed off some samples from the area.
Some specimens including carbonate crust and algal formations were collected from the Winnemucca basin. However, the main motive behind gathering these samples was clear and straightforwardly routed to Benson's suspicion. Later, the dating analysis proved that the water levels in the region had risen and fallen drastically over the epochs. But to prove their point, the researchers had to take one last step.
Soon, the experts used radiocarbon dating on the boulders to fix the last piece of the mysterious puzzle. After the investigation came to a close, the researchers were able to make an approximate estimate with some degree about the Winnemucca boulders. But what was so special about these tufa molds anyway?
The tufa molds that lay scattered in Winnemucca's arid layout had historic petroglyphs or simply, rock carvings. Perhaps, these petroglyphs were amazingly significant because, according to Benson's research, Winnemucca sub-basin's water fell beneath the point between 14,800 and 13,000 years ago. The second estimate is believed to be somewhere between 11,300 years and 10,500 years ago.
Shockingly, the Winnemucca Lake petroglyphs were the earliest carvings ever known to have been created in the U.S. Though the possibilities of earlier date are debatable, it still makes the artifacts some of the earliest known treasures in American history. For now, Winnemucca Lake's boulder carvings are evident regarding the earliest inhabitants who settled in America.
However, until today, there's no common consensus as to when these first inhabitants arrived on the Nevadan land. Reportedly, the petroglyphs in the arid region are attributed to the Paleo-Indians who are believed to have lived there around 13,000 to 14,000 years ago. After the groundbreaking discovery was made, Benson's suspicion was proven correct by all means.
Though the sophisticated artwork of nature added to more mystery, the researchers were content after cracking the era during which the Winnemucca petroglyphs were carved. Moreover, the experts believed that getting at something this complex is very rare. Though no one can decode what these petroglyphs mean, still, the boulder carvings continue to contribute to the arid Winnemucca Lake's unbelievable history.
It's utterly shocking to know that Nevada's historic treasure had been hiding in plain sight for over thousands of years! Imagine the Winnemucca Lake never dried up—the stunning stone carvings would've remained drowned for eternity, right?! If you visit this part of Nevada again, don't forget to look out for some "historic" boulders! You might get a chance to witness how the artwork of America's earliest dwellers looks like! Let us know what you think about the Winnemucca discovery. And please don't forget to click the "Share" button!