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University of Nevada, Reno

Peavine Mountain Arborglyphs

Tree carving

Peavine Mountain is the smallest mountain range in Nevada. Now a popular recreation area that is almost entirely surrounded by the neighborhoods of Greater Reno, it once served as a summer home for sheep and their herders. Arborglyph researcher Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe has thoroughly studied the five aspen groves on Peavine, documenting and interpreting carvings on more than 500 trees by 105 herders. The oldest date he found on a tree was 1901 and the most recent carving by a sheepherder was dated 1989. His database, available in this exhibit, provides access by dates as well as the herders' names, languages, countries, and hometowns. Photographs and/or video clips are available for about half the trees. He also features Peavine as a case study in his book Speaking Through the Aspens.

... The strangest thing about Peavine, the thing that sets it apart from all other groves, is that not one of the five hundred recorded arborglyphs refers directly to loneliness, isolation, or boredom. There must be an explanation for this, since the topic is one of the most common on every sheep range. I think the answer lies in Reno’s proximity. Whether the herder actually went to town or not, he did not feel isolated on Peavine. At night he could see its lights fairly close by. During the day he could sit on a hill and watch the traffic in and out of the city and even hear its hustle and bustle.

— Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe, Speaking Through the Aspens, p. 49

The types of carvings on Peavine aspens are found in aspen groves throughout Northern Nevada and the Western United States. The Peavine data provides a rich resource for researchers. Since Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe first began documenting the carvings on Peavine aspens in 1986, more than half the carvings have disappeared through decay or damage. We are fortunate to have the results of his research. Without a similar concerted effort to document the remaining arborglyphs in other groves, these unique records of sheepherding in Northern Nevada will soon be gone forever.

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