Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History

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The Anthropological Papers, published continuously since 1907, are monographic volumes that include some of the great ethnographies of the 20th century, particularly on North American Indians. Several illustrious anthropologists published their work in the Anthropological Papers, as well as many past and present curators of the AMNH Division of Anthropology. Prior to 1930, large special reports were published in the Memoirs.


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    Obsidian projectile point conveyance patterns in the lower Humboldt Valley, Nevada (Anthropological papers of the American Museum of Natural History, number 105)
    (American Museum of Natural History., 2022-12-14) Hughes, Richard E. (Richard Edward), 1947-
    Despite their ubiquity, surface occurrences of obsidian artifacts at archaeological sites throughout western North America have traditionally been viewed as unworthy of serious attention because of the difficulty in dating them. In the past 40 years, the time sensitivity of certain Great Basin projectile point types has been established, which brings the importance of surface collections more center stage. With the coming of age and refinement of geochemical methods, obsidian artifacts from these surface sites can now be analyzed using nondestructive instrumental methods and matched to their geological eruptive origin on the basis of congruence in trace and rare earth element chemistry. Many of these surface assemblages in the Great Basin contain considerable numbers of obsidian projectile points that, when matched to their chemical source of origin, open up entirely new ways to investigate change and continuity in past land use and social relations. The present study was conducted in the lower Humboldt Valley of western Nevada, where large numbers of obsidian projectile points have been collected by professional archaeologists over the past century and housed in academic institutions and museums. In this study, more than 900 obsidian projectile points and bifaces were analyzed from 24 sites and localities within the lower Humboldt Valley using energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) to bring data to bear on the question of whether changes in obsidian source use occurred there over the past 5000 years (as determined by time-sensitive projectile points). Significant changes were identified in the direction and distance-to-source of arrow points vs. dart points, and in the source and direction of Humboldt series points and of Humboldt Basal-notched bifaces, which implicate directional shifts through time in social relations among peoples using—and during some periods living at sites in—the lower Humboldt Valley. These results provide independent data to evaluate current views about land use, artifact conveyance, social relations, and technological change in the western Great Basin and beyond.
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    Alpine archaeology of Alta Toquima and the Mt. Jefferson Tablelands (Nevada) : the archaeology of Monitor Valley, contribution 4. (Anthropological papers of the American Museum of Natural History, number 104)
    (American Museum of Natural History., 2020-12-17) Thomas, David Hurst; Bean, Jessica R.; Burns, Gregory R.; Canaday, Timothy W.; Charlet, David Alan, 1953-; Colwell, Robert K. (Robert Knight), 1943-; Culleton, Brendan; Eerkens, Jelmer W.; Freeland, Nicholas P.; Graybill, Donald A.; Grayson, Donald K.; Harper, Thomas K.; Hughes, Richard E. (Richard Edward), 1947-; Jimenez, Joseph; Kennett, Douglas J.; Millar, Constance I.; Novick, Andrea Lee; Pendleton, Lorann S. A.; Rankin, Amanda M.; Rhode, David, 1956-; Rosenthal, Jeffrey; Rovner, Irwin, 1941-; Spero, Howard J.; Stevens, Nathan (Nathan Erik)
    The Central Mountains Archaic began with the arrival of foraging populations in the Intermountain West about 6000 years ago. This migration coincided with the "extremely dramatic" winter-wet event of 4350 cal b.c. and the arrival of piñon pine forests in the central Great Basin. Human foragers likely played a significant role in the rapid spread of piñon across the central and northeastern Great Basin. Logistic hunters exploited local bighorn populations, sometimes serviced by hunting camps (the "man caves" such as Gatecliff Shelter, Triple T Shelter, and several others) and they staged communal pronghorn drives at lower elevations. As climate cooled and became more moist, logistic bighorn hunting gradually shifted downslope, then apparently faded away about 1000 cal b.c. Communal pronghorn driving persisted into the historic era in the central Great Basin. This volume, the first in the Alta Toquima trilogy, describes and analyzes more than 100 alpine hunting features on the Mt. Jefferson tablelands. High-elevation, logistical bighorn hunting virtually disappeared across the central Great Basin with the onset of the Late Holocene Dry Period (about 750-850 cal b.c.), giving way to an alpine residential pattern at Alta Toquima (26NY920) and elsewhere on Mt. Jefferson. Situated at almost exactly 11,000 ft (3352 m) above sea level, Alta Toquima was sited on the south summit of Mt. Jefferson (the third-highest spot in the state of Nevada), where at least 31 residential stone structures were emplaced along this steep, east-facing slope. When first recorded in 1978, Alta Toquima was the highest American Indian village site known in the Northern Hemisphere. This volume discusses the material culture, plant macrofossils, vertebrate fauna, and radiocarbon dating for Alta Toquima. Bayesian analysis of 95 14C dates documents an initial occupation of Alta Toquima at 1370-790 cal b.c., with the sporadic settlements persisting until immediately before European contact. These alpine residences are the most dramatic examples of the intensified provisioning strategies that began in the Central Mountains Archaic about 3000 years ago, broadening the diet breadth to include plant and animal resources previously considered too costly. The oldest summertime residence at Alta Toquima correlates with the onset of Late Holocene Dry Period (LHDP) aridity (~750 cal b.c.), and these houses were episodically occupied only during the driest intervals throughout the next 1500 dramatic years of abrupt climate change. During the intervening wetter stretches, Alta Toquima was abandoned in favor of subalpine basecamps. This sequenced intensification predated the arrival of bow technology in the central Great Basin by more than a millennium. Exactly the opposite sequencing took place a few miles to the north, when Gatecliff Shelter was abandoned during LHDP aridity--precisely when the first summertime settlements appeared at Alta Toquima. This pattern reversed again when lowland habitats became sufficiently well watered to again support summertime patches of seeds and geophytes (~150 cal b.c.-cal a.d. 100). Alta Toquima families responded by abandoning (temporarily) their alpine summertime camps to repurpose former "man caves" like Gatecliff and Triple T shelters into family settlements. The Monitor Valley sequence documents several syncopated lowland-alpine, wet-dry reversals, reflecting an adaptive diversity that spanned more than two millennia. The drought terminating cal a.d. 1150 devastated much of the western Great Basin and American Southwest, but its impact was less severe in central Nevada. Although subalpine sites were again abandoned during the drought buildup that peaked in the mid-12th century, summertime occupation of Alta Toquima became more commonplace, although it increased notably during the ~cal a.d. 1200-1400 aridity and persisted throughout the Little Ice Age.
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    At the vanishing point : environment and prehistoric land use in the Black Rock Desert. (Anthropological papers of the American Museum of Natural History, number 103)
    (American Museum of Natural History., 2018-06-29) McGuire, Kelly R.; Hildebrandt, William R.; Young, D. Craig.; Colligan, Kaely.; Harold, Laura.
    This volume presents the results of data recovery excavations directed at prehistoric archaeological deposits located near Sulphur Springs, along the southeastern margin of the Black Rock Desert, in Humboldt and Pershing counties, Nevada. Although 20 sites with prehistoric assemblages were identified during this project, intact spatio-temporal components were found at only seven of these sites, of which just five were the focus of intensive data recovery excavations: 26HU1830, 26HU1876, 26HU2871, 26HU3118, and 26HU5621. A total of 372 m³ of excavation by hand was directed at dateable components within these five sites. The results of this effort yielded a substantial artifact assemblage, including a variety of flaked and ground stone tools, shell and bone beads, as well as large quantities of faunal bone and debitage. Also documented were an assortment of features, including a number of small processing facilities and the remnants of several house floors. Key to this investigation was the isolation of a series of discrete temporal components. Eleven such components were identified representing six temporal intervals: Early Archaic (5700-3800 cal b.p.), Middle Archaic (ca. 3000 cal B.P.), mixed Middle/Late Archaic (3800-600 cal B.P.), Late Archaic A (1340-1165 cal B.P.), Late Archaic B (985-855 cal B.P.), as well as Late Archaic (1300-600 cal B.P.) deposits that could not be further separated into smaller units of time. It is particularly noteworthy that many of these components have very narrow time frames, in many cases smaller than the traditional Great Basin periods. The profile of projectwide time-sensitive projectile points and radiocarbon dates, coupled with a robust artifact and feature assemblage dated to narrow time frames, allows for an assessment of changes in habitation and land-use pattern with an unusual level of resolution. Prior to about 4500 years ago, occupations appear to have been sporadic, with people making brief visits to the area during periods of increased effective moisture and spring discharge associated with the Early Holocene, and largely avoiding it for more promising areas during times of drought during the Middle Holocene. Archaeological visibility increases significantly after 4500 cal B.P., including periods when substantial houses were constructed, and people supplemented the local resource base with foods and materials obtained from distant locations possessing richer concentrations of large game and obsidian toolstone. These more intensive habitations were not constant, however, and were abandoned during a major Late Holocene drought cycle that occurred between 2800 and 1500 cal B.P. Robust habitation returns during the initial Late Archaic period but is bimodal with a sudden break at about 1000 B.P., a spike at roughly 985 to 855 cal B.P., followed by another break. The settlement profile may have been in response to the drought-wet-drought cycle of the Medieval Climatic Anomaly. Along with the role of environmental change in trans-Holocene settlement structure, the large feature and artifact assemblages provide commentary on a variety of other research themes, including the rise of Middle Archaic residential stability and logistical hunting; Middle versus Late Archaic domestic/habitation patterns; local cryptocrystalline silicate (CCS) toolstone production and obsidian conveyance patterns; subsistence-settlement variation within the Late Archaic Period; and an assessment of the missing Terminal Prehistoric record within the project area and surrounding region.
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    Tufa Village (Nevada) : placing the Fort Sage Drift Fence in a larger archaeological context. (Anthropological papers of the American Museum of Natural History, no. 102)
    (American Museum of Natural History., 2017-06-16) Young, D. Craig; Hildebrandt, William R.; Far Western Anthropological Research Group.
    The Fort Sage Drift Fence is one of the largest pre-Contact rock features known in the Great Basin, and appears to date between 3700 and 1000 cal B.P. When Pendleton and Thomas (1983) first recorded the 2 km long complex, they were impressed by its sheer size and the amount of labor required to build it. This led them to hypothesize that it must have been constructed, maintained, and used by specialized groups associated with a centralized, village-based settlement system--a system that was not recognized in the archaeological record at that time. Their hypothesis turned out to be quite insightful, as subsequent analyses of faunal remains and settlement pattern data have documented the rise of logistical hunting organization linked to higher levels of settlement stability between about 4500 and 1000 cal B.P. throughout much of the Great Basin. Although Pendleton and Thomas' (1983) proposal has been borne out on a general, interregional level, it has never been evaluated with local archaeological data. This monograph remedies this situation through reporting the excavation findings from a nearby, contemporaneous house-pit village site. These findings allow us to place the drift fence within its larger settlement context, and provide additional archaeological support for the original Pendleton-Thomas hypothesis.
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    Prehistory of Nevada's northern tier : archaeological investigations along the Ruby Pipeline. (Anthropological papers of the American Museum of Natural History, no. 101)
    (American Museum of Natural History., 2016-03-11) Hildebrandt, William R.; McGuire, Kelly R.; King, Jerome.; Ruby, Allika.; Young, D. Craig.; Rhode, David, 1956-; Rosenthal, Jeffrey.; Barker, James P. (James Patrick); Colligan, Kaely.; Bloomer, William.; Garner, Albert.; Stevens, Nathan (Nathan Erik); Ugan, Andrew.; Carpenter, Kimberley.; Brink, Laura.; Waechter, Sharon.; Hughes, Richard E. (Richard Edward), 1947-; Origer, Thomas M.; Street, Sharlyn.; Pierce, Wendy (Wendy N.); Far Western Anthropological Research Group.
    The Ruby Pipeline originates in Opal, Wyoming, travels westward across Utah and Nevada, and terminates in Malin, Oregon. Almost 360 miles of the line is in Nevada, where it crosses through some of the most remote, sparsely populated land in the lower 48 states. Despite the remote nature of this corridor, it has produced a rich archaeological record reflecting a dynamic history of land-use pattern changes over a period of at least 13,000 years. Archaeological excavations were conducted at 578 prehistoric sites prior to construction of the pipeline. The sites were distributed across four ecological regions, including (from west to east): the High Rock Country, Upper Lahontan Basin, Upper Humboldt Plains, and Thousand Springs Valley. First evidence of human occupation dates to the Paleoindian (14,500-12,800 cal b.p.) and Paleoarchaic (12,800-7800 cal b.p.) periods, when people spent most of their time in the High Rock Country where important economic resources reached their highest densities. Paleoindian findings are limited to a series of Great Basin Concave Base projectile points and small obsidian flaked stone concentrations. Paleoarchaic sites are much more common, and tend to be represented by Great Basin Stemmed projectile points, bifaces, and a limited number of other flaked stone tools. Most of these assemblages reflect small groups of hunters refurbishing their tool kits as they traveled through the area. An important exception to this pattern was found at Five Mile Flat along the west end of pluvial Lake Parman where two significant habitation sites dating to 11,180 cal b.p. were discovered. One of these sites includes a house floor, which is the oldest ever found in the Great Basin. Despite the warm-dry conditions that characterized much of the middle Holocene, it appears that human populations nearly doubled during the Post-Mazama Period (7800-5700 cal b.p.). Most activity remained concentrated in the High Rock Country, but evidence for occupation begins to trickle out into the Upper Lahontan Basin and Upper Humboldt Plains regions as well. Most of the artifact assemblages remain rather narrow, often composed of Northern Side-notched and Humboldt Concave Base points, bifaces, and debitage, and reflect use of the region by mobile groups of hunters. Major changes took place with the arrival of the Early Archaic (5700-3800 cal b.p.) and continued forward into the Middle Archaic Period (3800-1300 cal b.p.). Early Archaic projectile points are largely represented by Humboldt and Gatecliff forms. It appears that population densities increased almost fourfold from the preceding interval, and all four regions experienced significant occupation for the first time. Simultaneous to this population increase and dispersal, a full complement of site types began to emerge, with large-scale residential areas becoming significant for the first time. This trend continued forward into the Middle Archaic Period where the relative frequency of residential sites almost doubled compared with the Early Archaic interval. Plant macrofossil and archaeofaunal assemblages also become more abundant and diversified at this time, probably marking a broadening of the diet breadth. This general trajectory extends into the Late Archaic (1300-600 cal b.p.) and Terminal Prehistoric periods, as people continued to expand into a wider range of habitats. This was particularly case for the latter interval, as the habitat preferences that made sense for over 12,000 years were upended, with population densities highest in the Upper Humboldt Plains and Thousand Springs Valley. This reorientation corresponds to the arrival of Numic speaking populations, especially the Western Shoshone who appear to have reached northern Nevada much earlier than the Northern Paiute, and is probably linked to a greater emphasis on small-seeded plants that are abundantly present in their territory. Although low ranked compared to many other foods, with the proper technology and work organization, small seeds could support higher population densities than was the case earlier in time. Finally, the discovery of obsidian in multiple Terminal Prehistoric sites from sources located much further away than any other time in the past may signal the earliest use of horses in northern Nevada.