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)

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American Museum of Natural History.
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.
216 pages : illustrations (some color), color maps ; 26 cm.
Paleo-Indians., Indians of North America., Indians of North America -- Dwellings., Land settlement patterns, Prehistoric., Land use., Excavations (Archaeology), Environmental archaeology., Human ecology., Paleoecology -- Pleistocene., Paleoecology -- Holocene., Desert ecology., Antiquities, Prehistoric., Sulphur Springs Region (Humboldt County, Nev.), Black Rock Desert (Nev.), Nevada.