What’s New in Southern Nevada Archaeology? Recent Insights into the Virgin Branch Culture of the Moapa Valley

UNLV Students House 1 (2006)
August 2021

Dr. Karen Harry, Department of Anthropology-UNLV

Today, when people think of southern Nevada they seldom think of Pueblo ruins.  While the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde and the multi-storied towns of Chaco Canyon are well known, the same cannot be said for the archaeology of southern Nevada.  This was not always the case, however.  In the early 20th century, large-scale excavations centered on southern Nevada’s Moapa Valley documented the existence of a 700-year long occupation by Pueblo people.  Those projects received widespread national and international attention at the time, and captured the imaginations of journalists and the public alike.  Unfortunately, the projects were never properly written up and the important role of southern Nevada’s archaeology were never properly appreciated.  In the last decade, however, with support from the National Park Service, the previous field notes and collections have been recovered and new excavations have been carried out.  These studies have yielded important insights into the archaeology of the region.  This presentation will summarize the archaeology of the area and discuss new insights obtained from the ongoing study of these early collections and more recent excavations.

A recording of this Zoom Webinar presentation can be viewed on NVFCP's YouTube Channel. Click here to watch the video. 

Preservation Outreach: Vegas Valley 4 Wheelers

July 2021

NVFCP was able provide members of Vegas Valley 4 Wheelers (VW4W) a short presentation on cultural resource preservation. There were in person attendees as well as those viewing the meeting live online. VV4W is a  full-size 4 wheel drive, 501C non-profit club. They host Hump and Bump, an internationally attended wheeling event at Logandale Trails. They use the proceeds from this event to give back to the Logandale community. After the presentation, NVFCP was invited to have an outreach booth at this year's Hump and Bump event Oct. 28-31st.  

History of the Archaeology of the Lost City

July 2021

Virginia Lucas - Curator II/Archaeologist 

The Lost City Museum, originally known as the Boulder Dam Park Museum, was built in 1935 by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The museum was built to contain the artifacts received from archaeological sites that were going to be inundated by the waters of Lake Mead and the surrounding area. The site that is known as the Lost City and Pueblo Grande de Nevada was brought to the attention of Mark Harrington in the 1920’s. Archaeology continued in the Moapa Valley throughout the 1930’s, and in the mid-1950’s, the National Park Service turned over the museum to the state of Nevada. Work has continued in the Moapa Valley from the 1950’s through today. Currently, there are several graduate students working in the Lowlands of the Western Virgin Puebloan region, and some of these projects focus on subsistence of the peoples in the area.

A recording of this Zoom Webinar presentation can be viewed on NVFCP's YouTube Channel. Click here to watch the video. 

Desert Wranglers Cultural Resources Class

July 2021

Explore, Report, Protect Nevada’s History: A Class on Identifying and Caring for Cultural Sites

This class will taught Jeep club members about cultural resources throughout the state of Nevada. Participants learned how to identify archaeological and historic sites as well as artifacts that can be found at these sites. NVFCP provided a quick review of different laws related to the protection of cultural resources and tips for how participants can help protect these amazing places while they are out recreating and enjoying the public lands our state has to offer. 

Members of Jeep Clubs, like Desert Wranglers, frequent cultural sites. Their active involvement in preservation makes a huge impact. 

The Conservation and Management of Rock Art: An Integrated Approach

June 2021

Dr. Jannie Loubser, Archaeologist and Rock Art Specialist with Stratum Unlimited LLC 

Pictographs and petroglyphs are produced in such a fashion that they become an integral part of the rock surface. This is advantageous when viewed from a longevity point of view but also becomes a factor in making their detection more difficult, rendering their association with natural features less evident, and allowing for their landscape setting to be overlooked while focusing on close-up details. Baseline recording and condition assessment should accordingly aim to include information on various scales of inclusion, ranging from the microcosm of the rock surface to the macrocosm of site placement. Assessing the range of significance values in consultation with all stakeholders is also important, including Native American, historic, tourist, and research. Knowing the management history of a site and its surroundings are important to deiced on ways to manage sites in sustainable ways and also to help prevent vandalism. Appropriate preventative and hands-on management measures on the ground are more sustainable and affordable over the long term than repeated graffiti removal and/or camouflage. Graffiti mitigation should aim at minimal and repeatable techniques. Due to differing natural, cultural, and socio-economic contexts, site management strategies are not uniform and can range from a costly focal point approach, a low-level visitation approach, shut the site down approach, or even burying a site or remove it for safe-keeping to a building (the latter two alternatives should be avoided at all costs). Follow-up actions and monitoring are critical components in rock art conservation, allowing for the “tweaking” of infrastructural and damage remediation changes.

To watch a video recording of this Zoom Webinar click here.

Archaeology and Paleontology of Gypsum Cave

May 2021

Justin DeMaio, Archaeologist

Located just miles from the city of Las Vegas, Gypsum Cave is an important site to both local Native American groups and the scientific community. Archaeological and paleontological investigations have taken place in the cave since the 1920's, yielding evidence of prehistoric megafauna and artifacts. This presentation will discuss the work that has been done at the cave, show examples of what was found, and how these collections provide a comprehensive glimpse into the ancient biological and human history of the Las Vegas desert.

To watch a video recording of this Zoom Webinar click here.

Lewis Holes, Ceramics in the Mojave

April 2021

Kara Jones, Archaeologist and Graduate Student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Ceramics in the Mojave Desert are rare, but they do occur. The most common form of Mojave ceramics are those similar to Owens Valley Brownware and other coil and scrape plainware ceramic vessels. However, Tizon Brownware and Lower Colorado Buffware represent two recent and informative ceramic styles in the desert. These two types are made through paddle and anvil manufacture rather than coil and scrape. Investigations at Lewis Holes in 1968 and later in 2007 revealed a habitation site with 105 collected Lower Colorado Buffware ceramic sherds. A handful of these sherds make up at least one vessel with large preserved rim fragments, likely used for cooking. In this presentation Kara will contextualize the ceramics of Lewis Holes, in Nevada just outside the California border, within the greater ceramic framework of the Mojave Desert as well as interpreting the use of these ceramics and their cultural meaning.

To watch a video recording of this Zoom Webinar click here.

Land Use, Hunting Blinds, and Technological Change

March 2021

Land Use, Hunting Blinds, and Technological Change in the Mojave Sink: Recent Data from Afton Canyon

Dr. Barbara J. Roth, Department of Anthropology, UNLV

This presentation reported on the results of a survey of the rim and plateau above Afton Canyon in the Mojave Desert near Zzyzx, California. The goal of the survey was to determine how the sites fit into regional patterns of subsistence and settlement defined along Soda Playa (the southern portion of Pleistocene Lake Mojave).  Dr. Roth provided and overview of the sites they have found so far and discussed what they think was going on in the region during the Late Prehistoric period. Their survey identified a series of hunting blinds along Afton Canyon that they think were built and used following the introduction of the bow and arrow.  She explored what this data can tell us about how hunter-gatherers in the Mojave Desert responded to risk and climate change.

To watch a video recording of this presentation click here. You will be directed to NVFCP's YouTube Channel.

Cortez Mining District

February 2021

Dan Broockmann, Archaeologist, BLM Elko District -Tuscarora Field Office provided an hour long Zoom Webinar presentation on the Cortez Mining District. 

Hidden in the shadow of the Cortez gold mine, one of the largest gold mines in the world, are the remnants of an earlier history of mining that help us to understand the evolution of mining in northeastern Nevada.  Pioneered in 1863, the Cortez mining district has one of the longest continuous histories of mining in the state.  This length of history and it's unique ownership makes the Cortez mining district a pleasure to visit and a privilege to study.

To watch a video recording of this presentation click here. You will be directed to NVFCP's YouTube Channel.

Prehistory & History of the Clark County Wetlands Park

January 2021

Heidi Roberts of HRA Inc., Conservation Archaeology presented on her research into the past of the Clark County Wetlands located on the east side of Henderson, Nevada. The original focus of Heidi's talk was going to be about her excavations at the Larder Site but webinar attendees were provided information on so much more. She covered the time from about 12,000 years ago to 1910. There is a visitor's center and walking trails at the Clark County Wetlands Park and many of the artifacts she discusses in her presentation are housed at the Clark County Museum off of Boulder Highway in Henderson. See links below. This talk was hosted by Nevadans for Cultural Preservation and the Nevada Site Stewardship Program.

You can view a video of this presentation on NVFCP's YouTube Channel.

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