Prehistoric Lifeways in the Great Basin Wetlands

Bioarchaelogical Reconstruction and Interpretation

Edited by
Brian Hemphill

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Subjects: Western History

9780874808339 (paperback)

Prehistoric Lifeways of the Great Basin Wetlands examines how the earliest inhabitants of the Great basin in Nevada, Utah, and Oregon made use of ancient marshes and lakes.

When the Great Salt Lake receded in the 1980s from its highest historically recorded levels, it exposed a large number of archaeological and burial sites. Other wetland areas in the region experienced similar flooding and site exposure. The resulting archaeological bonanza resolved long-standing controversy over the role of wetlands in prehistoric Great Basin human subsistence. Previously, archaeologists argued two disparate views: either wetlands offered a wealth of resources and served as a magnet for human occupation and rather sedentary lifestyles, or wetlands provided only meager fare that was insufficient to promote increased sedentism. The exposure of human remains coincided with improved analytic techniques, enabling new conclusions about diet, behavior, and genetic affiliation.

This volume presents findings from three Great Basin wetland areas: Great Salt Lake, Stillwater Marsh (Nevada) and Malheur Lake (Oregon). The evidence presented here does not indicate the superiority of one interpretation over another but offers a more complex picture of variable adaptation, high mobility, and generally robust health among peoples living in a harsh setting with heavy physical demands. It is the first volume to draw together new approaches to the study of earlier human societies, including analysis of mtDNA for population reconstruction and cross-sectional geometric assessment of long bones for behavior interpretation.