Great Basin People


The greatest challenge to studying past Peoples is that there is no one here to tell us their stories, to speak their languages, to dance their dances for us, or to share their world view. All we have are artifacts that have been uncovered thousands of years later. Archaeologists, making assumptions from these artifacts, piece together the lives of ancient peoples. We can look at a spear point and assume the people hunted; we can uncover building foundations and map the layout of their communities; we can even determine what plants were used for food and what materials were made into clothing. But this only gives us a glimpse of the lives of past Peoples. Take away our language and stories and look only at our “artifacts”. What would a toaster or pair of jeans uncovered thousands of years from now say about us?


By putting together small pieces of the prehistoric puzzle, archaeologists have created a picture of the first people of the Great Basin. Artifacts that have been uncovered include projectile points(spearheads used in hunting), manos and metates (similar to mortars and pestles) and basket

fragments. We call these peoples the Desert Archaic, a sub-group of the Western Archaic who inhabited western North America from 12,000 BC to 400 AD. Most likely they came to the Great Basin 10,000 years ago, or perhaps even earlier. They came on foot, traveling in family bands, following the large game animals. Migrating into the Great Basin region over time, they learned the plants and the landscape intimately as they came. They were nomadic hunter-gatherers, traveling with the seasons and following their food supply. They harvested grass seeds, tubers, nuts, and fruits. They hunted small and big game. The climate was cooler and wetter then, as the most receptive age was just ending. The land was rich with plants and animals, providing all that was needed for food, medicine, shelter, and inspiration.