Paleoindian Settlement Strategies Across Time and Space in the Northwestern Great Basin: Lithic Technological Organization at Last Supper Cave, Nevada


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January 2015


Last Supper Cave (LSC) is a stratified cave site in northwestern Nevada. It was fully excavated in the late 1960s and early 1970s by Thomas Layton and Jonathan Davis. Excavations revealed an extensive record of human occupation including a Paleoindian component recently re-dated to as old as 10,280±40 14C B.P. Despite the potential for the site to reveal information about Paleoindian lifeways in the Great Basin during the Terminal Pleistocene/Early Holocene (TP/EH), analysis of its lithic assemblage was never completed. LSC is located ~20 km away and 350 m higher than the nearest pluvial basin that sustained a wetland during the TP/EH. As a result, LSC represents a rare stratified upland Paleoindian site in the Great Basin and research on the collection has the potential to reveal how groups operated away from wetland environments. In this thesis, I test hypotheses about how Paleoindian settlement strategies changed across time and space in the northwestern Great Basin through analysis of lithic technological organization. I compare the lithic assemblages from the Terminal Pleistocene and Early Holocene strata at LSC to each other and to the Parman Localities, four Paleoindian sites located along the relict shoreline of pluvial Lake Parman ~20 km away from LSC. Results reveal that: (1) occupation span increased at LSC during the Early Holocene in response to receding wetlands; and (2) LSC was primarily used during the TP/EH as a special-purpose site for procuring and reducing raw materials before transporting them to other locations.


Great Basin, Lithic Technological Organization, Paleoindian, Terminal Pleistocene, Early Holocene

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