Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Prehistoric Archaeology and the Fremont Frontier at North Meadow Valley Wash, Eastern Nevada
by Cole, Clint Robert, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2012, 1017; 3511709
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the role of fallback resource areas in solving problems associated with prehistoric aboriginal resource intensification practices in North America. North Meadow Valley Wash (NMVW) in eastern Nevada lies on the poorly-defined western edge of Formative-Fremont (ca. A.D. 500-1350) territory and is within the travel range of multiple maize-growing villages. Berry's (1972, 1974) model of Fremont subsistence envisions farmers seeking out productive piñon groves like those at NMVW as part of a resource scheduling strategy to cope with poor harvests. Some boundaries of Fremont social integration are tested by using a fallback resource area (NMVW) as the counterpoint to village-village interactions. The strength of social ties between different communities is indirectly measured through the medium of ceramics and pottery production sources represented in sampled areas by using Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA) as a geochemical fingerprinting system. Ceramics from NMVW and Snake Valley series potsherds from Paragonah Mound G (42IN43), the Baker Village site (26WP63), and Five Finger Ridge (42SV1686) are supplemented with 103 regional geological assays and previous INAA-based Fremont ceramic bulk geochemical datasets (Reed 2005b) (total n=427).

Results suggest that social dealings between Fremont communities developed enough to transfer pottery to the farthest extent of the INAA study area in multiple directions. Parowan Valley apparently dominates a supply chain in a north-south movement of ceramics along the western Wasatch Range. NMVW was integrated into this interaction sphere and strong linkages to Parowan Valley are observed via the unilateral movement of ceramics. No similar connection is found between NMVW and Baker Village in Snake Valley, Nevada. Interestingly, point types at NMVW do not include Fremont side-notched varieties, which are prevalent further north and east. The apparent north-south disconnect may represent the limitation of demands that can be placed on social networks in this area. Only so many groups can draw on a resource area like NMVW without increasing tensions between participants. Villagers in Snake Valley may have opted to extend access to fallback resource areas in other locations, perhaps further north or west.

The Fremont economy was a complex interaction between foraging and farming strategies (Madsen and Simms 1998), but specific aspects like reliance on piñon resources are not well known. Settlement and subsistence practices of Numic-speakers are informed by ethnography and provide a comparative model for interpreting Fremont landscape relationships. Archaeological correlates from both groups are approximated using data from a combination of systematic stratified-random surface surveys and test excavations at NMVW.

Surface surveys of 124 500 m2 test units found nearly equal representation of Fremont gray ware and Intermountain (Numic) Brown ware, with the preponderance of both kinds being located in the piñon zone. No convincing differences were found to distinguish ceramic-bearing Fremont and Numic site locations based on analysis of their association with specific environmental variables (e.g. elevation). Both groups made thorough use of the core study area, but important differences in their subsistence and settlement patterns are suggested indirectly by their dissimilar ceramic technologies and potential ceramic paste sources. INAA results suggest that Numic Brown ware was often made locally; much of the Fremont Snake Valley pottery was imported.

Slab-lined features (n=11) similar in configuration to Formative-Fremont caches and ovens at prehistoric sites in the Colorado Plateau (Jennings and Sammons-Lohse 1981; Schaub 2003) were identified in multiple environments. Rock circle features similar to Numic green-cone caches (Eerkens et al. 2004) in the western Great Basin are more prevalent (n=18) and confine almost exclusively to the piñon zone. Excavation of the Sand Dune site (CrNV-04-8455) revealed a collapsed pithouse in the lowlands overlooking the main drainage. Structure remnants are consistent with the Parowan Fremont-Paragonah Phase (ca. A.D. 1050-1300). Ceramics are almost exclusively Snake Valley series and dominated by corrugated ware. A radiocarbon date on recovered corn cob dates to 920 ± 35 B.P. Fremont groups maintained sedentary settlements and minimally experimented with corn agriculture at NMVW no later than this time. The Waterfall Site (26Ln6549) is an alcove shelter with midden and rock circles located in the piñon zone. A multi-component surface assemblage includes point types spanning much of the eastern Great Basin chronological sequence. Surface ceramics include Formative gray ware and Intermountain Brown Ware. Subsurface deposits limit to Fremont and Anasazi ceramics.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bettinger, Robert L.
Commitee: Eerkens, Jelmer W., Janetski, Joel C., Winterhalder, Bruce P., Yengoyan, Aram A.
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 73/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Archaeology
Keywords: Fremont, Great Basin, Instrumental neutron activation analysis, Nevada, Numic, Utah
Publication Number: 3511709
ISBN: 9781267398253
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