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The Great Basin

People and Place in Ancient Times

Edited by Catherine S. Fowler and Don D. Fowler

This book is about a place, the Great Basin of western North America, and about the lifeways of Native American people who lived there during the past 13,000 years. The authors highlight the ingenious solutions people devised to sustain themselves in a difficult environment. The Great Basin is a semiarid and often harsh land, but one with life-giving oases. As the weather fluctuated from year to year, and the climate from decade to decade or even from one millennium to the next, the availability of water, plants, and animals also fluctuated. Only people who learned the land intimately and could read the many signs of its changing moods were successful. The evidence of their success is often subtle and difficult to interpret from the few and fragile remains left behind for archaeologists to discover. These ancient fragments of food and baskets, hats and hunting decoys, traps and rock art and the lifeways they reflect are the subject of this well-illustrated book.

2008. 196 pp., 163 black-and-white illustrations, 25 color plates, maps, suggested reading, index, 8.50 x 11

Contributors: J. M. Adovasio, Richard V.N. Ahlstrom, C. Melvin Aikens, Pat Barker, Charlotte Beck, Robert L. Bettinger, Tom Connolly, Robert Elston, Catherine S. Fowler, Don D. Fowler, Ted Goebel, Kelly Graf, Donald K. Grayson, Eugene M. Hattori, Bryan Hockett, Joel C. Janetski, Edward A. Jolie, Ruth Burgett Jolie, George T. Jones, Robert L. Kelly, David B. Madsen, Duncan Metcalfe, Angus R. Quinlan, David Rhode, Heidi Roberts, Polly Schaafsma, Steven R. Simms, David Hurst Thomas, Alanah Woody

2009 New Mexico Book Award Winner in the Anthropology/Archaeology/Science category
2008 ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Finalist

Download an excerpt.

“Catherine and Don Fowlers’ edited volume offers 19 short chapters by knowledgeable researchers about how people lived in this challenging environment. The topics range from the region’s paleo-environments and its early peopling, to the Archaic period, to the Fremont culture and their rock art. While focusing on archaeology, many of the authors use ethnology to flesh out their interpretations of the uses and meanings of Great Basin artifacts and landscapes. The book contains gorgeous color photos and excellent maps and illustrations.”
—Tamara Stewart, American Archaeology, Summer 2009

“The story of how the prehistoric people of the region lived in this dynamic landscape is indeed fascinating….The book is in a well-illustrated format designed for the educated lay person. Authored by senior and well-respected researchers, the chapters are nonetheless almost jargon-free and intended to be read by non-specialists. Articles include an overview and introduction, two backgrounds to the unique environment of the region, a brief history of cave archaeology in the Great Basin, several overviews to the archaeology of various time periods and places, and focused chapters on particular types of prehistoric occupations (high altitude, marsh sites, Range Creek Canyon, the Tosawihi toolstone quarries in Nevada).”
—Matthew T. Seddon, SWCA Environmental Consultants

“This is a refreshing compilation of new articles by today’s foremost authorities on Great Basin archaeology. Especially appealing to me are the essays that topically address prehistoric manufacturing technology….I am particularly grateful to have this group of articles for reference.”
—Amy Gilreath, Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Las Vegas, California Archaeology, vol. 2, num. 2, December 2010


  1. Stories of a Place and Its People
    Don D. Fowler and Catherine S. Fowler
  2. Great Basin Natural History
    Donald K. Grayson
  3. Building an Environmental History of the Great Basin
    David Rhode
  4. Great Basin Cave Archaeology and Archaeologists
    C. Melvin Aikens
  5. The Early Peopling of the Great Basin
    Bryan Hockett, Ted Goebel, and Kelly Graf
  6. Archaic Times
    Charlotte Beck and George T. Jones
  7. Tosawihi Quarries and Sacred Sites
    Robert Elston
  8. The Great Basin’s Oldest Textiles
    Catherine S. Fowler and Eugene M. Hattori
  9. Great Basin Sandals
    Thomas J. Connolly and Pat Barker
  10. Hats, Baskets, and Trays from Charlie Brown Cave
    Edward A. Jolie and Ruth Burgett Jolie
  11. The “Good Sweet Water” of Great Basin Marshes
    David B. Madsen and Robert L. Kelly
  12. High Altitude Sites in the Great Basin
    Robert L. Bettinger
  13. Making a Living in the Desert West
    Steven R. Simms
  14. The Enigmatic Fremont
    Joel C. Janetski
  15. Range Creek Canyon
    Duncan Metcalfe
  16. Fremont Basketry
    James M. Adovasio, David R. Pedler, and Jeffrey S. Illingworth
  17. Who Lived on the Southern Edge of the Great Basin?
    Richard V.N. Ahlstrom and Heidi Roberts
  18. Rock Art in the Western Great Basin
    Alanah Woody and Angus Quinlan
  19. Shamans, Shields, and Stories on Stone
    Polly Schaafsma
  20. Rediscovering and Appreciating Ancient Knowledge
    David Hurst Thomas
There are no working papers for this book at the present time.