Archaeology & Taphonomy Research

Bonneville Estates

Archaeology & Taphonomy Research

Bryan Hockett's Webpage

Bryan Hockett's

Bonneville Estates Rockshelter (BER) was excavated during the summers of 2000 through 2009, generally as part of archaeology field schools led by Ted Goebel. Kelly Graf and myself co-directed the excavations with Ted during each field season. The field schools were based first out of the University of Southern Oregon, then the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, followed by the University of Nevada, Reno, and finally, during the last couple of years, out of Texas A & M University. Ted Goebel currently serves as the Director of the Center for the Study of First Americans at Texas A & M University.

BER's location sits at the highstand of Pleistocene Lake Bonneville, at approximately 5,200' in elevation along the lake's western shoreline. BER was carved during this highstand standstill about 17,500 years ago. After Lake Bonneville fell below this elevation about 16,500 years ago to the Provo shoreline standstill (about 4,850'), the shelter continued to form by mechanical weathering and (likely) earthquakes that dropped large and small blocks and spalls of limestone rock from its ceiling and walls.

Because of BER's position on the landscape relative to Lake Bonneville's ancient shorelines, we surmized that the shelter probably contained sediments that dated between 17,500 years ago and historic times. Because human occupation in the Great Basin had not been demonstrated prior to the Clovis era (or before about 13,100 years ago), BER had the potential to contain the earliest evidence for human occupation in not just the Great Basin but anywhere in the western hemisphere. In sum, we recovered an amazing record of human occupation dating from the Clovis era (about 13,000 years ago) right up to historic contact. Preservation in the shelter was exceptional in many areas, including some of the oldest occupations dating between about 12,850 and 9,500 years ago, during relatively cool and moist climatic episodes known as the Younger Dryas and the Early Holocene. This was a time in which stemmed projectile points (variously termed Great Basin Stemmed, Western Stemmed etc.) were manufactured.

Several publications have already appeared on the BER materials. These papers focus on the earliest occupations of the shelter during the Late Pleistocene (Younger Dryas), Early Holocene, and Middle Holocene. The Middle Holocene was a time of dramatic changes in climate, as well as plant and animal distributions in the Great Basin. Human populations, too, dramatically changed their hunting and gathering patterns throughout much of the Great Basin physiographic zone.

Here are a few links of published manuscripts and information on subsistence during the Late Pleistocene, Early Holocene, and Middle Holocene, as well as two pictorials of our excavations in BER.

Link 1: American Archaeology Article From 2007

Link 2: Faunal Patterns at BER from the Younger Dryas, Early Holocene, and Middle Holocene

Link 3: General Discussion of BER and the First Published Picture of the 12,000 Year Old Eyed Needle

Link 4: Animal Resource Use in the Early Occupation of Bonneville Estates Rockshelter

Link 5: Summary Pictorial of the Bonneville Estates Rockshelter Excavations and Sediments, Part 1

Link 6: Summary Pictorial of the Bonneville Estates Rockshelter Excavations and Sediments, Part 2