The rise and fall of Lake Lahontan and the climactic implications for Paleoindian inhabitants of the Great Basin

Author(s): William Jerrems

Year: 2015


The Lahontan Basin, a huge Pleistocene lake, located in the western Great Basin, northwestern Nevada, has had a long history of rising and falling water levels dependent on heavy precipitation and decreased evapotranspiration of the Pleistocene Ice Age climatic regime. Three subbasins occupy the western side of the Lahontan Basin and include Pyramid Lake, Winnemucca Lake and the Black Rock Desert-Smoke Creek subbasins; the focus of this presentation. The climatic implications of a filling and waning lake of such magnitude would have had a substantial impact on early inhabitants of the northern Great Basin. Recent evidence, a petroglyph panel on a tufa dome at the west shoreline of Winnemucca Lake, possibly the oldest artwork known in the Americas, has revealed a date of between 14,800-10,300 cal. yr. BP. This implies that the ancient lake had maintained a substantial high water level, filling all three subbasins for a much longer period of time than had been previously thought. These results have questioned the effect and duration of the Younger Dryas Chronozone particularly on Paleoindian habitation of the Lake Lahontan lakeshore and thus seriously questioned the archaeological interpretation of several early lakeshore sites.

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The rise and fall of Lake Lahontan and the climactic implications for Paleoindian inhabitants of the Great Basin. William Jerrems. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 398262)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -122.761; min lat: 29.917 ; max long: -109.27; max lat: 42.553 ;