Nevada’s early period extends between about 11,000 and 7,000
years ago. Early Native Americans faced a vast, sparsely inhabited
post-Pleistocene landscape that experienced a drought, a brief cooler and wetter
interval, and then gradually warmer and drier conditions. At the beginning of
this period Pleistocene mammoths and camels roamed the countryside, then died
off or were killed. Indian adaptations to these environments reveal toolkits and
lifeways different from those of later cultures.
Distinctive Clovis-type projectile points, well dated outside the state to about
11,200 years, are found throughout Nevada. In southern Arizona, eastern New
Mexico, and central Oklahoma Pleistocene mammoths were found with the Clovis
points that killed them. In the Great Basin, both mammoths and these points are
found, but not clearly associated with one another.
Archaeologists formerly associated simple, undecorated basketry with the early
people in the Great Basin around 9,000 years ago. Investigations of museum
collections in the 1990s revealed a wide variety of decorated basketry, mats,
bags and sandals from as early as 9,400 years ago.
Redheaded, giant cannibals preying upon hapless Northern Paiutes form the basis
of traditional stories told from west central Nevada to south central Oregon.
Saiduka (lit. lives “under tules”) were marsh inhabitants that kidnapped,
killed, and, sometimes, ate the Paiutes. Attempts to live in harmony with such
neighbors were difficult under the best of circumstances, and the Paiutes
ultimately drove them from the region or exterminated them.
Some anthropologists believe that these stories chronicle the arrival of
Northern Paiutes into the region and their replacing existing (Saiduka)
populations between 2,000 and 1,000 years ago. Distinctive duck decoys,
basketry, carved effigies, and other tools recovered from Lovelock Cave above
the Humboldt marsh form the basis for the Lovelock archaeological culture. Many
anthropologists and some Paiutes distinguish these Lovelock culture artifacts
from Paiute artifacts and associate them with the Saiduka.
Other Northern Paiutes dismiss this interpretation, and view the story in the
same light as European fairy tales. Saiduka stories were merely meant to keep
children out of marshes or as “bogeyman” stories to scare children into
behaving. The Washoe also have stories about giants formerly living within their