The Pottery Hill Site

A Historic Period Shoshone Settlement in Grass Valley, Nevada

This archaeological study of the interactions between Western Shoshone families and Euro-American ranchers in the late nineteenth century helps fill the gap between what is known regarding Late Prehistoric foragers of the American West and ethnohistoric understanding of Native American peoples of the Great Basin.

Pottery Hill, an archaeological site located in Grass Valley, Nevada, northeast of the historic mining town of Austin, represents a small settlement of Native Americans who lived there in the late 1800s. The Grass Valley Shoshone, whose environment and traditional lifeways were disrupted by the arrival of miners and settlers in the 1860s, found work on the ranches and farms in the valley.

Archaeological fieldwork conducted in the 1970s investigated house remains, hearths, and artifacts. A recent analysis of these data, enhanced by the use of archival documents and oral history, provides new insights into the dynamics of late nineteenth-century life in central Nevada. The Pottery Hill Site addresses a critical period in the history of the Grass Valley Shoshone, who adopted and modified Euro-American artifacts and materials while maintaining important aspects of their traditional culture. It gives readers a deeper understanding of the effects of Euro-American settlement on the Shoshone, the history of the western United States, and the reciprocal impacts of cultural contact.

Helen Fairman Wells participated in three seasons of the Grass Valley Archaeological Project in central Nevada, and her dissertation research addressed prehistoric and historic use of the pinyon zone in the mountains bordering Grass Valley. After a long career in cultural resource management, primarily in the Great Basin and California, she taught at California State University, Los Angeles, and has been conducting archaeological research in the Mojave Desert region of California since the early 2000s.

Evelyn Seelinger is an archaeologist who worked primarily in the Great Basin and managed collections and data for the Nevada State Museum and archaeological data for the Utah Division of State History. She was involved in six seasons of the Grass Valley Archaeological Project.

Table of Contents:
List of Figures
List of Tables
1. Environmental, Ethnographic, and Historic Context
2. Investigating the Pottery Hill Site
3. Historic Period Houses in Grass Valley and the Great Basin
4. Investigation of Pottery Hill 2 Houses
5. Exterior Hearths
6. House and Hearth Clusters and Activity Areas
7. Classification and Description of Euro-American Artifacts from the Pottery Hill Grid
8. The Chronology of the Shoshone Occupation at Pottery Hill
9. Summary and Interpretations of Pottery Hill and the Grass Valley Historic Period
Appendix A. Buttons from Pottery Hill, by T. Beth Snyder
Appendix B. Fauna from Exterior Hearths at Pottery Hill, by Bryan Hockett

Praise and Reviews:

“Wells and Seelinger have done a remarkable job in producing one of the most thorough and authoritative accounts of historical-period archaeology in the Great Basin.”
—David Hurst Thomas, American Museum of Natural History