NEVADA has made important contribution to support the conclusion that what is now the southwestern part of the United States was inhabited by human beings as far back as eight to ten thousand years ago. The oldest evidence of such habitation in Nevada was found in Gypsum Cave, about twenty miles northeast of Las Vegas, during excavations carried on in 1930 and 1931. This cave had been discovered about the time white men first began to settle in Nevada but had attracted attention merely because of its gypsum deposits until someone began to dig down through the many layers of deposits on the floor of its five deep chambers. The upper layers revealed relics of fairly recent Paiute occupation; farther down relics of earlier cultures were found--the Pueblo III and, lower, the Basketmaker. Eventually the excavators reached layers of excrement deposited by the long-extinct ground sloth. There among fossil remains of the ground sloth--bones, claws, and wisps of coarse, yellowish hair--were found charred pieces of wood, worked flint dart points, and primitive ropes of twisted sinew--sure evidence of man's presence in the cave during the lifetime of the prehistoric beast. Of especial interest was the discovery of short, painted wooden shafts, possibly primitive atlatls, or spear-throwers.
Also in the southeastern part of the State, in an area roughly coinciding with, though slightly more extensive than the creosote bush zone (see Plant and Animal Life), are several sites revealing occupation during the Basketmaker and up through the first three Pueblo cultures. The latest and most extensive of the settlements yet discovered was that of Pueblo Grande de Nevada--called Lost City. The site, now largely hidden beneath the waters of the northern arm of Lake Mead, probably flourished some time between 600 and 900 A. D. Excavations at this site, which was five or six miles long, brought to light skeletons, and thousands of pieces of pottery--some intact and some broken--as well as turquoise jewelry, bits of basketry, scraps of cotton textiles, stone and bone implements, and shell beads. Vestiges of irrigation ditches were traced and ruins were found that indicated houses, or storage rooms, built below ground, as well as flat-roofed houses erected above ground.