Dennis Cassinelli: Preserving traces of the Great Basin Indians

My second attempt at serious writing was when I self-published “Preserving Traces of the Great Basin Indians” in 2006. An earlier edition in 1996 had completely sold out, so I improved the photographs of the various types of Indian artifacts I had described and had the book reprinted.

Of the four books I’ve written, this one always has been my bestseller. It’s the story about a collection of Indian artifacts family members and I have collected throughout the years, mostly from our own family farm in Sparks and other farms, ranches and construction sites in Nevada. Collecting Indian artifacts on public and Indian lands has been prohibited by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979. Projectile points, arrowheads, knives, scrapers and other stone tools might still be taken from private property with the permission of the owner.

Human remains and grave goods are always protected wherever they are found no matter what race the people were. Caves, known archaeological sites, federal, state and Indian lands are off-limits to artifact hunting.

The collection described in this book has been donated to the Carson Valley Museum in Gardnerville. It contains more than 1,000 items I’ve identified and dated with a method used by archaeologists known as the Thomas Key method. Some of the stone points in the collection can be dated to more than 12,000 years old. The book has many photographs and drawings of the various types of points and other artifacts used by the Washoe, Paiute and Shoshone Indians throughout Nevada. The book is recognized by many collectors as the “Bible” for identifying and dating many Indian artifacts found in the Great Basin.

“Preserving Traces” also contains information about the 10,000-year-old Spirit Cave Man remains that were found east of Fallon in 1940. His remains now have been repatriated to the local tribes for burial. The book contains the state and federal laws that tell you what you can and can’t do with regard to artifact hunting. It has an interesting foldout chronology chart in the back of the book that shows on a time scale what types of projectile points have been used in the Great Basin for the past 12,000 years. There’s also a chapter that’s a humorous fictional account that tells how two young Indian hunters were able to make arrows from sticks and stones they found in their natural environment.

I once had a call from Folsom College in Folsom, Calif., asking for 24 copies of “Preserving Traces.” When I called to ask why they wanted so many, they said one of their professors had seen the book and wanted it to be the textbook for his class on Great Basin anthropology. I had never considered it to be used as a college-level textbook, but stranger things have happened.

Every year just before Christmas, I get several orders for my books since they make great Christmas gifts. You can go to my website at to place an order.

This article is by Dayton author and historian Dennis Cassinelli, who can be contacted on his blog at All Cassinelli’s books sold through this publication will be at a discount plus $3 for each shipment for postage and packaging.


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