Chapter 4: The First Humans

Tens of thousands of years ago, eagle-eyed scouts with genes that could be traced to the steppes of Asia, prowled this continent, searching for new, unexplored places to settle down and raise a family. Who knows exactly when it happened, but at least 10,000 years ago, a scout must have mounted a high peak or tall hill, such as Shadow Mountain, in the Nopah Range, Pyramid Peak, over in the Funeral Mountains, or perhaps Razorback Ridge, near Beatty.

As he or she scoured the landscape of the Amargosa Valley, surely their eye must have landed on all the green against the foothills of the Spring Mountains. And they brought back exciting news to their tribe. And Ash Meadows would never be the same.

Archaeologists have uncovered ancient campsites at Ash Meadows, dating back at least 10,000 years. And they’ve discovered pottery and other signs of permanent human habitation that go back at least 1,000 years, probably longer.

Early humans raised their families here, sang songs to the gods, feasted and starved, no doubt fought a few wars and battles over the lush and valuable springs, and made a home out of Ash Meadows. And it became a gathering place for tribes all over the region, who traveled hundreds of miles to this sacred site for reunions and powwows of all occasions.

King’s Pool, at Point of Rocks in Ash Meadows, was a gathering place for the Paiute and Shoshone people, who believed this pool possessed a special power.

No doubt there was a sorting out, with weaker tribes and clans being driven away. By the time the white man arrived, the tribes that remained in this prized valley were the Pharump Southern Paiute and the Timbisha Western Shoshone.

They had established a great agricultural civilization in the Amargosa Valley, with Ash Meadows leading the way in productivity. The tribal families at Ash Meadows used selective plant breeding to develop a superior mesquite tree, that enhanced both the size and taste of its nutritious pods.

They also diverted water into small fields, to cultivate corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers. They ascended the surrounding highlands, and hunted mountain sheep for some of their meat. And when the season was right they would gather pinyon pine nuts in the same mountains.

No doubt, the human impact from these tribes disturbed the ecological system to some extent, for the plants and animals that had thrived in this region for thousands of years prior. But still, it was very minimal compared with the harm European civilization would eventually exact upon Ash Meadows.

In the hands of these native tribes, Ash Meadows remained the largest wetland in Southern Nevada. Its waters and meadows and tortuous Carson Slough, teemed with wildlife. It continued to be a haven for ducks, wading birds, birds of prey, and migratory birds. And within its streams, springs, and pools, large populations of pupfish and speckled dace, and snails, and insects, played out their lives, as the cycle of life continued uninterrupted.

This is the latest installation of my series, The Amazing Amargosa. Come on back in a few days for the next installation, entitled, Chapter 5: Sister Valley of Death . Click here to read the previous installation. Click here, to start at the beginning.

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