Gatecliff, Nevada

Life in a Rock Shelter
Logistical constraints
Inside the shelter

Rock shelters provide safety and security for ancient people and extraordinary preservation of ancient artifacts for archaeologists. In 1970, David Thomas discovered the Gatecliff shelter in the Monitor Valley of Nevada -- which proved to be a popular living place for Archaic people and animals alike.

The shelter, while only some 200 ft. wide, contained over 12m of archaeological deposits. Dr. Thomas discovered that the shelter was first used by humans around 5500 years ago, and was occupied on and off for the next 5000 years. During excavations (which were painstakingly slow and plagued by dust and logistical difficulties of hauling each bucket of dirt 40 feet up and out of the cave), the team discovered campsites complete with grinding tools, projectile points, campfires and etched stone.

The shelter was also a temporary home to dozens of species of animals -- the remains of whom shed light on the ecology and environment of the area around the shelter.

Dirt removal
Accessing the site
Gatecliff location