Making The Connections: An Archaeological Survey Of Prehistoric Trails And Trail Markers Along The Lower Colorado River

Colorado River Basin

Publication: California State University, Fullerton

Author: Nancy Davidson

Date of Publication: 2009

PDF File: Lower-Colorado-River.pdf


Within the southern boundaries of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area lies a relatively pristine archaeological landscape. Within a six square mile research area, 145 sites were documented, with the earliest characteristic of the San Dieguito I (4,500 B.P.) cultural group. Ceramics, Lower Colorado Buff Ware, of the Patayan era were identified through petrographic analysis. Three key factors were revealed through the research. First, there is a direct correlation between some artifacts and site-utilization: trail markers {elongated/directionally placed rocks, rocks of differentiated color, and chipped basalt boulders), previously undocumented in archaeological literature were strategically placed within the landscape for possibly a thousand years. Secondly, the research area lies along a well-traveled east-west corridor, and this may have additionally been utilized by shaman who created the petroglyphs on boulders along the main trails to Avikwdame, ethnographically noted within the Mohave origin myth. Lastly, the inter-relationship between chipped basalt boulder trail markers and levels of procurement activity-scatters, stations, and workshops-has provided for a correlation between marker type and the lithic record. Chipped basalt boulders led to basalt areas, yet no identifiable trail marker types were utilized for stations or scatters. The research has shown the area to be a nexus for east-west travel, procurement, and ideological purposes, and trail markers were utilized here to provide an iconographic messaging system to aid travelers across the landscape.