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Evaluating the Antiquity and Morphology of Corner-notched Dart Points in the Eastern Great Basin
AdvisorSmith, Geoffrey M.
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Researchers have long suggested that Elko points possess different age ranges in different parts of the Great Basin: (1) in the eastern Great Basin, they date to both the Middle and Late Holocene; and (2) in the central Great Basin, they date to only the Late Holocene. While it is possible that both age ranges are accurate, it is also possible that the “long” Elko chronology in the eastern region is a function of problematic dating of key sites and/or point classification schemes based on non-metric data. I test a hypothesis concerning the antiquity and morphology of corner-notched dart points in the eastern Great Basin to determine if they may be reliably classified as Elko. I critically evaluate methods used at eastern Great Basin sites with purported Middle Holocene Elkos. Additionally, I analyze large notched points from two eastern Great Basin sites (Danger Cave and Bonneville Estates Rockshelter) using objective classification methods. I compare the morphologies of Elko points from Middle and Late Holocene deposits in the eastern Great Basin to Elko points from Late Holocene contexts in the central Great Basin. My results indicate that: (1) the radiocarbon sequences at most sites cited in support of the “long” Elko chronology are unreliable; (2) Middle Holocene corner-notched points classify as Elkos using multiple typological approaches; (3) radiocarbon dates on sinew attached to Elko points from Danger Cave provide unequivocal evidence that they date to the Middle Holocene; and (4) significant morphological differences exist between Middle and Late Holocene Elko points, which may indicate that a previously unrecognized Middle Holocene corner-notched point type in the eastern region is commonly misclassified as Elko.