Message #9:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: High Fiber Diet Leads to Sloth in Southern Nevada (Gypsum Cave Part 2)
Date: Thu, 02 Jan 97 16:02:00 MST
Encoding: 57 TEXT

Southern Nevadans work to save state's historic roots

In those rare times when Las Vegas looks back instead of forward, 50 years 
is considered ancient history.  But archaeologists know better. Southern 
Nevada has thousands of years of history hidden away in caves and buried 
beneath the trappings of human habitation. Mark Harrington was Southern 
Nevada's archaeological trailblazer.  Harrington led a small band of 
scientists to explore Gypsum Cave, 16 miles east of Las Vegas, in 1930. 
 Old-timers told Harrington that the cave was full of dry seaweed, left 
after a pool of water dried up.  "I knew that stuff was dung and not water 
plants," Harrington wrote in a scientific paper. "But of what animal?"  The 
mountain of dung hidden in the limestone cave puzzled those early 
scientists.  No modern animal could produce that amount, that was for sure. 
And the creature wasn't a meat-eater, since it produced too much fiber. It 
lived at least 10,000 years ago, the time of the last Ice Age.  "At last I 
remembered the ground sloths, great lumbering stupid creatures of the 
Pleistocene Period, browsers on trees and bushes and probably habitants of 
caves," Harrington wrote.  Southern California's Southwest Museum, operated 
by Harrington, sent a wave of explorers to Gypsum Cave in January 1930, 
arriving in a heavy snowstorm that slowed settlement into camp for a week. 
 The expedition's secretary, Bertha Parker Pallan, discovered the skull of a 
strange animal on Jan. 30, after craning her neck around two boulders deep 
inside the cave.  Harrington's instincts were correct: It was a ground 
sloth, species Nothrotherium shastense Sinclair. And the California 
Institute of Technology joined the hunt to help date the fossil.  While 
sloths left behind bones and claws, humans later found shelter in the cave. 
Harrington's subsequent expeditions discovered bones, charcoal, basket 
fragments, flints and ornaments ( jewelry was made from gypsum crystals ). 
 Today, Harrington is gone but his work is not forgotten.  A group of 
Nevadans plans to re-create the discovery of Gypsum Cave next weekend in 
memory of Harrington's work.  Carpenters Union Local 1780 helped build a 
replica of the camp and portable displays for the artifacts and photos that 
will be displayed during the two-day event at the cave on the east side of 
Sunrise Mountain. Lectures by Community College of Southern Nevada 
professors and other experts, guided trail hikes, Native American 
storytelling, music, overnight camping and barbecues will round out the 
venture.  Former state Sen. Tom Hickey, president of Citizens for Active 
Management of Sunrise Mountain (CAM), believes the eastern side of the Las 
Vegas Valley deserves as much attention as the protected Spring Mountains 
and Red Rock Canyon to the west.  Hickey hopes the public's interest will 
rise to protect Gypsum Cave and the eastern edges of Las Vegas.  Hickey is 
leading the effort to protect 40,400 acres of federal land around Sunrise 
Mountain.  The acreage stretching from Lake Mead to Sunrise Mountain is 
administered by the Bureau of Land Management, a federal agency also helping 
to explore the area and protect it.  Someday Hickey would like to bring the 
sloth bones and human artifacts discovered by Harrington back home to 
Southern Nevada from their shelves in Southern California.  "Our goal is to 
preserve this and do more work on dating it," said Helen Mortenson, vice 
president of the Sunrise Mountain group. The carbon-dated fossils need to be 
analyzed again to see if the dates are accurate, she said. Those who want to 
participate in the Harrington event can call the college's Continuing 
Education Division at 651-5790.  -- Las Vegas SUN archives