By Dennis Cassinelli  

My second attempt at serious writing was when I self published “Preserving Traces of the Great Basin Indians” in 2006. An earlier edition had completely sold out, so I improved all the photographs of the various types of Indian artifacts I had described and re-printed the book..

Of the four books I have written, this has always been the best seller. It is the story about a collection of Indian artifacts that family members and I have collected over the years, mostly from our own family farm in Sparks and other farms, ranches and construction sites in Nevada. Collecting Indian artifacts on public and Indian lands has been prohibited by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979. Picking up projectile points, arrowheads, knives, scrapers and other stone tools can still be taken from private property with the permission of the owner.

Human remains and grave goods are protected wherever they are found in respect to the Native American Indians. Caves, known archaeological sites, Federal, State and Indian lands are off limits to artifact hunting.

The collection described in the book has been donated to the Carson Valley Historical Museum in Gardnerville. It contains over 1,000 items that I have identified and dated with a method used by archaeologists known as the Thomas Key Method. Some of the stone points can be dated in excess of 10,000 years. There are many drawings of the various types of points and photographs of knives, scrapers and household items used by the Washoe, Paiute and Shoshone Indians throughout Nevada. This book is recognized by many as the “Bible” for identifying and dating many Indian artifacts found in the Great Basin.

Archaeologists have been reluctant to write about or do any further research on a mysterious set of mummified remains found in a cave east of Fallon Nevada known as the Spirit Cave Man. I have written about this discovery in my book and I describe some of the research done on this person before the ban on further studies happened.

All indictions are that this person lived nearly 10,000 years ago and was placed in a dry cave in the Grimes Point area near Fallon. This was a partially mummified man, complete with fur clothing, moccasins and woven matting coverings. When a forensic study of his skull and facial measurements was made, it was determined he was not related to any modern Indian tribe, but had skull measurements of a Caucasian person.  A group of Native Americans requested that no DNA testing be done out of respect for the dead. The BLM and the Nevada State Museum have honored this request and none of the grave goods found with this individual will be displayed. I have always disagreed with the ban on study of this individual, since I consider it to be one of the most amazing archaeological discoveries ever made in the United States. Allowing study of this individual could change all theories about how and when the North and South American continents became populated. I learned recently that the remains of the Spirit Cave Man have now been repatriated back to the Native Indian tribes for reburial.

“Preserving Traces” contains copies of the Nevada State laws and Federal laws relating to artifact collecting and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979. There is an interesting fold-out chronology chart in the back of the book that shows on a time scale what types of projectile points have been used in the Great Basin for the past 12,000 years. There is a chapter that is a humorous fictional account that tells how the Indians were able to make arrows from the sticks and stones they found in their natural environment.

I once had a call from the Folsom College in Folsom California for 24 copies of the book. When I asked why they wanted so many, they said the professor had seen the book and wanted it to be the text book for his class on Great Basin Anthropology. I had never considered it would be used as a college text, but stranger things have happened.

You can contact me at my email address below to order copies of “Preserving Traces” or any of my other books for Christmas gifts since there is still time for me to send them. Send $17.60 each prepaid and I will pay the postage.

This article is by Dayton Author and Historian Dennis Cassinelli who can be  contacted at or on his blog at All books sold through this publication will be at a 20%discount and Dennis will pay the postage.