Lovelock Cave was intermittently occupied by Native Americans from approximately 3,500 years ago until the middle of the 19th century. It is considered by archaeologists to be one of the most important sites in the history of North American archaeology. Unfortunately, in the first decades of the 20th century guano miners removed some 250 tons of material, shipped to a fertilizer company with little regard for the reported “several thousand specimens” of human skeletal remains and cultural artifacts it contained. In later scientific investigations one of the most important discoveries was a cache of canvasback duck decoys, made of marsh grass called tule. Most specimens even had feathers attached. The virtual-reality tule decoy featured here (click on its hotspot) was created from a modern reproduction.
Many archaeologists believe that the Lovelock Culture was replaced by Northern Paiutes a thousand years ago. The Paiutes have an oral tradition describing the defeat of foes, the Saiduka, who lived within their territory, near lakes and marshes. They speak of a great battle leading to the extermination of the Saiduka which occurred at Lovelock Cave.
During the era of western immigration the area below the cave, which was then a vast wetland known as Big Meadows, would be filled with oxen fattening up before their trek through the Forty Mile Desert.
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