Great Basin Paleoindian Research Unit

Ken Adams, Desert Research Institute, discusses the stratigraphy at Leonard Rockshelter, Nevada, with graduate student Richard Rosencrance (M.A., 2019).

The Great Basin Paleoindian Research Unit (GBPRU) in an ongoing research program of the University of Nevada, Reno Department of Anthropology. It was founded in 2010 and evolved out of the Sundance Archaeological Research Fund, created in 1994 through a generous endowment given to the University of Nevada, Reno Foundation. The purpose of the endowment is to support long-term archaeological research in the Intermountain West with a focus on the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. Typically, the GBPRU funds three to four Graduate Research Assistantships per year, awarded on a competitive basis. Assistants work with faculty on ongoing research projects and undertake independent research of their own.

Current questions driving GBPRU research include:

  1. When did people arrive in the Intermountain West?
  2. What is the technological and chronological relationship between Western Stemmed Tradition (WST) and fluted points?
  3. What was the relationship between wetland quality/quantity and Paleoindian settlement-subsistence strategies?
  4. What can tool stone conveyance tell us about the connections between groups who occupied different parts of the Intermountain West?

To address these and other questions, each summer the GBPRU supports three months of fieldwork in the Intermountain West, which is typically carried out in conjunction with other academic programs and federal land management agencies (the Desert Research Institute, Nevada State Museum, University of Oregon Natural and Cultural History Museum, and Great Basin Textile Dating Project, among others). This work offers graduate and undergraduate students opportunities to gain on-the-job training and prepare for a career in CRM or academic archaeology. The unit encourage students of all levels to formulate and pursue independent and collaborative research projects and support presentation and publication efforts.


Executive director

Geoffrey M. Smith

Research Collaborators

  • Ken Adams (DRI)
  • Pat Barker (Nevada State Museum)
  • Bill Cannon (Lakeview BLM)
  • Tom Connolly (University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History)
  • Judson Finley (Utah State University)
  • Eugene Hattori (Nevada State Museum)
  • Bryan Hockett (Bureau of Land Management)
  • Dennis Jenkins (University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History)
  • Lisbeth Louderback (University of Utah)
  • Dave Rhode (Desert Research Institute)
  • Mike Rondeau (Rondeau Archaeological)
  • Teresa Wriston (Desert Research Institute)

Graduate Students

  • Erica Bradley
  • Nicole George
  • Denay Grund
  • Derek Reaux
  • Sara Sturtz