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inside Springs Preserve

Despite fearsome name, Valley of Fire was prehistoric "home sweet home" for some

by Joan Whitely

Dr. Rafferty
Dr. Kevin Rafferty

For almost two decades, archaeologist Dr. Kevin Rafferty intensively studied the Valley of Fire. He shared the results of that work at a Friends of Nevada State Museum meeting on Nov. 21. called “Fifteen Years Among the Sandstone Formations. Dr. Rafferty is a professor emeritus at CSN and has won numerous awards, including the Nevada Archaeological Association’s Silver Trowel Award from the Nevada Archaeological Association for lifetime achievement in Nevada archaeology.

Rafferty determined after analyzing data he collected between 2003 and 2014, that early peoples used the valley, with its harsh living conditions, more for periodic transit than long-term dwelling,

The valley was home - or at least, hotel - to humans for a prolonged stretch of time, significantly more than previously imagined.

"Before we did the survey there, it was believed that the earliest date for occupation of Valley of Fire was about fifty-five hundred years ago,"" Rafferty explained. “I recorded artifacts in that area that push the dates back another five thousand years."

dwellings at the valley of fire
Ancient cabins at the Valley of Fire
Photo courtesy of esudroff

He reached that conclusion by assessing 98 archaeological sites at four areas within the present Valley of Fire State Park’s southern region. His work drew in the scattered data earlier scientists had collected, including Mark Harrington - who’s famous for discovering ancient pueblo remains in the1930s near Overton, Nevada - and locally prominent archaeologist Claude Warren.

The earliest signs of habitation date all the way back to 10,000 B.P. (Before the Present era). Rafferty’s evidence for that claim is a single site in the St. Thomas Wash area, where he and his College of Southern Nevada students found a single Great Basin “stemmed point,” which is a stone tip for spears, shafts, or arrows. During this Lake Mojave Period, Rafferty theorizes, aboriginal populations appear to have used the Valley of Fire sparsely and rarely.

In the following (more recent) Archaic Period, which ran 7000-2000 B.P., Rafferty found abundant signs of a valley-wide pattern of human settlement. Those signs came in the form of rock art, remains of food sources (such as bighorn, rabbit, desert tortoise chuckwalla), stone tools, ceramics, and other artifacts.

Rock art depicting bighorn sheep suggests the animal was important both for subsistence and ritual. Tools for grinding suggest that valley residents in this period also processed and ate wild plants.

Rock art in the Valley of Fire
Photo courtesy of David Mark

Rafferty also pinpointed common factors among the 98 artifact sites. Most were either within or near prominent rock outcroppings (that provide crucial shade at certain times of day) or near such formations. Also, most of the outcrops faced south or southwest, an orientation that provides the best protection from the elements.

There is only one permanent spring in the southern Valley of Fire, but Rafferty found that all 98 sites are next to either substantial washes or natural rock basins called tinajas, which both offer water on a transitory basis.

The largest sites are in areas where hunters could easily access animal resources including the bighorn and desert tortoise.

“Valley of Fire is a great natural laboratory for looking at man/land relationships in Southern Nevada, both prehistorically and historic,” he summed up.

The beautiful Valley of Fire
Photo courtesy of esudroff

Rafferty’s audience was spellbound and reluctant to stop asking questions when the Friends meeting had to adjourn. No wonder: it was a great talk that begged for an encore or a sequel.

Pinot’s Palette: Charitable Giving in a Fun Way!

by Donna Harper

Pinots Palatte
Paint and sip at Pinot's Palette

Pinot’s Palette is a paint and sip (meaning “wine”) studio with three locations in the Las Vegas Valley: Boca Park (our choice of venue), Town Square, and The District at Green Valley Ranch. Their studios are Las Vegas’ favorite paint party destinations where wine and painting go together to form the perfect combination. Pinot’s Palette is also a great community partner with a robust “Painting it Forward” program that not-for-profit organizations can use to raise money in a fun and entertaining manner, which The Friends of Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas organized on November 20th.

Pinots Palatte
Artists at work

Additionally, the Friends will feature “a painting and free class” auction item, which has been generously donated by the Alewels for one or our upcoming events. We sincerely appreciate their support and collaboration and are looking forward to more events planned in 2020.

Pinots Palette
Finished product

Volunteer Spotlight: Kyle Copley

by Donna Harper


Kyle Wayne Copley, age 16 and a junior at Valley High School, is a “student standout” for many reasons! His first volunteering experience at the Nevada State Museum, LV was with our Fossil Factory Day this year when he did a fantastic job explaining and demonstrating the fossilization process to youngsters of all ages. He was knowledgeable and charismatic, holding the attention of the range of ages at the event. Kyle attended the event with his Valley High School J.N.G. (Jobs for Nevada Graduates) group, which assists the Friends of NVSM,LV with many events.

When asked if he wanted to volunteer more, Kyle was quick to respond. He met with Stacy Irvin (Curator of Education) and underwent training. He is new, he says, “helping around the education room, and helping guide kids through the project that is being done that day. I also go into the museum sometimes with a cart along with displays and teach people of all ages what each item is.”

He states, “I think it comes to no one’s surprise that one of my biggest past times is video games, but I am also a very active member of my school community. I am first chair cello in intermediate orchestra. I am a member of the school’s improv team which is a lot fun, and I am the Junior President of J.N.G. (Jobs for Nevada’s Graduates).”

Kyle comes from a “loving, caring, crazy family” where he “is the second youngest in his current generation”. He currently lives with his mom, two brothers, three cousins, and his grandmother. Dad is a frequent visitor and Kyle credits his father and grandmother as his biggest inspirations.

Kyle plans to attend Nevada State College and major in education. He is not sure if he “wants to be a teacher exactly, but I do know that I want to teach, to help our youth grow up into responsible young adults. Teachers are some of the most influential people to their students and I hope that I can be nearly as good as my predecessors.”

As a master teacher for many student teachers over the years, I could see that Kyle out stood out as a “natural”, and I am so happy that he became a volunteer for the Museum and an asset to the Education Room.

Keep an eye out for this talented young man. I predict he is on his way to a bright future.

Donor Spotlight: Famous Names LLC

by Donna Harper

famous names logo

Our partnership with Famous Names LLC gives the Friends yet another opportunity to partner with an amazing company.

Famous Names LLC is a professional beauty industry company that is dedicated to developing, manufacturing, and packaging “Best in Class” Nail and Skin Products for nail professionals throughout the world such as IBX, and Dadi’Oil (95% certified organic). Founded in 2010 by Linda and Jim Nordstrom and Lisa and Ken Cooper, the business moved from California to Las Vegas where the Nordstroms and Coopers now make their homes.

famous name founders

The Famous Names LLC co-founders, from left: Ken Cooper, Lisa Cooper, Linda Nordstrom, and Jim Nordstrom

They “quietly” contribute to our various fundraising efforts through donations of their “award winning" nail and beauty products as auction baskets, raffle items, thank-you gifts, and favors for special events.

Their company slogan, “Your industry is Our industry,” not only applies to their business but in their dedication to their community in which they reside. For example, many of their products, once they are made, are sent to Opportunity Village (a not-for- profit local organization that serves people in the Las Vegas community with intellectual and physical disabilities) for packaging. We are fortunate to be included in their charitable support group. We look forward to future collaborations.

Famous Names products are available through professional distributors or select salons. For information on where to find a salon, you can visit their website.

famous name products

Some Famous Names LLC products

All events held at the museum and are free with paid admission or membership. No registration required unless otherwise noted. Friends general meetings are the 3rd Thurs. of month. The museum is at 309 S. Valley View Blvd., inside Springs Preserve, LV 89107
Tue Dec 3 All Day Giving Tuesday Giving Tuesday is December 3. It is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Donate to support Education Programs at the museum Worldwide event
Sun Dec 8 10am-3pm Rotunda Sale This is your chance to purchase jewelry, showgirl greeting cards, Nevada garden greeting cards, and very cool blown-glass fashion doll Christmas ornaments. Your purchases help the Friends of Nevada State Museum support activities and programs at the museum. Check out our sales tables in the rotunda. Friends event
Sat Dec 14 All Day Barnes & Noble Book Fair Join us on Saturday Dec. 14 at Barnes & Noble bookstore, 8915 W. Charleston Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89117 for a book fair. On that day, the Friends of Nevada State Museum Las Vegas receive percentage of all sales at store and cafe when shopper mentions Friends at checkout. Friends event
Thu Dec 19 6-7pm Friends General Meeting - Holiday Potluck Please bring a dish to share! Friends event

To see the complete schedule for the year, please go to our Events page.

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