generally agreed that the aboriginal culture areas of the Great
Basin were defined by the ranges of two plants:
greasewood in the south and sagebrush in the north.
That observation underlines the ecological nature of
ethnobotanical lore but fails to illuminate the diversity of
environments available to the regionís indigenous people.
That Shoshone/ Bannock ethnoecology emphasizes riparian
communities is indicated by prehistoric evidence and historic
accounts of long-term camp sites along rivers, as well as by the
relatively large body of customary knowledge concerning
water-related resources (Lowie 1908, Steward 1938, Clark 1986).
However, indigenous ecological knowledge is by no means
limited to riparian ecosystems any more than it is to
sagebrush-dominated plant communities.
The semi-nomadic nature of Shoshone/Bannock subsistence
in the past, and the practice among some members of the present
day Reservation population of gathering seasonally available
resources from far afield (e.g. pinyon nuts and bitterroot,
neither of which grows on or near the Fort Hall Reservation)
imply a breadth of Shoshone/Bannock ecological knowledge that is
in keeping with the regionís environmental diversity.
as well as archaeological evidence has revealed that the
prehistoric populations using resources on the INEEL were nearly
as transitory as the populations active there in recorded
history. The few
sites with any cultural stratigraphy (most sites are surface
scatters of lithic debitage), such as Aviator Cave, are
interpreted as short-term camp sites used successively over
perhaps a number of years (Lohse 1990, Henrickson 1991).
However, recent studies of site distribution on the INEEL
(Ringe 1995, Reed et al. 1987) imply that prehistoric population
movements were aimed at landforms that were indicative of
certain resource communities.
One such study associates prehistoric evidence of human
activity on the INEEL with specific topography, such as buttes,
craters, caves, the Big Lost River, Birch Creek, the Lemhi
mountains, edges of lava flows, and the Lake Terreton basin (Ringe
1995). The Lost
River Sinks are also considered areas of high site potential,
although relatively few archaeological sites have been recorded
there. This dearth
of recorded sites may be due to the small number of
archaeological surveys performed there and to lacustrine and
alluvial soil deposition that may have rapidly covered any sites
that did exist (Ringe 1995).
Such sites may have been preserved, however, and further
survey of the Sinks area may reveal areas where wetland plant
species such as cattail were processed.
Reed et al.
(1987:111-114) list five landscape types postulated by
archaeologists to have affected the movements and ecology of
early human populations: the
Great Rift, which may have served to divert human transit around
recent lava flows (there are high site concentrations along lava
flow margins); buttes,
which served as vantage points and held lithic resources (e.g.,
ignimbrite), wood, and, on some, permanent water;
dunes, which offered wind protection and soft bedding
(most archaeological sites associated with dunes are located in
the lee of pressure ridges); lava
tubes, which offered shelter and water both historically and in
areas such as those mentioned above; and playas offering seasonal water-related resources.