Aboriginal Timber-Built Deer Corral-Traps in Mineral County, Nevada

Dani Nadel, Philip Wilke, Mark Willis, Amnon Nachmias, Matthew C. Hall, Eric Dillingham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Late prehistoric and early historic communal hunting sites along the southwestern mountainous margins of the Great Basin, United Sates, include timber-built corral-traps estimated to be only a few hundred years old. In most of these, no animal bones or direct evidence for the targeted species were found in the corrals. Our goals were to characterize and reconstruct past use of these sites, and we chose two distinct case studies, Anchorite Pass and Excelsior. We provide high-resolution documentation of the sites and their archaeological components, using nearly 10,000 aerial photographs as the basis for 3D modeling. We specifically address construction characteristics which include the incorporation of living trees and felling juniper timbers by fire. Drawing on limited ethnographic sources and current seasonal routes of local mule deer herds, we suggest the two sites were used for seasonal trapping of such herds. Forest fires and modern construction severely endanger such vulnerable sites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-187
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Field Archaeology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Excelsior corral-trap was discovered many years ago by the late Alan Connely of Hawthorne, Nevada. He in turn provided information that allowed Wilke to relocate the site, which led to initial studies of it in the 1980s under permit from the Toiyabe National Forest, Bridgeport Ranger District. The late Arnie Turner facilitated that work by arranging permission for fieldwork. That earlier work, and the work conducted under this permit, was supported in part by field research grants from the Academic Senate of the University of California, Riverside, to Wilke. Robert Hicks contributed significantly to the initial studies at the Excelsior corral-trap site with his photographic skills. Information on the migration patterns of mule deer in the study area was kindly provided by Cody Schroeder and Bonnie Weller of the Nevada Department of Wildlife. This project benefitted from a generous gift of Great Basin literature to Wilke by the late Richard D. Daugherty. The current project was also completed under permit from the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest (ARPA permit BRI 600). We thank three anonymous reviewers for their suggestions and Guy Bar-Oz for his advice.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, © Trustees of Boston University 2020.


  • Great Basin
  • Pinyon-Juniper woodland
  • ethnographic ambiguities
  • game traps
  • mule deer
  • photogrammetry
  • wood preservation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


Dive into the research topics of 'Aboriginal Timber-Built Deer Corral-Traps in Mineral County, Nevada'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this