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Prehistory comprises that period of time before written history. In Nevada this includes evidence of human habitation in the Great Basin dating back some 12,000 years and stretching to the early 1800s. The remains of tools, weapons, and dwellings of the prehistoric Paiute, Shoshone, and other Indian groups testify to these peoples' remarkable adaptability.
Important prehistoric sites include: the Grimes Point/Hidden Cave area near Fallon, the Sunshine archaeological district near Ely, the Hickison Summit area near Austin, the Humboldt Sink area near Lovelock, and the Brownstone archaeological area near the Calico Hills in Clark County. Among the archaeological treasures associated with these sites are a wealth of stone artifacts, numerous ancient baskets and extensive panels of rock art.
Historic resources belong to recorded history, i.e., that period of time during which written records have been kept. In Nevada this period generally began with the arrival of western civilization in the early 1800s and continued through the boom-and-bust cycle of Nevada's mining camps to the present day. These resources include remains such as old bottles, weapons, and tools as well as buildings and other structures, important trails and mining districts. Historic photographs and written accounts of western life supplement the archaeological evidence and help to bring the period alive, both for scholars and the modern public.
Key historical sites in Nevada include: the Applegate-Lassen Emigrant Trail through the Black Rock Desert in northwestern Nevada, the Pony Express Trail and stations across central Nevada, and the Tybo charcoal kilns near Warm Springs in Nye County which provided fuel for nearby smelters.