Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Pine Nut Use in Three Great Basin Cases: Data, Theory, and a Fragmentary Material Record


An apparent correlation between the expansion of pinyon pine into the northern Great Basin and prehistoric settlement shifts in the Reese River Valley and Grouse Creek region (Fig. 1) is explored using data on the costs of pine-nut procurement relative to alternative resources. A model of diet breadth is used to develop predictions about the timing of pine-nut use in the two cases. The diet-breadth model does not accurately predict the timing of pine-nut use in a third case, the Owens Valley (Fig. 1), leading to a discussion of other possible adaptive constraints. This study is about more than prehistoric pine-nut use. The issues confronted in these cases can probably not be resolved without interaction between theory and data. Such interaction can work to evaluate a typically incomplete and frequently misleading archaeological data set, as well as the underlying theories. There is a basic premise here that data, direct or otherwise, rarely speak for themselves and that a Baconian stance, requiring us to refrain from theorizing until "all" the data are in, shortchanges the scientific endeavor.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View