Native Americans have been dependent on the Gold Butte area for over 3,000 years. This traditional travel zone is filled with stories of the past through artifacts and ancient writings. Areas of habitation dot the landscape: rock shelters with blackened roofs, middens of charcoal soil littered with broken pottery, and rock tools.
Roasting pits, or agave ovens, are circular mounds of white rock up to 25 feet in diameter. The rocks turn white after heating and are tossed to the edge outlining the ovens continuous use. There are still ovens in the Gold Butte area with the grinding stones (metate and mano) lying about as if waiting for reuse. Archaeologists estimate over 2,000 sites within the Gold Butte complex.
The rock art in Gold Butte is one of our prides and joys, but also, is one of the few remaining writings of an ancient people. The modern Moapa and Las Vegas Bands of Paiutes find their roots in Gold Butte. It is our job to be good neighbors and protect these historical works. Rock art is found throughout the sandstone area of the central Gold Butte Complex. It can be found “billboard” style with panels up to 90 feet long; a few rock art panels show generations of use. Now present generations stand by these drawings and theorize the meaning of these messages. Hopefully, this will continue for generations to come.
The Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act (SNPLMA) funded an archaeology study that was completed at the end of the 2007. The scope of this work included research from random surveys of habitat type, surveys of known sites, several excavations, rock art documentation, and a historic report including an oral history document. Under this same funding, a biological study was approved and initiated in 2008. The results of this extensive archaeological survey will help the BLM and stakeholders decide the best management practices for the sensitive cultural resource sin the Gold Butte area.
Gold Butte is fortunate to have many caring residents in the surrounding communities. There are approximately 30 site stewards for the area through the State Historic Preservation Office’s Nevada Site Stewardship Program. Stewards monitor sensitive archaeological and historical sites and report any damage or changes to the area. Unfortunately, the reports go to a file at the BLM field office and there is rarely followup by Agency personnel or law enforcement. Of all the areas in Clark County, Gold Butte receives the most reports, and the most reports of damage.
The volunteer site stewardship program is the only on the ground management presently in Gold Butte to protect cultural resources. There is an empty kiosk as you enter the area, no rules, no education, and no interpretation to promote public awareness of the importance of these irreplaceable resources.
It is heart breaking for many concerned citizens to see the destruction taking place. Rock Art is scratched out, on, and over, and shot at.
Areas once littered with pottery sherds and pieces of rock tools have all disappeared. Metates, manos, and arrowheads, all of scientific importance, are vanishing. Rock shelters and habitation sites are sifted through and dug out by those looking for artifacts. ATV tracks cross agave pits churning the blackened earth. Once elusive sites are now driven right up to, crushing plants and creating new routes; changing this landscape forever. Indeed, we are losing this irreplaceable resource at an alarming rate.