Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Shadows on the Trail Trilogy and a Colorado Folsom Point

Figure one - Side B of the Colorado Folsom.
Note that the flute originating at the tip of the point.  John Branney Collection.  
I have been fascinated with Folsom artifacts and the Folsom People for most of my life. Ever since I saw my first Folsom point in person, I have dug through all the information I could find about the mysterious Folsom People and their artifacts. What I found was that they don't call the Folsom People the mysterious Folsom People for nothing. Beyond their artifacts and the few campsites and kill sites that have been excavated, there is little information on them. This is why I wrote my series of books on the Folsom People called the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy. I am completely fascinated by the Folsom People and wanted their story told, even if the story is fictional! 

Figure one above is a photograph of a Folsom projectile point discovered in Colorado and in my personal collection. The photograph is of Side B of this 1.3 inch-long Folsom dart point found in the San Luis Valley of Colorado and made from what appears to be Black Forest silicified wood from the Colorado Front Range. When the Folsom person made this particular projectile point, he or she did not use the normal process. Since I was not there when the Folsom person made this point (I am old, but not that old!), I am speculating on how it was made.

I believe this Folsom dart point started out as a thin, rectangular-shaped flake, not much longer than its current length. The following paragraph hopefully explains my logic. For those of you insightful
Figure two - Read Shadows on the Trail
to see how the Folsom People made
their projectile points. Click to Order 

enough to notice, the Folsom person fluted Side B from the tip down and not from the base up, as normally should have happened. The fluting scar starts at the tip of the projectile point and terminates before it reaches the base. Another indicator that it was fluted from tip down are the percussion ripple scars, which expand downward, like a wave, towards the base of the projectile point, indicating the flaking platform was from the direction of the tip.

I believe that the Folsom preform was a rectangular flake when the fluting process started. There was no base or tip defined at the time. The Folsom knapper placed the fluting nipple on one end and fluted Side B. Then, he or she made the decision which of the ends would be the tip and which of the ends would be the base.

Next, the Folsom knapper created the tip through pressure flaking, then the indented base, and finished pressure flaking the marginal edges. Finally, the knapper thinned the base of Side B with vertical pressure flakes running from base to tip.

Side A is the face of the artifact with my catalog number on it (Figure three). This side has the smooth surface of the original flake still intact. The Folsom knapper never fluted this side because he did not need to flute this side. Even without fluting Side A, the projectile point still meets the Folsom criteria for thinness. Next, the Folsom knapper used fine pressure flaking around the perimeter of the flake and called it good. This Folsom projectile point is < 2 millimeters at the flute. Folsom projectile points do not get much thinner than that. 



Figure three - Side A of the Colorado
Folsom projectile point. John Branney Collection. 
Barbara D. (Barry) Johnson found this Folsom projectile point in 1958 on private property in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. Mrs. Johnson came from a long line of Colorado artifact hunters. Her parents were avid collectors and her grandparents were Rosco Dennis Mutz and Norma Starr Mutz. The artifact community knew Rosco Dennis as Dennis or R.D. Mutz. Mr. Mutz and his family had one of Colorado’s outstanding collections at the time. He died in 1966 at Fowler, Colorado where he had been postmaster for several decades.

This Folsom projectile point possesses a notarized affidavit from Barbara D. Johnson explaining who she is and exactly where she found the Folsom. The point also possesses two Certificates of Authenticity (COA). On one COA, Jeb Taylor’s comments were that the Folsom point was “Made on a flake where the original dorsal and ventral surfaces were utilized as flutes. This point was probably not much large than it is now.” On the other COA, Bob Knowlton stated, “An interesting Folsom as it was made on a flake and must have been too thin to flute from the bottom, so it was fluted from the tip on Side B – then cleaned and basally thinned from the bottom. It has had one resharpening."
Figure four - Authentic Folsoms are thin and
most can be placed on a flat table and not wobble.
Great craftsmanship was necessary.



For a thrilling adventure with the Folsom People, please read the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy! Click below any of the thumbnails of books and you have taken the first step to a wonderful adventure! Enjoy!! 
Figure five - Read Ghosts of the Heart, the
second book in the Trilogy. Click to Order 


Figure six - Read Winds of Eden,
the finale. Click to Order 

Read the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy for More About American Lions!

 
 
 

Click to Order Winds of Eden
 When I was doing my research for the third book of the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy called Winds of Eden I wanted to find a new Pleistocene animal predator to put in the book. If you have read the first two books of the trilogy, Shadows on the Trail and Ghosts of the Heart, you know that there were several animal predators making life more difficult for the Folsom People. For the finale of the trilogy, Winds of Eden, I wanted to find the 'animal predator of predators' and I think I was successful. The link below takes you to an article about the American Lion, one of the largest and most dangerous animal predators of the Pleistocene. Some of the highlights from the article: 
  • The American Lion first appears in the fossil record about 1.8
    Skeleton of the American Lion.
    million years ago.
     
     
  • About one hundred complete skeletons of the American Lion have been found preserved in the La Brea tar pits in California. Other fossils have been found in Canada, Texas, Idaho, Nevada, Nebraska, Wyoming, Mississippi, northern Florida, Mexico, and Peru.   
  • These skeletons show that it was about 30 percent larger than today's African Lion, measuring about 10 feet long, 4 feet high at the shoulder, and weighing about 750 pounds.
  •  The number of male and female found next to prey animals in the La Brea tar pits is roughly equal, however, indicating that unlike modern lions, in which the females do all the hunting, the American Lion hunted in male-female pairs or small groups.
  • Modern lions are ambush hunters that carefully stalk their prey and then make a sudden rush. The American Lion, with its longer legs and its more powerful skull and jaws, may have been a better runner, pursuing its prey over longer distances.
  • Joseph Leidy, the Philadelphia paleontologist who first described the species in 1852, from a jawbone found in Mississippi, considered it to be a distinct species of lion, and named it Felis atrox (later placed in the genus Panthera).
  • Over time, other authorities argued that the American Lion was a subspecies of the African Lion, and named it Panthera leo atrox.
  • In 2010 another study by Danish and American scientists concluded that while the American Lion was its own distinct species, the skull had more traits in common with the jaguar than with lions, and concluded that Panthera atrox should be called the Giant Jaguar instead.



Click to Learn More about the American Lion
 

Artist depiction of the American Lion.
Click to Read Article On American Lion

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

John Bradford Branney Books at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston!!

Books by John Bradford Branney
I am proud to announce that Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Texas is now carrying my books. This is a wonderful classic bookshop in the tradition of years gone by. Their book selection is unique and well thought out. You will find the staff knowledgeable and titles that you will not find at the big box bookstores. Visit Blue Willow Bookshop, even if you do not buy any of my books, you will find the experience, absolutely wonderful! Here is the Link to Contact Blue Willow 
   
Shadows on the Trail (2013)

Ghosts of the Heart (2013)

Winds of Eden (2014)

Saving Miguel (2013)

Light Hidden by Darkness (2014)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Shadows on the Trail $4.99 on Kindle, Nook, and other e books! $15 for entire Trilogy!!!!

10,000 + year old Folsom dart point found 
on the Shadows on the Trail site.

   How did a red and gray striped rock from a prehistoric rock quarry in Texas end up as a prehistoric tool on a northern Colorado ranch where the author found it approximately 11,000 years later? This was exactly what the author asked himself when he picked up this wonderful example of North America’s late Ice Age prehistory.

Click for $4.99 Kindle
   

John Branney has been searching for prehistoric artifacts in North America for much of his life. He has assembled a collection of human-made prehistoric artifacts spanning from the last Ice Age to the historical Indian tribes. The inspiration for the historical fiction novel Shadows on the Trail came from the author’s desire to know who made this prehistoric tool and how did it get over five hundred miles north of the source? What happened on its journey from Texas to northern Colorado? Since the facts of this artifact were lost to time, Branney wrote his own version of the artifact and its maker’s journey.      

Shadows on the Trail is set on the plains and mountains of northern Texas and southern Colorado at the end of the last Ice Age, a time of catastrophic climate change, melting ice and snow, and several large mammal extinctions. It was a time when small bands of humans fought to survive in a violent world. Shadows on the Trail is a tale of three prehistoric tribes whose paths collide, culminating into an emotional thriller filled with predatory animals, the devastating forces of nature, and human emotions.        

Chayton is an orphan and hunter in a tribe called the Folsom People. Forced to deal with a
Click for $4.95 Kindle
catastrophic drought, Chayton and the Folsom People abandon their peaceful canyon home and make their way north to an idyllic land called the North Country. While the Folsom People travel north across the arid plains, another tribe called the River People are attacked by a barbaric tribe called the Mountain People. An accidental encounter between a young boy called Honiahaka from the River People and the Folsom People, pull the three tribes into the same whirlwind adventure.

The plot of the book takes a surprising turn when the surviving River People convince the Folsom People to help them free their captives held by the Mountain People. Together, the two tribes devise an intricate plan to trap the lethal Mountain People and rescue the captives.        

Chayton’s lonely life takes a joyous turn when he rescues a beautiful young woman named Namid. While their independence initially keeps Chayton and Namid at arm’s length, love gradually wears down their barriers and a relationship blossoms. Just when the reader is lulled into believing that ‘good will triumph over evil’, the Mountain Tribe strike a devastating blow against the two tribes, leaving the future in doubt.

“In Shadows on the Trail, I wanted to convey the intelligence and tenacity of these First
Click for $4.95 Kindle Version
Americans,” John Branney said. “These people learned to survive in an unforgiving world where they just couldn’t pick up the phone and dial 911 when they got into trouble. They had to find a way out of trouble or they did not survive.”    

John Bradford Branney was born and raised in Wyoming and attended the University of Wyoming where he received a B.S. degree in Geology. After graduating, John entered the oil and gas industry as an engineer. Over his career, he held various positions in field operations, sales and marketing, logistics, program management, and the supply chain. During his career, he also obtained a MBA degree from the University of Colorado. In 2011, he retired from the oil and gas industry and immediately pursued his second career as an author. Shadows on the Trail is Mr. Branney’s debut book.
 
 

Buy the Kindle versions and enjoy the adventure!!!

The Alibates chert discoidal biface found on the Shadows on the Trail site surrounded
by Folsom artifacts. The Alibates chert discoidal biface was the
inspiration for the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy.

 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Winds of Eden - Life and Death in the Pleistocene!




Click to Order Winds of Eden
I often times wonder what it would be like to have lived a hundred years ago or a thousand years ago or even ten thousand years ago like my characters in the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy. I do not know if this wondering about the past is common or unusual. When I used to ramble on about this to my mother while growing up, she always used to tell me that I was born in the wrong century. I think she was right.  
Figure one. The World of the Folsom People in the
Shadows on the Trail Trilogy.
How about you? Do you imagine yourself in a different time and place? Can you imagine living or visiting the late Pleistocene around 10,700 years ago and let’s say…the high plains of Colorado or Wyoming? Hmm…for me, I have to admit that’s an interesting scenario. We could go visit a time and place when and where the characters of the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy were alive and breathing. You are probably thinking that it might be time for a padded room for me. “Don’t you know the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy is a work of fiction?” you should be asking me. I would answer you, "Yes, I know the Trilogy was fiction, after all, I wrote the books and much of  the story line came from my imagination. Still, those people really existed!"
 
So, let's go back to the past. Let’s board our make believe time machine and set the dial for 10,700 years ago. Now, close your eyes. Here we go!  





Ah, we made it! We now climb out of the time machine and look around. We had just left a modern and overcrowded city in the year 2014, but the same place 10,700 years earlier is empty and I mean empty. There are no buildings or vehicles. There are no jet contrails across the pollution-free, crystal blue sky. there is just wide open space - beautiful, wide open space!  
Figure two. Extinct American lion to the right, comparing its size
with a human on the left and a modern African lion in the middle.




Those glorious modern conveniences that we love and take for granted will not be invented for thousands of years in the future. For the rugged people who lived in North America at the time the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy took place, it had to have been a rough environment. Every day, the Folsom People must have fought just to survive another day and when the sun went down, watch out. They were on the menu for several nocturnal animal hunters of the night. The Folsom People had two critical items to survive; stay off the menu of the predators that hunted them and find food before they starve. Finding food was not easily done. There were no food stamps, government entitlements or grocery stores. You found your own food or you died.
 
Then, there was the climatic change that had North America in its grasp near the end of the Pleistocene. The continent was heating up and the glaciers were melting. The Folsom People not only had to fight climate change, but they also had to worry about dangerous wild beasts, such as those mammals that were heading for extinction, but not quite there, such as dire wolves, the American lion, small-faced bear, and sabre tooth cats. Not to mention those wild beasts and predators that were efficient enough to ultimately survive the Pleistocene and not go extinct, such as mountain lions,
Figure three. How do you think prehistoric people
explained these phenomena and disasters?   
wolves, and bears. If these beasts attacked and injured a prehistoric human, there were no hospitals or doctors to get help. I am sure the Folsom People had some of their own remedies, but the remedies were primitive at best. There are numerous examples of archaeologists finding prehistoric human skeletons and discovering in the autopsies that these prehistoric people had all kinds of maladies such as unset and healed broken bones, raging abscesses, teeth worn down to the nerves, stone projectile points stuck in their bodies, skull fractures, eye sockets damaged, and many other untreated injuries. It sounds like the NFL and Obamacare was nowhere to be found. Maybe, they were lucky after all, I mean, not having Obamacare? ;)


                                                                      
If the Folsom People got into trouble, how did they handle it? They could not just dial 911 and expect help. There was no police department or fire department or hospital or ambulance. They were on their own in a super tough place to live. How did they protect themselves from these wild beasts and how did they fill their bellies with fresh meat? By our standards, the Folsom People's weapon systems were primitive and as I mentioned earlier, some of the animals the Folsom People hunted, hunted them.



Makes me glad we have a time machine and can travel back to good old 2015! Read the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy and see my version of the Folsom People's trails and tribulations. Then, tell me what you think. 


      I wish all of you a safe and prosperous 2015!


Shadows on the Trail - first book in the Trilogy 



 Ghosts of the Heart - the second book in the Trilogy
  


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

WINDS OF EDEN - Long Awaited Dramatic Conclusion to Best Selling Prehistoric Trilogy!


Order Winds of Eden

Fans of the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL series from bestselling author John Bradford Branney are already receiving their preordered copies of the final book in the trilogy

What happens when the hunters become the hunted? That is what readers have been eagerly waiting to find out in WINDS OF EDEN, the thrilling finale to John Bradford Branney’s series of books about a Paleoindian tribe in prehistoric America.

In the conclusion of this highly acclaimed historical series of novels, the Folsom People return to the plains and mountains of Texas and Colorado at the end of the last Ice Age, a time of dramatic climate change, rising temperatures and melting glaciers. This was a time when several large mammal species went extinct and when small bands of humans roamed the mountains and plains attempting to survive in an unforgiving and violent world. WINDS OF EDEN quickly propels readers into the story where the first two novels of the trilogy left off. Chayton and the Folsom People are continuing their fight of survival in a violent and unpredictable prehistoric world with little more than their spears and wits.

“We are thrilled to be bringing out this latest installment,” said Sarah Luddington, Mirador Publishing’s Commissioning Editor. “John has a knack for bringing this era to life and combines this with an incredible eye for detail in a thoroughly engaging story. John’s attention to historical accuracy is extraordinary and he even includes three genuine indigenous languages within the narrative.”

Hailed for its accurate depiction of life on the prairies and mountains of prehistoric Texas and
Famous rock - the four inch long Alibates discoidal biface
that was the inspiration for the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy.  
Colorado, WINDS OF EDEN is a fast-paced read that accurately builds on clues from the archaeological record and traditions practiced by the first Americans.

“In the first two books of the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY my emphasis has been on the dynamics of survival for these early explorers of prehistoric America,” the author stated. “In WINDS OF EDEN, I took a slightly different direction from the first two books of the trilogy. Yes, the book is still a high-intensity adventure, but I have added another twist. In WINDS OF EDEN, the main characters must face the reality of their own finite mortalities. I am hoping that readers take away much more than just reading a fun adventure story. This book is my most fulfilling work that I have written so far and I hope readers feel the same way.”

John Bradford Branney holds a geology degree and MBA from the University of Wyoming and
the University of Colorado, respectively. John currently lives in Texas and Colorado with his wife, Theresa. WINDS OF EDEN is the fifth published book by Author Branney.

Mirador Publishing continue their support of new authors and are proud to present John Bradford
Branney as an author to watch out for.

For more information visit the author at Shadows on the Trail Trilogy by John Bradford Branney on Facebook and at his blog at http://johnbbranney3.blogspot.com/.

SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL, GHOSTS OF THE HEART and WINDS OF EDEN are available in all good bookshops and online retailers both in paperback and eBook formats. Mirador Publishing may be contacted via their website at www.miradorpublishing.com

Click for Book Review

Monday, November 3, 2014

Shadows on the Trail Trilogy - Folsom vs. Agate Basin



Click to Order Shadows on the Trail

In an earlier post on the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy blog, I explained why I used three Native
American languages to differentiate the linguistic and cultural differences between the three tribes in Shadows on the Trail. I also differentiated two of the tribes through their use of different projectile point types for their hunting and weapons systems.

In Shadows on the Trail, I used Folsom projectile points for the Folsom People and Agate Basin
points for the Mountain People. Figure 1 below is a photograph of a Folsom dart point at the top and an Agate Basin point at the bottom. Both are from my collection and made from similar material (Knife River Chalcedony), but as the photo illustrates, the technology was quite different in making these points and obviously, so were the differences in styles. Why did I use both Folsom points and Agate Basin points in Shadows on the Trail to differentiate two distinct cultures? Let me explain.

Figure 1 - Top projectile point is a Folsom dart point found along the
Colorado-Wyoming border in Albany County, Wyoming. Bottom
projectile point is a 2.35 inch long Agate Basin dart point
found in Jefferson County, Colorado. John Branney Collection.

 

In Wyoming, there is a very famous and important archaeological site called Hell Gap neat Guernsey. At the Hell Gap site, the investigators found an extensive stratigraphic section of rock with corresponding human cultural levels for thousands of years. According to Irwin-Williams, the radiocarbon dates from the Hell Gap site indicated that the use of Agate Basin points took place between 10,500 to 10,000 years ago and occurred in time after Folsom points, i.e. Agate Basin was younger in age than Folsom. If you can remember from one of my earlier blog posts, I stated that the use of Folsom points took place between 10,900 to 10,200 years ago based on radiocarbon dates from both the Hell Gap and the Agate Basin sites. The geologic evidence and overlapping radiocarbon dates indicated that there was possibly an overlap in time between the later Folsom People and the earliest Agate Basin People.
Order Ghosts of the Heart (Book Two)

 

Below, is a passage taken from my book Shadows on the Trail, the first book in the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy. In this scene, Avonaco and two hunters from the River People were looking for evidence as to who ransacked their village and massacred their people. The hunters found a strange spear with a different style of projectile point. Avonaco describes his past experience with this newly discovered projectile point.

Waquini then handed Avonaco an object and said, “Avonaco, we found this in the brush near the village.”

Avonaco held the spear in his hands. The spear shaft was the same wood that the River People used, but the stone spear point was different. The stone spear point was thinner and longer than any Avonaco had ever seen and made from a shiny, black rock material. Avonaco ran his thumb down the sharp edge of the spear point and quickly pulled his thumb away.
Éŝkos!–Sharp!” Avonaco exclaimed, looking down at his bleeding thumb.

He continued to examine the spear point, “I have only seen a spear point like this once made from this black rock. When I was a boy, I found a spear point much like this deep in the mountains. My father told me the black rock comes from the mountains.”

Avonaco then inspected the sinew wrap that connected the stone spear point to the wooden spear shaft. The River People used sinew from deer or bison to attach their spear points. 
 
Even though there appears to have been a time overlap between the Folsom and Agate Basin Peoples, Bradley (Frison 1991; Kornfeld, Frison, and Larson 2010) did not believe that Agate Basin technology evolved from Folsom technology. While the Folsom point was wide, thin and fluted; the Agate Basin point was thick and lenticular in cross section. If Agate Basin technology was derived from Folsom technology, there was a dramatic change that has not been explained.

Figure 2 - Agate Basin on top and 2.85 inch long Folsom
on the bottom. Different knapping technology, different
culture? John Branney Collection.


Since the technology to make Agate Basin points was so much different than that of fluted Folsom points, do you think that maybe there were two culturally different human populations utilizing the same bison resources during the latter years of Folsom? Stanford (1999: 312) postulated that Agate Basin technology may have come from an earlier Northern Great Basin / Plateau projectile point that was typologically similar to Agate Basin but predates Agate Basin on the High Plains by over one thousand years. Stanford proposed that it was possible that Agate Basin technology came southward from the Paleoarctic/ Denali Complex people in eastern Beringia who transferred the technology to northern plains people. Figure 3 is a photograph of a 2.85 inch long Folsom point on the left and an Agate Basin point on the right. The technological differences between these two projectile points was dramatic and the only things common were they were both knapped from rock and have sharp points.   
How will we ever find out the true relationship between the Folsom and Agate Basin Peoples? We probably won't. Archaeologists fit the archaeological puzzle together the best way they know how with the archaeological evidence at hand. But in this archaeological puzzle, we are most likely dealing in cultural differences, which does not always show up in the archaeological record.   

  
Order Winds of Eden (Book Three)
      

 
      

Frison, George C.

1991        Prehistoric Hunters of the High Plains. Second Edition. Academic Press.

Irwin-Williams, Cynthia, Henry T. Irwin, George Agogino, and C. Vance Haynes
1973    Hell Gap: Paleo-Indian occupation on the High Plains. Plains Anthropologist. 18      (59 ):   40-53.   

Kornfeld, Marcel, George C. Frison, and Mary Lou Larson
2010    Prehistoric Hunters-Gatherers of the High Plains and Rockies. Third Edition. Left    Coast Press. Walnut Creek, California. 

Stanford, D. J.
1999    Paleoindian Archeology and Late Pleistocene Environments in the Plains and Southwestern United States. In Ice Age Peoples of North America, edited by R. Bonnichsen. Oregon State University Press. Corvallis, Oregon.


 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Winds of Eden and the American Lion



Click to Order the Trilogy
When I was doing my research for Winds of Eden, the third prehistoric adventure book in my Shadows on the Trail Trilogy, I was searching for large predators that were around at the same time as the Folsom People in my books, sometime around 10,700 years ago. If you have read the first two books of the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy, you know how I like putting the Folsom People in precarious and unpredictable situations with some of the wilder wildlife of the Pleistocene.  

One of the most intriguing North American Pleistocene predators I found in my research was the 
Figure one. Reconstruction of an American Lion
(Panthera leo atrox).
American Lion or Panthera leo atrox. Its two distinguishing characteristics were its massive size and its long, slender limbs. Based on skeletal remains, Panthera leo atrox is estimated to have weighed on average between 390 to 520 pounds with larger specimens exceeding well over 700 pounds. Panthera leo atrox ranged in length from 5.3 to 8.2 feet long. Now, that was a big cat! Only European cave lions rivaled the American Lion’s size.  

Based on where paleontologists have found the skeletal remains of Panthera leo atrox, it appears that this large cat preferred living in open country. According to Kurtén and Anderson in their remarkable book Pleistocene Mammals of North America, there is some evidence that Peloindians hunted American lions. Remains of Panthera leo atrox were found in a refuse pile in Jaguar Cave in Idaho where associated charcoal was radiocarbon-dated to 10,370 ± 350 years BP (age in years before
Figure two. Size comparison between human, African Lion and American Lion.
Courtesy of Animalgals.wordpress.com
1950). The extinction of Panthera leo atrox seemed to have occurred after that, around 10,000 years ago or near the end of the Pleistocene. This was well within the timeframe for when the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy took place. Perhaps the readers of Winds of Eden may see one or two of these American Lions in Winds of Eden. Who knows? Well, I know, but I am not telling.  

                                                      The genetic lineage of Panthera leo atrox is not without controversy. Based on skeletal remains, paleontologists continue to debate whether Panthera leo atrox was more lion-like or jaguar-like. In the first half of the last century, French paleontologist Marcellin Boule and German paleontologist Max Hilzheimer stated that Panthera leo atrox had a mosaic of features from both lions and jaguars, but that a consolidation of
Figure three. Skeleton from American Lion at the George C.
Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits.   
its features did not match any living species. Later in the century, John Merriam and Chester Stock proposed that after studying skulls from Panthera leo atrox, the mammal more closely resembled a jaguar than a lion. In the latest study, John M. Harris and Per Christianson focused on the cranium and jaws of Panthera leo atrox and proposed them to be more jaguar-like.

I am sure the debate will continue, but from my perspective, the bottom line is that Panthera leo atrox or the American Lion was appreciably larger and genetically different than both the living versions of the African lion and the South American jaguar. Since skeletal remains cannot directly tell us what the behavior and hunting habits of Panthera leo atrox were, I am going to assume a modern-day analogy to one of the most fierce open country predators, the African Lion.

Figure four. Skull of American Lion,
sixteen inches long, at the
National Museum of Natural History.
An adult male African lion stands three feet high at the shoulders and weighs between 350 to 440 pounds. This is a massive beast, but it is somewhat diminutive compared to the extinct Panthera leo atrox. In fact, the African Lion is twenty–five per cent smaller than the skeletal remains of Panthera leo atrox. African lion males have manes that vary in both color and fullness. The fur coats on African lions blend well in a semi-desert environment and their belly fur is usually paler as to neutralize shadows from the sun. In starlight, lions are gray and people have described them as ghostlike. There is no evidence whether the males of Panthera leo atrox had manes or what the coloration was for this extinct species.  

African lions are agile and graceful. A surprise rush is a critical factor in the success of a lion during a hunt. Once the lion has caught its prey, it uses its claws and forelimbs like grappling hooks to seize and drag the prey to their mouths. The African lion’s spine is supple enough to allow it to press its belly against the ground while arching its back like a bow in anticipation of leaping at its prey. The African Lion’s legs are powerful and they are able to leap over fences as tall as twelve feet. African lions can spring forward at distances of over forty feet and they can run in short bursts at over forty miles per hour. It is hard to imagine what the much larger Panthera leo atrox could have done. Like most carnivores, the African Lion has two pairs of bladelike carnassial teeth located about halfway between the front of the jaw and the jaw joint. The carnassial teeth work together like scissors, allowing lions and other carnivores to slice off strips of flesh.

One of the more frightening characteristics of African lions is that they live and hunt in prides, which typically consists of five females, two males, and their young. While females do most of the hunting, the male lions protect the pride and patrol the territory, always on the lookout for other males and marking their territory with urine.

Sight is the primary sense that African lions use to live and hunt. African lions are very opportunistic
Figure five. African Lion, King of the Living Beasts. 
and will hunt at any time of the day or night, but they prefer darkness since this provides them an optimal advantage. When the lion pride hunts together, they usually spread out along a front or semi-circle. Lions have a reflective layer at the back of their eye that amplifies light into the eyeballs. This reflective layer makes a lion’s eyes shine in the dark. An African lion’s pupil is oval to round, just like ours. Smell and hearing are the next mostly widely used senses used by African lions.  African lions obtain most of their needed water from the animals they eat. They can survive in desert climates as long as there are animals to eat.  

Did Panthera leo atrox live and hunt in prides? We do not know. Just imagine if you are a Paleoindian hunter in the Folsom People’s tribe and you are armed with only spears. Then imagine that you bump into a solitary Panthera leo atrox or maybe even a pride of Panthera leo atrox? That would be a truly frightening experience. Read Winds of Eden and find out what happens. The first two books of the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy are also available! Click to order!