Wednesday, February 21, 2018

CROW and the CAVE - It's a Family Affair

CLICK for John Bradford Branney Books
I published the first book of my prehistoric adventure series in April 2013. This thriller was entitled SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL. Since April 2013, I have written three more books in this prehistoric adventure series about a real-to-life prehistoric culture that lived in western North America from 10,900 to 10,200 years ago. This prehistoric culture we now call Folsom.

One of the things I have done in my prehistoric adventure books is to link a few of the characters from book to book, that is, the characters who have survived from book to book. SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL started out with characters named Chayton and Tarca Sapa and Wiyaka and Namid and bad man Ei Hanit. In my latest addition to the series entitled CROW and the CAVE, I bring back Chayton's son as a main character. His name is Hoka. Many of you will remember him from the books GHOSTS OF THE HEART and WINDS OF EDEN.
Paleoindians in SHADOWS on the TRAIL country. 

Below is a short passage from CROW and the CAVE where I begin to reintroduce Hoka to my readers.

North of Paytah and his people, a lone hunter trekked northward, walking through the windblown hills of the North Country. The hunter’s hike mirrored the flood plain bordering a small meandering stream. The hunter was heading to a place where this water was born, a sacred spring called wakan ya in a valley called Páhu Ósmaka or Skull Valley. A chilly wind blew out of the northwest, a reminder that winter was on its way. The first snow of the season had already fallen, and a few isolated snowdrifts on north-facing slopes still survived. The hunter knew the cold, he had survived forty some winters in the North Country. Even though he was prepared for this harsh climate, the frigid wind chilled his bones. Over his elk skin shirt and leggings, the hunter wore a coat made from the hide of a bison. The hunter wore the bison wool inward, facing his body. A long piece of hide tied around the waist secured the coat. Over moccasin-covered feet, the hunter wore sock-like boots with deer fur facing inward. On top of his head, the hunter wore a cap made from the skin of a coyote. The hunter wore the cap low across his brow. His people called him Hoka. His blood father was known as Kangi and his blood mother was Tonkala. When Hoka was a child, a bear killed his blood father. A hunter called Chayton then raised Hoka with Tonkala.  

For more on Hoka and the Folsom People, you can read the book series the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Part II - The "Spark" for CROW and the CAVE, an adventure by John Bradford Branney

Figure One - Crow and the Cave by John Bradford Branney. Release Date March 8, 2018.
In case you missed Part One of this blog posting, here is the link to Part One. LINK to Part I of "Spark" and CROW and the CAVE.

In Part One, horned cattle were bludgeoning my German Shepherd Madd Maxx and me. I was pinned to the ground by the horns and hooves of an orange-colored devil cow and Madd Maxx was battling the rest of the herd. The story continues below.  

Every time the devil cow stepped on my legs, I cried out. The pain was excruciating. I could not breathe. I was wheezing, and I was not getting enough oxygen to satisfy my body’s needs. My fractured ribs felt like someone had impaled me with a spear! While the halfton cow ground me into the dirt, she rocked her head back and forth trying to impale me with her horns. At the same time, she was walking all over me. My entire body was on fire. I felt immersed in hot lava. The pain was beyond tolerance. I was bleeding all over the pasture.
Figure Two - The orange and white devil cow whose mission was to eliminate the threat. 
Lying there in agony while suffocating on dust, I had an epiphany. I realized this devil cow was not going to let up on her attack until I was dead. If I fought her, she would kill him. I stopped moving and went limp. I played dead. I laid there motionless in the dirt and the blood and the manure. That was hard to do. I was in extreme pain. At first, the horned beast did not buy it. She pawed at me with her hooves, trying to roll me over, but I spread my legs just far enough to prevent her from rolling me over. I had my arms wrapped around my head like a helmet. She shoved me with her horned skull, but I did not budge. I remember feeling her wet breath against my neck as she sniffed me for life. Every time the devil cow stepped on me, I wanted to scream, but I held it all in.

I finally satisfied the devil cow. She was convinced that I was no longer a threat. She rejoined the herd, leaving me lying there in my own blood, covered in dirt and cow dung. I was in very bad shape. All I wanted to do was lie there, but I heard my dog, sometimes barking, sometimes yelping. I struggled to my knees. The pain was beyond anything I had ever experienced. My left leg took the worst of the beating. It would not straighten. I spotted Madd Maxx. The cows were circling him in a cloud of dust. Funny how the mind works under the strangest of circumstances. I remember thinking how the scene reminded me of an old western movie with the Indians circling the cover wagons, but in this case, it was cows circling Madd Maxx. I crawled through the circling cows. Occasionally one of them bumped into me, but I kept going. I grabbed Madd Maxx by his furry neck and pulled him from the circle. Then, I collapsed on the ground.
Figure Three - A portion of the rest of the herd. Glad to have a fence between us. 

Madd Maxx was in very bad shape. The cattle had annihilated him. The herd had ripped off his steel training collar and long lead rope. He was bleeding profusely from his mouth and he had bloody patches of matted fur across most of his body. His ferocious German Shepherd bark was now whimpers of pain. I pulled him away from the herd. I still could not breathe. I was choking, exhausted, and in agony. My gums were bleeding and my front teeth were loose. I had bit my tongue and it was bleeding. My legs and back felt like someone had dipped me in molten steel. I could not stand. Crawling was its own challenge. The shredded backpack still hung from my back by one frayed strap. Madd Maxx and I sat there on the prairie, humbled and conquered.

Then, the strangest thing happened. The cows lined up in front of us. I could not believe it. I guess they thought we still were not convinced of their superiority or maybe I had eaten too many hamburgers in my lifetime. I don’t know why. The orange and white devil cow stood directly in front of me, no further than five feet away. I heard her breathing and watched her chew her cud. Her eyes were on me. I knew I was not walking anywhere so I commanded Madd Maxx to run for the vehicle. He needed no further encouragement. He took off, half limping and half trotting with his tail firmly placed between his legs. He had no fight left in him. He plowed through the strands of a barbed wire fence that separated this pasture from the next. He made it to our vehicle without further incident. Now, it was my turn. I stood up. I remember screaming in pain as I tried to straighten my legs. Every nerve in my body was screaming out. I balanced myself on my right leg, my halfway useful leg. The devil cow stood between me and the vehicle. She lowered her head and smashed into me, knocking me backwards several feet and onto the ground. That is the last thing I remember.
Figure Four - While I was dealing with the orange and white devil cow, Madd Maxx dealt with the herd. 

I do not know how long I laid in the pasture. When I woke up, I was freezing. The temperature had dropped. I would never survive a night on the prairie. I had to get out of there. Pulling myself along on hands and damaged knees, I crawled to the vehicle. The remains of the backpack drooped down in front of my chest, but I was not going to stop and take it off. Not while I was in that pasture. I spotted Madd Maxx at the back of the vehicle, waiting for me. He was ready to get the heck out of Dodge. I loaded him up and drove to the ranch house. I was still wearing sunglasses, but one of the lenses was gone. I honked the horn at the ranch house. I opened my vehicle door and fell to the ground. That’s where I stayed. Sometime later, flight for life shuttled me to a trauma center in Colorado while Madd Maxx made an emergency visit to the vet. That was what happened to me and Madd Maxx on December 3, 2016, a day before my sixty-second birthday. Experience cannot get more real than that. Climb aboard my time machine. I have the dial set for 8700 B.C.

I hope you enjoy Crow and the Cave.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Part I - The "Spark" for CROW and the CAVE, an Adventure by John Bradford Branney


My latest book CROW and the CAVE will be released March 8, 2018. In advance of that release date, I want to give you a little background on how this book came about. The passage below is the first part in a two part blog posting that describes the events leading up to my writing CROW and the CAVE.  

As an author, my historical fiction originates from research, real-life experiences, and an active imagination. Since many of my books are about Prehistoric America, I rely a lot on documented archaeological evidence. However, on December 3, 2016, I had a real-life experience that changed my life and I decided to adapt this encounter to my latest prehistoric adventure entitled Crow and the Cave.

Our German Shepherd Madd Maxx and I were prehistoric artifact hunting on a ranch in northern
Colorado when a herd of horned cattle decided they did not care for Madd Maxx. These cattle must have thought that Madd Maxx was a predator, like a wolf or a coyote. One of the horned beasts decided to remove the predator from the pasture. She lowered her head and rammed into Madd
Madd Maxx
Maxx, sending the one hundred-pound shepherd flying. I intervened between Madd Maxx and the orange-colored beast and paid the price. The horned devil that just launched Madd Maxx into inner space came after me, ramming her skull into my chest. Not having other options, I grabbed the cow by the horns and hung on for dear life. She shoved me backwards across the pasture, picking up speed as we went along. I concluded that hanging on to her horns was not going to end well for me, so I let go, and she ran right over the top of me. Ouch! She knocked the wind out of me. I was in pain and I could not breathe. Later, I found out that I had sustained three broken ribs and a bruised lung. I remember hearing Madd Maxx barking which was a good sign. He was still alive. I staggered to my feet like a fallen boxer rising for an eight count. Before I could straighten up, the horned devil plowed into me. One year later, I still remember that teeth-rattling jolt when her massive skull smashed into my back. I went down hard. I later found out I had sustained kidney, liver and adrenal gland damage. If I had any oxygen in my lungs to start with, it was all gone. I tried to crawl away, but the devil cow was on me, pinning me to the ground with her skull and horns, swinging her head from side to side, trying to hook me with her horns. Fortunately, I was wearing a backpack filled with bulky winter clothes. The devil cow ended up destroying the backpack, but wearing it saved my life. I had been carrying a metal walking stick that she also destroyed. As she mauled me, I remember seeing a huge dust cloud rising above the pasture. I was drowning in a sea of dust. The entire herd was on the war path. While I was trying to escape with my life, so was Madd Maxx, and he had the rest of the herd to contend with. I fought to breathe, but every time I took a breath, the cow slammed into my back.

As I laid there getting bludgeoned by this beast, I felt relieved when I heard Madd Maxx. I knew that if I heard him, he was still alive and if I was going to save him, I first had to save myself. I yelled for help, but that was futile. I was in the middle of nowhere and my yell had no energy, whatsoever. I
Madd Maxx
fought to escape, but the horned beast kept smashing into my back. She walked all over my legs and back with her sharp hooves. I swear it felt like she was kneading bread on my legs like some massive hooved cat. The more I resisted, the more aggressive the horned beast was. I wrapped my arms around my head, hoping to protect my skull from her horns and hooves. She had already loosened my front teeth. I remember thinking that I was going to "die by cow". I understand that we all die of some cause, sooner or later, but “death by cow”?

Based on the above narrative, you can see that Madd Maxx and I are in quite a pickle. You will have to wait until Part Two of the blog posting to see how we get out of it. Then, in subsequent blog postings, I will give you a taste or two about my prehistoric adventure CROW and the CAVE.    

CLICK to preorder CROW and the CAVE for 10% Discount

CLICK for Part Two of the "Spark".

Thursday, November 9, 2017

SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL - Allen or Frederick Projectile Points?

Figure 1 -  High Plains Allen and / or Frederick projectile points. Which are which?
Longest point is 3.25 inches long. John Branney Collection.   
After the stemmed projectile points of the Cody Complex, an abrupt change took place in projectile point technology on the High Plains. A series of lanceolate-shaped projectile points with parallel-oblique flaking came into existence. Instead of stems, these new projectile points had indented or concave bases. There is no doubt that the Late Paleoindians deliberately chose indented or concave bases. After all, why not? An indented base on a projectile point fits well in the haft of a spear, you might say it fits as snug as a bug in a rug. During the Late Paleoindian timeframe on the High Plains there was a plethora of different projectile point types with indented bases, such as Allen and Frederick and Andersen and Angostura and Lusk. These different projectile point types only adds to the confusion.   

There are two opposing factions when it comes to projectile point typology; lumpers and splitters.

A "lumper" is an individual who defines projectile points into broad categories with plenty of room to accommodate variation and differences found in a group of projectile points. A lumper believes that more is less when it comes to projectile point typology. A lumper tries to see similarities in projectile points, not differences. Lumpers recognize that Paleoindians and other prehistoric peoples did not have  blueprints for making projectile points and that there might had been variation in projectile points within the same prehistoric culture. A lumper tries to place these projectile point variants into existed projectile point types, if possible.  

By contrast, a "splitter" is an individual who uses precise definitions of projectile point types and creates new categories to classify examples that differ in critical ways. A splitter focuses more on differences in projectile points, than similarities. If the splitter notes a wide enough variation from an existing projectile point type, they might propose a new type. A splitter believes that more is better when it comes to projectile point types.

The bottom line is that lumpers group projectile points into broad categories while splitters divide projectile points into smaller categories. I have a confession to make. I am biased when it comes to lumping and splitting. Philosophically, I am a lumper. I believe there should be plenty of variation allowed in projectile point types to accommodate knapping, material, quality, style and dimensional differences. It is my opinion that “splitters” have carved the turkey meat too thin and we have ended up with too many projectile point types. 
Figure 3 - What do we have here?
2.6 inch long and surface found
in Wyoming. John Branney

Paleoindians followed weapons tradition by handing down verbal recipes on how to make projectile points from generation to generation. Even with verbal instruction, there was many opportunities for variation. There can be tribe isolation, material, knapping skills, workmanship standards, and differing levels of attention.

Nothing is more confusing than High Plains, Late Paleoindian indented base projectile point typology (say that with a mouth full of bubblegum). Late Paleoindian indented base projectile point typology includes Allen, Frederick, Lusk, Andersen, and Angostura points. I am missing some, I am sure.  

Each of these individual projectile point types have similarities and differences with other projectile point types. If anyone tries to tell you that they have Late Paleoindian projectile point typology figured out, you have my permission to laugh at them. Every day, I see people call a projectile point this while another person calls an almost identical projectile point that. It makes me wonder if the same prehistoric culture made both or we have a copycat thing going on between prehistoric cultures.
Figure 4 - 1.7 inch long surface find from
Colorado. What is the projectile point type?
John Branney Collection.  

Let me provide an example of what we face with Late Paleoindian projectile point types: I will be looking at only two types, Allen and Frederick.

Figure 5 - University of
Wyoming anthropologist
William Mulloy. 
A surface collector of artifacts named Jimmy Allen discovered a Paleoindian bison kill site in the Laramie Basin of Wyoming. In 1959, University of Wyoming anthropologist William Mulloy (Figure 5)excavated the James Allen site and recovered thirty fragmentary projectile points, all of which had similar shapes. The projectile points were unnotched and lanceolate-shaped with indented (concave) bases and rounded corners. Dr. Mulloy named the new projectile point Allen after the finder of the site, Jimmy Allen.  

In Jeb Taylor's book (2006), Jeb described Allen points as lanceolate-shaped points with carefully executed diagonal flaking and pronounced basal concavity. In his book, Greg Perino (1985) added to diagonal flaking, basal thinning, rounded basal corners, and side and basal edge grinding as common for Allen points.  

One important point that I wish to make is that not all Allen points have diagonal flaking and not all diagonal flaked projectile points are Allen points!

Figure 6 - Cynthia Irwin-
Cynthia Irwin–Williams (Figure 6) and her brother Henry Irwin named a new projectile point type at the Hell Gap site in east central Wyoming. They called it Frederick after the landowner. Jeb Taylor described Frederick points as diagonally flaked, just like Allen points. Greg Perino added that Frederick points had rounded corners and side / basal grinding, just like Allen points. Jeb proposed that Frederick points were thicker and had straighter bases than Allen points and that based on his study of the original projectile points from both James Allen and Hell Gap sites, he believed there was enough difference to warrant two separate projectile point types.

Not everyone agrees that Allen and Frederick are two separate projectile point types. Henry Irwin, one of the original investigators at the Hell Gap site, once stated to George Frison that the Frederick points from the Hell Gap site were basically the same as Allen points from the James Allen site. Personally, I believe that both Allen and Frederick points are variations of the same theme and are essentially the same projectile point type. This statement takes on more weight when we recognize that Allen and Frederick overlapped in both time and space.   

Irwin-Williams et al (1973) determined that the duration of Frederick at Hell Gap lasted from approximately 8,400 to 8,000 years BP while recent dating techniques at the James Allen bison kill site place the event sometime around 8,405 years BP (Knudson and Kornfeld 2007).  

After seeing what some people are calling Allen and other people are calling Frederick I am more confused than ever. Quite frankly, I don’t see a difference between the two projectile point types. Take a look at Figure one. Which points are Allen and which points are Frederick.   

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.    

Knudson, Ruth Ann, and Marcel Kornfeld 
2007    A New Date for the James Allen Site, Laramie Basin, Wyoming. Current Research in the Pleistocene 24:112-114. 

Perino, Gregory
1985    Selected Preforms, Points, and Knives of the North American Indians, Volume I.  Points and Barbs Press, Idabel, Okla.  

Taylor, Jeb
2006      Projectile points of the High Plains. Sheridan Books, Chelsea, MI.        


Friday, July 7, 2017

SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL and Agate Basin to Scottsbluff

Figure One - Development continuum of Paleoindian projectile point types. From left to right, olest to youngest,
Agate Basin (Colorado), Hell Gap (Wyoming), Alberta (Wyoming), and Scottsbluff (Colorado).
Agate Basin is 4.6 inches long. John Branney Collection.  
In my prehistoric thriller books the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY, three Paleoindian tribes culturally and physically clash in the midst of the High Plains. All three tribes were hunters and gatherers, but what differentiated them was their weaponry. While the three tribes used the same ‘old world’ spear thrower technology, their stone projectile points varied in both style and technology. I want to take you on a short journey into the past so everybody climb into my time machine, destination, southern Colorado around 8,700 B.C.
Figure Two - Delorean time machine from Back to the Future.  
In the first book of the TRILOGY entitled SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL (clever, huh?), a tribe of people called the Mountain People brutally attack the village of the River People. While the attack was happening, many of the hunters from the River People were on a meat-gathering expedition. There was really no one in the village to defend the brutal onslaught of the Mountain People. When the River People hunters returned from their expedition, they found the complete destruction of their village and the murder of friends and loved ones. The hunters craved revenge, but first they had to determine who did this deplorable act to their tribe. The only evidence left behind by the diabolical Mountain People was a spear found in the brush. The spear had the message of its origin carved in its shaft and a different kind of stone projectile point at its tip. One of the hunters brought the spear to Avonaco, the leader of the River People. Here is what happened. Lights, camera, action:   
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.

Avonaco pointed to the sinew and said, “This is too thin, it is not from bison or deer.”


Avonaco ran his fingers down the smooth wood of the spear and noticed it had carvings in it. To see better, Avonaco moved the spear shaft closer to the light of the campfire. Carved into the wood were five green-painted peaks next to two orange-painted suns,      ҉ Ʌ Ʌ Ʌ Ʌ Ʌ      ҉. Waquini and Vipponah leaned over Avonaco’s shoulders to take a better look.
Wow, I wonder if the River People ever achieved their revenge…I guess you are going to have to read the book to find out.
In Figure One above, I have photographed four different Paleoindian projectile point types, from left to right and oldest to youngest, they are Agate Basin, Hell Gap, Alberta, and Scottsbluff. The adoption of these four different projectile point types was widespread, going from Canada to Texas through much of the Great Plains and the southwestern United States.

We know from archaeological evidence that different Paleoindian cultures used different projectile point types. We know from the archaeological evidence at several single episode bison kill sites that Paleoindian hunters used the same projectile point types at each bison kill. This leads me to believe that specific cultures drove projectile point style and technology within the hunters that participated in the bison kills. A few examples of these Paleoindian bison kill sites and the respective projectile point types in parentheses are Casper (Hell Gap), Olsen-Chubbuck (Firstview), Hudson-Meng (Alberta), Jimmy Allen (Allen) and the Horner Site (Cody Complex).
Agate Basin is the oldest projectile point I am covering in this posting. Current archaeological
Figure Three - Agate Basin projectile points. On some Agate Basin
projectile points the "Hell Gap shoulder" was already developing.
John Branney Collection.
evidence indicates that Agate Basin projectile points and knife forms began showing up sometime around 10,400 years ago. Based on radiocarbon dates and stratigraphic studies, the Agate Basin projectile point may have briefly overlapped with at least three other projectile point types; Folsom, Hell Gap, and Alberta.
Based on stratigraphic relationships at the multicultural Hell Gap site in Wyoming, investigators determined that Hell Gap was younger than Agate Basin. The age most often assigned to Hell Gap is around 10,000 years. Based on flint knapping technology, many investigators believe that Hell Gap projectile points came from Agate Basin projectile point technology. In experimental hunting exercises, Agate Basin proved to be a very effective piece of weaponry, so why did Paleoindians need to evolve from Agate Basin to Hell Gap projectile points? One possible reason might be expediency of time and effort. If you have ever studied an Agate Basin projectile point, much time and effort went into their making. In many Agate Basin projectile points, extensive pressure flaking was used to achieve exceptional point symmetry. Perhaps, this went to the point of flint knapping overkill. The Hell Gap flint knapper usually terminated the finishing process of the projectile point much earlier than an Agate Basin flint knapper. The Hell Gap flint knapper used only pressure flaking on the stems and tips, leaving a much rougher and less symmetrical projectile point from Agate Basin. The shoulders that developed with Hell Gap projectile point also led to a more efficient haft.
Ten thousand years ago near Casper, Wyoming, Paleoindian hunters used these Hell Gap projectile points to kill bison that they had stampeded into a trap comprised of sand dunes. During the same timeframe in Nebraska, a different group of Paleoindian hunters used what we call Alberta projectile points to dispatch bison they had trapped in an ancient arroyo. Dr. H. M. Wormington identified and named Alberta projectile points from surface recovered examples found during the dust bowl in Alberta, Canada. The long stem and abrupt shoulders differentiate the Alberta projectile point from both Agate Basin and Hell Gap. We assume that some Paleoindians saw the Alberta projectile point as an advancement in weapon technology from Agate Basin and Hell Gap projectile point design. When spearing a bison or other game animal, the shoulders and long base of the Alberta projectile point took much of the stress and impact of the point, creating a more efficient weapon.    
The Alberta projectile point technology and style gave birth to another projectile point. The point to the far right in Figure one is a Scottsbluff point, a continuation of the Cody Archaeological Complex and the point design originating from the earlier Alberta projectile points. The stem and shoulders found in Alberta points still exist in Scottsbluff points and fine pressure flaking returned to the    
Figure Four - Examples of Cody Complex artifacts, including Alberta
(Far left) and Scottsbluff (Third from left).
John Branney Collection. .  
So, what do you think drove the development continuum of Paleoindian projectile points from Agate Basin to Scottsbluff? Was it technological innovation driving the change or was it different cultures wanting to put their own mark on weaponry? Why did cultures and individual tribes adapt the same projectile point type across such a wide geographic expanse? Why did Paleoindians use a specific projectile point type at one bison kill while Paleoindians used another projectile point type at a different bison kill? Different people? Different cultures?   
We can only speculate about the answers to these questions because we just do not know. But, isn’t it fun speculating?     

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Goshen-Plainview Point Mystery - GHOSTS OF THE HEART

Figure One - A Goshen point on the left found in Weld County, Colorado
and a Plainview point on the right found in Deaf Smith County, Texas.
Can you tell the difference in projectile point types between the two prehistoric projectile points in Figure One? I did not think so, that is pretty tough to do. Technologically and typologically, these two projectile points are identical. The 2.3 inch long projectile point on the left was recovered from the ground surface on private land in Weld County, Colorado. Its prehistoric owner used a grayish-orange petrified wood to make this projectile point. The projectile point type for this point is Goshen.

The projectile point on the right in Figure One was surface rescued from private land in Deaf Smith County, Texas. Its prehistoric owner used Alibates Agatized Dolomite from the Panhandle of Texas to make this point. The projectile point type for this point is Plainview.

Hmm...Goshen and Plainview? Why do two seemingly identical projectile points carry different names?

During the summer of 1941, two young cousins, named Val Keene Whitacre and Bill Weaks, dug into a soft caliche embankment along Running Water Draw near Plainview, Texas. What the two boys discovered pushed back Plainview, Texas human history by about 10,000 years or so.

Whitacre was the boy that actually made the important discovery — he found a long, stone spear point with one end still embedded in thick, fossilized bone. When he picked up the bone and artifact, the bone crumbled apart.

In 1944, two geologists Glen L. Evans and Grayson E. Meade dug into that same caliche bank and found an incredible discovery — a bed of skeletons and partial skeletons for approximately 100 extinct bison. The two geologists also found stone projectile points, knives and scrapers associated with the bone bed.

Texas Memorial Museum and UT's Bureau of Economic Geology carried out further excavations at the site from June to October in 1945 and in November of 1949.
Figure Three - U.S. Goshen-Plainview projectile point distribution.

Although collectors had been finding similar projectile points of this distinctive type from Canada to Mexico (Figure Three), the discovery at Plainview, Texas marked the first time anyone had found this projectile point type in direct association with fossilized remains of extinct animals. Archaeologists named this point type, Plainview, and determined it was younger than another famous projectile point type at the time called Folsom. Eventually, archaeologists dated Plainview projectile points at around 10,000 years old.   

Figure Four - Montana's Mill Iron Site Goshen projectile points,
practically indistinguishable from Texas's Plainview projectile points,
but about one thousand years older.   

In mid-August of 1966, at the Hell Gap site in Goshen County, Wyoming, archaeologists were just about ready to terminate the investigation when they discovered a cultural zone below the already discovered Folsom cultural level. A sterile layer of dirt separated the two cultural zones. At first, archaeologists thought that the first complete projectile point in this new cultural zone was an atypical Folsom  projectile point and then they thought it might be a Clovis projectile point. Finally, principal archaeologist Henry Irwin noted the similarities between this new point and Plainview points found in Texas. However, there was a time dilemma. Plainview points in Texas were approximately one thousand years younger than Goshen points on the High Plains.   

Although the projectile point types from the Plainview and Hell Gap Sites were typologically and technologically the same, Plainview projectile points in Texas were younger than Folsom projectile points while at the Hell Gap Site, the Plainview-look alike projectile point was older than Folsom. Therefore, based on this "time discrepancy", Henry Irwin named a new projectile point type at Hell Gap called Goshen, after the county where the Hell Gap Site was located.  

This time gap between Goshen on the High Plains and Plainview in Texas was further confirmed in the 1980s at the Mill Iron Site in Montana (Figure Four).

Figure Five - CLICK TO ORDER

Monday, March 13, 2017

SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL - Fair to Midland

Figure One - Reconstruction of the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL scenario below,
although in the drawing above there are two caribou bulls not a bull and a cow elk. 
Two majestic elk, a young bull and a cow, walked out from behind the trees, heading straight at Chayton. The bull led the way while the cow followed behind. The elk held their heads high and sniffed at the air, smelling for any danger that would set them off running. The elk, upwind from Chayton, did not pick up his scent and kept walking towards him.

Chayton’s left throwing arm was cocked and ready to throw the first spear, but the bull was still walking straight at him. Chayton did not like his chances for a kill with this throw. The bull had no vital organs exposed to Chayton’s line of fire and unless Chayton threw perfectly
Figure Two -  CLICK for MORE information
and severed an artery, the elk would not go down. The last thing Chayton wanted to do was track a wounded elk in this rugged country.

Chayton needed the elk to turn and expose its side to his spear. Chayton thought about moving, but one sound and he would send the elk crashing through the trees in the opposite direction. The elk continued to walk straight towards Chayton. Any closer and they would pick up Chayton’s scent.

Chayton searched the ground with his right hand and found a small rock. While his left arm kept his spear ready to throw, he hurled the rock to his right where it ricocheted off a tree. The bull reared back and ran away from the sound, exposing the left side to Chayton's spear. Chayton hurled the spear and the sharp fluted spear point popped when it penetrated the bull’s rib cage. The bull continued to run to the left while Chayton readied another spear. The confused cow ran away from Chayton, crashing through the trees that led back up the bluff. Chayton grabbed the rest of his spears and followed the blood spoor left by the bull.

I took the above hunting scene from my prehistoric thriller book entitled SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL. A young hunter named Chayton from the Folsom People just stalked and harvested a bull elk. I imagine food was always on the minds of the Folsom People some 10,700 years ago. When Chayton's spear smashed into the rib cage of the bull elk, I imagine the fragile stone projectile point might have been damaged. 

Figure Three - 1.8 inch long Midland dart point, exhibiting
a damaged and repaired tip from an impact fracture.  
I love finding and doing autopsies on damaged prehistoric artifacts and coming up with what I believe was the artifact’s history. Please do not get me wrong, I love finding perfect prehistoric artifacts, but the damaged prehistoric artifacts probably have a much more interesting story to tell.
Readers can see both sides of a tip damaged Midland dart / spear point in Figures Three and Four, surface recovered in Texas and made around the same time that Chayton was harvesting his bull elk above, sometime around 10,700 years ago. In fact, perhaps, Chayton used this Midland point and ultimately lost it. ;).  

Midland projectile points were made flat and resembled Folsom points without the fluting. Collectors and archaeologists often find Midland points associated with Folsom points, leading some analysts to believe that Midland points were just unfluted Folsom points. There are some people, however, that believe that Midland artifacts deserve their own cultural designation. Midland projectile points fall within the age range of the Folsom Complex, at around 10,900 to 10,200 years old.   

Figure Four - Side B of Midland dart point,
showing other side of repaired tip.    
Ronny Walker surface rescued this 1.8 inch long Midland dart point in a cotton field in Lynn County, Texas. This root-beer colored, semi-translucent Midland point is very thin. The Paleoindian who made this projectile point ground and polished the edges right up to its new tip (see where angle changes). Paleoindians ground and polished the edges of their projectile point to ensure the razor sharp rock did not slice through and damage the animal sinew they used to bind the projectile point onto the spear or dart fore shaft.
Figure Five - Impact fracture and
repaired tip. Ripples radiate in
same direction as impact occurred.  

This Texas Midland dart point saw hunting action. A bone or a rock or something hard shattered the original tip and one edge, leaving a tiny amount of rock peeking out above the sinew hafting of the dart / spear. Although the Paleoindian hunter did not have much rock left to work with, he beveled a new tip on the broken projectile point along the shattering edges of the impact fracture. The salvaged tip would have been extremely short with just the tip above the sinew hafting.   

Before this artifact resided in my collection, it resided in the Ronny Walker, Tim Elkins, Ed Rowe, Ron Van Heukelom, and Rodney Michel Collections. Dwain Rogers, Bill Jackson, Rodney Michel, and I certified this projectile point as an authentic Midland dart point.  John Branney Collection.
Figure Six - Maker of this projectile point ground the edges
smooth so when hafted on a spear, the animal sinew would
not be cut by sharp rock. This entire edge was probably hafted.



Friday, March 3, 2017

SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL, Folsom and Clovis Prehistoric Cultures

Figure One - Wide range of High Plains Folsom Points from Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota.
Could you identify these projectile points as Folsom?  Longest point is 1.9 inches long. John Branney Collection.
My prehistoric adventure books entitled the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY took place 10,700 years ago in a land that someday we would call Texas and Colorado. The books are about a mysterious group of people called Folsom who actually lived on the Great Plains over ten thousand years ago. There is no archaeological evidence that the Folsom People had a written language. Therefore, their customs, processes, rituals, and folklore must have passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Folsom People was a uniquely fluted projectile point that is both beautiful and quite complex to make. One of the processes that the Folsom People had to pass on from generation to generation was the making of these fabulous fluted projectile points. Figure One shows a few examples from my collection of Folsom projectile points from the Great Plains. Even with the variability in shape, material, and quality of these projectile points, a person with a little knowledge could identify them as Folsom projectile points.

Figure Two - The finale and third book in the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY 
In the third book of the TRILOGY entitled WINDS OF EDEN, I wrote about how I thought the Folsom People and other prehistoric people might have passed along their flint knapping processes. In the passage below, taken from my book WINDS OF EDEN, an elder teaches a few children how to make these wonderful fluted projectile points. School is in session!     

Waste! – Good!” the old man proclaimed. “We will finish a spear point.”

Just then, two more boys walked up to the campfire and greeted the old man. They looked at the young boy sitting at the old man’s feet, but did not say a word.

“You are late!” the first young boy scolded the latecomers.

“Late?” the older boy named Hogan challenged. “He has not started his story, has he?”

Hee ya, – No, he is showing me how to flute spear points,” the young boy replied, “and I will not show you.”

Enila! – Be quiet!” Hogan replied. “That is the old way and I already know how!”

“Be kind, Hogan,” the old man said to his grandson.

The old man picked up a square of tatanka – bison hide. He placed it on top of his left thigh. He then picked up the flat rock and placed it on top of the bison hide. He then placed another square of bison hide over the top of the flat rock. The old man picked up an unfinished spear point and the antler punch. The three boys watched, never taking their eyes off the old man’s skilled hands. The old man then adjusted the flat rock so it was on the inside of his left thigh. He pushed the tip of the unfinished spear point against the flat rock and lined up the antler punch against the tiny knob on the base of the spear point. When the old man was satisfied with the positioning of the spear point, he placed the other end of the antler punch against his right thigh.

 Since the elder was teaching the children a very complex process, we would expect variation in the final projectile points the children made. Ten thousand years later, we might just find one of the children's projectile points and wonder why all Folsom points aren't of the same quality or don't look alike. In general, the Folsom projectile points in Figure One exhibit the flint knapping hallmarks from Folsom; 1). flutes, 2). thinness, and 3). micro retouch along the edges. Now, let me switch gears to another group of prehistoric people called Clovis.
Figure Three - The first book in the TRILOGY.

Ever since the discovery of the now famous Folsom, Clovis, and Plainview sites in the earlier part of the 20th Century, there has been an ongoing effort to identify and categorize different Paleoindian projectile points into specific projectile point types. Before the discovery of these sites, archaeologists and collectors lumped most Paleoindian projectile points into a broad category called Yuma, named after the town in Colorado where collectors were finding these artifacts.

One Paleoindian projectile point type that had a very broad geographic distribution is Clovis. Collectors and archaeologists have found Clovis-like points in forty eight states and Canada. Clovis projectile points are normally fluted, just like Folsom, but Clovis projectile points exhibit a lot more variation than Folsom, as far as dimensions, shape, and manufacturing processes.

There are several reasons that explain this variation within the Clovis projectile point type. Clovis People did not work from blueprint diagrams or have specifications when they knapped a fluted projectile point. Additionally, all prehistoric flint knappers were not created equal. The creation of Clovis projectile points came from people with different levels of skill, experience, and creativity, ranging from novice to expert. Thirdly, these Paleoindian flint knappers had to deal with a broad range of raw materials. Some raw material was just better for creating projectile points than other materials, this resulted in varying quality between one projectile points. The bottom line is that we should expect variability in quality, dimensions, and sizes in Clovis projectile points. 

No one can dispute the variability of Clovis-like fluted points across the different regions on the North American continent. This variation in Clovis-like fluted points across regions has led to many debates as to whether or not these Clovis-like variants of different sizes, shapes, time-periods, and manufacturing technologies can fit within the one and only Clovis projectile point type. Some analysts argue that these Clovis-like fluted point variants prove that they did not come from a single Clovis culture while others argue that these fluted point variants came from the same Clovis culture, but at a different time and/or place.

If these Clovis-like fluted projectile points came from the Clovis culture, one way to explain it is through a process called ‘drift’ where we see a changing of the standard through time within groups of people who share a same cultural ancestry. Drift can occur in any given culture and can happen for various reasons, including isolated populations, innovation, or evolving needs in a changing environment. As an example, when mammoths and mastodons became hard to find, Clovis people adapted their weaponry to new food sources, therefore, we would expect a change in the dimensions of the projectile points they used.   
Figure Four - Clovis - like regional variants from eastern U.S. (Haynes 2002) Were these made by the same
Clovis culture discovered in the west or different cultures who copied fluting technology?   

Figure Five - High Plains Clovis points demonstrating the wide range of variability. From left to right; New Mexico Clovis, Gainey variety; Nebraska Clovis, Colby variety, Montana Clovis, western variety; Colorado Clovis, Hazel Variety, Colorado Clovis, eastern variety; Colorado Clovis, Barnes Variety. Longest point is 3.8 inches long.
John Branney Collection.       

Figure Six - Clovis-like points from Nova Scotia, New York, and Main.
(Haynes 2002) Boy, they sure look like my Colorado Clovis
above (fifth point).   
Figure Five represents a few of my High Plains Clovis points in my collection. You can see that there is quite a bit of variation between the different Clovis projectile points. In my caption for Figure Five, I have identified the regional variants that my points most resemble. For example, the first point in my photograph is a Clovis projectile point that was surface found in New Mexico, yet it resembles a Gainey projectile point from the Great Lakes region (Figure Four). Figure Six shows some fluted projectile points from the east coast, yet, these are not called Clovis. Yet, they look an awful lot like my Colorado Clovis point in Figure Five (fifth from left).     

Bottom line is that there are a variety of reasons that a single point type such as Clovis shows  variation between different projectile points. This does not mean that these regional variants are not Clovis projectile points represented by a Clovis culture.  

Now, I am going to say goodbye for now with this food for thought. Let's return to WINDS OF EDEN to see what happened between the elder and the children. School is back in session.      

The old man motioned for his two young grandchildren to sit down in front of him, close enough to see, but far enough away to avoid flying pieces of sharp rock. The old man readjusted the flat rock with the tip of the spear point. He then carefully positioned the groove in the antler punch with the tiny knob at the base of the spear point. When everything was to his liking, the old man picked up the heavy antler hammer and took a couple of practice swings in the air. The old man then held the antler hammer above the antler punch and swung down with enough force to transfer energy from the antler punch through the rock. The rock popped loudly and when the old man lifted up the spear point for the children to see, a flute or groove ran longitudinally up the entire length of the spear point. The children laughed as if it they had just witnessed great magic. Their eyes were as big as the moon as they looked around at each other. The old man gazed around at the children, smiling. The old man was proud of the flute in the spear point and relieved that he could still do it. However, what made him the happiest was passing down the fluting tradition to the next generation of the tribe.
Figure SevenGHOSTS OF THE HEART, the third book in the TRILOGY.