Thursday, May 26, 2016

SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL and the Oligocene

Madd Maxx always ready for an adventure. 
I am sorry it has been so long since my last new blog posting. No excuse, but I have been busy with everything going on in my life. I am volunteering at the fire department and also trying to publish my seventh book, writing my eighth book, and we just got a new puppy. The new puppy may be the most stressful.

Oligocene aged White River Formation in the middle of the frame.
This sandstone was deposited as a meandering river millions of years ago.
However, Madd Maxx and I had a little adventure this week and made it out to my Shadows on the Trail prehistoric campsite this week. You know, the site where I found the prehistoric artifact that was the inspiration for the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy. What? You have not read the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy?  Why not?
Click to Order Shadows on the Trail

Madd Maxx and I did not find many artifacts on our little adventure, but we had a good time, nevertheless. However, we did find some fossils in the White River Formation. You might be asking what is the White River Formation?
Crossbedding in the sandstone rock of the White River Formation.
Crossbeds indicative of meandering or braided stream system.

The White River Formation is the oldest geologic formation on the ground at the Shadows on the Trail prehistoric campsite. Rivers, lakes, and wind laid down the White River Formation in the Oligocene geologic period, sometime between thirty eight million to twenty five million years ago. During the Oligocene period on the High Plains, the climate was drier and cooler than the previous geologic period, the Eocene. Oak, beach, maple, and ash trees replaced subtropical plants. Volcanoes continued to be active laying down volcanic ash across the
The animals of the High Plains Oligocene.
high plains. Rhinoceros, camels, large pig-like titanotheres, sheep-like oreodonts, and tortoises replaced extinct fauna from the previous geologic period. Modern mammal families began appearing with various cats, dogs, weasels, raccoons, beavers, pocket mice, and jumping mice. The forests around rivers and lakes supported three-toed horses (Mesohippus), tapirs, insectivores, and rodents.

As the Oligocene period continued, the first sabre-tooth cats appeared and artiodactyls dominated. Only a single family of primates existed, but it would still be millions of years before humans appeared. As the Oligocene continued to heat up, warmer climate species appeared. Investigators have found the fossils remains of a crocodilian specimen as far north as South Dakota.

Another day, another adventure. See you next time. Hopefully, in the not so distant future!  
Fossil from a mammal of the Oligocene.

Thursday, March 31, 2016


Figure Two. Small grouping of Lovell or Fishtail knife forms and projectile
points surface found on private land in Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana.
John Branney Collection.

The seed for my prehistoric adventure trilogy called SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL sprouted on an early summer morning in 2010 on a northern Colorado ranch when I found a ten thousand year old stone tool made from a red and gray striped rock from a prehistoric rock quarry in Texas. As I stared down at this prehistoric tool made by one of the First Americans, several questions raced through my mind. How did this stone tool end up in a prehistoric campsite in northern Colorado, five hundred miles to the north of the prehistoric rock quarry? Who made it? What was he or she like? What happened on its journey from Texas to northern Colorado? Since it was impossible for me to ask the prehistoric person who made the stone tool, I wrote my own version of the Folsom People and their ten thousand seven hundred year old journey. For more about that journey, you're just going to have to read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY.      

Who came after the Folsom People and the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY? Below, is the story about one group of people who followed.     

During the late 1960s, the Mummy Cave archaeological site along the North Fork of the Shoshone River in northwest Wyoming yielded a stratified, radiocarbon-dated Late Paleoindian sequence from 9,200 to 8,000 years old (BP). However, none of the projectile point types found at the Mummy Cave archaeological site resembled the projectile points from the same age of strata at the Horner Site (Cody Complex assemblage) on the plains of the Big Horn Basin.

Figure One. 1.5 inch long Lovell or Fishtail dart point from
northern Colorado. John Branney Collection.


Based on these projectile point type differences between Mummy Cave and the Horner Site, the investigators concluded that there were two separate Paleoindian cultures living concurrently in two separate environments. While prehistoric occupants at the Horner Site preferred sites on the open plains, the prehistoric occupants at the Mummy Cave Site  preferred rock shelters and caves in the foothills and mountains.  

Prior to the Mummy Cave archaeological investigation, an archaeologist named Husted had already named two of the projectile point types that were later found at Mummy Cave. Archaeologist Husted named the Lovell Constricted and Pryor Stemmed projectile point types for projectile point examples his team found in caves and rockshelters in the Big Horn Canyon of Montana and Wyoming. 

At both Sorenson Rockshelter and Bottleneck Cave in the Big Horn Canyon, archaeologist Husted found Lovell Constricted or Fishtail projectile points stratigraphically below Pryor Stemmed projectile points. The stratigraphic layers that contained Lovell points yielded a radiocarbon date of 8,000 years old (BP) or slightly older.

Husted described Lovell or Fishtail points as medium to large lanceolate points with concave bases and a definite constriction on the lateral edges just above the distal end. Flaking ranged from fine parallel oblique to random. Edge grinding was present on the stems of the points.          

Figure Three. 1.3 inch long Lovell or Fishtail dart point
fond in central  Colorado in early 1900s by Louis Brunke.
John Branney Collection.   
Those of you who know High Plains projectile point typology, might say after studying the photographs, “Hey, those look like Duncan or Hanna projectile points from the McKean Complex”, and I am not going to argue with you. Lovell projectile points do resemble McKean Complex projectile points. My rule of thumb? If the projectile point in question has parallel oblique flaking and edge grinding, it is most likely a Lovell or Fishtail. When the flaking on the projectile point is random, identification becomes trickier.

In the case of random flaking, the big difference becomes edge grinding. I have never found a seen a Duncan or Hanna projectile point from a known McKean Complex site that has edge grinding. In general, Lovell or Fishtail projectile points tend to be made with more care than McKean projectile points.

Read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY and learn about the Foothill-Mountain Complex's ancestors.



Friday, February 19, 2016

G is for Goshen-Plainview, W is for WINDS OF EDEN

Figure One. 4.7 inch long Plainview spear / knife form from the Goshen - Plainview Complex. It was a surface find from Yuma County, Colorado in the 1930s. The Goshen - Plainview Complex ran from approximately
11,000 to 8,000 years old. Ex. Perry Anderson and Virgil Russell. John Branney Collection.

G is for Goshen-Plainview Complex. A 4.7 inch long Plainview spear / knife form from the Goshen - Plainview Complex. The material for this point is a tan orthoquartzite material from the Cloverly geologic formation in Wyoming. It was a surface find in Yuma County, Colorado. John Branney Collection.

Many experts believe that Goshen and Plainview projectile points are typologically and technologically the same points. However, the large time gap between the use of Goshen points on    
Figure Three. The third book in the Trilogy,
the northern plains (11,000 years ago) and the later use of Plainview points on the southern plains (10,000 years ago) has not been adequately explained. If the time gap was due to the dispersion of Goshen projectile point technology from the north to the south, why did it take approximately one thousand years to travel several hundred miles from the northern plains to the southern plains? Why have we not seen a similar time gap from north to south with Clovis and Folsom?

If you have read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL Trilogy you know that the book series is about the Folsom People, who overlapped in time and space with the Goshen People on the northern plains. Clovis People preceded the Folsom People, but may have had some time and space overlap with Goshen People.

Although there has been considerable progress made in better understanding point type chronology and stratigraphic relationships between Clovis, Folsom, and Goshen, we still lack the evidence of the cultural or social relationships between these three groups. There are many examples of archaeological sites where the prehistoric inhabitants used a single projectile point type, providing evidence that projectile point type was one basis for defining a specific social group. When investigators find two or three projectile point types at the same site with similar or overlapping radiocarbon dates, it creates questions. Did the same social group use different projectile point type technology at the same site or did different social groups use the same site at similar time frames? We may never know the answer.
Figure Three. 3,000 years of High Plains projectile point evolution. From left to right Clovis, Goshen,
Folsom, and Midland. Ages range from approximately 13,000 years old to 10,000 years old. 
For scale, the Clovis on the left is 2.2 inches long. John Branney Collection.
Surface artifact hunters are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to identifying Plainview and Goshen artifacts. Without knowing the archaeological or stratigraphic context of the artifact, it is very possible to misidentify the point type. There are numerous point type examples of lanceolate shaped points with concave bases, edge grinding, and basal thinning or fluting. These point types spanned a timeframe of over 3,000 years on the High Plains (Frison 1991: 24f). Clovis and Folsom are readily identifiable from Goshen and Plainview, but types such as Allen and Midland are not.

If you can't get out in the field to look for artifacts and revisit our prehistory, do the next best thing - read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL Trilogy and get your prehistoric fix, quickly and effectively. Available at Amazon,com.

Figure Four. The first book in the Trilogy, SHADOWS ON

Monday, February 15, 2016


Figure One. Side A of a 2.8 inch long Hekifinowatitis prehistoric knife form found
in 1905 in Natrona County, Wyoming by George Cobban. John Branney Collection.  
I wonder what Paleoindians would think about us 'modern people' spending so much time discussing, describing, identifying, naming, and classifying their prehistoric tools, specifically stone projectile points? In my opinion, we have gone way overboard trying to classify and cubby hole each and every projectile point into a specific projectile point type. And when we can not cubby hole a particular projectile point into an existing type, someone attempts to create a new projectile point type. But, what if that prehistoric flintknapper who created that oddball projectile point was just having a bad flint knapping day? Or maybe just decided to create something different for a change? Or maybe, just maybe, he or she was just not as skilled as the other flintknappers in his or her culture. Besides, the main purpose for the projectile point was dispatching an animal and there is a wide variation in projectile point types that have proven to do the trick! 
Figure Two. WINDS OF EDEN, the third book in the SHADOWS

As a prehistoric artifact hunter, I have to admit I am probably the worst offender at wanting each projectile point identified, categorized, and cataloged properly. However, after finding and collecting thousands of projectile points, I have found that it is not so easy to categorized every projectile point. 

Below in blue is a brief outtake from my prehistoric novel entitled WINDS OF EDEN where an elder is teaching children the art of flintknapping on one of the most difficult projectile points to create and duplicate, a Folsom point. We wonder why there is variation in projectile point types, this is one reason why.            


The old man woke up from his nap when the sun was starting its descent in the sky. He reached over and picked up his satchel. He pulled out a large red and gray striped rock and sat staring at it. He rubbed the rock between his thumb and forefinger while thinking about everything that had happened to him since he had carried the rock from the canyon. Much had happened in his life since then, some of it good and some of it bad. When the old man finished reminiscing, he gently placed the red and gray striped rock back into the satchel. Then, with satchel in hand, the old man stood up and left his tipi. When he was outside the tipi, he had to shield his aged eyes from the bright sun. He slowly edged his way to a flat boulder next to his campfire where he sat down. Then, he pulled five unfinished spear points from the satchel. He laid the unfinished spear points down on the boulder next to him and then dug through the satchel, pulling out a cylinder–shaped punch made from an antler, a large antler hammer, small squares of bison hide, and a sharp deer antler tine. He placed these items next to the five unfinished spear points. He leaned over and picked up a flat rock at the base of the boulder. He set the flat rock down next to his other supplies. When the old man looked up, a young boy was running like the wind towards him.


Haw! – Hello!” the old man said to the young boy when he arrived at the



Haw!” the boy replied, somewhat out of breath. “I want to watch you.”


Waste! – Good!” the old man declared with a grin.


The young boy sat down as close to the old man as possible without actually sitting on the old man’s lap. The old man picked up the first spear point and handed it to the young boy.


He t├íku hwo? – What is it?” the old man asked.


The boy studied the piece of chert, his face frozen in a frown as he concentrated on the old man’s question. The young boy flipped the rock over in his hands, studying every surface. His eyes narrowed as he scrutinized the base of the spear point. Between the two sharp ears at the corners of the base of the spear point, the young boy spotted a tiny knob of chert, jutting out at the middle of the base.
Figure Three. Click to Order.  


What could we expect to see after the children are through? Some of their projectile points may look like Folsom points and some of them may not. If we found these children's points ten thousand years later, we might say they were Folsom points or we might try to define them as other projectile point types or we might say they were a new type. 

In my prehistoric artifact collection, I have many artifacts that are not easily classified, so I decided to create a new type called Hekifinowatitis. Figures one and four are photographs of a Hekifinowatitis knife form found in the year 1905 south of Casper, Wyoming by a man named George Cobban. This is not the first artifact I have run across from Mr. Cobban's early collection. He seemed to be an active artifact hunter on the high plains in the early 1900s.

This Hekifinowatitis knife form measures 71 mm long (2.8 inches long), 37.5 mm wide, and 6 mm thick for a width to thickness ratio of 6.3, falling below the arbitrary ratio of 7 or greater for ultrathin knife forms. This artifact’s flintknapper used uncommon Hartville Uplift pretty-in-pink dendritic jasper.

Figure Four. Side B of the Hekifinowatitis knife form found in 1905
in Natrona County, Wyoming. John Branney Collection.  

Some people have claimed that this knife form came from the Allen prehistoric culture, after the artifacts found at the Allen site, south of Laramie, Wyoming, but I am gonna stick to the Hek-if-i-no-wat-it-is type. For me, this is the most appropriate call. The knife form exhibits phenomenal workmanship and fine marginal retouch. The flaking patterns exhibit Paleoindian influences. If I had to guess, which I am doing, I would say that a Paleoindian made this sometime between eleven and eight thousand years ago.

Monday, February 1, 2016

G is for GHOSTS OF THE HEART and C is for Cody Complex!

CLICK ON THIS LINK to find this book
The [bison] cows crowded the bull, the smell of water luring them into the arroyo. The bull stood his ground, pawing the ground and bellowing. The cows shoved the bull, attempting to push him up the arroyo, but he held his ground. Then, one by one, the cows went around the bull, passing through to the inside of the wooden fence.


Chayton knelt with Hoka on top of the hill, patiently waiting for the last of the cows and calves to enter the arroyo. When the last of the tatanka [bison] entered the arroyo, he signaled a hunter on another hillside. Chayton had wanted the tatanka bull in the trap, but it was not going to happen. The hunters would just leave him alone. There was too much risk attacking the bull on the open prairie. The hunt would be more than successful with the cows and the calves. Chayton would let the last of the herd get to the wakon ya [natural water spring] and start drinking before he signaled the attack.


WANA! – NOW!” Chayton bellowed and the hunters sprung the trap. A hunter signaled Tah and Wiyaka who lit their torches and then raced to the arroyo with the other hunters. The hunters arrived at the wooden fence and dropped more dead wood in the gap between the two sides of the arroyo. The hunters then picked up a large log that was lying behind the fence and set it down across the top of the fence. They had sealed the herd into the arroyo, but it would take fire to hold the herd. Tah looked up and saw that the tatanka [bison] bull had already taken off running, abandoning his herd. Tah and Wiyaka threw the torches on the wooden fence and it erupted into flames. Smoke rose as the flames burned into the green sagebrush, creating a huge smoke screen. The smoke signaled Chayton and the other hunters to attack. Carrying large bundles of spears, the hunters ran up to both sides of the arroyo and began heaving spears at the unwary herd. The herd milled around the wakon ya [natural water spring], confused by the spears and the smoke.


A rain of spears fell on the herd from three sides of the arroyo…

I took the above passage from my adventure book entitled GHOSTS OF THE HEART, the second book in my prehistoric saga entitled the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL Trilogy, which is about a tribe of Paleoindian hunters-gatherers from what is now called the Folsom Complex. My trilogy series took place in Texas and Wyoming around 10,700 years ago.

However, this particular blog posting, G is for GHOSTS OF THE HEART, C is for Cody Complex is about another group of real-life Paleoindian hunters-gatherers who lived a thousand years or so after the Folsom People in GHOSTS OF THE HEART. However, over that one thousand years or so, the lifestyle from the Folsom People to Cody Complex People did not change much. They still were nomadic hunters and gatherers whose food economy was based on bison procurement. Perhaps, over that thousand years, there was some refinement in the ways and means of bison procurement, but both the Folsom and Cody Complex cultures were very efficient at it. 

Here is more about the Cody Complex.     
Add caption

The prehistoric artifacts in the photograph represent a prehistoric culture called the Cody Complex. From left to right; a Wyoming Alberta knife form (2.5 inches long), a Wyoming Cody knife, a Colorado Scottsbluff dart point, a Wyoming Eden dart point, a Colorado Firstview dart point, and a western Nebraska Holland (?) dart point. Although Holland projectile points carry several Cody Complex characteristics, many researchers believe that Holland projectile points are actually derivatives from the Dalton prehistoric culture. Now, just a taste about the Cody Complex.            

Jepsen (1951) first coined the word Cody Complex to describe the co-occurrence of Scottsbluff and Eden points at the Horner site in northwest Wyoming. A complex is a group of related traits or characteristics that combine to form a complete activity, process, or cultural unit. The presence of several key implements or tool types in association defines a lithic complex.

Marie Wormington (1957) expanded the Cody Complex to include the co-occurrence of Eden, Scottsbluff, and Cody Knives. Originally, many researchers believed that the Alberta point type preceded the Cody Complex, but radiocarbon dates have shown some time overlap between Alberta and the other Cody Complex artifact types.

Cody Complex people were late Pleistocene / early Holocene hunter-gatherers who placed an emphasis on bison hunting. These people existed between two major environmental phenomenon; the Younger Dryas from 13,000 to 11,500 B.P. and the Altithermal from 7,000 to 4,500 B.P.

The Cody Complex was one of the longest North American Paleoindian traditions, lasting approximately 2,800 calendar years. The Cody Complex’s geographic expanse is second only to the Clovis prehistoric culture. The geographic range for the Cody Complex went from the Great Basin on the west to the St. Lawrence River on the east and from the Canadian plains on the north to the Texas gulf coast on the south. 
All artifacts reside in the John Branney Collection.   

SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL, where it all began! CLICK!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

B is for Burin and S is for Shadows on the Trail, Of Course!

Figure one. Scottsbluff knife form from Wilson County, Texas. The most
interesting feature on this 8,500 year old beauty is its burinated tip. 
A burin was a specialized, chisel-like stone tool created by driving a flake or flakes off the edge of another flake, biface, or blade to produce a ninety-degree edge for working hard substances such as ivory, antler, and bone. The sharp corners created by the burin were so useful that prehistoric knappers deliberately made them. The removed edge fragment is called a burin spall. 
Figure two. Burin tip of the Scottsbluff knife form
pictured in Figure one. Note the stop notch below burin.
This stop notch was to ensure burin did not travel further
down the edge of the knife.

Figure one is a 3.7 inch long Scottsbluff knife form, made from Edward's chert and found on private land in Wilson County, Texas. This artifact is Early Archaic with an approximate age of 8,500 years. The knife form has had two or three resharpenings that have reduced its overall length, but the most interesting feature of this Scottsbluff knife form is its tip. The tip of the knife form at some time was pressure flaked into a burin tip (an engraver) and was retipped two times. 

Most burins and burin spalls were unspectacular. Most people do not even recognize them. Caution is needed in identifying the difference between an impact fracture and a burin. Burination strengthened the tip of this Scottsbluff point exponentially, keeping the edge from failing as it would ultimately do if left sharp.

Figure three. My heart was pumping!
Burination is the flintknapping process where a small, relatively thick flake is removed from a flake, blade or biface using a snapped termination or previous burination scar as the knapping platform.  Burination can also be used to remove a sharp edge for safe handholding of a knife form. Burination was extremely common in the “Old World” Paleolithic of Europe, Siberia, and Beringia. Paleoindians in North America also made and used burins. For some reason, Clovis People only used burination in rare instances, but it became more popular in Folsom and Cody Complex times. Most of my burin tools came from my Folsom and Cody Complex sites.  

Figure four. DRAT! The tip was missing!
I might as well stick with Cody Complex artifacts for another example, even though my prehistoric adventure book series the SHADOW ON THE TRAIL Trilogy took place at least one thousand years before the Cody Complex. On 23 August 2008 I was artifact hunting on the same ranch in northern Colorado that inspired the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL Trilogy. That day, in the sand of a dry stream I saw the artifact in the photo in Figure three. I remember my heart was beating out of my chest. It was obvious what I had found. The square base and the flaking pattern were distinctively Scottsbluff, one of the rare projectile point types from the Cody Complex. After a pretty long photo session, I decided to pull the Scottsbluff point from its sandy grave. When I  dug the Scottsbluff point out of the sand, my heart sunk when I saw the tip was missing. "DRAT!" I yelled when I saw the artifact in Figure four. Broken, I thought. My first impression was that this 2.8 inch Scottsbluff ended its life with an impact fracture, but after taking the point home and studying it, I realized that the approximate 9,000 year old human that made this Scottsbluff point had intentionally created a double burin and used the point for scraping wood or hides.  

Figures five and six
What I think happened was that this projectile point suffered an impact fracture on a hunt or something similar. Maybe the point hit a bison bone and shattered the tip or perhaps it collided with the ground on an errant throw. What I do know is that the Cody Complex hunter than refurbished the broken point. He removed a burin spall on both edges near the impact fracture (Figures five and six). Then the innovative hunter knapped a chisel-like edge on the tip of the impact fracture. He used this Scottsbluff point as both knife and a chisel for use on bone, wood, and hides.

How do I know it was used for this purpose? Elementary, my dear Watson. The tip is well polished from use (actually a different color and texture) and the flaking pattern is different than the rest of the point. The Cody Complex hunter may have re-tipped the burin tip several times before he lost it and I found it 9000 years later.     

Burins found in Paleoindian contexts seldom demonstrate use wear on the edge formed by the burin spall in front of the striking platform. Instead, use wear was on the edge adjacent to the striking platform or point. In the case of this last Scottsbluff point, use wear was on the tip.

So, there we are, a couple of examples of burins on Cody Complex knife forms. You will have to read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL Trilogy to see if the Folsom People made burins. All the information needed to order your copy is below. Don't miss the adventure!    

Click to Order

Saturday, January 9, 2016

V is for Pleistocene Violence and S is for SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL!


What was the Pleistocene like for humans around 10,700 years ago? In the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL I wrote about what I thought life was like for a particular tribe of Paleoindians called the Folsom People. I believe prehistoric humans not only had to deal with the large and fierce predator animals of the Pleistocene, but also predatory humans, as well. You might disagree with my last point, but the evidence from some of the prehistoric skeletons found would indicate that it was not one big happy human family in Prehistoric America. You might also have the opinion that there were so few humans around ten thousand years ago, that the chances of different tribes coming together was slim and when they did meet, why would they be hostile, there were enough resources for everyone!  
2000 B.C. Cain and Able were a different time
and place than SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL,
but human nature was the same.

My belief is that violence and coveting thy neighbor's belongings is inherent in humans' nature and always has been, even at the dawn of human time. Below is a passage from SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL, in which a tribe of humans called the Mountain People want what another tribe has and the Mountain People will resort to violence to obtain it. I hope you enjoy. 
To'sarre watched Ei Hanit disappear over the hill and then led the other two warriors back up to the boulder on the hill so that they could watch the village. The people in the village kept up their festivities at the campfires until the moon was high in the sky and then one after another they retired to their tipis for sleep. The last person went to sleep in early morning, leaving just two sentries sitting at a campfire. To'sarre pushed away from the boulder and walked quietly towards the warriors’ camp. As he walked, he blew hard into his hands trying to warm them up. It was a cold summer night and not a good night to be without a campfire. To'sarre found Ei Hanit asleep, lying against the base of a large boulder. To'sarre reached out with his left hand, touching the shoulder of Ei Hanit. All of a sudden, To'sarre’s forearm felt excruciating pain when Ei Hanit’s right arm flew up from his lap, driving To'sarre’s arm up into the air. Then as quick as a rattlesnake, Ei Hanit’s left hand gripped To'sarre’s throat and pulled him close to his face.

“What do you want?” Ei Hanit hissed.

“It is almost dawn and the people in the village will be moving about,” To'sarre replied, struggling to speak through his constricted windpipe.

“Gather the warriors on the hill,” Ei Hanit said, shoving To'sarre away.

On the hill, Ei Hanit and To'sarre looked down on the village. The village was completely dark, except for the flames coming from one campfire.

“Two sentries at that campfire,” To'sarre said. “No wolf dogs to warn them.”

“Send our two best warriors to kill the sentries, quietly,” Ei Hanit ordered. “Then attack from this side of the village. The river will prevent them from escaping to the north. Go tipi by tipi and kill everyone except women and children. They can carry our plunder and be our slaves.”

“What about the old?” To'sarre asked.

“Kill them all,” Ei Hanit replied.

To'sarre nodded to Ei Hanit and turned to leave. Ei Hanit grabbed him by the arm and demanded, “Kill them quietly!”

To'sarre crept down the backside of the hill. To'sarre understood why the Mountain People needed food and supplies from other villages, but he could not understand killing people for the sake of killing. However, To'sarre knew better than to ignore Ei Hanit’s orders, otherwise, Ei Hanit would have him and his family killed.

You are going to have to read SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL to find out what happens next, but I can guar-an-tee you that what happens will both surprise and shock you. 

Once you have read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL, then you can read the rest of the trilogy and JOIN THE ADVENTURE!  



Saturday, December 12, 2015

Knapping with Chayton and the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL!

FIGURE ONE. A perfect 2.2 inch long Folsom projectile point found by
Lee Pinello Jr. on November 10, 1968 on a family farm in northern Colorado.
Note the flute or channel running up the middle of the point.    

My prehistoric adventure series entitled the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY took place around 10,700 years ago in what we now call Texas and Colorado. The SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY is about the challenging existence of a group of Paleoindian hunters and gatherers called the Folsom People. What makes the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY somewhat different from other fictional accounts is that the Folsom People actually existed in North America’s prehistoric past. How do we know the Folsom People existed? Easy, they left behind a very distinct calling card, a culturally diagnostic stone projectile point we now classify as a Folsom point type.
Click to read about SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL  

Folsom points (Figure one) are thin, small to medium size, well-made projectile points with convex sides, a concave basal edge, sharp basal corners and ground stem edges. What makes Folsom projectile points distinctive from other prehistoric stone projectile point types? Besides the remarkable workmanship, the other most distinctive characteristic of Folsom projectile points are the flutes or channels that start at the base of the projectile point and run up through the length of the entire projectile point. The knapping skill required to create flutes on a Folsom projectile point is without equal in America’s prehistory. Even modern day knapping experts are challenged in making replica Folsom projectile points using the same tools and materials that were available to Folsom People in the Pleistocene.

When the Folsom People created these thin, fluted, projectile points, they not only created an important component in their weaponry, but they also created works of art. Folsom projectile points are arguably the finest projectile points ever made in North America. No one has yet confirmed the exact manufacturing process that Folsom People used to make these fluted projectile points. This is not to say that people do not have their pet theories, they do. In fact, you can add me to that list of pet theories on how Folsom People made their projectile points.

In the first book of my TRILOGY entitled SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL, I wrote about the manufacturing process I thought the Folsom People used to make these fluted projectile points. Since there has never been any confirmation that the Folsom People had any written language, we have to assume that they passed along their way of life from generation to generation via word of mouth and hands-on experience. The scene below in blue is from SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL. In this
FIGURE THREE. A Colorado found Folsom that
exhibits the three attributes of Folsom projectile points;
1). thinness, 2). fine marginal retouch, and 3). flutes.   
particular scene, a young hunter of the Folsom People named Chayton was learning the knapping process for fluting projectile points from a wise old tribal healer named Tarca Sapa
who also happened to be the grandfather of Tonkala, the young woman Chayton loved. Love was the same in the Pleistocene as it is today! Here is what happened in the scene.

The sun rose for the first time since the decision to leave the canyon. Chayton picked up his ten spear points made from inyan wakan [Lakota Sioux words for 'sacred rocks'] and walked across the village. Chayton could see Tarca Sapa’s long white hair from half way across the village. When Chayton arrived, Tarca Sapa was busy grinding a plant into powder against a grinding stone. Tonkala, Tarca Sapa’s granddaughter, sat close to him grinding up dried chokecherries that she had gathered. She looked up at Chayton with her large green eyes and Chayton’s heart began pounding in his chest. She smiled at him and then quickly glanced down at her grinding stone. Chayton smiled and then turned to her grandfather.

Lay he hun nee key lee la waste!-Good morning!” Chayton said.

Leela ampaytu keen waste,-Today is a good day,” Tarca Sapa answered.

“I have spear points for our journey, but I need you to help me flute them,” Chayton requested.

“I have shown you how to flute before. Why have you not learned what I have taught you?”

“I do not want to ruin these spear points since we leave the canyon tomorrow.”

“Do you think I have nothing better to do than to teach you something I have already taught you?” Tarca Sapa queried. “I will watch you flute only one. The rest you must do yourself.”

Chayton had expected this reaction from Tarca Sapa. It was the old man’s way. Tarca Sapa always complained, but always found the time to ensure Chayton learned properly. Chayton handed Tarca Sapa the spear points, one at a time. Each spear point was approximately the length of a finger and wider than a thumb. The tip of each spear point was slightly rounded, but still dangerously sharp while the base of the spear point, where the spear point attached to a wooden shaft, had two sharp ears. In the middle of the spear point’s base, between the two ears, Chayton had knapped a small square platform. When hit with an antler hammer precisely in the right place, the rock would crack and a long thin flake would detach from the middle of the spear point. A flute channel would remain where the long thin flake detached. How well this square platform was constructed and then struck with the antler hammer meant the difference between a good spear point and a broken spear point.
The platform was where Tarca Sapa focused his eyes. Tarca Sapa looked at each spear point carefully and put each inspected spear point in one of two piles. Once his inspection was over, Tarca Sapa touched the pile with seven spear points and said, “These points are good, the others need work. Now, let me see you drive a flute channel into the spear point.”

With his hands shaking, Chayton opened up his leather pouch and pulled out two thick pads made from buffalo hide and two elk antler hammers. He sat down on a nearby rock and covered his legs with the thick pads. He placed a spear point, tip down, along the inside of his left thigh and then placed an elk antler hammer horizontally on top of the platform at the base of the projectile point. He braced the other end of the elk antler hammer against the inside of his right thigh. When Chayton had the hammer precisely lined up with the small square platform, he took the second elk antler hammer in his right hand and swung down hard on top of the first elk hammer. Nothing happened.

Flustered, Chayton looked over at Tonkala hoping that she was not watching. Chayton then looked at Tarca Sapa hoping for some words of encouragement, but Tarca Sapa only stared straight ahead at the spear point still resting in Chayton’s lap. Chayton nervously lined up the spear point, this time swinging the hammer even harder, striking the spear point with much more force. A solid cracking sound came from the spear point and Chayton looked down and saw the long thin flake that had detached from the spear point. To Chayton’s delight, the spear point had a beautiful flute channel running its entire length.

"It looks like you don’t need me after all.” Tarca Sapa said with a smile. “Take the rest of the spear points and finish them.”

FIGURE FOUR. Unfinished Folsom
projectile point or "preform".
FIGURE FIVE. Striking platform to
create flute on projectile point.
FIGURE SIX. Rounded and beveled tip
of projectile point.

      The spear points that Chayton took to Tarca Sapa for fluting were not finished and looked somewhat like the unfinished Folsom projectile point in Figure four, a photograph of a Folsom preform projectile point certified by archaeological consultant Gregory Perino* and in my personal collection. An unknown finder found this particular Folsom preform projectile point in Mecosta County, Michigan. The material is Norwood Chert. This particular preform was almost ready for fluting. This particular prehistoric knapper had pressure flaked both faces of the preform leaving closely spaced flakes terminating near the middle of the preform or what would soon be a projectile point. The preform tip or distal end of the projectile point was rounded, beveled and had light abrasion and grinding done to it (Figure six). This aided in the fluting process.  ight abrasion and grinding on the tip. Isolation of the central portion of the preform base or proximal end took place, leaving a platform nipple in the center of the base. Two pressure flakes were removed from either side of the platform nipple to allow the maker's antler punch to follow the channel flake easier. The platform nipple was beveled, ground, and polished. It was ready for Side A to be fluted. Age somewhere between 10900 and 10200 years ago. Finder unknown. Perino certification. Ex John Baldwin and Ron Van Heukelom Collections. John Branney Collection.

FIGURE SEVEN. Expert knapper Bob
Patten's pet theory of the way Folsom
People fluted their projectile points.
From Mr. Patten's book
Old Tools - New Ways..   

* One or two knowledgeable people have called
this preform a Barnes Clovis, an older and
possible ancestoral point  to Folsom. They called
it a Barnes Clovis based on provenance. It
is impossible to determine whether this
point is Folsom or Barnes, I will go with
Greg Perino's opinion. 

For fluting to be successful, the prehistoric knapper needed to isolate a striking platform in the center portion of the projectile point base or proximal end. The prehistoric knapper accomplished this by creating a small nipple or striking platform in the center of the preform base (Figure five). Then, the prehistoric knapper removed two pressure flakes from either side of the striking platform so that the maker’s antler punch could reach the striking platform without interference (review Figure four). The prehistoric knapper then beveled, ground, and polished the striking platform or nipple, stabilizing it for knapping.


This preform would have made Tarca Sapa very happy! Read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL for the rest of the story.