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 and School in Session

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.


Monday, January 23, 2017

SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL and the Clovis Ovate Biface

Figure One - Obsidian ovate biface probably made by
Paleoindians, most likely from the Clovis Complex.
Found on private land in Oregon in the 1960s. 
One of the most controversial topics in today's world is climate change, but changing climates have been around literally forever. You just have to review Planet Earth's geologic past and fossil record to find example after example of climate change. Climate change has been the rule, not the exception, in our Earth's history.  

One of my main themes in the book SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL was the climate change that took place over ten thousand years ago at the tail end of the last Ice Age. A changing climate forced my main characters, the Folsom People, to abandon the canyon where they had lived for close to a generation. SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL was about the Folsom People's journey to a place called the North Country. It was their intent to escape rising temperatures, starvation, and intolerable drought conditions. 


Figure Two - 4.1 inch long discoidal biface made from
Texas Alibates Chert and found in Northern Colorado.
Of Paleoindian origin, mostly likely Folsom Complex.   
Below is an excerpt from my book SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL. In this passage, our hero Chayton is preparing to leave the canyon with his tribe, some 10,700 years ago. Since Chayton and the Folsom People really did not know what to expect on the journey, he visited a prehistoric quarry to find raw material for making stone tools during the journey. Chayton could not be sure if they would find good raw material on the journey so being prudent, he decided to carry some of his own raw material.           


As one of the young men of the tribe, the elders selected Chayton to be one of the three forward scouts on the journey. He began his preparation by going to the rock quarries and digging for the sacred red and white rock for making his weapons and tools. He could not rely on finding rock on the journey and the inyan wakan, the word the tribe used for the sacred rock, was plentiful in the canyon. He walked deep into the canyon and found a pile of rubble where other humans had dug a huge hole in search of inyan wakan. Chayton was not going to dig in the sweltering heat of the canyon, so he scraped through the rubble pile and found several large pieces of inyan wakan. He took a large round river pebble from his pouch and struck each large piece of inyan wakan until they broke into several sharp pieces. When he found a piece of rock he liked, he then used a hammer made from an elk antler to shape the piece into a flat disc-shaped rock, larger than his open hand. He continued his search until he had five disc-shaped rocks made from the sacred rock. Chayton would take these rocks on the journey and use them to make knife blades, tools and spear points.


After putting the five pieces of inyan wakan in his pouch, Chayton walked deeper into the canyon where underground springs had always fed the creek.

Chayton and the Folsom People were not the first Americans to actually create rock to carry on their journeys. Below, is an example of the same thing from the Clovis prehistoric culture.   
Figure Three - The Paleoindian Book - SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL.  

In SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL, you just might say that Chayton was preparing for a rainy day by securing raw material to make stone tools on the way to the North Country. This was not unusual, based on archaeological evidence. There are numerous documented examples of prehistoric people hording or caching non-local raw material for stone tools. Since most of these prehistoric people had a  nomadic existence, they could not afford to get to a region and not be able to find raw material for making their stone tools. So, they solved the problem by carried some raw material with them. 
One of the earliest examples of this hording and caching of raw material came from the Clovis People, those hardy prehistoric individuals who archaeologists for decades thought were the First Americans. The Clovis People carried preforms with them to new areas. Preforms were not stone tools as such, but were resources of raw material which could be transformed into a desired tool or implement on the spot. One of these preforms, that I suspect came from the Clovis People, is in Figures One and Four. Archaeologists call this particular type of preform an ovate biface. In the upcoming paragraphs, I plan on borrowing freely from a tremendous book by Michael R. Waters and Thomas A. Jennings entitled The Hogeye Clovis Cache, published in 2015 by Texas A & M.  
Figure Four - 6.3 inch long ovate biface of probable Clovis
Complex origin. Found on private land in the 1960s in Oregon.  

Why do I believe that this particular preform in Figures One and Four originated from the Clovis People? First, this type of biface has a well documented association with the Clovis prehistoric culture (Hogeye Clovis Cache for a start). Some people refer to this artifact as a 'Clovis platter', but morphologically I believe it is best described as an ovate biface, distinguished by its oval shape and knapped on both faces. Ovate bifaces have no clear base or tip. They may have served Clovis People as flake cores or knife preforms. If the Clovis knapper decided to use the ovate biface as a knife preform, he would sharpen the edges, as needed. If the Clovis knapper needed the ovate biface for making flake tools, additional blanks could be removed from the mother rock. Regardless of their ultimate use, ovate bifaces were preforms for projectile points and / or a source of raw material for additional flake tools.

I draw your attention to Figure Four, again. Note the wide, long and shallow flakes running across the face of this prehistoric artifact. This is another Clovis trait. Ovate bifaces were thinned by overshot and overface flaking using both alternate-opposed and serial flaking (Figure Five).
Figure Five

In the Figure Four example, I believe the Clovis knapper used the alternate-opposed flaking method, a sequential method whereby the repeated removal of an overshot or overface flake from one edge is followed by a similar removal from the opposite edge on the same face. This was a common flaking practice within the Clovis prehistoric culture. 

In Figure Six, I am demonstrating the bifacial reduction or lifecycle of an ovate biface from left to right. Please disregard the different materials of the four artifacts and assume the material is the same rock and the lifecycle of the ovate biface on the left ultimately ends up as the spear point to the right. Here is what I mean; 

Figure Six - Bifacial reduction from left to right, from the original 6.3 inch long ovate biface on the left to
a Clovis spear point on the right.

Our Clovis knapper originally created the ovate biface on the left, perhaps at the prehistoric rock quarry. As time went on, the knapper whittled away at the ovate biface as he needed raw material for stone tools, reducing the overall size of the ovate biface (second from left). At some stage, the Clovis knapper decided to create either a spear or knife preform (third from left). This ultimately ended up as a knife or a spear point (far right). Even the original knife or spear point was reduced in size through resharpening to the point where it was either lost, broken, or retired. The process going from left to right could have taken a few weeks or perhaps a year or so, depending on a number of factors. Who knows?  

So, now it is time for you to read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY for the rest of the story. Available at and other fine booksellers.


Friday, January 6, 2017

SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL and a Look At Kennewick Man.

Figure One - 4.1 inch long discoidal biface or core stone which was
the inspiration for the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY.   
One of my goals when I wrote the prehistoric adventure book series entitled the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY was to squash out the myth that Paleoindians in North America were not intelligent, that they were one evolutionary step away from cavemen and chimpanzees. North American Paleoindians had the same intelligence level and foresight as we do. They did not have the same situational learning experiences as us, but then again, we do not have the same learning experiences as them, specifically, how to survive in a hostile ten thousand year old world. 

I often claim that there are few modern-day people who could survive in North America ten thousand years ago and I believe that.  What would most of us do without our homes or doctors or smart phones or cars or television or grocery stores or fast food restaurants or
Figure Two - GHOSTS OF THE HEART, the second book in the
policemen or modern weapons?

How tough were these Paleoindians? Archaeological evidence can demonstrate this,  but first, I am enclosing an excerpt from the second book of the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY, that shows what one Paleoindian named Kangi was confronted with. How would  you deal with this situation?   

……….Squatting alongside the game trail was a grizzly bear cub, about the size of a small wolf dog. With his heart racing in his chest, Kangi glanced across the meadow, looking for the location of the mother. Instead he spotted another grizzly bear cub running straight towards him, making woofing and snorting sounds.   

Then the bear cub that was squatted on the game trail finally noticed Kangi and it rolled over onto its feet and immediately began bawling loudly. Kangi turned around quickly towards the tunnel, hoping to make a quick escape, but he ran right into the first hunter coming out.

A-ah! – Watch out!” Kangi screamed. “Mato! - Bear!”

The hunter appeared confused when Kangi shoved him back into the pine branch tunnel.

HOPPO! – LET US GO!” Kangi yelled, shoving the hunter into the tunnel.  

Coming to her cub’s rescue, the grizzly bear sow lunged through the water of the mountain stream, leaving a massive wake behind her. She was across the stream in two lunges and barreled across the meadow at full speed. With her head held low, she grunted loudly as her thick body shimmered and swayed. She closed the gap to Kangi with astonishing speed.

Kangi shoved the hunter into the deceptive safety of the tunnel, but there was still no room for him. Kangi turned to face the grizzly bear sow instead. He placed the butt of a spear into his spear thrower and raised the spear above his shoulder. He reared back his arm and with his entire body, he launched the spear at the charging bear. The spear left the spear thrower with tremendous speed, its trajectory heading straight at the massive grizzly bear sow’s skull. By the time the spear arrived at the grizzly bear sow, she had traveled much closer to Kangi. The spear flew harmlessly over her back, ricocheting off the rocks of the mountain stream. Kangi was just notching another spear when the humongous grizzly bear slammed into him, knocking him a good distance across the meadow where he landed hard on his stomach. With the wind knocked out of him, Kangi attempted to crawl away, but before he got very far, the grizzly bear landed on top of him with her front paws.  

MATO! MATO!” the hunters screamed at each other in the tunnel, pushing and shoving each other back down the game trail. Chayton held his ground until the frightened hunters, heading in the opposite direction, plowed right over him.       

The grizzly bear sow pounced up and down on top of Kangi’s back, driving him into the soil of the meadow………..

Figure Three - The proposed orientation of the burial of Kennewick Man
along the Columbia River in Washington.  
What happened to Kangi? Well, you will have to read GHOSTS OF THE HEART to find out, but I hope you understand the point I was attempting to make. Living in Prehistoric America was not for the weak or timid.   

How rough was life in North America thousands of years ago? For that answer, let's look at  archaeological evidence. Some of the best archaeological evidence we have comes from prehistoric skeletons which are rare, especially skeletons from our First Americans or Paleoindians.

One of the more famous and controversial prehistoric skeletons ever found was named Kennewick Man. Some of the more renowned forensic scientists in the country  studied the prehistoric skeleton of Kennewick Man. Authors Douglas W. Owsley and Richard J. Lantz documented the controversial history of this skeleton and their findings in an excellent book entitled KENNEWICK MAN The Scientific Investigation of an Ancient American Skeleton. I took my information below from this groundbreaking book.   

Let me introduce you to nine thousand year old Kennewick Man through his facial reconstruction in Figure Four. He came later than the Folsom
Figure Four - Forensic reconstruction
of Kennewick Man's face.  
People in my SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY by about seventeen hundred years, but as an early hunter and gatherer, he had the same lifestyle as the Folsom People.

Two college students discovered Kennewick Man's skull in 1996 along the banks of the Columbia River in Washington. Scientists believe he was between 35 to 39 years old at the time of his death. They estimated that he was 5’7” or 5’8” tall and weighed around 162 lbs.

Thirty-five years old is young in the context of modern-day life expectancies, but by this time in his relative young life, Kennewick Man had already experienced some very traumatic health issues. The scientists determined that he had several healed depression wounds on his skull and he may have been hard of hearing. Kennewick Man was right handed and there were indications that his arms had gone through strenuous use.  

Figure Five - Throwing a spear dozens of times per day,
using an atlatl, would damage anyone's shoulder.  
The scientists found that while Kennewick Man’s left shoulder had normal morphology, his right shoulder or his throwing shoulder exhibited degenerative wear and tear, arthritis, possible cartilage erosion, and a rim fracture of his right scapula. Since Kennewick Man’s survival depended on throwing spears at fleeing animals, we should expect some shoulder wear and tear, just as we would expect it from a major league baseball pitcher or a NFL quarterback.

Figure Six - Kennewick Man's teeth
were wore down to a nub. 
In addition, Kennewick Man’s upper arms showed humeri asymmetrical in both size and shape. The scientists determined that Kennewick Man had atrophy of his left humerus with right side bowing. The scientists postulated that a left arm fracture in his early life caused the condition. Of course, 'Kennewick Boy' did not have a doctor to go to for his arm fracture.   

 Kennewick Man’s teeth were not in any better shape. He was missing a molar and he had pronounced teeth wear. Molar attrition suggested that he ate food contaminated with fine abrasives and courser particles, such as sand. His tooth wear suggested he used his teeth for more than just chewing food. It appears that Kennewick Man used his teeth in task-oriented activities, such as hide preparation and cutting. 

What about his chest? Kennewick Man had healed fractures in at least five ribs on his right side with a failure of those ribs to reunite. He also received a possible left rib fracture at the same time the right rib fractures occurred. The scientists found no indication of infection or significant blood supply issue associated with the ribs. They postulated that this was another young adult injury. Perhaps, Kennewick Man had a collision with a three-thousand pound Bison antiquus?
Figure Seven - I just broke my ribs, so I know how Kennewick
Man felt. The difference was his fight for survival continued.   

Kennewick Man also had bad knees. He had osteochondritis in his knees caused from damage of the meniscus, which then eroded cartilage and eventually went bone on bone. The scientists could tell that he lived with inflammation of the cartilage or bone in the knee. In real cases, bone under the knee cartilage can die due to lack of blood flow and then bone and cartilage can then break loose, causing pain. This type of injury comes from the habitual loading of a tightly flexed knee.  

Then, there was the pièce de résistance of injuries. Kennewick Man had a stone projectile point imbedded in his right posterior ilium. The stone projectile had been in his hipbone long enough for bone to grow over it. Scientists speculate that the possible symptoms for this injury could have included pus drainage for the rest of his life. He might have had a moderate degree of pain, all of the time. He might have had anorexia, sleeplessness, derangement of secretions, great irritability and despondency. An analysis of his leg bones indicated that Kennewick Man had no lasting / significant mobility loss from this injury. The scientists believe that this injury occurred in Kennewick Man’s teen or young adult years. 
Figure Eight - Not many people can brag they
have a stone spear point in their hip. Ouch!

So, you think you are tough enough to be  a Paleoindian, one of our First Americans? Not me. These people had a real tough existence. They could not dial 911 when they needed help or go to the doctor if they did not feel well or call a cop if they got into a bind. They were on their own, for better or for worse. So, next time we are feeling sorry for ourselves, think about Kennewick Man and what he had to endure. Amazing, all of a sudden, I feel a whole lot better about my aches and pains. ;).

So, now your next assignment is to read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY to see how accurately I painted a picture of life 10,700 years ago. Then, let me know what YOU think!    

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Dogs and Devil Cows from My SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL

Figure One - A size comparison between a modern bison and Bison antiquus, the bison species that Chayton, Hoka, and
the other Folsom People had to deal with 10,700 years ago in the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY.   

I wrote my prehistoric book thriller the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY based on my knowledge and research in archaeology, hunting, and animal/human behavior. I have spent lots of time out in the field doing my research – finding prehistoric artifacts, watching and recording animal behavior and creating scenarios, such as the one below, taken from the second book of the trilogy, GHOSTS OF THE HEART. In this scenario, hunters from the Folsom People are attempting to trap and kill a herd of bison without the dangerous beasts killing or maiming any hunters. I am sure that was quite a trick. I will join you on the other side of the GHOSTS OF THE HEART segment.       

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 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 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, confused by the spears and the smoke.

A rain of spears fell on the herd from three sides of the arroyo. Spears stuck in the hides of the cows and calves as the herd panicked and attempted to climb the steep walls of the arroyo. Without a leader, the herd muddled about while more spears poured down on them from above. Finally, one of the cows ran back down the arroyo towards the entrance and the rest of the herd followed…

Dangerous business, don’t you agree? A prehistoric hunter severely injured by a bison was almost worse off than if he died. Depending on the severity of the injury, there may have been little for the tribe to do. We assume from analyses of injuries on prehistoric skeletons that medical care was quite limited. In addition, the tribe had to care and feed injured hunters, drawing on the limited resources of the tribe. Recovery from serious injuries such as broken bones took a long time.

Figure Three - Mexican corriente cattle. The orange and white
devil cow that first attacked Madd Maxx and then me.
I had a first-hand experience of what this might have been like on December 3, 2016. My faithful dog Madd Maxx and I were doing some artifact hunting on the original SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL prehistoric site when a herd of wild, horned cows and their calves decided Madd Maxx was a wolf or coyote and attacked him. I intervened on my German Shepherd's behalf, thinking the cows would run away at the first sign of a conflict. I was wrong. An orange and white horned cow rammed into my chest with her head. I hung on to her horns as long as I could and when I let go,  she trampled me. Lying there in the dirt and manure, I could not breathe! I fought to find air! Before, I could stand up, the devil cow plowed into me again. I will never forget the pain when she smacked into me. I tried to crawl away, but she pinned me down on the ground with her head as she tried to gore me with her horns. I was wearing a backpack which she completely destroyed.  I had a walking stick which she completely destroyed. Dust rose above the prairie as the cows went on a rampage. In the background of my own fight, I heard Maxx Maxx fighting for his own life. I remember feeling relieved when I heard him barking and carrying on. I was sure the cows had trampled him to death. I realized at that moment that I had to save myself if I was going to save my dog. I tried to yell for help, but there was no one anywhere close to where I was. Besides, I could not yell, my lungs were empty. I could not breathe. I definitely could not yell for help. I tried to crawl away, but the devil cow kept smashing into me. I held my arms over my head, hoping to protect my skull from horns and hooves.

I grew up in a small agricultural town in Wyoming, a state where cattle significantly outnumber the people. Every summer from junior high through college, I worked on farms and ranches, so cattle and their behavior was familiar to me. I had never seen a herd of cows react this way. They were going to protect their calves to any length.  

Lying there and getting pummeled from behind, I was sure I was going to die. I remember thinking how it would look to "die by cow". We all have to die, right, but death by cow? Who would believe it? I could not catch my breath! I was wheezing! My fractured ribs felt like someone had impaled me with a spear! While the half-ton plus cow held me against the ground, she gored me with her horns and stepped all over my back and legs with her sharp hooves. The burning, the throbbing, and the stinging pain was unbearable. I was bleeding all over the pasture. I have never known such excruciating agony in my life.

Figure Four - Madd Maxx, at home, after recuperating.
This Mexican corriente cow was not going to be happy until I was dead, so I finally relented. I played dead. The horned beast pawed at me with her hooves, trying to roll me over, but I just laid there, anchored to the ground, my arms wrapped tightly around my head. I was suffocating on the thick dust and covered in cow manure. Finally, the devil cow was convinced I was no threat to her and calf and wandered off to graze. I could hear Madd Maxx still barking and yelping, a good omen. I somehow rose to my knees. My damaged left leg would not straighten out. I crawled amongst the swirling cows and grabbed Madd Maxx by the neck from the midst of them. He was bleeding heavily from the mouth and he had patches of matted bloody fur across his body. We crawled to the outskirts of the cows and stopped. I could not catch my breath. I was drowning in the dust. Every time I tried to breathe my broken ribs reminded me of what true pain was. I could not walk. I could barely crawl. The shredded backpack hung from my back. Madd Maxx sat next to me, exhausted and quietly whimpering. 

I could not believe it, but the same cows that just mauled us, lined up right in front of us and watched. The big orange and white devil cow was right in front of Madd Maxx and me, glaring at us. Her eyes were not angry, they were determined. I could tell she wanted to finish the job. I commanded Madd Maxx to run for the car and he did, heading for the safety of the barbed wire fence and our vehicle. Then, I stood up the best that I could and that was when the orange and white cow plowed into me, again, slamming me into the dirt. 

I do not know how long I laid there in the pasture. I lost all sense of time. When I woke up, I could feel that the temperature had dropped. I realized I could never survive the night out on the prairie. I crawled to my vehicle, loaded Madd Maxx up, and then drove to the ranch house where the ranch staff immediately called for help. Eventually, a helicopter landed at this isolated ranch and I was transported via Flight for Life to one of the better trauma centers in Colorado. I ended up with three broken ribs, a bruised lung and liver, a hemorrhaging adrenal gland, and severe bruising and contusions across most of the lower half of my body. It took me a month to walk without assistance. Thanks to my wife Theresa and the ranch foreman, Madd Maxx ended up in an animal emergency room for treatment of cuts and bruises, but no broken bones.   

Figure Five - While the orange and white demon cow mauled me, the
other cows fought with Madd Maxx. This is what Madd Maxx contended with.

I received first-hand experience of the dangers of large prey animals, even if they were so called “domesticated cattle”. Would I have survived these injuries ten thousand years ago without Flight for Life or excellent care at a leading trauma center? I don't know. Maybe, but I would have become a burden to the tribe. In looking back at this recent incident, I think I did a pretty good job portraying similar incidents in the difficult and dangerous life of the Folsom People in the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY. Read it and see if you agree.

Four months later, I have mostly recovered from my injuries from the December 3, 2016 mad cow incident. All I have left are my memories and some pretty cool scars I can talk about. I am currently writing another prehistoric adventure book where I will play out the drama and emotion of my traumatic experience. In the meantime, read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY and see what you are missing.