Monday, April 20, 2015

The Shadows on the Trail Trilogy and Bipoint Knife Forms!

Figure one. Bipoint knife form found in the 1950s on private land near the town
of Farson in the Eden Valley of Wyoming. John Bradford Branney Collection.
My prehistoric novel thriller series called the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy is about the Folsom People, a mysterious group of hunters and gatherers who lived from 10,900 to 10,200 years ago. In previous posts, I have covered several components in the Folsom People's tool kit, but one tool I have not covered is the laurel leaf or bipoint knife form.

What is a laurel leaf or bipoint knife form? In most cases, the name we call something adds clarity to the description of the item. In some cases, the name only adds confusion. In the case of laurel leaf or bipoint knife forms, the name adds clarity. Bipoint knife forms were named after prehistoric stone knives which have dual points, one on each end of the artifact. In the prehistoric record, bipoint knife forms have worldwide distribution and are currently the oldest continuously made tool form in human prehistory. The oldest documented example of a bipoint knife form came from Africa and investigators have dated its origin as far back as 75,000 years ago.

What does a bipoint knife form look like? Figure one is a photograph of a super rare bipoint knife form from the state of Wyoming in North America. This prehistoric knife form is not only bipointed, but is also has another Folsom characteristic, it is also ultrathin. This 6.8 inch long heavily patinated, bipointed ultrathin knife form was found in the early 1950s near the town of Farson in the Eden Valley of Wyoming. The original material, before chemical weathering took place, appears to be a moderate brown jasper. You can see a touch of this moderate brown jasper near the base of the knife form in the lower right-hand portion of the photograph.

Figure two. Cross section of the bipoint ultrathin knife form in Figure one.
John Bradford Branney Collection.
How thin are ultrathin knife forms, specifically how thin is the knife form in Figure one? Very thin! Figure two is a photograph of the cross section of the bipointed ultrathin knife form in Figure one.  The width of this bipointed ultrathin knife form is 58 millimeters and the thickness in the middle of the knife form is only 5 millimeters for a width to thickness ratio of 11.6, well within the designated range for the ration investigators use to define ultrathin knife forms.

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The Folsom People from my books in the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy made some of the finest bipoint knife forms in existence and since this is also an ultrathin knife form and exhibits overshot and overface flaking, I am fairly confident that the knife form in Figures one and two was made by someone in the Folsom culture sometime between 10,900 to 10,200 years before present. I only write fairly confident because this knife form was found on the surface of the ground and not in any dated and stratified archaeological context. Therefore, I cannot be fully confident of its Folsom culture origin.
What are some of the characteristics of bipoint knife forms? I want to answer that question by first giving a shout out to one of the best reference books on the subject of bipoint technology. The book is called Bipoints Before Clovis and William Jack Hranricky is the author. This is the only book I am aware of that covers bipoint technology to any appreciable degree. I am going to use the information of this book when I go over the characteristics of bipoint knife forms. For those of you who have more interest in bipoint knife forms and its technology, I encourage you to buy Mr. Hranricky's book, right after you have bought and read my Shadows on the Trail Trilogy. ;)  
Bipoint knife forms are among the oldest prehistoric tool forms in North America. A few investigators believe the technology arrived in North America around 35,000 years ago, a long time
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before Clovis People roamed the land. Cultural distribution of  bipoint knife forms ranges from pre-Clovis to historical Indian sites.

As of the publication date of Bipoints Before Clovis, there were no clear documented associations between bipoint technology and Clovis technology. Let me repeat that because it is an important observation. There were no known examples of bipoint technology found with Clovis cultural material. It appears that Clovis people preferred other knife forms, such as the ovate knife forms. However, the Folsom culture was a different story. Investigators have tied some of the finest bipoint knife form examples in North America to the Folsom People.

How are bipoint knife forms made? They can start out as a biface or a blade. What is a blade? A blade is a piece of rock that a prehistoric knapper struck off a parent core rock. A blade is several times longer than it is wide. Prehistoric knappers produced bipoint knife forms from blades and then finished them as dual-pointed knife forms for cutting purposes . Prehistoric people rarely used bipoint knife forms as projectile points.   

Figure three. 4.2 inch long bipoint knife form found by
Bob Knowlton with a cache of tools on a possible kill site.
John Bradford Branney Collection 
Figure three is another example of a bipoint knife form. This bipoint knife form was found by Bob Knowlton on private property near Glade Park, Colorado. He found this white quartzite bipoint knife form as part of a cache on what appeared to be a prehistoric kill site.  The site was littered with deer bone and antler. The cache consisted of five knife forms, all made from white quartzite and all but this one were broken. There was also a non-diagnostic pottery rim and two heavily serrated San Pedro dart points. San Pedro projectile points are Late Archaic with an age range between 2,500 and 1,800 years before present.

This beautiful white knife form was associated with diagnostic projectile points giving the knife form a date sometime between 2,500 to 1,800 years before present, well after Paleoindians and Folsom people had left the planet. My point? Bipoint knife forms have similar morphological characteristics (shapes, forms, and their grouping into period styles) that were consistent across a long span of prehistory. Therefore, unless the bipoint knife form was found within an archaeologically dated context, it is difficult to assign the bipoint knife form to any specific culture or chronology.

Figure four. Bipoint knife form from Wyoming
John Bradford Branney Collection.    
One more example of a bipoint knife form in Figure four. This 3.4 inch long bipoint knife form was made from a beautiful multi-colored jasper. This knife form exhibits the wide, shallow percussion flakes favored by the Paleoindians, as well as fine pressure flaking along the edges. Ken Dempsey found this bipoint knife form near Casper, Wyoming. I would love to say this knife form was associated with the Folsom culture, but I cannot. It was not found with other Folsom materials and it was a surface find.    

I hope you enjoyed the blog posting and I hope you enjoy the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy. Please let me know what you think. You can reach me at this blog or on facebook at Shadows on the Trail Trilogy by John Bradford Branney.    
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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Clovis People and Blademaking - The Shadows on the Trail Trilogy

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The prehistoric adventure series I wrote is called the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy and it is about a prehistoric tribe of people called the Folsom People. These people roamed North America in the late Pleistocene between 10,900 to 10,200 years ago. I have published several blog postings about the Folsom People, so I will not be discussing them for this particular blog posting. I will be discussing some of the people who came before the Folsom People.

Figure 2.Wonderful example of  a well-worked 4.9 inch long blade found
in Wyoming. After the knapper removed the blade from the core, he or she
worked a scraping edge onto it. The bottom of this blade is smooth with
a slight bend. The ridge or aris running down the face of this blade is the
scar from two previous blade removals from the blade core.    
In the archaeological record of the High Plains of North America, at least two documented cultures preceding the Folsom People, Clovis and Goshen. Some people believe that Clovis People were the ancestors to the Folsom People, but so far I have not read any conclusive archaeological evidence or analysis that verifies this to be true. More importantly, I do not believe there is any evidence that leads investigators to believe that there was a clear relationship between Clovis and Folsom Peoples. Since these cultures did not leave any writing or documentation behind, we are only left with what has been found by investigators in documented archaeological sites, which is scant information when trying to establish prehistoric cultural relationships. 

From the archaeological record, we know the time frames when Clovis and Folsom People existed, we know what these people ate from the refuse found in archaeological sites and that they both focused on big game hunting for subsistence but Clovis People preferred mammoths while Folsom People preferred bison. However, based on archaeological evidence both cultures were not picky what they ate. After all, both cultures were probably in survival mode. 
What other differences were there between the Clovis and Folsom cultures in the archaeological record? One big difference between the two cultures were their lithic or stone tool technologies. We 

Figure 2.5. Probable Clovis blade found May 24, 2003 in an arroyo in
Weld County, Colorado. High quality, pale red Flat Top Chalcedony
was used to make this blade. The blade length is 3.3 inches
and the length to width ratio is 3.3 to 1. The blade demonstrates
fine pressure flaking on all edges.Two other blades and two Clovis 
projectile points have been found by me in this same arroyo. 
know that both Clovis and Folsom fluted their projectile points, but the fluting process for Folsom People was much more involved and intricate than that of Clovis People. On some Clovis points in my  personal collection, fluting appeared to be almost an afterthought or part of a rushed process, whereas Folsom fluting was intricate and almost bordering on art. 

Folsom People also made very thin bifaces with biplanar or biconcave profiles, instead of the typical biconvex biface profile of the Clovis People. These thin bifaces that Folsom People made were called ultrathin knife forms and I actually did a blog posting on these knife forms. We also see an increase in the making and use of end scrapers from Clovis to Folsom cultures. End scrapers were a much more prevalent part of the stone tool kit during Folsom times. 

However, for me one of the most interesting differences between Clovis and Folsom stone tool technologies was the heavy use of blades by the Clovis People. After the Clovis culture, we see a huge drop off in blades found in the archaeological record. Although, investigators have found the occasional blade in Folsom and later tool assemblages, blades had become an exception. 
Blades are one of those confusing and misused terms in North America archaeology. Some people refer to unnotched projectile points or any kind of stone knife as blades. if a well-made knife forms does not have a diagnostic hafting notch component, it instantly becomes a blade. But, in reality, most of these examples above should be called bifaces.  Over the past few years, there has been a concerted effort from professional to amateur archaeologists to clean up the literature by calling bifaces, bifaces and blades, blades. However, old habits are hard to break, so we shall persevere.

What is a blade? Here is one definition of a blade from a wonderful book called Clovis Technology, written by Bradley, Collins, and Hemmings. The authors define blade as a specialized, elongated flake intentionally detached from a core selected and prepared for that purpose. This flake or blade is often twice as long as it is wide.

So, how did Clovis People make blades? Figure 2.7 is from another wonderful book entitled Clovis Blademaking Technology, written by Michael Collins. A general overview of how we think Clovis People produced blades is as follows: a suitable rock or cobble was found (2.7a) which then led to the Clovis knapper making a blade core that could be used for the removal of as many blades as possible. The knapper created a suitable blade core by first knocking off one end of the cobble with a hammerstone (2.7b). The resultant fractured surface on the end of the cobble then became the striking platform for subsequent blade removals.

Figure 3. a 1.9 inch long crested blade surface found
in Logan County, Colorado. Note bifacial flaking.  
Most cobbles usually had at least one face that was pointed or convex enough for a knapper to remove the first blade. When the knapper removed this first blade, it was covered in cortex or rock rind. Subsequent blades were partially covered in cortex (2.7i). If the cobble did not have a suitable pointed or convex face, the knapper created a ridge through bifacial flaking (2.7c and 2.7d). This bifacial ridge is called the crest and the detached triangular blade that came off this ridge is call a crested blade (2.7e, 2.7g, and  Figure 3). Once numerous blades were removed from the blade core, it would have looked something like 2.7f. 

A photo of a crested blade from my collection is in Figure 3. Note the triangular shape and the bifacial flaking. The bottom of the crested blade is smooth and has a slight bend to it.   

Even though we want to adhere to our definition of blade as twice as long as it is wide, blades do come in all shapes and sizes. While some blades show very little modification by human touch, other blades are well worked and fabricated. While some blades were purposely used for cutting only, other blades had drilling, scraping, cutting, engraving, and gouging functionality.

My biggest regret is not learning about blades earlier in my life. I wonder how many blades I have walked over without giving them a second glance? The answer to that question would probably make me a little sick to my stomach. Oh well, we learn each and every day, that's what counts! 

       Read the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy for the Folsom story!
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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Shadows on the Trail Trilogy - The Hell Gap Complex

Figure One. A 2.45 inch long Agate Basin projectile point at the top and Hell Gap projectile point on the bottom.
Most archaeological investigators believe that Agate Basin projectile points transitioned into Hell Gap projectile
points sometime around 10,000 years ago, give or take. This does not mean that Agate Basin projectile points
became obsolete or were not made. They continued to exist alongside Hell Gap projectile points for some time.   
It was 1958 and James Duguid, a future University of Wyoming geology student, was exploring an arroyo bank along an intermittent stream along the eastern flank of the Hartsville Uplift in southeast Wyoming. Duguid found an unidentified projectile point type eroding from the arroyo. In 1959, Duguid contacted archaeologist George A. Agogino at the University of Wyoming and showed him this unnamed projectile point. The unique projectile point intrigued Agogino who decided to investigate the area. Upon his return from the investigation, Agogino immediately opened a small research project to further investigate this area in southeast Wyoming called Hell Gap.

The rest is history. Fifty-five years later, the Hell Gap archaeological site is one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the western United States and that projectile point James Duguid found became a new projectile point type called Hell Gap.  

Figure Two. Winds of Eden, the third
and final book in the Shadows
on the Trail Trilogy.
Click for info on this book.   
The prehistoric trilogy I wrote, called the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy, is about the Folsom People, who lived from 10,900 to 10,200 and for the most part, lived before both Agate Basin and Hell Gap Peoples. Although most archaeological investigators are unsure what connection existed between Folsom and Agate Basin People, most investigators believe that their was a connection between Agate Basin and Hell Gap Peoples and the evidence is in their projectile points. Many investigators believe that Hell Gap projectile point technology was derived from the older Agate Basin projectile point technology. 

You might be asking, what is an Agate Basin projectile point and a Hell Gap projectile point? Good question! There will be more on the technological differences later in the blog, but for now please 'eyeball' Figure One above which shows two projectile points, both made from a rock type called Knife River Chalcedony which is found in North Dakota. The top projectile point is an Agate Basin and the bottom projectile point is a Hell Gap. The manufacturing process that led to Hell Gap projectile points was a time continuation of the well developed Agate Basin manufacturing process. The makers of Hell Gap projectile point simply terminated their production process sooner than the makers of Agate Basin projectile points.        

Since this blog posting is about Hell Gap projectile points, let me briefly describe them. Hell Gap projectile points are medium to large lanceolate-shaped points that are similar to Agate Basin points, except that the Hell Gap has stem limitations and often times it has shoulders. On a Hell Gap projectile point, the stem is long and contracting. The Hell Gap projectile point has straight to concave side edges and a straight to concave basal edge. The stem edge is often ground and polished. The basal corners may be sharp to grounded. Let's now look at the Hell Gap example below.       

Figure Three. Side A of a Hell Gap spear / knife form from Colorado.
Figures Three and Four show sides A and B for a 2.55 inch long example of a classic Hell Gap spear / knife form surface found on private land in Morgan County, Colorado.              

Most investigators believe that 10,000 years ago is a good timeframe for when the Hell Gap Complex existed on the High Plains. As previously mentioned, the Hell Gap projectile point appears to have developed from the earlier Agate Basin projectile point type. In fact, the distinctive Hell Gap shoulder was beginning to develop on some Agate Basin projectile points.
Figure Four. Side B of a Hell Gap spear / knife form from Colorado.

In the book The Casper Site, Frison and Bradley (1974) noted a special bifacial reduction process on quite a few Hell Gap specimens from the Casper Site in Wyoming. They noted that Hell Gap knappers achieved the general shape and regularity of the biface through serial percussion thinning on one side with a hammerstone. Spacing was carefully controlled and thinning flakes ran across the surface of the biface, reaching or nearly reaching the other edge of the biface (overshot).

Then, the knappers turned the bifaces over and thinned them from the opposite edge, creating bifaces with cross sections resembling parallelograms.

After serial percussion thinning, the Hell Gap knapper shaped and straightened the margins of the biface using direct percussion with an antler or hammerstone or by selective pressure flaking. Bradley found in his study of Casper Site Hell Gap projectile points that some knappers used percussion only while others selectively retouched with pressure, especially at the base of the biface. Ultimately, Hell Gap knappers ended up creating bifaces that were lens-shaped.

Hell Gap knappers used platform isolation and moderate to heavy grinding to prepare the striking 
platforms for percussion flaking. Unlike Clovis striking platforms, Hell Gap knappers used smaller and more convex-shaped platforms.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog posting on Hell Gap projectile points and perhaps in the future I will write another prehistoric trilogy, but this time using Agate Basin and Hell Gap Peoples as the main characters. For now, pick up the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy at a better bookseller ad check out the Folsom People. You will be glad you did.     

Figure Five. Shadows on the Trail, the first book in the Trilogy. Click for Info on This Book!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Review - Winds of Eden, the Finale for the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy!

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Fans of the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL series from bestselling author John Bradford Branney are already ordering copies of the final book in the trilogy in droves.

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

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

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

Hailed for its accurate depiction of life on the prairies and mountains of prehistoric Texas and Colorado, WINDS OF EDEN is a fast-paced read that accurately builds on clues from the archaeological record and traditions practiced by the first Americans.

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

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

SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL, GHOSTS OF THE HEART and WINDS OF EDEN are available in all good bookshops and online retailers both in paperback and eBook formats. 
Below is the latest book review of WINDS OF EDEN by the Prehistoric American Journal. 



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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Shadows on the Trail Trilogy and a Colorado Folsom Point

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Click to Learn More about the American Lion

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

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

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

Ghosts of the Heart (2013)

Winds of Eden (2014)

Saving Miguel (2013)

Light Hidden by Darkness (2014)

Friday, January 16, 2015

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

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

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

Click for $4.99 Kindle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the Kindle versions and enjoy the adventure!!!

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


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Winds of Eden - Life and Death in the Pleistocene!

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

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

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

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

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

      I wish all of you a safe and prosperous 2015!

Shadows on the Trail - first book in the Trilogy 

 Ghosts of the Heart - the second book in the Trilogy