Wednesday, November 23, 2016

SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY - No Snowflakes in this Ice Age Tale

Figure One - prehistoric human stalking a bison.
I am reading in the media about all the snowflakes in our population who are melting down because of the U.S. presidential election and I cannot believe it. These people are requiring safe zones, aroma therapy, pet therapy, hot cocoa, and school test delays. They are protesting and based on media interviews, some of the protesters aren't quite sure why they are protesting. Crazy world. When did the human race get so much spare time and leisure time that we don't have to work for our bread? 

When I think about these snowflakes in our population, they remind me of my characters in the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY, not that there is any resemblance between the snowflakes and the tough characters in my books. Ten thousand plus years ago when the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY took place, prehistoric humans did not have the luxury or time to think about anything that did not have to do with surviving another day. Weakness did not survive in human or beast. After all, in the late Pleistocene, there were large mammals attempting to use my characters as a food supply and my characters were in a daily struggle just to find enough food to survive. In addition, my characters had to worry about the hostile bands of humans roaming the countryside. There were no policemen or hospitals or dialing 911 for my characters. They were on their own without the hot cocoa or aroma therapy. The only thing between my characters and death was a well placed stone spear point.  

Below is a passage from the second book in the trilogy entitled GHOSTS OF THE HEART.  In this particular passage, some very bad people just attacked our hero Chayton and wounded him in the shoulder with a stone projectile point from a spear. Since these bad people wanted to kill him and his friend Wiyaka, Chayton did not have time for a 'woe is poor me' or to reflect on anything except the life-or-death predicament they were in.  Chayton was critically wounded and the bad people had NOT given up the chase. Here is what happened when Chayton and Wiyaka finally got a break from running away.   

Before the sunset in the west, Chayton and Wiyaka made it out of the mountains and onto the foothills. Wiyaka found a safe place for them to camp near a small spring-fed pond. Chayton collapsed on the ground, sick and exhausted. Wiyaka went to the pond and filled up their water pouches. When he returned, Wiyaka woke Chayton up, telling him, “Sit up! I want to look at your shoulder.”

Wiyaka knelt down behind Chayton and said, “It is getting dark, turn your back to the sun.”

“Where is Namid?” Chayton asked.

Slol wa yea shnee, – I do not know.”


Slol wa yea shnee, – I do not know.” 

Chayton slowly twisted his body, letting the rays of the setting sun reach his wounded shoulder. Chayton’s hide shirt was stuck to the wound with dried blood. When Wiyaka peeled the shirt away, the air exploded with hundreds of flies escaping from the festering wound. Wiyaka swatted at the dense cloud of flies, but they were not going to give up their feast easily. Wiyaka leaned closer, attempting to block the flight of the flies while he examined the wound. Wiyaka took a whiff and quickly turned his nose away. The smell of rotting flesh overcame his senses. Holding his breath, Wiyaka steadied his stomach and inspected the wound. Blood was still trickling down Chayton’s back and a whitish-yellow mass covered the wound. When Wiyaka stuck his face even closer to inspect the whitish-yellow mass, he caught another whiff of the rancid smell and turned his head away. Wiyaka’s eyes watered from the strong stench and his stomach began to heave. He held his breath once again and inspected the wound. This was too much for Wiyaka and he turned his head to the side, vomiting the contents of his almost empty stomach on the ground. When he had purged his stomach of everything in it and more, Wiyaka again tried to inspect the whitish-yellow glob that completely enveloped the wound and the surrounding area. He found that it consisted of fly eggs and when he looked closer, he saw that many of the eggs had already hatched and white maggots had taken over.

Waglulas, – Maggots,” Wiyaka declared. “Ayabeya. – Everywhere.”   

I yo monk pi sni, - I feel bad,” Chayton murmured.

“Your wound is bad, kola, - friend,” Wiyaka agreed.

“The River People?” Chayton mumbled. “Where are they?”

Wiyaka, his hand unsteady from nervous energy, extracted a very thin, oval-shaped stone knife from his satchel. He thumbed the edge of the knife’s blade, testing its sharpness. Then he told Chayton, “This is going to hurt, but I do not know what else to do.”

“What are you doing?” Chayton asked, his head drooping from one side to the other.

“I must rid you of the waglulas - maggots,” Wiyaka replied. “They will bring you death.”  

“Namid…,” Chayton murmured.

Wiyaka grabbed the top of Chayton’s other shoulder with his hand and then with the stone knife in his other hand, he shaved and sawed the dried blood and fly eggs from the wound area. Chayton screamed in pain as the honed edge of the knife cut into the tender nerves surrounding the wound. Wiyaka then poured water on the wound, giving Chayton time to scream out in pain. Then with the sharp stone blade, Wiyaka scraped at the wound some more. Wiyaka did this several more times until he was able to remove most of the coagulated blood, fly eggs, and maggots.  The wound hole in Chayton’s shoulder quickly filled with blood when Wiyaka reopened the wound with the knife. He needed to flush the wound to make sure the poison from the fly eggs and maggots were gone. Wiyaka hoped that he was not too late.

Ah snee was keyn ktay, - I am going to rest,” Chayton murmured, falling over on his good side.

Oh lou lout ah! – It is very hot!”

Ai, – Yes, you rest,” Wiyaka replied, rising to his feet.

Wiyaka gathered dry wood and started a campfire. While the campfire heated up, Wiyaka collected a few green willow branches from along the shore of the pond. He stuck the ends of the green willow branches into the flames of the campfire, heating them up. 


By the way, the language spoken in the above dialogue is Lakota Sioux. I used both Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne Native American languages in the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY, not because anyone knows what language the Folsom People spoke over ten thousand years ago, but I am pretty sure the language was NOT English. 
Nope, no snowflakes survived at the end of the Ice Age, that’s for sure. Read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY if you want to read about some really tough people. In my next blog posting I will give you an example of how really tough these prehistoric people were. Do you think you could survive?   

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Dumpster Tang Knife and the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL

Figure One - 2.7 inch long corner tang knife from Colorado

My prehistoric book series called the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY was inspired to me when I found a prehistoric artifact. The story below was inspired by an artifact as well, but I don't see a book series or trilogy coming out of it. ;).  
I dubbed the 2.7 inch long corner tang knife from Colorado in the photograph above the “Dumpster Tang Knife”. Here is the story behind the name.

This summer, I took this magnificent corner tang knife out of its frame and wrapped it carefully in bubble wrap. I placed the bubble wrap and artifact in the top drawer of my desk, where it would be safe. The next morning I was planning to take some pictures of the corner tang knife before I went to training for wildland firefighting. Morning came and I looked inside every drawer of the desk, but I could not locate the bubble wrapped corner tang knife. I decided that I would do a more complete search when I got back from my training. I loaded up the garbage to take to the dumpster and then headed to my training.

During the training, my thoughts never left the corner tang knife. I rushed home afterwards and scoured all of the spots the corner tang knife might be hid. My search came up empty. My wife Theresa had one of her girlfriends visiting so I asked Theresa if she had seen the bubble wrap in the top of the desk. “Oh,” she said, “I might have thrown that bubble wrap out.”

Figure Two - 2.7 inch long corner tang knife from Colorado
Panic set in. I had just taken the garbage to the dumpster a couple of miles away that morning. I got in my vehicle and raced to the dumpster. It was Saturday so the dumpster was full. I dug around in the summer heat and found what I thought was our garbage bags. I reloaded the garbage bags into my vehicle and drove them back to the house where I went through the garbage in our garage. I had a real fun time. I did not find the bubble wrap or the artifact. I took the molested garbage back to the dumpster and jumped in the metal container. I was going to make sure I had not missed any of our bags.  

After an hour or so search through the garbage in the dumpster, I went back to the house and sat down for lunch with Theresa and her guest, but I could not get my mind off that corner tang knife. It was one of my favorites. I excused myself from lunch, telling my wife and guest that I was going back to the dumpster. There, I dug through the garbage once again, looking for that artifact. I did not find the artifact, but lo and behold, I found the bubble wrap that had protected the artifact. “Oh no,” I exclaimed, “the artifact is loose in the garbage!”

By now, there was garbage strewn all over the dumpster. I had created garbage chaos in that dumpster. I needed a plan. There were two dumpsters sitting there, so I decided to move everyone else’s garbage to the other dumpster so all I had to look through was our garbage. After removing most of everyone else’s garbage, I was standing near the bottom of the dumpster, my feet planted in someone’s very used cat litter, Flies and other assorted garbage-feasting bugs swarmed my air space. My gag reflex had finally gone on hiatus. I methodically went through each bag of our garbage. Then, I found a bag that I had not seen before, that I had not inspected in the garage. I opened the bag and poured the garbage onto the cat litter on the bottom of the dumpster. Out popped the corner tang knife. I stared at it. I was not sure if it were real or just another artifact sitting in situ in cat litter. That is why I call this artifact the “Dumpster Tang Knife”.  

Now, back to SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL, click the link below to join the adventure.    

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Friday, September 16, 2016

WINDS OF EDEN - What's the Gunk on That Rock?

Figure One. The artifact inspiring the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY.
Side B of 4.1 inch long discoidal biface made from Alibates Chert.

For those of you who are not aware, the seed for the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY sprouted on an early summer morning in 2010 on a northern Colorado ranch when
I found a prehistoric stone tool made from a red and gray striped rock only found in a prehistoric rock quarry in Texas (Figures One and Two). I believe that the mysterious Folsom People made this prehistoric stone tool sometime between 10,900 and 10,200 years ago.
Figure Two. The artifact inspiring the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY.
Side A not demonstrating much pedogenic carbonate.

When I found this prehistoric tool, I stared at it for some time, wondering about the ancient people who made it. How did this stone tool end up all the way to a prehistoric campsite in northern Colorado, five hundred miles to the north of the prehistoric rock quarry? Who actually 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 person who made it, I wrote my own version of the journey in the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY.    
Figure Three. The Exciting Conclusion. CLICK to ORDER.

Below, I copied a highlighted paragraph from my third book of the prehistoric thriller series entitled the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY. In this particular paragraph, the prehistoric stone tool I write about in paragraph one and two is lost only to be found by me 10,700 years later. I will catch you on the other side of the highlighted paragraph.

Far to the north, near the village of the Folsom People, lightning filled the sky as black clouds rolled in from the west. Chayton’s grandson Cansha and his friends had been hunting and were now running down the steep slope of the bluffs, trying to reach the safety of the village before the storm arrived. The red and gray inyan wakan – sacred rock bounced up and down in the satchel where Cansha kept his grandfather’s gift. As he sprinted to the village, Cancha never noticed that the red and gray sacred rock had fallen out of his satchel and landed on the trail. Later, a vicious thunderstorm struck the village, flooding the grasslands and creeks while burying the red and gray sacred rock. The red and gray sacred rock lay buried on that prairie for well over ten thousand winters until another human came along and discovered it eroding from a dry streambed.


So, what happened to the stone tool between the time it was lost around 10,700 years ago and the time I recovered it in 2010? Obviously, it was buried, otherwise, someone else would have found it before me or a cow or horse hoof would have found it and shattered it into tens of pieces. But, what is that white stuff growing on the top of it in Figure one? That is what is called pedogenic (secondary) carbonate and I will explain it to you.   

Figure Four. Side A of 6.5 inch long ultrathin knife form, made
from obsidian. Side A shows little pedogenic carbonate.   
Pedogenic carbonation occurs when rainwater and atmospheric carbon dioxide combine to form diluted carbonic acid in the soil. This weak acidic water dissolves minerals in the soil, yielding water-soluble calcium carbonate, bicarbonate, and other salts capable of precipitating on other minerals if ground water conditions are suitable.

Figure Five. Side B of 6.5 inch long ultrathin knife form
showing extensive pedogenic carbonate.   
Low rainfall is the single most important factor for the development of pedogenic carbonate. Low rainfall allows the formation of pedogenic carbonates near the surface of the ground. However, high rainfall washes the water-soluble salts into the ground’s water table, removing them from the sediment where we find most artifacts.

Pedogenic carbonate accumulates on or between sediment grains, occluding and cementing the sediment as a result. Pedogenic carbonate forms a geopetal structure that first accumulates on the lowest part of the buried artifact and as time goes on, coats more elevated areas. A geopetal indicator is a characteristic relationship observed in a rock, or sequence of rocks, that makes it possible to determine whether they are the right side up (i.e. in the attitude in which they were originally deposited, also known as "stratigraphic up") or have been overturned by subsequent movement. Regardless of the position the artifact is found, carbonate presence establishes the original up and down surfaces.     

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

W is for WINDS OF EDEN, F is for Flat Top Chalcedony!

Figure One. 1.8 inch long Midland dart point found September 2, 1997
on private land in the approximate area of Flat Top Butte. Made from pale
red Flat Top Chalcedony. Age 10,900 to 10,200 years old. John Branney Coll.   
I took the book passage below from my prehistoric thriller WINDS OF EDEN, the third book and finale of the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY. This particular passage of the book illustrates the important prehistoric tradition of flintknapping. In this scene, a grandfather is teaching his grandchildren the art of making projectile points from rock. There is no evidence that North American Paleoindians had written languages, therefore, important traditions such as flintknapping were passed from generation to generation through "show and tell". I will rejoin you on the other side of the book passage.  

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.


 WINDS OF EDEN and the other two books in the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY chronicled the  prehistoric adventures of a band of paleoindians who trekked across a future Texas to a future northern Colorado
around 10,700 years ago. On their way from Texas to northern Colorado, these prehistoric explorers encountered different groups of humans, both good and bad; fierce mammals, some now extinct; and acts of nature that would frighten to death most of us modern-day wimps

The SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY featured a paleoindian named Chayton from an actual prehistoric culture called Folsom. On the adventure northward, Chayton brought with him stone tools made from Alibates Chert from a true-to- life prehistoric rock quarry in Texas. When I found a paleoindian stone tool in 2010 made from Alibates Chert on a prehistoric campsite in northern Colorado, I had to write the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY , to tell my story about how that stone tool ended up there. I now call this prehistoric site in northern Colorado the Shadows on the Trail prehistoric site in honor of my trilogy.

Paleoindians were nomads with an objective for survival. They followed the migration of the bison herds, the heart of their survival . Since paleoindians did travel and trade, it is not uncommon to find artifacts made from rock types that originated in other  regions of the country, such as the Alibates Chert I found in northern Colorado. During their relatively short lifetimes, Paleoindians used a lot of rock for knapping tools and projectile points Since, paleoindians couldn't possibly haul all the rock they needed around with them from place to place, they had to identify new sources of rock as they moved around the country. As I previously mentioned, the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY ended up in northern Colorado, very near another documented prehistoric rock quarry. In my books, I never had Chayton and the Folsom People visit the prehistoric quarry twenty miles away from my Shadows on the Trail prehistoric site, but I have found quite a lot of the rock from this prehistoric quarry on the Shadows on the Trail site. The rock type found in this prehistoric quarry is called Flat Top Chalcedony and here is a little bit of information about it. I photographed the source for Flat Top Chalcedony in Figure Three.  

Figure Three. Prehistoric quarry Flat Top Butte in northern Colorado on August 2001.

Flat Top Chalcedony was named for the prehistoric rock quarries at Flat Top Butte in Logan County, Colorado, Flat Top Chalcedony originates in the Horsetail Member of the White River Formation of Oligocene age where it formed in cavities in the fresh water limestones.
Figure Four. 1.2 inch long Folsom dart point found
at the Shadows on the Trail site on August 30, 2006.
Made from Flat Top Chalcedony. John Branney Coll.

Flat Top Chalcedony is a purple/lavender, pale red, tan or white silicon based rock found in abundance in northeastern Colorado. Anyone who has artifact hunted in northeastern Colorado, the panhandle of Nebraska, and southeastern Wyoming has found chipping debris made from Flat Top Chalcedony. It is arguably the most abundant prehistoric raw material found in northeastern Colorado.
Figure Five. 3.3 inch long Paleoindian blade made from a lavender-colored
Flat Top Chalcedony and recovered on private land in northern Colorado
on May 24, 2003. John Branney Collection.       

From a mineralogical perspective, chalcedony is a cryptocrystalline or fine-grained variety of quartz that has a waxy luster. It is often times transparent or translucent, but can be opaque. It varies in color from white to gray to blue to brown to red and other shades. It occurs most frequently as rounded or imitative forms, or as linings in rock cavities.

Chalcedony is a general term and specific names are used for specifically colored varieties, such as Flat Top Chalcedony. Some experts believe chalcedony is an independent mineral from quartz while other experts regard chalcedony as a mixture of quartz and opal (hydrous silica gel). Other examples of specific types of chalcedony include agate, jasper, and onyx.

So, there you have it, a little bit of information on chalcedony, Flat Top Chalcedony, and of course, my books. Click on the links below my book covers to find out more information on how to read AND join the adventure SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY. 



Sunday, June 19, 2016

A is for Angostura and S is for SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY

Figure One - 3 inch long Angostura spear / knife form surface recovered on private
land in Goshen County, Wyoming. John Branney Collection.
For those of you who have read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY you will remember that the books were about the Folsom People, those mystical Paleoindians who lived on the Great Plains over ten thousand years ago. I have previously written blogs and magazine articles about who came before the Folsom People and some of the people who came after. For those Paleoindians who came before and after the Folsom People, the culture and subsistence strategy did not change a whole lot.
Below, I am going to write about one of the prehistoric cultures that came after the Folsom People and the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY. Archaeologists named this culture Angostura. What was so different about Angostura that made it a different prehistoric culture from those Paleoindians who came before them? 
That is a good question. Let me take a shot at answering the question. One of the items that archaeologists find in almost every archaeological site are stone projectile points and stone tool assemblages. Depending on the amount of preservation of an archaeological site, the faunal bone remains and any evidence of plant use may already be deteriorated. Therefore, archaeologists must lean heavily on the evidence that still remains - projectile points types and stone tool assemblages - in an attempt to define the people and culture that inhabited a particular site. In most cases, the stone tool assemblages look very similar across several thousand years of Paleoindian occupation. What can be different between different Paleoindian cultures are the projectile point types or styles. Therefore, archaeologists tend to rely heavily and use stone projectile points as cultural markers and a means to differentiate between  Paleoindian cultures even when other factors are similar.   
Now, let me write about one of these prehistoric cultures called Angostura. 
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In 1946, archaeologists working on the Missouri Basin Project were investigating the upper Cheyenne River on the southern flank of the Black Hills in South Dakota. The pending construction of the Angostura Reservoir was threatening several potential archaeology sites and salvage archaeological dig candidates were being determined. In 1948, archaeologists focused on one of the  sites called the Ray Long Site. Archaeological evidence was discovered in a small gully tributary along Horsehead Creek. The archaeologists found a number of fire hearths and camp related stone tools between five and seven feet deep in the site. Associated with this prehistoric camp, the archaeologists identified a medium to large lanceolate-shaped projectile point with random to oblique parallel flaking. Eventually, archaeologists renamed this point type Angostura and archaeologists have used this projectile point type as a cultural marker ever since.
Figure Three - 5.6 inch long Angostura spear point made from obsidian
and surface recovered on private land in Hyde County, South Dakota.
Note similarity to Agate Basin point type. John Branney Collection.  

J.T. Hughes originally named the Angostura point type the Long point after the landowner of the Ray Long Site. You might imagine how a point type named Long might become problematic because of its descriptive nature. The would have had the same problem if they named the point type short, thin, large, narrow, or wide. In 1954, archaeologist Wheeler renamed the point Angostura to differentiate it from the descriptive name, Long.

At the time of discovery, the Ray Long Site was important for another reason, archaeologists found evidence of plant gathering and processing in a 9,000 year old site.

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Angostura points are medium to large lanceolate-shaped points with random to parallel-oblique flaking. The blade edges are straight to slightly convex. The stem on the points contracts, sometimes quite dramatically. Basal thinning is with short flakes and usually the base is concave.

Angostura continued the Paleoindian tradition of polishing or grinding the basal edges where the projectile point was hafted.    

Figure Five - Angostura points from private land in Colorado, Wyoming
and Nebraska. Note the oblique-flaking on most. The longest
point is four inches long. John Branney Collection.

The Angostura point type chronologically and morphologically overlaps with three other projectile point types: Frederick, Lusk, and Jimmy Allen. In fact, some scholars have proposed lumping all four types into a single category called oblique-flaked Plano points, foregoing the use of the specific point type name (Cassells 1986). Other scholars believe that the Angostura point type is not necessary at all and that it fits nicely within another point type, Agate Basin. In my opinion, Angostura is an evolution and variation of the Agate Basin point type. 

Personally, I do not see the need for both Agate Basin and Angostura point types, but I need to explain my politics, first. In the world of projectile point typology, there are two political parties, the Lumpers and the Splitters. Lumpers attempt to combine as many projectile point types as possible under the guidance that they are variations on the same theme. Splitters want to identify the variations as separate projectile point types. I happen to be in the Lumper political party, so of course I would want to see one point type between Agate Basin and Angostura.     

What is your opinion?   




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?
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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.