Thursday, August 21, 2014

Good News for Future Readers of Shadows on the Trail!!!

Good news if you have not read my prehistoric thriller Shadows on the Trail!

The publisher has lowered the price for the Shadows on the Trail e book down to $6.99 each!

Order your copy of Shadows on the Trail today and you can be readin...
g it tonight! You can order both Shadows on the Trail and the second book in the Trilogy, Ghosts of the Heart in e book for $11.98 for both books! Then, the real adventure begins.

Join the adventure today! 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Shadows on the Trail and Pronghorn Antelope

Pronghorn antelope buck looking out over his prairie kingdom. Photo by Author. 
Recently, I was driving in the Rocky Mountains, down a graveled county road on an early morning jaunt to one of my favorite artifact hunting places. A sea of sagebrush and prairie surrounded me in every direction. My right eye caught movement out on the prairie alongside my pickup truck. I glanced over and there was a pronghorn antelope buck racing my pickup. I peered down at my speedometer and saw I was traveling around thirty miles per hour. I looked back at the pronghorn buck and he did not appear to be even breathing hard. I took a gander down the county road to make sure the road was straight and then decided to give Mr. Pronghorn Buck a run for his money.

Click for more info on Shadows on the Trail
I sped up the pickup to thirty-five miles per hour and the pronghorn buck matched my speed without too much trouble. I checked the road again and sped up to forty miles per hour. At forty miles per hour, the pickup was all over that rutty county road. I decided that forty miles per hour was my limit. I was hoping that it was the limit for the pronghorn buck, as well. I looked over at my pronghorn friend and saw that at forty miles per hour, he was still not finished with me. He lowered his head and found another gear. His legs chewed up the prairie as he accelerated past the front of my pickup truck. He literally left me in his dust.
I backed off to thirty-five miles per hour and that was when the pronghorn buck decided to zoom across the road right in front of me. The last thing I remember was that pronghorn buck’s white rump waving goodbye to my pickup truck and me. After crossing the road, the pronghorn buck headed out onto the prairie where he finally slowed down and stopped. I watched the pronghorn buck in the rear view mirror as I headed on down the road. I guess he was just showing me who the fastest dude on the prairie was. 
Pronghorn antelope are the second fastest land animal in the world, right behind cheetahs. At thirty miles per hour, pronghorns are loping along. At forty-five miles per hour, they are cruising along. At sixty miles per hour, they are simply hauling!   
High Plains archaeological sites are well represented with the remains of pronghorn antelope. The

Pronghorn antelope buck playing hide and seek with the author.

archaeological record of the Folsom People, the main characters of Shadows on the Trail, demonstrates that pronghorn antelope were an important part of their diet. Investigators have found the remains of pronghorn antelope in Folsom-aged strata at two key archaeological sites, the Lindenmeier Site in Colorado and the Agate Basin Site in Wyoming.

It is now time to climb into our time machine and set it for the late Pleistocene, sometime around 8,700 B.C. We will join three young hunters from my prehistoric odyssey novel called Shadows on the Trail on a difficult trek across the Arid Plains. The three young hunters named Chayton, Wiyaka, and Keya are almost out of water and food. From this passage, it appears things are getting worse not better.       

Wiyaka suddenly stopped in his tracks, causing Keya to run into the back of him. After scolding Keya for his clumsiness, Wiyaka pointed his finger towards the parched prairie, northwest of them, where a huge dust cloud rose into the clear blue sky. The three hunters watched the dust cloud with curiosity, unable to determine what was causing it.

“Prairie fire!” Chayton spoke into a strong northwesterly wind.

Hee ya, – No,” Wiyaka responded. “It is the wrong color and we are downwind, we would smell the smoke.”

“Animals?” Chayton suggested.

“Perhaps, maybe bison, I am not sure?” Wiyaka yelled into the wind. “Let’s get closer.”

The three hunters slowly crept forward, hiding behind the tall sagebrush and greasewood, their spears ready to thrust. As they got closer, a low rumbling sound filled the dusty air. Crouching down, Wiyaka signaled to Chayton and Keya to join him.

“We are close enough!” Wiyaka called out to his companions.

Pronghorn antelope buck cruising along on the prairie. 
The dust cloud was heading directly at the three hunters and Chayton looked around for something for them to climb up, but the naked prairie offered nothing. The rumbling sound became louder and the dust in the air became thicker. As the dust cloud headed straight at the three hunters, Chayton covered his watering eyes against the barrage of dust and dirt. The dust cloud was right in front of the three hunters when Wiyaka’s dirty face lit up in a broad smile. He jumped to his feet, waving his spear and screaming at the top of his lungs. Chayton and Keya still hunkered down, looked up at Wiyaka as if he had lost his mind. Wiyaka jumped high in the air, throwing his spear while screaming at the top of his lungs.

In as much time as it took to scream, the lead animals of the herd sharply veered to the right of the three hunters. The hunters watched hundreds, if not thousands, of tatoke – pronghorn antelope race past. The three hunters could no longer see each another in the dense dust cloud that shrouded the plains. When the sound of thundering hooves finally faded away, the dust cloud dissipated and the hunters looked at each other.       

On a wide-open environment like the Arid Plains, pronghorn antelope are almost unapproachable. They have phenomenal eyesight and they miss very little, even at very long distances. If you are a hunter from the Folsom People tribe, armed with a spear or two and without any mode of transportation besides your feet, it is not hard to imagine the dilemma you would have hunting pronghorn antelope.

However, for prehistoric hunters hunting pronghorn antelope there was hope. Although pronghorn
Click for Info on Ghosts of the Heart
antelope are unapproachable on a wide-open prairie, they become confused when dealing with physical barriers or surrounded by humans. Trap them in some kind of arroyo or manmade fence and pronghorn antelope will run around in circles until they literally fall over with exhaustion without ever attempting to break free from the enclosure. Prehistoric hunters took advantage of this by building brush fences that funneled the pronghorn antelope herds into enclosed areas. There, the prehistoric hunters dispatched the pronghorns with spears or stone mauls.

Pronghorn antelope also have another weakness, they are excessively curious. If most pronghorn antelope see something unusual on the prairie, they have to find out what it is. They will go as far as walking towards the object just to find out what it is, even if it is a hunter. I have tested pronghorn antelope’s curiosity more times than I care to admit while hunting for artifacts on the wide-open prairie. When I see a pronghorn in the distance, I will wave my walking stick in the air to get its attention. Once it locks on to me, then I have it. I will wave my walking staff occasionally and usually I can get the pronghorn to walk towards me a few steps each time. The game usually ends when I lose interest, not the pronghorn.        

Read the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy novels and see how I used pronghorn antelope in the books. 


The much anticipated finale of the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy
will be released for publication in the fourth quarter of 2014.  

Winds of Eden - the third book and finale of the 
Shadows on the Trail Trilogy.
Available Q4 - 2014.  


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Imagine...A Massive Dust Storm and Not Knowing What Caused It

Click the Link - Ghosts of the Heart by John Bradford Branney

First, I am going to ask you to close your eyes and imagine yourself witnessing either a tornado, dust storm or hailstorm for the very first time. But, before you close your eyes, imagine you have a time machine and can go back in time to right around 10,700 years ago in the Pleistocene Epoch, before science adequately explained the causes of these types of storms. Living back in the Pleistocene, you would not have had any earthly idea what caused these storms. Okay, now it is time to close your eyes and let your imagination do the work.

Photograph of a dust storm in central United States in the 1930s.
Are your eyes open yet? Good. Wipe your memory of everything you have learned about weather and storms during your lifetime. I know this is hard to do. Once we have learned something it is nearly impossible to forget it. I want you to be able to imagine you are a First American roaming the plains of Texas and Colorado. You would have no knowledge of what makes weather change or storms tick. How do you think these First Americans explained storms? Perhaps, they believed in an all-powerful being that created these mysteries of nature, much like our early ancestors and most of us believe.

The Pleistocene was no place for wimps. The First Americans not only had to deal with the predatory animals that wanted to put them on their menu (yes, humans were part of the food chain, not the top of the food chain), but they also had to deal with the ravages of storms associated with climate change. 

I took the passage below from the second book in my Shadows on the Trail Trilogy called Ghosts of the Heart. In this passage, our heroes the Folsom People are traveling through a once-upon-a-time pine forest that climate change at the end of the Pleistocene has ravaged. The Folsom People encounter a frightful sight, a black blizzard or dust storm of epic proportion. The Folsom People are stuck in the middle of the desert with no place to run or hide, except the bottom of a dry creek bed. Here is how two of the tribal elders named Wanbli Cikala and He Wonjetah deal with this hair-raising experience.  

Wanbli Cikala and He Wonjetah stood on the bank of the creek, bracing themselves against the gale-force winds and onslaught of flying sand and gravel. The black dust blizzard was directly in front of them, carrying silt and sand high into the air. “It will miss us!” Wanbli Cikala screamed, more of a hope than a fact.

Slol wa yea shnee! – I do not know!” He Wonjetah screamed into the wind.

The sand and gravel pelted their faces while their dust-filled eyes streamed tears into the wind. In a wasted effort, both men held their arms in front of their noses and mouths, attempting to protect their faces from sand and gravel. Tree limbs from the dead pine forest flew past the two men like

spears thrown by the gods. With one arm, He Wonjetah grabbed Wanbli Cikala by the arm and literally pulled him down into the creek bottom. The sky was as black as the darkest night when the front edge of the black dust blizzard exploded on the Arid Plains on top of the tribe. He Wonjetah and Wanbli Cikala stumbled around in the creek bottom, looking for a place that shielded them from the abrasive sand.

Finally, He Wonjetah just shoved Wanbli Cikala to the ground, falling on top of him. The winds roared over them as sand and silt poured into the deeper depression of the creek bottom. He Wonjetah could not breathe as he searched for air to fill his lungs while choking on the thick dust. He heard Wanbli Cikala underneath him, wheezing and coughing as silt and sand poured into the creek bottom, filling it up. The drifting sand and silt would soon bury the tribe unless they kept moving. He Wonjetah stood up and the cyclonic winds knocked him back down.

Now, stay in your playacting role as a First American. Being a First American, how would you explain the cause of this dust storm? Without the knowledge to understand the science behind the dust storm, well, I don't have to explain the problem for the First Americans.

         Read Ghosts of the Heart and experience life as one of our First Americans. Click Link!





Sunday, July 27, 2014

Prehistoric Mammals Excavated from Wyoming Cave!

Shadows on the Trail is available at, Barnes and
and better booksellers.

Now this is an interesting link!  Fossils in Wyoming

Friday, July 18, 2014

Native American Sprituality and the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy

                       John Bradford Branney Books Here!

Shadows on the Trail - the first book of the trilogy.
The seed for the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy sprouted on an early summer morning in 2010 on a northern Colorado ranch where I found a man-made prehistoric tool made from a red and gray striped rock from a prehistoric rock quarry in Texas. As I admired the prehistoric tool that a Paleoindian had made over 10,700 years ago, several questions raced through my mind. How did this 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 tool, I wrote my own version of his journey in a book called Shadows on the Trail.      

Due to the popularity of the book Shadows on the Trail, it has now grown into a trilogy that encompasses the life of a Paleoindian hunter named Chayton. The story takes place at the end of the last Ice Age on the plains and mountains of Texas and Colorado. The end of the Ice Age was a time of global warming, rising air temperatures and melting ice caps and glaciers. It 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. During that time, the Paleoindians lived under a cloud of unknowns. The science behind such things as tornadoes, earthquakes, weather and even death, were not yet known or understood. It does not take too much of an imagination to assume that the Paleoindians associated some or all of these phenomena to a spiritual power that controlled their lives and environment. We know that when the Europeans showed up on the North American continent thousands of years later, historical Indian tribes had well-developed religious and spiritual beliefs.

Ghosts of the Heart - the second book of the trilogy.
Since Paleoindian religion and spirituality is undocumented, I used the religion and spirituality of the historic Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne Indian tribes in Shadows on the Trail. Of course, using the religion and spirituality from two historic Indian tribes thousands of years after Paleoindians lived, is a stretch. However, there is archaeological evidence that a portion of the religious and spiritual traditions of the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne were around at the time of the Paleoindians, especially traditions related to mortuary practices.

At the burial site at Horn Shelter No. 2 in Texas, the investigators found two Paleoindians buried and associated with animal effigies, evidence of a spiritual connection between animals and humans. The male skeleton was associated with selected portions of a hawk, badger, turtles and coyotes while the adolescent girl skeleton was touching three turtle shells. Investigators believe that this could possibly represent a spiritual relationship with specific bird and animal species.

At another Paleoindian burial site in Montana called Anzick, the investigators found beautiful Clovis projectile points and bifaces buried with a small Clovis child. A red powder called red ochre covered both the artifacts and the child. Many cultures in past millennia have used red ochre in burials. There has also been widespread use of red ochre associated with prehistoric open camps, burials and tool caches across North America. In Oklahoma, archaeologists discovered a painted bison skull in association with Folsom artifacts at a Paleoindian bison kill site named Cooper. The painted bison skull probably has some significance to the spirituality associated with the hunt.  

Folsom projectile point - spiritual
connection or overkill?
            I will add another Paleoindian connection to their spirituality, projectile points. Some of the finest projectile points ever made are Folsom points. Why would the Folsom People exert so much energy in making and maintaining these exquisite fluted projectile points unless they believed these projectile points carried some super power or spirituality into the hunt? We know that the failure rate in making Folsom points was high and the Folsom People could have gotten by with much more primitive stone projectile points and probably would have been just as successful on the hunt.   

The belief in spirituality most likely developed from the Paleoindians’ level of understanding of natural phenomena, hunting, animals, belief in ghosts and spirits, and shamanism. Paleoindian traditions passed from generation to generation until the Europeans helped document the beliefs of the historical Indian tribes. How much the religion and spirituality of the Paleoindians changed over several millennia is anyone’s guess, but we do know what the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne believed in. They believed there was a Great Spirit, they had a deep connection with animals, and they believed in the circle of life. When I wrote Shadows on the Trail and Ghosts of the Heart, I used two excellent books in my research on Native American religion and spirituality. These two books were Lakota Belief and Ritual by James R. Walker and The Wolves of Heaven by Karl H. Schlesier. 

My first book of the trilogy called Shadows on the Trail is loaded with action and adventure with some Paleoindian spiritual undertones. In my second book of the trilogy called Ghosts of the Heart, action and adventure still dominate, but there is much more spirituality than the first book. In my third book of the trilogy called Winds of Eden, which I am currently writing, it still has action and adventure, but the overriding theme is Paleoindian beliefs and spirituality.

            Shadows on the Trail and Ghosts of the Heart are available at, Barnes and, and other better booksellers. Watch for the final book of the trilogy, Winds of Eden in October 2014.            
                                                Books from John Bradford Branney


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pryor Stemmed Point Type and Complex - Descendants of the Folsom People

Shadows on the Trail, the first book in the trilogy of the Folsom People,
a prehistoric tribe that roamed North America from 10,900 to 10,200 years old.
Order this book on and join the adventure.

Photographed in Figure 2 is a 2.1 inch long Pryor Stemmed point that was surface found on a private ranch in southern Wyoming by Al Gamble. The maker of this point used what appears to be Spanish Diggings quartzite as the material. Spanish Diggings quartzite came from prehistoric quarries in eastern Wyoming. This point appears to be in its original state, i.e. it has never been resharpened or beveled. I will let you read on as to why I believe this.

William Husted (1969) named the Pryor Stemmed point type for specimens found in Bottleneck Cave near the Pryor Mountains in Big Horn County, Wyoming. This site is now under the waters of Yellowtail and Big Horn Reservoirs.

The Pryor Stemmed point tied to a distinctive archaeological horizon marker in the Pryor and Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming and Montana. Radiocarbon dates indicated that Pryor Stemmed points were 8,350 to 7,850 years old. Originally, archaeologists assumed that the distribution for Pryor Stemmed points was limited to the mountains and foothills of the Pryor Mountains and Big Horn Mountains, but surface finds in other High Plains locales including plains and prairie environments, widened the distribution.

A first stage Pryor Stemmed point began life with a lenticular transverse cross section and was usually characterized by parallel oblique pressure flaking. However, as Pryor Stemmed points went through their lives, their users continually reworked the alternate edges, producing steep beveling. In some cases, the beveling produced a serrated edge. Ultimately, through the life of the point, the original lenticular cross section became a trapezoidal cross section. In some examples, the users resharpened the points so many times that the blade edge became narrower than the stem. Projections on the shoulders of these points indicate that the users resharpening the points intact, i.e. while hafted.

Reworking was common on broken specimens of Pryor Stemmed points and in many cases deliberate burination was applied using transverse breaks as the striking platforms.

Much of this information came from the works of Kornfeld, Frison, Larson, and Perino.

John Branney Collection. To order Shadows on the Trail and Ghosts of the Heart follow the link>>

John Bradford Branney, Author


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ghosts of the Heart by John Bradford Branney Book Review

Ghosts of the Heart, the second book in the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy is available from,, and other better booksellers in paperback and e book.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The 10,000 Year Camp-Out

Shadows on the Trail available at,, and better booksellers worldwide. 

     I have attached an interesting article by Will Dunham of about the current thinking that several thousand people may have waited out the last Ice Age at Beringia, the submerged land under the Bering Sea and Chukchi Sea between Siberia and Alaska.

     The article goes onto to discuss how these people could have survived for over 10,000 years from 25,000 to 15,000 years ago in what appears to have been a  tundra environment with woody plants and trees like birch, alder, and willow.

     The article also discusses how previous DNA research indicated that Native Americans have their own distinctive genetic blueprint, different from the Asian DNA we thought they came from. For this distinctive genetic blueprint to develop, the ancestors of Native Americans would have had to have been isolated from the rest of the human race for a long period of time. What better place to be completely isolated, between two impassable ice sheets, one in Siberia and the other in Alaska.

     Life in Beringia would have been harsh, but based on current thinking, there would have been trees for burning in campfires and animals for food.

   This theory does not account for the human activity that was occurring south of the ice sheets in southern North America during that same time frame. 

     In my book, Shadows on the Trail, I accommodated at least three different peoples with separate languages and customs. I still believe there were multiple sources for the peopling of North America.          


Ghosts of the Heart available at,, and better booksellers, globally.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Shadows on the Trail Trilogy - Healing in the Pleistocene

Figure 1 - A depiction of a prehistoric hunter using an atlatl or spear thrower.
      As I sit and write my latest posting for the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy blog, I am fighting a severe cold. My head is congested and my throat is scratchy. My nose is running like a faucet and I am coughing constantly, trying to clear my lungs. In the bathroom, I have my over-the-counter medications lined up, everything from vitamins to severe cold medicine to cough drops. If my over-the-counter medications do not work on this cold, I can always be at my doctor’s office at a drop of a hat.   
     In our society, we are accustomed to going to the drugstore when we are sick or going to the doctor if our illness or ailment is serious. But, what did prehistoric people do some 10,700 years ago when the Shadows of the Trail Trilogy took place? What illnesses and injuries were common at the end of the Ice Age and how did they treat them?     
Figure 2 - Ghosts of the Heart available at
    While writing both of my prehistoric novels, Shadows on the Trail and Ghosts of the Heart, I researched Native American healing practices and medicines because I knew that several of my characters in the books would require healing practices and medicines. I had to make the assumption that the documented healing practices and medicines of the Native American Indian tribes were handed down to them by their prehistoric ancestors over thousands of years. What surprised me the most during my research was the lack of medicines and herbs for treating serious ailments and sicknesses.         
     Below is a short segment from my prehistoric novel Ghosts of the Heart where our hero Chayton survived a serious shoulder wound and made it back to his tribe, the Folsom People. His wound was highly infected and the only healer the tribe happened to be Tarca Sapa’s granddaughter, Tonkala.       
     Tonkala walked over to the [bison] paunch and threw a small piece of deer hide into the boiling water. She stirred the deer hide around in the boiling water with a stick and then plucked it out of the water. She grabbed the deer hide and walked over to Chayton where she washed and scrubbed the wound with the deer hide. Chayton grimaced in pain, but did not utter a word. Kangi rotated more broiling rocks into the paunch, keeping the water steamy hot. Tonkala took the hide back to the paunch and dropped it into the boiling water.

     Chayton glanced up and met the eyes of Tonkala’s young daughter, Lupan. She smiled at Chayton and he gave her a combination grimace-smile back. Tonkala returned with the deer hide and vigorously scrubbed the wound, turning Chayton’s entire shoulder a bright red.

     “Wa nee yea due ne doe na hey, Lupan? – How many winters are you, Lupan?” Chayton asked the small girl, attempting to take his mind elsewhere.

     “Tópa, – Four,” Lupan answered and then instantly looked at her mother who returned a frown to her daughter.

     “Hee ya, yámni, – No, three,” Lupan corrected herself.

     “She is always trying to be older than she actually is,” Tonkala noted to Chayton.

     Tonkala then turned to the hunters and said, “Bring him water to drink.”

     Tonkala then began assembling the herbs and special tree bark she required for making a healing poultice. Out of a large satchel, Tonkala retrieved witch hazel, white poplar bark, and juniper berries. Tonkala laid the mixture onto a sandstone grinding stone and added a small amount of the boiling water. She then pulverized the ingredients with a round rock until the mixture became a paste. She then spread the paste over the wound and then sealed the wound with a clean piece of deer hide. She held the deer hide to the wound with her fingers until the paste congealed and glued the deer hide to Chayton’s skin. A hunter finally returned with drinking water and handed it to Tonkala.
 Figure 3 - We know how large and dangerous modern
bison are (to the left). Bison antiquus was the bison species that
the Folsom People hunted in the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy. 
Bison antiquus was much larger and more dangerous than
even the modern bison species. Note the size comparison.
     There is not anyway for us to know what sicknesses and diseases the Folsom People had to face during the Pleistocene. However, evidence from prehistoric human skeletons demonstrates that prehistoric people suffered from bad teeth, broken bones, osteoporosis, arthritis, wounds from various causes, and many other maladies. Prehistoric people lived extremely harsh lives where their subsistence strategy consisted of hunting large and dangerous mammals. If prehistoric people became severely hurt or sick, they could not just go to a doctor or dentist. They had to rely on natural medicines and endure the pain.
     Read Shadows on the Trail and Ghosts of the Heart and take a trip back to the Pleistocene. It will make you appreciate modern conveniences much more.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ghosts of the Heart - Wounds and Injuries in Folsom Times

Shadows on the Trail and Ghosts of the Heart are available at,, and better booksellers.

One topic I wanted to dramatize in Ghosts of the Heart was the effects of wounds and injuries on a human's survival around 11,000 years ago in the Pleistocene. During my research for writing Ghosts of the Heart, I looked for evidence and information on how wounds and injuries were treated in the prehistoric world. Since this type of evidence is not usually found in archaeological sites, I had to assume that some of the documented Native American treatments had been passed down for generations.

  Modern experimentation demonstrates that a spear can be 
          propelled from an atlatl at an average speed of over 80 miles
per hour with speeds exceeding 130 miles per hour
during certain portions of the flight. 

The bottom line from my research on the subject of wounds and injuries in the Pleistocene - serious wounds and injuries often led to death, leading to a low life expectancy. This we can verify from the age of the human skeletons that have been found.

Below in blue is a short scene from Ghosts of the Heart. In this particular scene, Chayton had been seriously wounded by a stone-tipped spear, thrown from an atlatl or spear thrower. Chayton and his friend Wiyaka found themselves in a dilemma. With Chayton and Wiyaka far away from their tribe, the only thing they could do was run fro the lives from their enemies and get back to their tribe so Chayton's wound could be treated.        

                                             Folsom dart point used by the Folsom People and an
                                                       Agate Basin dart point used by the Mountain People.  
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.”

Without antibiotics, infection was a silent and deadly killer for prehistoric people, just as it is today. Chayton was fortunate that they were able to get the stone spear point out of his shoulder without too much trauma. The stone spear point was attached to the spear shaft with animal sinew or tendon. When sinew comes into contact with blood and bodily fluids, it stretches and swells. Pulling on the spear shaft could have caused the sinew to split, leaving the stone spear point in the shoulder muscle. The shoulder muscles could then contract around the spear point making it even more difficult or impossible to extract from the body. 

Chayton was also lucky he was hit in the shoulder and not somewhere more lethal, such as the chest or the abdomen. The deadliness of a chest wound is self explanatory. A wound to the abdomen or stomach can be just as deadly. Vital organs and blood vessels are concentrated in the abdomen of a human. If an intestine is pierced, a fatal infection was almost assured. As an analogy from historical times, Mexican soldiers wrapped heavy blankets around their mid sections when fighting the Apache Indians. The Mexican soldiers were protecting their abdomens from deadly arrow wounds to the abdomen. We also know that some historical Native American tribes draped thick animal hides around their torsos to protect themselves from arrow and bullet wounds.  

Does Chayton survive his wound? You will have to read Ghosts of the Heart to find out.      

Friday, January 3, 2014

Ghosts of the Heart by John Bradford Branney - Relive the Pleistocene!

Add cRelive the Pleistocene in the pages of  Ghosts of the Heart by John Bradford Branney.
Available at,, and better booksellers.

 If you enjoy reading about fossils and our prehistory in North America, check out this article on the fossil finds at the Gray Fossil Site!

Pleistocene Fossils at the Gray Site

Monday, December 30, 2013

Ghosts of the Heart - The Extinct Pleistocene Animals

Ghosts of the Heart by John Bradford Branney
The hunters stopped to rest, gazing at the beautiful sight of the meadow. Several hunters started pointing across the meadow at what appeared to be a large brown rock. It was an unusual rock since it appeared to be moving. The hunters jabbered amongst themselves, watching and pointing at this strange sight. Chayton wanted a closer look and found a place where the hunters could jump from boulder to boulder across the roaring river. The other hunters followed Chayton, sneaking across the soggy meadow and hiding behind trees and willow bushes where they could find them. Chayton quietly stalked this odd-looking rock, keeping the wind in his face and moving in harmony with the blowing tree limbs and bushes.

Chayton hoped that this rock-like thing did not hear the sound of his moccasins sinking in the muddy soil. The other hunters mimicked Chayton’s movements, only taking a step when he did. When the hunters reached this strange rock, they stared in amazement. They had heard the stories around the
campfire about such an animal. None of the hunters had ever seen anything that compared to the size of this animal. The magnificence of the animal stunned Chayton. He took a step forward and his moccasin disappeared into the smelly mire of the boggy meadow. The other hunters crouched down
behind anything they could find while gazing up at the humongous animal in front of them.

“This is the animal Tarca Sapa spoke about,” Keya whispered to Chayton.

Ai, – Yes,” Chayton murmured, never taking his eyes off the beast.

Crouching low to the ground, Chayton waited for another wind gust and synchronizing his movement with it, he took a step forward. The other hunters moved when he moved, their moccasins sinking in the organic rich mud. Behind a stand of willow bushes, Chayton craned his neck upward...

Above is a short outtake from my new prehistoric thriller Ghosts of the Heart. In this particular scene, a prehistoric hunting party discovered a large animal that none of the hunters had ever seen before. The hunters had all heard the campfire stories and legends about this animal, but meeting one face-to-face was a lot more intimidating than any of the hunters had expected.   

When I wrote Ghosts of the Heart, I took some liberty with what we currently know about the prehistory of North America. My only defense to this liberty is in the name of fiction. I am sure that some readers may criticize me for doing this, but here is what I did and a tiny bit of justification. In Ghosts of the Heart, I added an extinct Pleistocene animal that may not have still existed at the time this adventure took place. The remains of this extinct animal have not yet been found with associated artifacts from the time of the Folsom People. That is not to say that this evidence won't turn up sometime in the future, but as of right now, the evidence is not there. Let's look at this closer in the next few paragraphs.   

At archaeological sites, investigators do everything possible to determine the dates of the site occupation  and for any human or animals that they may have found. How likely is it that any given investigator finds the last member of an extinct animal species in their archaeological site? For that matter, how likely is it that they have found one of the last ten or twenty members of an extinct animal species? Not likely and here is why.

First of all, the conditions have to be just right for any animal to be preserved in the fossil record. Most prehistoric human or animal remains have simply decayed away, not leaving any evidence of their existence in the fossil record. Now, let's say, the animal actually becomes fossilized. How likely is it that someone actual discovers the fossil remains where it has been buried? Not very likely is my answer. Finding the remains of an extinct animal is about as random as throwing darts at a map of North America and hoping that your dart hits a possible location for a fossilized extinct animal. 

Now, let's assume that extinct animal remains somehow became fossilized and then by chance, were found by archaeological investigators. How likely is it that this particular fossilized animal is the last member of its extinct species?  My answer is not likely at all and secondly, how would the investigator ever know if it was one of the last members of that species?        

There is a very low probability of finding the fossilized remains for an extinct animal species and an even lower probability that the fossilized animal remains represent the last member of an extinct animal species. Now, we add another low probability that we find the fossilized animal remains associated with human artifacts. Even if we do,, how do we know if these fossilized animal remains were the last member of an extinct species? Perhaps, the species went on to live another thousands years, who knows? The archaeologist won't know if those fossilized animal remains were the last member of that extinct animal species. So, as far as using an extinct species in Ghosts of the Heart, who knows, maybe someday the archaeological evidence will back up the story.         

 You might be asking what extinct Pleistocene species did I use in Ghosts of the Heart? Well, for that answer, you are going to have to read Ghosts of the Heart.

Shadows on the Trail and Ghosts of the Heart by John Bradford Branney are available at,, and better booksellers around the globe.