Saturday, December 12, 2015

Knapping a FOLSOM POINT with Chayton!

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

My prehistoric adventure series titled the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL QUADRILOGY took place around 10,700 years ago in what we now call Texas and Colorado. The SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL QUADRILOGY is about the challenging survival of a group of Paleoindian hunters and gatherers called the Folsom People. What makes the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL QUADRILOGY different from your ordinary fictional adventure is that the Folsom People actually existed in North America’s prehistoric past. How do we know the Folsom People existed? Easy, they left behind a very distinct calling card, a culturally diagnostic stone projectile point that was named Folsom for the place it was first documented; Folsom, New Mexico. 

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

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

In the first book of the QUADRILOGY titled SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL, I wrote about the
FIGURE THREE. Folsom point surface found on 
private land in Natrona County, Wyoming. 
John Branney Collection.  
manufacturing process the Folsom People may have used to make fluted projectile points. Since there has never been any exact evidence as to how the Folsom point makers made fluted projectile points, we have to make some assumptions. 

In the scene below from SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL, a young Folsom hunter named Chayton was learning how to make fluted projectile points from Tarca Sapa, a salty old tribal healer. In this scene Chayton shows up and wants Tarca Sapa to tutor him on the finer points of making fluted projectile points. 

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

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

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

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

Chayton had expected this reaction from Tarca Sapa. It was the old man’s way. Tarca Sapa always complained, but always found the time to ensure Chayton learned properly. Chayton handed Tarca Sapa the spear points, one at a time. Each spear point was approximately the length of a finger and wider than a thumb. The tip of each spear point was slightly rounded, but still dangerously sharp while the base of the spear point, where the spear point attached to a wooden shaft, had two sharp ears. In the middle of the spear point’s base, between the two ears, Chayton had knapped a small square platform. When hit with an antler hammer precisely in the right place, the rock would crack and a long thin flake would detach from the middle of the spear point. A flute channel would remain where the long thin flake detached. How well this square platform was constructed and then struck with the antler hammer meant the difference between a good spear point and a broken spear point.

The platform was where Tarca Sapa focused his eyes. Tarca Sapa looked at each spear point carefully and put each inspected spear point in one of two piles. Once his inspection was over, Tarca Sapa touched the pile with seven spear points and said, “These points are good, the others need work. Now, let me see you drive a flute channel into the spear point.”

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

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

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

FIGURE FOUR. 2.5 inch long
Folsom preform certified by 
Greg Perino*. 
John Branney Collection.    
FIGURE FIVE. Striking platform to
create flute on projectile point.
FIGURE SIX. Rounded and beveled tip
of projectile point.

     The fluted points that Chayton took to Tarca Sapa were not finished and looked like the unfinished Folsom preform projectile point in FIGURE FOUR. An anonymous collector found this Folsom preform projectile point in Mecosta County, Michigan. The material is Norwood Chert. This particular preform was ready for fluting. The Paleoindian knapper had pressure flaked both faces of the preform leaving closely spaced flakes terminating near the middle of the biface. He or she rounded, beveled and abraded the distal end or tip of the preform which aided the fluting process (FIGURE SIX).  ight abrasion and grinding on the tip. Isolation of the central portion of the preform base or proximal end took place, leaving a platform nipple in the center of the base. Two pressure flakes were removed from either side of the platform nipple to allow the maker's antler punch to follow the channel flake easier. The platform nipple was beveled, ground, and polished. It was ready for Side A to be fluted. Age somewhere between 10900 and 10200 years ago. Finder unknown. Perino certification. Ex John Baldwin and Ron Van Heukelom Collections. John Branney Collection.

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

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

To assist the flutes, the Paleoindian knapper isolated a striking platform in the center portion of the projectile point base or proximal end. The Paleoindian knapper accomplished this by creating a small nipple or striking platform in the center of the preform base (FIGURE FIVE). Then, he or she removed two pressure flakes from either side of the striking platform so that the maker’s antler punch could reach the striking platform without interference from the rest of the point. The Paleoindian knapper stabilized the striking platform or nipple by beveling, grinding, and polishing it.

This Folsom preform would have made Tarca Sapa very happy! Read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL QUADRILOGY for all the stories!    

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Midland vs. Folsom and the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY

Figure one. Fluted Folsom projectile point from Colorado.
These fluted projectile points are diagnostic to the
Folsom prehistoric culture in the Pleistocene of North
America. John Branney Collection.

THE SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY  – Adventures from our Prehistoric Past

The passage in red below is from WINDS OF EDEN, the third book in my high energy adventure series called the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY. In this section of the book, an elderly man in the Folsom tribe around 10,700 years ago is passing along to a child the art and craft of making fluted
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projectile points, a hallmark that would come to represent the Folsom prehistoric culture in the archaeological record.
I am sure that this was how people passed on traditions and their way of life from generation to generation, even as far back as ten thousand years, especially since there is currently no archaeological evidence of writing in the human occupancy of America in Pleistocene time. Now, to the passage from WINDS OF EDEN;        

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

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

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

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

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

He táku hwo? – What is it?” the old man asked.

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

Tóka he? – What is wrong?” the old man asked, a whimsical smile on his face.

The boy flicked the tiny knob with his thumbnail and replied, “You have dulled this part.”

The young boy then ran his thumb across the small knobbed platform and said, “It is smooth.”

The fluted projectile points that the elderly man is helping the boy with became so distinctive that there is no mistaking them for any other projectile point type in the archaeological record. However, did the Folsom People only make this one type of projectile point? I will provide some facts below and let you draw your own conclusions.

A Pleistocene Woman Discovered at Midland, Texas 

In 1953, an avocational archaeologist by the name of Keith Glasscock discovered fossilized human

Figure two. Kansas Folsom and Colorado Midland
projectile points, both made from Alibates chert.
John Branney Collection.
remains in a sand blowout six miles southwest of Midland, Texas. Mr. Glasscock also found several diagnostic Folsom artifacts and a similar unfluted projectile point in these blowouts. Mr. Glasscock understood the importance of finding the fossilized human remains and artifacts. He contacted archaeologist Fred Wendorf who investigated the sand blowouts with Mr. Glasscock and other archaeologists. In all, Glasscock and the archaeologists found seven fluted Folsom projectile points and twenty-one unfluted Folsom-like points during their investigations. The archaeologists had hoped to determine the age of the human remains and the relationship with the two types of projectile points found nearby. Wendorf and his colleagues named the site Scharbauer, after the landowner and initially coined the term “unfluted Folsom” points to describe the projectile points found associated with the fluted Folsom points. In an attempt to classify these unfluted Folsom points, the archaeologists looked for similarities and differences with fluted Folsom points. They evaluated the raw material used in making the different projectile points to see if it was possible that these were different people who had come from different places, but the archaeologists determined that the makers of the fluted Folsom points and the unfluted Folsom points used the same materials. The archaeologists also proposed that many of the unfluted Folsom points were intentionally made without flutes and were just not Folsom rejects. Based on the high volume of unfluted Folsom points found at the Scharbauer site, Wendorf eventually proposed a new name for the unfluted Folsom points, calling them Midland for the nearby town. The name has stuck.     

Figure three. Colorado Folsom and Midland
projectile points. John Branney Collection.

The investigation of the blowouts at the Scharbauer site ultimately led to the conclusion that the human remains were that of a woman who had lived sometime in the late Pleistocene and that the associated Folsom / Midland artifacts most likely postdated her remains. Therefore, the woman was as young as the Folsom / Midland cultures or as old as an earlier prehistoric culture. Based on the geologic association between the Folsom and Midland points at the site, the investigators concluded that both projectile point types could have been part of the same culture, but their evidence for this was not conclusive.     

Perhaps, the Midland points were reworked Folsom points or made from Folsom channel flakes or maybe the Midland points were too thin for Folsom knappers to flute. Some investigators still argue that Midland was a separate complex from Folsom since there is at least one case of a Midland-only site. If Midland was a separate complex, perhaps there was a transition period between fluted Folsom and Midland projectile points?

The Midland Point Mystery

It is my experience that collectors and professionals alike lump other types of projectile points into the Midland projectile point type.

CLICK for information on this book.
The Midland projectile point type has become somewhat of a catchall for other types of projectile points that resemble Midland. I have seen Goshen-Plainview, Allen, and even Cody Complex points miscategorized as Midland points. This is somewhat understandable since true Midland points have very little to distinguish themselves from the rest of the herd.

Bruce Bradley (2010: 475) had one of the better definitions of Midland. He described Midland flaking as wide and relatively shallow producing points with very flat cross sections. He noted that pressure flaking may have been used along the edges and base, but for the most part the overall flaking was percussion. He noted that abrupt and continuous marginal retouch thinned Midland points and narrowed the points enough so that elimination of the negative bulbs from thinning flakes occurred. Bradley believed that Midland points were technological distinct and just not failed Folsom points.

Figure four. Broken backs from Wyoming Folsom and
Midland projectile points. John Branney Collection.   
Bradley (2010: 474) stated that even though investigators find Folsom and Midland points together at the same sites, no one has found these two projectile points in a well-defined geologic context that would provide evidence that the two projectile points were in use at the same time, such as would be found in a single-episode kill site. Bradley further stated that investigators have not found Midland artifacts  without the presence of diagnostic Folsom artifacts in the same stratigraphic context, therefore establishing a possibility that Midland could be a separate archaeological complex. He noted a possible exception to this at the Gault site in Texas where investigators found a Midland point three centimeters above a Folsom point in a sealed stratigraphic unit.

From a technological basis, Bradley believed that Midland points were more than just unfluted Folsom points. He noted two technological differences between Folsom and Midland; the method in which final shaping and thinning were done and the marginal retouch. Bradley stated that Goshen points complicate the projectile point transition issue since Goshen predated Folsom and many Goshen and Midland points strongly resemble each other. To date, no radiocarbon dates or geologic relationships conclusively back up the temporal relationship between Folsom and Midland.

What do you think about the relationship between Folsom and Midland?

I believe that Goshen projectile points came into being before Folsom and that Goshen and Folsom ultimately morphed into Midland. However, I believe that evidence will eventually show that these three projectile points types overlapped in both time and space for at least a short period of time. There is no reason for me to believe that prehistoric people locked on to only one projectile point technology and that was all they used. It is easy for me to speculate, however, it is much more difficult to back that speculation up with archaeological data, at this time. ;).                           

If you have not read THE SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY, I hope you do. I do not believe you will be disappointed with these adventures. Click on this link to order the books.  

Bradley, Bruce 
2010    Paleoindian Flaked Stone Technology on the Plains and in the Rockies. In Prehistoric Hunters-Gatherers of the High Plains and Rockies by Marcel Kornfeld, George C. Frison, and Mary Lou Larson, pp. 474-475. Left Coast Press. Walnut Creek, California.  

Wendorf, Fred, Alex D. Krieger, and Claude C. Albritton
1955    The Midland Discovery. Greenwood Press. Westport, Connecticut







Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Elk Dogs in WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR by John Bradford Branney!

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The passage in blue is from my new book WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR. In this passage, you will meet Ouray, a young warrior from a tribe called the Snakes. Ouray was hunting when he discovered something so unusual his life would never be the same. The time was the late 1600s, pre-horse times for most tribes, including Ouray's. Here is what happened.    

Ouray picked up his bow and a half-full quiver of arrows and left his family’s dwelling. Outside, he extended the bow out in front of him and pulled the sinew bowstring with his bottom three fingers, checking the bowstring for fraying or damage. The bow creaked under the strain of bending. Ouray slowly released the bowstring and the bow returned to its original shape. He looped the quiver of arrows around his neck and left the village, hiking west.

Ouray picked up his bow and a half-full quiver of arrows and left his family’s dwelling. Outside, he extended the bow out in front of him and pulled the sinew bowstring with his bottom three fingers, checking the bowstring for fraying or damage. The bow creaked under the strain of bending. Ouray slowly released the bowstring and the bow returned to its original shape. He looped the quiver of arrows around his neck and left the village, hiking west.

As he searched the nearby hills and canyons, Ouray found animal tracks, but no animals accompanying the tracks. He finally reached the rocky slope of a small plateau. He noticed a grove of juniper trees at the base of the plateau, a good place to catch a deer napping in the shade. Ouray snuck down toward the juniper trees. Before he reached the trees, he stopped to study the lay of the land. If he came upon an animal, he wanted to know the possible escape routes of his prey.

Photograph of Shoshone Indians in 1871.
Photo by William H. Jackson.    
Then, he saw it. He was too surprised to move. His heart raced and his hands tingled. He caught himself holding his breath. He forced himself to breathe. He focused on slowly inhaling and exhaling, inhaling and exhaling, trying to slow his racing heart. An elk was on the opposite side of the grove of trees, grazing on the sun-shriveled grass on the rocky ground. He had not seen an elk in a long time. It had been so long he had even forgotten what to do. He was not expecting to find an elk anywhere near the village and he was not even sure if the elk was real. He shut his eyes tight and then reopened them, making sure the animal was just not his imagination. The elk remained. Ouray quickly ducked behind a tree while he thought through his plan of attack.  

The animal’s sharp eyes spotted Ouray’s movement against the backdrop of juniper trees. It Turned its head and stared at the spot where it had last seen the movement, pricking its ears in that direction. Its tail twitched as its instincts processed the possible threat. The animal watched the same spot for a very long time, taking a few steps forward to get a better angle. Finally, the call of a meadowlark distracted the animal and it swiveled its head around in another direction, forgetting all about the first potential threat. Once the bird’s melody ended, the animal stretched its long neck and raised its head high, sniffing at the air and searching for any airborne sign of predators. Convinced that there were no threats, the animal finally returned to grazing on the sparse grass.   

Crawling over to the trunk of a nearby juniper tree, Ouray poked his head out to get a better look at the elk. The animal was still there. It had not spotted him. Ouray rolled back behind the tree and thought about how he could get closer for a better shot. With the strong wind, he might hit the elk with an arrow from this distance, but he was not going to take the chance.

After thinking about his dilemma, Ouray peeked out from behind the tree. The elk was looking directly at him. Ouray studied it. There was something strange about this elk. It had been a long time since Ouray had seen an elk, but this animal did not look like any elk he had ever seen. This animal had that same long, bushy tail as the other animal that he and Haiwee had spotted. He did not remember elk having long, bushy tails. The tail was not right for a deer, either, and the animal was much too large to be a deer.

What was this animal?

In their book, The Shoshones: Sentinels of the Rockies, Trenholm and Carley wrote about a mid-eighteenth century story about Shoshone warriors showing up in Blackfoot country riding strange animals as 'swift as deer'. During the ongoing battle with the Shoshone, the Blackfoot warriors were able to isolate and kill a Shoshone warrior and the animal he rode. The Blackfoot warriors were astonished at the animal's great size and named it a 'big dog', after the only domesticated animal they were familiar with. Later, the Blackfoot tribe referred to these animals as 'stags that lost their horns' or 'elk dogs'.

Peter Faris wrote in Southwestern Lore in 2002 about a Blackfoot warrior named Shaved Head who

Julia Tuell took this photograph on the Northern
Cheyenne reservation in 1906.
saw his first horse in the a camp of an enemy in the early 1700s. Shaved Head referred to these animals as 'big dogs' or 'elk that have lost their horns'. Shaved Head and some other Blackfoot warriors captured a few of these animals and took them back to their village. At first, no one in the tribe knew what to do with the animals until one ingenious soul hooked up a travois to one of the horses and the rest is history.

Read WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR and find out what happens to Ouray.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wild Horses - Living Artifacts from our Great Past!


My latest book WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR is about the introduction of horses to the Plains Indians in the late 17th Century. I dedicated the book to the wild horse herds in North America. When I wrote WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR I wanted to portray the majesty and nobility of America's wild horse herds. Whenever I travel across the desert basins of southwestern Wyoming I always try to take a detour off the highways to see if I can capture a glimpse at the splendor and beauty of America's last wild horse herds. Even with the modern world encroaching on their environment from almost every direction, the wild horses maintain their nobility and desire to remain free. These proud creatures represent a living and breathing historical link to our country's past. When these wild horse herds are finally gone, America will lose yet another link to the country's greater past.
Wild horses in the Washakie Basin of Wyoming.
Photograph by John Bradford Branney. 

At the beginning of the 20th Century, there were approximately one million wild horses in the western United States. Over the last one hundred years plus, poachers, mustangers, developers, ranchers, energy companies and the federal government have cut deeply into the wild horse herds. Today, there are less than twenty-five thousand wild horses left and their environment and lifestyle continues to be attacked. The cattlemen and sheep ranchers want what is left of the meager desert rangeland while the oil men and miners want what is buried under the surface of the desert. Wild horses must also compete with antelope, deer, and elk. The ironic part is when newspaper articles blame wild horses for the destruction of the desert rangelands.
Wild horses along Powder Rim in Wyoming. Photograph by John Bradford Branney.  

What can we do about it? Write your congressman! Adopt a wild horse if you have the land! If we do nothing, within the next few decades, the wild horse herds will disappear from North America and the indomitable spirit of the wild horses will become only a memory.

Wild horses along the Wyoming - Colorado border north of Craig, Colorado.
Photo by John Bradford Branney.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Different Strokes for Different Folk - SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL QUADRILOGY

Figure One. Paleoindian Projectile Point Transition from oldest on the left to youngest on the right. From left to right, Colorado Clovis, Nebraska Goshen, Colorado Folsom, Colorado Agate Basin, and Colorado Hell Gap (2.55 inches long). 
Below is a scene from my prehistoric thriller book series the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL QUADRILOGY. In this particular scene in the first book, the leaders of one of the three prehistoric tribes found a spear point by the remains of his burning village, left behind by warriors from another tribe. The leader Avonaco identified the people and culture who made this particular type of spear point. In my books, I wanted to emphasize that different Paleoindian projectile point types existing at the same time and that Paleoindian projectile point evolution was not a serial process but a parallel process, based on culture and technology. Read on for my thoughts on the subject.    

Waquini then handed Avonaco an object and said, “Avonaco, we found this in the brush near the village.”

Avonaco held the spear in his hands. The spear shaft was the same wood that the River People used, but the stone spear point was different. The stone spear point was thinner and longer than any Avonaco had ever seen and made from a shiny, black rock material. Avonaco ran his thumb down the sharp edge of the spear point and quickly pulled his thumb away.

Éŝkos!–Sharp!” Avonaco exclaimed, looking down at his bleeding thumb.

He continued to examine the spear point, “I have only seen a spear point like this once made from this black rock. When I was a boy, I found a spear point much like this deep in the mountains. My father told me the black rock comes from the mountains.”

Avonaco then inspected the sinew wrap that connected the stone spear point to the wooden spear shaft. The River People used sinew from deer or bison to attach their spear points. Avonaco pointed to the sinew and said, “This is too thin, it is not from bison or deer.”

Avonaco ran his fingers down the smooth wood of the spear and noticed it had carvings in it. To see better, Avonaco moved the spear shaft closer to the light of the campfire. Carved into the
wood were five green-painted peaks next to two orange-painted suns : ҉  Ʌ Ʌ Ʌ Ʌ Ʌ  ҉  Waquini and Vipponah leaned over Avonaco’s shoulders to take a better look.

Vipponah asked, “Tipis?”

Avonaco thought about this and replied, “Mountains, maybe.”
Avonaco analyzed and determined a possible origin for the heartless people who attacked his village. 
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Just like Avonaco analyzed clues, today's scientists have to interpret and analyze prehistoric clues from archaeological sites all over North America. Avonaco noted the differences in material and projectile point type to determine the origin of his enemy. Scientists note the differences in projectile point technologies to determine the presence of specific prehistoric cultures. My book series SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL QUADRILOGY is a fictional adventure based on an authentic prehistoric culture called Folsom. The stone projectile points that the Folsom culture made over ten thousand years ago were quite distinct. When I surface find a Folsom projectile point, I can be sure of the prehistoric culture and the age range of my find.  

Using radiocarbon dating, scientists have been able to establish age ranges for different prehistoric cultures and the associated stone projectile point types. For example, scientists have now determined that the Folsom prehistoric culture existed from around 10,900 to 10,200 years ago. This means that when you or I find a Folsom projectile point, we know pretty much how old it is. As more and more archaeological evidence is unearthed, scientists will learn even more about the Folsom prehistoric culture.
Scientists have
Indian Hunting with Atlatl by Daniel Eskridge
determined that certain Paleoindian projectile point types overlap with other Paleoindian projectile point types in both time and geography. The Paleoindian projectile point types in Figure One represent a chronological continuum from the oldest stone projectile point on the left, a Clovis point made sometime between 11,300 to 10,600 years ago to the youngest projectile point on the right, a Hell Gap point made sometime between 10,400 to 9,500 years ago. The Clovis prehistoric culture was over by the time the Hell Gap prehistoric culture began but may have overlapped with other prehistoric cultures such as Goshen. 

The best way to illustrate my point is with Table One. It shows the age ranges for each of the prehistoric cultures represented in Figure One above. B.P. or Before Present represents the number of years from a baseline year of 1950. I don't want you to get too hung up on the dates but I want you to notice that some of the projectile point types overlapped in time, just as archeological sites indicate that some of the projectile point types overlapped geographically in space. The age ranges in Table One are from the book Projectile Points of the High Plains by Jeb Taylor. You will find that dates for these prehistoric cultures may vary from book to book but the overlap concept is pretty much the same.         

Prehistoric Culture

Earliest Date

Latest date

11,300 B.P.
10,600 B.P.
11,000 B.P.
10,700 B.P.
10,900 B.P.
10,200 B.P.
Agate Basin
10,400 B.P
9,000 B.P.
Hell Gap
10,400 B.P.
9,500 B.P.
 Table One. B.P. is age in years benchmarked from 1950.

This information opens up a number of mind-blowing questions. Were these different projectile point types made by the same prehistoric culture using different manufacturing technologies? Did different prehistoric cultures make each projectile point type and utilize the same sites as other cultures? Were these projectile point types made by prehistoric cultures with different religions, beliefs, and languages?

We may never know the answers to these questions.  

There is currently no archaeological evidence that defines the relationships between the people and cultures who made these different projectile point types. Scientists fill in these blanks with conjecture and theory. 

When I wrote the four books in the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL QUADRILOGY, I extensively researched the archaeological evidence from Folsom sites. I wrote my stories based on that archaeological data with my own spin and plot. I invite you to read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL QUADRILIGY and join the adventure.    



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Return to the Shadows on the Trail Site – Part One

Figure one. The 1.6 inch long Lookingbill dart point found on July 9, 2015
at the Shadows on the Trail Site.   

On July 9, 2015 I had the opportunity to return to the Shadows on the Trail Site, the prehistoric site that yielded the Ice Age Alibates discoidal biface, the prehistoric artifact that inspired my prehistoric adventure series called the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY. You can read more about the Alibates discoidal biface and the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY in other blog postings on this internet site.      
I discovered the Shadows on the Trail site in northeastern Colorado five 
Figure two.  Click to Order This Book  
days before Christmas on December 20, 1986. I remember that bumpy jeep trail leading to the small ranch house as if it were yesterday. I drove my car very slowly as I made my way five miles in from the graveled county road. About two hundred yards from the ranch house, the road crossed a dry creek bed filled with loose sand. As I approached the dry creek bed, I punched the accelerator on the front-wheel-drive car and the car slid across the sandy bottom of the creek to the other side. When I finally reached the ranch house, a humongous St. Bernard dog was there to greet my car. The dog sniffed and slimed my driver’s side window as it attempted to identify me as either a friend or a foe. Needless to say, I remained in the car until the rancher’s wife came out of the small ranch house and called off her intimidating beast. For awhile, I thought I was in the 1983 movie Cujo about a rabid St. Bernard that destroys everything in its path. Once I gained permission from the rancher and his wife to walk their hills and valleys, I took off and I am still amazed at the prehistoric artifacts I found on that first visit to that special place.     

Over the years, I have returned to this prehistoric site often while watching the ranch change hands three times. Since my initial visit, I have collected and documented between five hundred to a thousand artifacts from the site. I have collected diagnostic prehistoric artifacts from the First Americans around 13,000 years ago to artifacts of the Indian tribes in historical times.
Figure three. The eroded embankment where I
found the 7,000 year old Lookingbill dart point.
Figure four. Do you see the Lookingbill point?
I returned to the ranch on July 9, 2015 and I was not disappointed. One of the first artifacts I found was a 1.6 inch long Lookingbill dart point made around 7,000 years ago, 3,700 years after the Folsom People of Shadows on the Trail Trilogy fame. Dr. George Frison named Lookingbill points in 1983 for a point type found in northwest Wyoming. Frison classified the Lookingbill points in the Early Plains Archaic Period. Lookingbill points were the first points on the high plains of the Rocky Mountains to be found in appreciable numbers associated with manos and metates.

Lookingbill points were thin, small to medium - sized dart points with triangular blades and side notches. Shoulders were sharp and angular. Notches were rounded and sometimes close to the basal edge. Basal edges were straight to slightly concave. 

The Lookingbill point I found had heavy grinding and polishing done on the basal edge, accounting for some of the basal concavity.

Figure five. 1.6 inch long Lookingbill dart point

I cannot wait to find out what I discover next time at the Shadows on the Trail Site! Stay tuned for more highlights of this July visit to the Shadows on the Trail site. 

In the meantime, do you need a good book series to read this summer? Try the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY, you will be glad you did. Click the links below each book cover to order the books from