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 
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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