Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Shadows on the Trail Trilogy and a Colorado Folsom Point

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click to Learn More about the American Lion

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