Friday, July 31, 2015

The Shadows on the Trail Trilogy! A Different Stroke for Different Folk

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 SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL. In this particular scene, the leaders of the River People, one of three prehistoric tribes featured in the book, have found a piece of evidence left behind by ruthless warriors from another tribe who destroyed the River People’s village and massacred many defenseless people. Avonaco was the leader of the River People, he and several hunters were away from the village when this vicious massacre occurred. Avonaco was now examining an unusual spear found near the remains of his burning village. Whoever made the stone projectile point made it with an unusual type of rock in an unusual manner. In addition, the wooden spear shaft had carvings. The two other characters in this scene were Waquini and Vipponah, Avonaco’s loyal and capable followers.  

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 the scant clues and came up with a possible answer to the origin of these heartless
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warriors. Just as Avonaco had analyzed the clues, modern day scientists have to analyze the clues when they piece together the early man puzzle from random archaeological sites all over North America. Just as Avonaco noted the differences in material and projectile point types to determine the origin of his enemies, modern day scientists note the differences in projectile point types to determine the presence of different prehistoric cultures. My book SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL is a fictional adventure based on an authentic group of prehistoric people who are called Folsom People. The stone projectile points that Folsom People made over ten thousand years ago were very distinct. When a person finds a Folsom projectile point in an archaeological site or even walking the land, you can be sure that someone from the Folsom prehistoric culture had been there, thousands of years earlier.

Based on the radiocarbon dates from archaeological sites across North America, scientists have been able to establish date ranges for different prehistoric cultures and associated stone projectile point types. For example, scientists have determined that the Folsom prehistoric culture existed between 11,000 to 10,000 years ago. This means that when you find a Folsom projectile point, you can be pretty sure it is between 11,000 and 10,000 years old. As more and more archaeological evidence is unearthed, scientists will learn even more about the Folsom prehistoric culture.
Based on the radiocarbon dates and geologic stratigraphy from archaeological sites, scientists have
Indian Hunting with Atlatl by Daniel Eskridge
determined that certain projectile point types overlap with other projectile point types in both time and space. The projectile point types photographed in Figure One demonstrate a time 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. As you can see from the date ranges Clovis People were likely gone by the time Hell Gap People came on the scene. The Clovis culture did not overlap in time with the Hell Gap culture, but the Clovis and Hell Gap cultures did overlap with the other cultures, Goshen and Folsom.

The best way to illustrate this is with Table One below. Table One exhibits the date ranges for each of the cultures represented with the projectile points in Figure One. The dates in Table One are based on B.P. or Before Present time which is the number of years from the baseline year of 1950. From Table One, you can observe that these projectile point types overlapped in time, just as archeological sites have demonstrated that these projectile point types overlapped in geographic space. One cautionary note – it seems that whatever book you pick up has slightly different date ranges for each of these projectile point types. I pulled the date ranges below from the book Projectile Points of the High Plains by Jeb Taylor, so if you disagree with the date ranges, please disagree with the source of the information, not my point.       

Prehistoric Culture

Earliest Date

Latest date

11,300 B.P.
10,600 B.P.
11,000 B.P.
10,700 B.P.
11,000 B.P.
10,300 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. or Before Present, benchmarked from the year 1950.
This table opens up a number of mind-blowing questions, at least for me. Were these different projectile point types made by the same people, just using different manufacturing technologies or did different people or cultures make each projectile point type and just utilize the same sites as others? Were these projectile point types made by other tribes of people with different religions and beliefs?

I have not found a good explanation for these questions within any of my readings. No one is sure what kind of relationships these different prehistoric cultures had. In fairness to science, it would be hard to speculate the relationships between these ancient people based on archaeological data. 

When I wrote the three books of the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY, I did my homework by researching the archaeological data on the Folsom People. Then, I wrote a story based on this archaeological data with my own spin on the story. I invite you to read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY and Enjoy my adventure about the Folsom People! 



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