Thursday, December 15, 2016

Dogs and Devil Cows from My SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL

Figure One - Mexican corriente cattle. The orange and white
devil cow that first attacked Madd Maxx and then me.
I wrote my prehistoric book thriller the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY based on my knowledge and research in archaeology, hunting, and animal/human behavior. I have spent days upon days out on the prairie doing my research – finding prehistoric artifacts, watching and recording animal behavior and creating scenarios, such as the one below, taken from the second book of the trilogy, GHOSTS OF THE HEART. In this scenario, hunters from the Folsom People are attempting to trap and kill a herd of bison without the dangerous beasts killing or maiming any hunters. I am sure that was quite a feat. I will join you on the other side of the GHOSTS OF THE HEART segment.       
Chayton knelt with Hoka on top of the hill, patiently waiting for the last of the cows and calves to
enter the arroyo. When the last of the tatanka (bison) entered the arroyo, he signaled a hunter on another hillside. Chayton had wanted the tatanka bull in the trap, but it was not going to happen. The hunters would just leave him alone. There was too much risk attacking the bull on the open prairie. The hunt would be more than successful with the cows and the calves. Chayton would let the last of the herd get to the wakon ya (natural spring) and start drinking before he signaled the attack.

WANA! – NOW!” Chayton bellowed and the hunters sprung the trap. A hunter signaled Tah and Wiyaka who lit their torches and then raced to the arroyo with the other hunters. The hunters arrived at the wooden fence and dropped more dead wood in the gap between the two sides of the arroyo. The hunters then picked up a large log that was lying behind the fence and set it down across the top of the fence. They had sealed the herd into the arroyo, but it would take fire to hold the herd. Tah looked up and saw that the tatanka bull had already taken off running, abandoning his herd. Tah and Wiyaka threw the torches on the wooden fence and it erupted into flames. Smoke rose as the flames burned into the green sagebrush, creating a huge smoke screen. The smoke signaled Chayton and the other hunters to attack. Carrying large bundles of spears, the hunters ran up to both sides of the arroyo and began heaving spears at the unwary herd. The herd milled around the wakon ya, confused by the spears and the smoke.

A rain of spears fell on the herd from three sides of the arroyo. Spears stuck in the hides of the cows and calves as the herd panicked and attempted to climb the steep walls of the arroyo. Without a leader, the herd muddled about while more spears poured down on them from above. Finally, one of the cows ran back down the arroyo towards the entrance and the rest of the herd followed…

Dangerous business, don’t you agree? A prehistoric hunter severely injured by a bison was almost worse off than if he died. Depending on the severity of the injury, there may have been little for the tribe to do. We assume from analyses of injuries on prehistoric skeletons that medical care was quite limited. In addition, the tribe had to care and feed injured hunters, drawing on the stretched resources of the tribe. Recovery from serious injuries such as broken bones took a long time to heal, if they ever did.
Figure One - A size comparison between a modern bison and Bison antiquus, the bison species that Chayton, Hoka, and
the other Folsom People had to deal with 10,700 years ago in the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY.   
I got to experience this first hand on December 3, 2016. My faithful dog Madd Maxx and I were doing some artifact hunting on the original SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL prehistoric site when a herd of wild, horned cows decided Madd Maxx was a wolf or coyote and attacked him. I intervened on my German Shepherd's behalf, thinking the cows would run away at the first sign of a conflict with a higher species. I was wrong.

An orange and white horned cow rammed me in the chest with her head. I hung on to her horns as long as I could and when I let go, she trampled me. Lying there in the dirt and manure, I could not breathe! I fought to find air! Before, I could stand up, the devil cow plowed into me again. I will never forget the pain when she smacked into me. I tried to crawl away, but she pinned me down on the ground with her head as she tried to gore me with her horns. I was wearing a backpack which she completely destroyed.  I had a walking stick which she completely destroyed. Dust rose above the prairie as the cows went on a rampage. In the background, I heard Maxx Maxx fighting for his own life. I remember feeling relieved when I heard him barking and carrying on. I was sure the cows had trampled him to death. I realized at that moment that I had to save myself if I was going to save my dog. I tried to yell for help, but there was no one anywhere close to where I was. Besides, I could not yell, my lungs were empty. I could not breathe. I definitely could not yell for help. I tried to crawl away, but the devil cow kept smashing into me. I held my arms over my head, hoping to protect my skull from horns and hooves.

I grew up in a small agricultural town in Wyoming, a state where cattle significantly outnumber the people. Every summer from junior high through college, I worked on farms and ranches, so cattle and their behavior was familiar to me. I had never seen a herd of cows react this way.  

Lying there and getting pummeled from behind, I was sure I was going to die. I remember thinking how it would look to "die by cow". We all have to die, right, but death by cow? Who would believe it? I could not catch my breath! I was wheezing! My fractured ribs felt like someone had impaled me with a spear! While the half-ton plus cow held me against the ground, she gored me with her horns and stepped all over my back and legs with her sharp hooves. The burning, the throbbing, and the stinging pain was unbearable. I was bleeding all over the pasture. I have never known such excruciating agony in my life.

Figure Four - Madd Maxx, at home, after recuperating.
The Corriente cow was not going to be happy until I was dead, so I relented to her wish. I played dead. The horned beast pawed at me with her hooves, trying to roll me over, but I just laid there, anchored to the ground, my arms wrapped tightly around my skull. I was suffocating on the thick dust and covered in cow manure. Finally, the devil cow was convinced I was no threat to her and calf and wandered off to graze. I heard Madd Maxx barking and yelping, a good omen. I rose to my knees. My severely mangled left leg would not straighten. I crawled amongst the swirling cows and grabbed Madd Maxx by the scruff of the neck and drug him away. He was bleeding heavily from the mouth and he had patches of matted bloody fur across his body. We crawled to the outskirts of the cows and stopped. I could not catch my breath. I was drowning in dust. Every time I tried to breathe my broken ribs reminded me of what true pain was. I could not walk. I could barely crawl. The shredded backpack hung from my back. Madd Maxx sat next to me, exhausted and whimpering from pain. 

I could not believe it, but the same cows that just mauled us, lined up in front of us, watching. The big orange and white devil cow stood right in front of Madd Maxx and me, glaring at us. Her eyes did not look angry, they looked determined. I could tell she wanted to finish the job. I commanded Madd Maxx to run for the car and he did, heading for the safety of the barbed wire fence and our vehicle. I wobbled to my feet the best that I could. The orange and white cow plowed into me, slamming me into the ground. 

I do not know how long I laid there in the pasture. I lost all sense of time. When I woke up, I could feel that the air temperature had dropped. It was December in Colorado. I realized I could not survive the night out on the prairie. I literally crawled to my vehicle, loaded Madd Maxx up, and drove to the ranch house. A rescue helicopter landed on this isolated ranch and I was transported to a  well-known trauma center in Colorado. I ended up with three broken ribs, damaged lungs, liver, kidneys and adrenal gland. The lower two-thirds of my body was heavily bruised. I had deep contusions across much of the lower half of my body. It took a month for me to walk without a walker. Thanks to my wife Theresa and the ranch foreman, Madd Maxx ended up in an animal emergency room for treatment of cuts and bruises, but no broken bones.   

Figure Five - While the orange and white demon cow mauled me, the
other cows fought with Madd Maxx. This is what Madd Maxx contended with. 

I received first-hand experience of the dangers of large prey animals, even if they were so called “domesticated cattle”. Would I have survived these injuries ten thousand years ago without Flight for Life or excellent care at a leading trauma center? I don't know. Maybe, but I would have become a burden to the tribe. In looking back at this recent incident, I think I did a pretty good job portraying similar incidents in the difficult and dangerous life of the Folsom People in the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY. Read it and see if you agree.

I have recovered from most of my injuries from the December 3, 2016 devil cow incident. Madd Maxx and I have a few residual injuries we will probably carry for the rest of our lives. I wrote another prehistoric thriller partially about my experience. CROW and the CAVE is available from, Barnes and Noble, and better book sellers. Check it out.     



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY - No Snowflakes in this Ice Age Tale

Figure One - prehistoric human stalking a bison.
I am reading in the media about all the snowflakes in our population who are melting down because of the U.S. presidential election and I cannot believe it. These people are requiring safe zones, aroma therapy, pet therapy, hot cocoa, and school test delays. They are protesting and based on media interviews, some of the protesters aren't quite sure why they are protesting. Crazy world. When did the human race get so much spare time and leisure time that we don't have to work for our bread? 

When I think about these snowflakes in our population, they remind me of my characters in the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY, not that there is any resemblance between the snowflakes and the tough characters in my books. Ten thousand plus years ago when the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY took place, prehistoric humans did not have the luxury or time to think about anything that did not have to do with surviving another day. Weakness did not survive in human or beast. After all, in the late Pleistocene, there were large mammals attempting to use my characters as a food supply and my characters were in a daily struggle just to find enough food to survive. In addition, my characters had to worry about the hostile bands of humans roaming the countryside. There were no policemen or hospitals or dialing 911 for my characters. They were on their own without the hot cocoa or aroma therapy. The only thing between my characters and death was a well placed stone spear point.  

Below is a passage from the second book in the trilogy entitled GHOSTS OF THE HEART.  In this particular passage, some very bad people just attacked our hero Chayton and wounded him in the shoulder with a stone projectile point from a spear. Since these bad people wanted to kill him and his friend Wiyaka, Chayton did not have time for a 'woe is poor me' or to reflect on anything except the life-or-death predicament they were in.  Chayton was critically wounded and the bad people had NOT given up the chase. Here is what happened when Chayton and Wiyaka finally got a break from running away.   

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.”   

I yo monk pi sni, - I feel bad,” Chayton murmured.

“Your wound is bad, kola, - friend,” Wiyaka agreed.

“The River People?” Chayton mumbled. “Where are they?”

Wiyaka, his hand unsteady from nervous energy, extracted a very thin, oval-shaped stone knife from his satchel. He thumbed the edge of the knife’s blade, testing its sharpness. Then he told Chayton, “This is going to hurt, but I do not know what else to do.”

“What are you doing?” Chayton asked, his head drooping from one side to the other.

“I must rid you of the waglulas - maggots,” Wiyaka replied. “They will bring you death.”  

“Namid…,” Chayton murmured.

Wiyaka grabbed the top of Chayton’s other shoulder with his hand and then with the stone knife in his other hand, he shaved and sawed the dried blood and fly eggs from the wound area. Chayton screamed in pain as the honed edge of the knife cut into the tender nerves surrounding the wound. Wiyaka then poured water on the wound, giving Chayton time to scream out in pain. Then with the sharp stone blade, Wiyaka scraped at the wound some more. Wiyaka did this several more times until he was able to remove most of the coagulated blood, fly eggs, and maggots.  The wound hole in Chayton’s shoulder quickly filled with blood when Wiyaka reopened the wound with the knife. He needed to flush the wound to make sure the poison from the fly eggs and maggots were gone. Wiyaka hoped that he was not too late.

Ah snee was keyn ktay, - I am going to rest,” Chayton murmured, falling over on his good side.

Oh lou lout ah! – It is very hot!”

Ai, – Yes, you rest,” Wiyaka replied, rising to his feet.

Wiyaka gathered dry wood and started a campfire. While the campfire heated up, Wiyaka collected a few green willow branches from along the shore of the pond. He stuck the ends of the green willow branches into the flames of the campfire, heating them up. 


By the way, the language spoken in the above dialogue is Lakota Sioux. I used both Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne Native American languages in the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY, not because anyone knows what language the Folsom People spoke over ten thousand years ago, but I am pretty sure the language was NOT English. 
Nope, no snowflakes survived at the end of the Ice Age, that’s for sure. Read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY if you want to read about some really tough people. In my next blog posting I will give you an example of how really tough these prehistoric people were. Do you think you could survive?   

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Dumpster Tang Knife and the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL

Figure One - 2.7 inch long corner tang knife from Colorado
My prehistoric book series called the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY was inspired to me when I found a prehistoric artifact. The story below was inspired by an artifact as well, but I don't see a book series or trilogy coming out of it. ;).  
I dubbed the 2.7 inch long corner tang knife from Colorado in the photograph above the “Dumpster Tang Knife”. Here is the story behind the name.
This summer, I took this magnificent corner tang knife out of its frame and wrapped it carefully in bubble wrap. I placed the bubble wrap and artifact in the top drawer of my desk, where it would be safe. The next morning I was planning to take some pictures of the corner tang knife before I went to training for wildland firefighting. Morning came and I looked inside every drawer of the desk, but I could not locate the bubble wrapped corner tang knife. I decided that I would do a more complete search when I got back from my training. I loaded up the garbage to take to the dumpster and then headed to my training.

During the training, my thoughts never left the corner tang knife. I rushed home afterwards and scoured all of the spots the corner tang knife might be hid. My search came up empty. My wife Theresa had one of her girlfriends visiting so I asked Theresa if she had seen the bubble wrap in the top of the desk. “Oh,” she said, “I might have thrown that bubble wrap out.”

Figure Two - 2.7 inch long corner tang knife from Colorado
Panic set in. I had just taken the garbage to the dumpster a couple of miles away that morning. I got in my vehicle and raced to the dumpster. It was Saturday so the dumpster was full. I dug around in the summer heat and found what I thought was our garbage bags. I reloaded the garbage bags into my vehicle and drove them back to the house where I went through the garbage in our garage. I had a real fun time. I did not find the bubble wrap or the artifact. I took the molested garbage back to the dumpster and jumped in the metal container. I was going to make sure I had not missed any of our bags.  
After an hour or so search through the garbage in the dumpster, I went back to the house and sat down for lunch with Theresa and her guest, but I could not get my mind off that corner tang knife. It was one of my favorites. I excused myself from lunch, telling my wife and guest that I was going back to the dumpster. There, I dug through the garbage once again, looking for that artifact. I did not find the artifact, but lo and behold, I found the bubble wrap that had protected the artifact. “Oh no,” I exclaimed, “the artifact is loose in the garbage!”

By now, there was garbage strewn all over the dumpster. I had created garbage chaos in that dumpster. I needed a plan. There were two dumpsters sitting there, so I decided to move everyone else’s garbage to the other dumpster so all I had to look through was our garbage. After removing most of everyone else’s garbage, I was standing near the bottom of the dumpster, my feet planted in someone’s very used cat litter, Flies and other assorted garbage-feasting bugs swarmed my air space. My gag reflex had finally gone on hiatus. I methodically went through each bag of our garbage. Then, I found a bag that I had not seen before, that I had not inspected in the garage. I opened the bag and poured the garbage onto the cat litter on the bottom of the dumpster. Out popped the corner tang knife. I stared at it. I was not sure if it were real or just another artifact sitting in situ in cat litter. That is why I call this artifact the “Dumpster Tang Knife”.  

Now, back to SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL, click the link below to join the adventure.    

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Friday, September 16, 2016

What Is That Gunk on My Rock? from Shadows on the Trail Quadrilogy

Figure One. The artifact inspiring the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL QUADRILOGY.
Side B of 4.1 inch long discoidal biface made from Alibates Chert. The original
"down" position for this artifact. 
For those of you who are not aware, the seed for the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL QUADRILOGY sprouted on an early summer morning in 2010 on a northern Colorado ranch when I found a prehistoric stone tool made from a red and gray striped rock only found in a prehistoric rock quarry in Texas (Figures One and Two). I believe that the mysterious Folsom People made this prehistoric stone tool sometime between 10,900 and 10,200 years ago.

Figure Two. The artifact inspiring the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL
QUADRILOGY. Side A not showing much pedogenic carbonate.
The original "up" position of this artifact. 

When I found this prehistoric tool, I stared at it for some time, wondering about the ancient people who made it. How did this stone tool end up all the way to a prehistoric campsite in northern Colorado, five hundred miles to the north of the prehistoric rock quarry? Who actually 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 person who made it, I wrote my own version of the journey in the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL QUADRILOGY.

Figure Three. The Exciting Conclusion. CLICK to ORDER.

What happened to the stone tool between the time it was lost around plus 10,700 years ago and the time I recovered it in 2010? Obviously, it spent some time buried, otherwise, someone else or a cow or horse hoof would have found it and shattered it into ten thousand pieces. But, what is that white stuff covering the top of it in Figure one?

Figure Four. Side A of 6.5 inch long ultrathin knife form, made
from obsidian. Side A shows little pedogenic carbonate.  
That white stuff is called pedogenic (secondary) carbonate and I will explain the process to you.

Pedogenic carbonation occurs when rainwater and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere mix to form diluted carbonic acid in the soil. This weak acidic water dissolves minerals in the soil, yielding water-soluble calcium carbonate, bicarbonate, and other salts capable of precipitating onto other rocks and minerals if the ground water conditions are suitable. See Figures Four and Five.

Figure Five. Side B of 6.5 inch long ultrathin knife form
showing extensive pedogenic carbonate. This indicates the
original down position of the artifact.

Pedogenic carbonate accumulates on or between sediment grains, occluding and cementing the sediment as a result. Pedogenic carbonate forms a geopetal structure that accumulates first on the lowest part of the buried artifact. As time goes on and the process continues, pedogenic carbonation coats more elevated areas of the buried artifact. A geopetal indicator is a characteristic observed on a rock, or sequence of rocks, that makes it possible to determine whether they are right side up (i.e. the attitude originally deposited, also known as "stratigraphic up") or have been overturned by subsequent structural movement.

As far as prehistoric artifacts, regardless of the position the artifact was found, the presence of pedogenic carbonate establishes the original up and down surfaces of that artifact.  

Low rainfall is the single most important factor for the development of pedogenic carbonate. Low rainfall allows the formation of pedogenic carbonates near the surface of the ground. High rainfall washes the water-soluble salts into the ground’s water table, removing them from the sediments where we find most prehistoric artifacts.

My newest book in the prehistoric adventure series CROW and the CAVE and
the original book where it all began, SHADOWS on the TRAIL.   
Where It All Began - CLICK TO ORDER

Thursday, July 21, 2016

W is for WINDS OF EDEN, F is for Flat Top Chalcedony!

Figure One. 1.8 inch long Midland dart point found September 2, 1997
on private land in the approximate area of Flat Top Butte. Made from pale
red Flat Top Chalcedony. Age 10,900 to 10,200 years old. John Branney Coll.   
I took the book passage below from my prehistoric thriller WINDS OF EDEN, the third book and finale of the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY. This particular passage of the book illustrates the important prehistoric tradition of flintknapping. In this scene, a grandfather is teaching his grandchildren the art of making projectile points from rock. There is no evidence that North American Paleoindians had written languages, therefore, important traditions such as flintknapping were passed from generation to generation through "show and tell". I will rejoin you on the other side of the book passage.  

The old man motioned for his two young grandchildren to sit down in front of him, close enough to see, but far enough away to avoid flying pieces of sharp rock. The old man readjusted the flat rock with the tip of the spear point. He then carefully positioned the groove in the antler punch with the tiny knob at the base of the spear point. When everything was to his liking, the old man picked up the heavy antler hammer and took a couple of practice swings in the air. The old man then held the antler hammer above the antler punch and swung down with enough force to transfer energy from the antler punch through the rock. The rock popped loudly and when the old man lifted up the spear point for the children to see, a flute or groove ran longitudinally up the entire length of the spear point. The children laughed as if it they had just witnessed great magic. Their eyes were as big as the moon as they looked around at each other. The old man gazed around at the children, smiling. The old man was proud of the flute in the spear point and relieved that he could still do it. However, what made him the happiest was passing down the fluting tradition to the next generation of the tribe.


 WINDS OF EDEN and the other two books in the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY chronicled the  prehistoric adventures of a band of paleoindians who trekked across a future Texas to a future northern Colorado
around 10,700 years ago. On their way from Texas to northern Colorado, these prehistoric explorers encountered different groups of humans, both good and bad; fierce mammals, some now extinct; and acts of nature that would frighten to death most of us modern-day wimps

The SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY featured a paleoindian named Chayton from an actual prehistoric culture called Folsom. On the adventure northward, Chayton brought with him stone tools made from Alibates Chert from a true-to- life prehistoric rock quarry in Texas. When I found a paleoindian stone tool in 2010 made from Alibates Chert on a prehistoric campsite in northern Colorado, I had to write the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY , to tell my story about how that stone tool ended up there. I now call this prehistoric site in northern Colorado the Shadows on the Trail prehistoric site in honor of my trilogy.

Paleoindians were nomads with an objective for survival. They followed the migration of the bison herds, the heart of their survival . Since paleoindians did travel and trade, it is not uncommon to find artifacts made from rock types that originated in other  regions of the country, such as the Alibates Chert I found in northern Colorado. During their relatively short lifetimes, Paleoindians used a lot of rock for knapping tools and projectile points Since, paleoindians couldn't possibly haul all the rock they needed around with them from place to place, they had to identify new sources of rock as they moved around the country. As I previously mentioned, the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY ended up in northern Colorado, very near another documented prehistoric rock quarry. In my books, I never had Chayton and the Folsom People visit the prehistoric quarry twenty miles away from my Shadows on the Trail prehistoric site, but I have found quite a lot of the rock from this prehistoric quarry on the Shadows on the Trail site. The rock type found in this prehistoric quarry is called Flat Top Chalcedony and here is a little bit of information about it. I photographed the source for Flat Top Chalcedony in Figure Three.  

Figure Three. Prehistoric quarry Flat Top Butte in northern Colorado on August 2001.

Flat Top Chalcedony was named for the prehistoric rock quarries at Flat Top Butte in Logan County, Colorado, Flat Top Chalcedony originates in the Horsetail Member of the White River Formation of Oligocene age where it formed in cavities in the fresh water limestones.
Figure Four. 1.2 inch long Folsom dart point found
at the Shadows on the Trail site on August 30, 2006.
Made from Flat Top Chalcedony. John Branney Coll.

Flat Top Chalcedony is a purple/lavender, pale red, tan or white silicon based rock found in abundance in northeastern Colorado. Anyone who has artifact hunted in northeastern Colorado, the panhandle of Nebraska, and southeastern Wyoming has found chipping debris made from Flat Top Chalcedony. It is arguably the most abundant prehistoric raw material found in northeastern Colorado.
Figure Five. 3.3 inch long Paleoindian blade made from a lavender-colored
Flat Top Chalcedony and recovered on private land in northern Colorado
on May 24, 2003. John Branney Collection.       

From a mineralogical perspective, chalcedony is a cryptocrystalline or fine-grained variety of quartz that has a waxy luster. It is often times transparent or translucent, but can be opaque. It varies in color from white to gray to blue to brown to red and other shades. It occurs most frequently as rounded or imitative forms, or as linings in rock cavities.

Chalcedony is a general term and specific names are used for specifically colored varieties, such as Flat Top Chalcedony. Some experts believe chalcedony is an independent mineral from quartz while other experts regard chalcedony as a mixture of quartz and opal (hydrous silica gel). Other examples of specific types of chalcedony include agate, jasper, and onyx.

So, there you have it, a little bit of information on chalcedony, Flat Top Chalcedony, and of course, my books. Click on the links below my book covers to find out more information on how to read AND join the adventure SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY. 



Sunday, June 19, 2016

A is for Angostura and S is for SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY

Figure One - 3 inch long Angostura spear / knife form surface recovered on private
land in Goshen County, Wyoming. John Branney Collection.
For those of you who have read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY you will remember that the books were about the Folsom People, those mystical Paleoindians who lived on the Great Plains over ten thousand years ago. I have previously written blogs and magazine articles about who came before the Folsom People and some of the people who came after. For those Paleoindians who came before and after the Folsom People, the culture and subsistence strategy did not change a whole lot.
Below, I am going to write about one of the prehistoric cultures that came after the Folsom People and the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY. Archaeologists named this culture Angostura. What was so different about Angostura that made it a different prehistoric culture from those Paleoindians who came before them? 
That is a good question. Let me take a shot at answering the question. One of the items that archaeologists find in almost every archaeological site are stone projectile points and stone tool assemblages. Depending on the amount of preservation of an archaeological site, the faunal bone remains and any evidence of plant use may already be deteriorated. Therefore, archaeologists must lean heavily on the evidence that still remains - projectile points types and stone tool assemblages - in an attempt to define the people and culture that inhabited a particular site. In most cases, the stone tool assemblages look very similar across several thousand years of Paleoindian occupation. What can be different between different Paleoindian cultures are the projectile point types or styles. Therefore, archaeologists tend to rely heavily and use stone projectile points as cultural markers and a means to differentiate between  Paleoindian cultures even when other factors are similar.   
Now, let me write about one of these prehistoric cultures called Angostura. 
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In 1946, archaeologists working on the Missouri Basin Project were investigating the upper Cheyenne River on the southern flank of the Black Hills in South Dakota. The pending construction of the Angostura Reservoir was threatening several potential archaeology sites and salvage archaeological dig candidates were being determined. In 1948, archaeologists focused on one of the  sites called the Ray Long Site. Archaeological evidence was discovered in a small gully tributary along Horsehead Creek. The archaeologists found a number of fire hearths and camp related stone tools between five and seven feet deep in the site. Associated with this prehistoric camp, the archaeologists identified a medium to large lanceolate-shaped projectile point with random to oblique parallel flaking. Eventually, archaeologists renamed this point type Angostura and archaeologists have used this projectile point type as a cultural marker ever since.
Figure Three - 5.6 inch long Angostura spear point made from obsidian
and surface recovered on private land in Hyde County, South Dakota.
Note similarity to Agate Basin point type. John Branney Collection.  

J.T. Hughes originally named the Angostura point type the Long point after the landowner of the Ray Long Site. You might imagine how a point type named Long might become problematic because of its descriptive nature. The would have had the same problem if they named the point type short, thin, large, narrow, or wide. In 1954, archaeologist Wheeler renamed the point Angostura to differentiate it from the descriptive name, Long.

At the time of discovery, the Ray Long Site was important for another reason, archaeologists found evidence of plant gathering and processing in a 9,000 year old site.

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Angostura points are medium to large lanceolate-shaped points with random to parallel-oblique flaking. The blade edges are straight to slightly convex. The stem on the points contracts, sometimes quite dramatically. Basal thinning is with short flakes and usually the base is concave.

Angostura continued the Paleoindian tradition of polishing or grinding the basal edges where the projectile point was hafted.    

Figure Five - Angostura points from private land in Colorado, Wyoming
and Nebraska. Note the oblique-flaking on most. The longest
point is four inches long. John Branney Collection.

The Angostura point type chronologically and morphologically overlaps with three other projectile point types: Frederick, Lusk, and Jimmy Allen. In fact, some scholars have proposed lumping all four types into a single category called oblique-flaked Plano points, foregoing the use of the specific point type name (Cassells 1986). Other scholars believe that the Angostura point type is not necessary at all and that it fits nicely within another point type, Agate Basin. In my opinion, Angostura is an evolution and variation of the Agate Basin point type. 

Personally, I do not see the need for both Agate Basin and Angostura point types, but I need to explain my politics, first. In the world of projectile point typology, there are two political parties, the Lumpers and the Splitters. Lumpers attempt to combine as many projectile point types as possible under the guidance that they are variations on the same theme. Splitters want to identify the variations as separate projectile point types. I happen to be in the Lumper political party, so of course I would want to see one point type between Agate Basin and Angostura.     

What is your opinion?