Sunday, January 24, 2016

Prehistoric Burins and SHADOWS on the TRAIL Quadrilogy

Figure One. Scottsbluff knife form from Wilson County, Texas. The most
interesting feature on this 8,500 year old beauty is its burinated tip. 
A burin was a specialized, chisel-like stone tool created by driving a flake or flakes off the edge of another flake, biface, or blade to produce a ninety-degree edge for working hard substances such as ivory, antler, and bone. The sharp corners created by the burin were so useful that prehistoric knappers deliberately made them. The removed edge fragment is called a burin spall. 
Figure Two. Burin tip of the Scottsbluff knife form
pictured in Figure one. Note the stop notch below burin.
This stop notch was to ensure burin did not travel further
down the edge of the knife.

Figure one is a 3.7 inch long Scottsbluff knife form, made from Edward's chert and found on private land in Wilson County, Texas. This artifact is Early Archaic with an approximate age of 9,000 years. The knife form has had two or three resharpenings that have reduced its overall length, but the most interesting feature of this Scottsbluff knife form is its tip. The tip of the knife form at some time was pressure flaked into a burin tip (an engraver) and was retipped two times. 

Most burins and burin spalls were unspectacular. Most people do not even recognize them. Caution is needed in identifying the difference between an impact fracture and a burin. Burination strengthened the tip of this Scottsbluff point exponentially, keeping the edge from crushing and failing as it would ultimately do if left unmodified. 

Figure Three. My heart was pounding!
Burination is the flintknapping process where a small, relatively thick flake is removed from a flake, blade or biface using a snapped termination or previous burination scar as the knapping platform.  Burination can also be used to remove a sharp edge for safe handholding of a knife form. Burination was extremely common in the “Old World” Paleolithic of Europe, Siberia, and Beringia. Paleoindians in North America also made and used burins. For some reason, Clovis People only used burination in rare instances, but it became more popular in Folsom and Cody Complex times. Most of my burin tools came from my Folsom and Cody Complex sites.  

Figure four. DRAT! The tip was missing!
I might as well stick with Cody Complex artifacts for another example, even though my prehistoric adventure book series the SHADOW ON THE TRAIL Quadrilogy took place more then one thousand years before the Cody Complex. On 23 August 2008 I was artifact hunting on the same ranch in northern Colorado that inspired the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL Quadrilogy. In the sand of a dry stream I noticed the artifact in the photo in Figure three. I remember my heart was beating out of my chest. It was obvious what I had found. The square base and the flaking pattern were distinctively Scottsbluff, one of the rare projectile point types from the Cody Complex. After a pretty long photo session, I pulled the Scottsbluff point from its sandy grave. When I  dug the Scottsbluff point out from the sand, my heart sank when I saw missing tip. I yelled something like "DRAT!" when I saw the artifact in Figure four. Broken, I thought. My first impression was that this 2.8 inch Scottsbluff ended its life with an impact fracture, but after taking the point home and studying it, I realized that the Cody Complex knapper who made the Scottsbluff point intentionally created a double burin and used the point for scraping wood or hides.  

Figures five and six
What I interpret happened was that this projectile point suffered an impact fracture on a hunt. The point hit a bison bone or a rock or skidding across the ground, shattering its tip. Instead of re-tipping to a projectile point, the Cody Complex knapper refurbished the broken point with double burins. He removed a burin spall on both edges along the impact fracture (Figures five and six). Then the innovative knapper created a chisel-like edge on the tip of the impact fracture. He used this Scottsbluff point as a knife and a chisel for using on meat, bone, wood, and hides.

How do I know it was used for that purpose? Elementary, my dear Watson. The tip is well polished from use (actually a different color and texture) and the flaking pattern is different than the rest of the point. The Cody Complex knapper may have re-tipped the burin tip several times before he lost it and I happened to discover it 9,000 years later.     
Burins found in Paleoindian contexts seldom demonstrate use wear on the edge formed by the burin spall in front of the striking platform. Instead, use wear was on the edge adjacent to the striking platform or point. In the case of this last Scottsbluff point, use wear was on the tip.

So, there we are, a couple of examples of burins on Cody Complex knife forms. You will have to read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL Quadrilogy to see if the Folsom People made burins. All the information needed to order your copy of my book series is below. Don't miss out on a prehistoric adventure you will never forget!    

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Saturday, January 9, 2016

V is for Pleistocene Violence and S is for SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL!


What was the Pleistocene like for humans around 10,700 years ago? In the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL I wrote about what I thought life was like for a particular tribe of Paleoindians called the Folsom People. I believe prehistoric humans not only had to deal with the large and fierce predator animals of the Pleistocene, but also predatory humans, as well. You might disagree with my last point, but the evidence from some of the prehistoric skeletons found would indicate that it was not one big happy human family in Prehistoric America. You might also have the opinion that there were so few humans around ten thousand years ago, that the chances of different tribes coming together was slim and when they did meet, why would they be hostile, there were enough resources for everyone!  
2000 B.C. Cain and Able were a different time
and place than SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL,
but human nature was the same.

My belief is that violence and coveting thy neighbor's belongings is inherent in humans' nature and always has been, even at the dawn of human time. Below is a passage from SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL, in which a tribe of humans called the Mountain People want what another tribe has and the Mountain People will resort to violence to obtain it. I hope you enjoy. 
To'sarre watched Ei Hanit disappear over the hill and then led the other two warriors back up to the boulder on the hill so that they could watch the village. The people in the village kept up their festivities at the campfires until the moon was high in the sky and then one after another they retired to their tipis for sleep. The last person went to sleep in early morning, leaving just two sentries sitting at a campfire. To'sarre pushed away from the boulder and walked quietly towards the warriors’ camp. As he walked, he blew hard into his hands trying to warm them up. It was a cold summer night and not a good night to be without a campfire. To'sarre found Ei Hanit asleep, lying against the base of a large boulder. To'sarre reached out with his left hand, touching the shoulder of Ei Hanit. All of a sudden, To'sarre’s forearm felt excruciating pain when Ei Hanit’s right arm flew up from his lap, driving To'sarre’s arm up into the air. Then as quick as a rattlesnake, Ei Hanit’s left hand gripped To'sarre’s throat and pulled him close to his face.

“What do you want?” Ei Hanit hissed.

“It is almost dawn and the people in the village will be moving about,” To'sarre replied, struggling to speak through his constricted windpipe.

“Gather the warriors on the hill,” Ei Hanit said, shoving To'sarre away.

On the hill, Ei Hanit and To'sarre looked down on the village. The village was completely dark, except for the flames coming from one campfire.

“Two sentries at that campfire,” To'sarre said. “No wolf dogs to warn them.”

“Send our two best warriors to kill the sentries, quietly,” Ei Hanit ordered. “Then attack from this side of the village. The river will prevent them from escaping to the north. Go tipi by tipi and kill everyone except women and children. They can carry our plunder and be our slaves.”

“What about the old?” To'sarre asked.

“Kill them all,” Ei Hanit replied.

To'sarre nodded to Ei Hanit and turned to leave. Ei Hanit grabbed him by the arm and demanded, “Kill them quietly!”

To'sarre crept down the backside of the hill. To'sarre understood why the Mountain People needed food and supplies from other villages, but he could not understand killing people for the sake of killing. However, To'sarre knew better than to ignore Ei Hanit’s orders, otherwise, Ei Hanit would have him and his family killed.

You are going to have to read SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL to find out what happens next, but I can guar-an-tee you that what happens will both surprise and shock you. 

Once you have read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL, then you can read the rest of the trilogy and JOIN THE ADVENTURE!