Thursday, March 31, 2016


Figure Two. Small grouping of Lovell or Fishtail knife forms and projectile
points surface found on private land in Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana.
John Branney Collection.

The seed for my prehistoric adventure trilogy called SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL sprouted on an early summer morning in 2010 on a northern Colorado ranch when I found a ten thousand year old stone tool made from a red and gray striped rock from a prehistoric rock quarry in Texas. As I stared down at this prehistoric tool made by one of the First Americans, several questions raced through my mind. How did this stone tool end up in a prehistoric campsite in northern Colorado, five hundred miles to the north of the prehistoric rock quarry? Who 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 prehistoric person who made the stone tool, I wrote my own version of the Folsom People and their ten thousand seven hundred year old journey. For more about that journey, you're just going to have to read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY.      

Who came after the Folsom People and the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY? Below, is the story about one group of people who followed.     

During the late 1960s, the Mummy Cave archaeological site along the North Fork of the Shoshone River in northwest Wyoming yielded a stratified, radiocarbon-dated Late Paleoindian sequence from 9,200 to 8,000 years old (BP). However, none of the projectile point types found at the Mummy Cave archaeological site resembled the projectile points from the same age of strata at the Horner Site (Cody Complex assemblage) on the plains of the Big Horn Basin.

Figure One. 1.5 inch long Lovell or Fishtail dart point from
northern Colorado. John Branney Collection.


Based on these projectile point type differences between Mummy Cave and the Horner Site, the investigators concluded that there were two separate Paleoindian cultures living concurrently in two separate environments. While prehistoric occupants at the Horner Site preferred sites on the open plains, the prehistoric occupants at the Mummy Cave Site  preferred rock shelters and caves in the foothills and mountains.  

Prior to the Mummy Cave archaeological investigation, an archaeologist named Husted had already named two of the projectile point types that were later found at Mummy Cave. Archaeologist Husted named the Lovell Constricted and Pryor Stemmed projectile point types for projectile point examples his team found in caves and rockshelters in the Big Horn Canyon of Montana and Wyoming. 

At both Sorenson Rockshelter and Bottleneck Cave in the Big Horn Canyon, archaeologist Husted found Lovell Constricted or Fishtail projectile points stratigraphically below Pryor Stemmed projectile points. The stratigraphic layers that contained Lovell points yielded a radiocarbon date of 8,000 years old (BP) or slightly older.

Husted described Lovell or Fishtail points as medium to large lanceolate points with concave bases and a definite constriction on the lateral edges just above the distal end. Flaking ranged from fine parallel oblique to random. Edge grinding was present on the stems of the points.          

Figure Three. 1.3 inch long Lovell or Fishtail dart point
fond in central  Colorado in early 1900s by Louis Brunke.
John Branney Collection.   
Those of you who know High Plains projectile point typology, might say after studying the photographs, “Hey, those look like Duncan or Hanna projectile points from the McKean Complex”, and I am not going to argue with you. Lovell projectile points do resemble McKean Complex projectile points. My rule of thumb? If the projectile point in question has parallel oblique flaking and edge grinding, it is most likely a Lovell or Fishtail. When the flaking on the projectile point is random, identification becomes trickier.

In the case of random flaking, the big difference becomes edge grinding. I have never found a seen a Duncan or Hanna projectile point from a known McKean Complex site that has edge grinding. In general, Lovell or Fishtail projectile points tend to be made with more care than McKean projectile points.

Read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY and learn about the Foothill-Mountain Complex's ancestors.