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?