Monday, January 23, 2017

Clovis Ovate Biface and the SHADOWS on the TRAIL Quadrilogy

Figure One - Obsidian ovate biface probably made by
Paleoindians, most likely from the Clovis Complex.
Found on private land in Oregon in the 1960s.
John Branney Collection.   
One of the most controversial topics in today's world is climate change, but climate change has been happening since the Earth was young. The geological record of Mother Earth is loaded with examples of climate change. In Earth's long history, climate change has been the rule, not the exception.  

One of the main themes in my book SHADOWS on the TRAIL was that climate change was happening around 10,700 years ago (the climate is ALWAYS changing). The change in conditions forced the Folsom People to abandon the canyon home where they had lived for close to a generation. SHADOWS on the TRAIL was the journey by the Folsom People to a place called the North Country. It was their intent to find a place where animals roamed and they could live in peace. 

Figure Two - 4.1 inch long discoidal biface made from
Texas Alibates Chert and surface found on private land
in Northern Colorado. It is of Paleoindian origin, mostly
likely Folsom. John Branney Collection.  
Below is an excerpt from my book SHADOWS on the TRAIL. In this passage, our hero Chayton is preparing to leave the canyon with his tribe, some 10,700 years ago. Since Chayton and the Folsom People really did not know what to expect on the journey, he visited a prehistoric quarry to find raw material for making stone tools during the journey. Chayton was not sure whether they would find good raw material on the journey or not, so being prudent he decided to carry some raw material of his own.           

As one of the young men of the tribe, the elders selected Chayton to be one of the three forward scouts on the journey. He began his preparation by going to the rock quarries and digging for the sacred red and white rock for making his weapons and tools. He could not rely on finding rock on the journey and the inyan wakan, the word the tribe used for the sacred rock, was plentiful in the canyon. He walked deep into the canyon and found a pile of rubble where other humans had dug a huge hole in search of inyan wakan. Chayton was not going to dig in the sweltering heat of the canyon, so he scraped through the rubble pile and found several large pieces of inyan wakan. He took a large round river pebble from his pouch and struck each large piece of inyan wakan until they broke into several sharp pieces. When he found a piece of rock he liked, he then used a hammer made from an elk antler to shape the piece into a flat disc-shaped rock, larger than his open hand. He continued his search until he had five disc-shaped rocks made from the sacred rock. Chayton would take these rocks on the journey and use them to make knife blades, tools and spear points.

After putting the five pieces of inyan wakan in his pouch, Chayton walked deeper into the canyon where underground springs had always fed the creek.

Figure Three - An adventure about Paleoindians - SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL.  
In SHADOWS on the TRAIL, Chayton was preparing for a rainy day by securing raw material for  making stone tools on the way to the North Country. Based on archaeological evidence, this was a common tactic. There are numerous examples of prehistoric people hording or caching non-localized raw material for stone tools. Since many of these prehistoric people lived a nomadic existence, they could not afford to get to a region and not find raw material for making stone tools. They solved the problem by carrying raw material with them. 

One of the earliest examples of this hording and caching of raw material came from the Clovis People, those hardy prehistoric individuals who archaeologists for decades thought were the First Americans. The Clovis People carried preforms with them to new areas. Preforms were not stone tools as such, but were resources of raw material which could be transformed into a desired tool or implement on the spot. One of these preforms, that I suspect came from the Clovis People, is in Figures One and Four. Archaeologists call this particular type of preform an ovate biface. In the upcoming paragraphs, I plan on borrowing from a tremendous book by Michael R. Waters and Thomas A. Jennings entitled The Hogeye Clovis Cache, published in 2015 by Texas A & M.  
Figure Four - 6.3 inch long ovate biface of probable Clovis
Complex origin. Found on private land in the 1960s in Oregon.  
Why do I believe that this particular preform in Figures one and four originated from the Clovis People? First, this type of biface has a well documented association with the Clovis prehistoric culture (Hogeye Clovis Cache as one example). Some people refer to this artifact as a 'Clovis platter', but morphologically I believe it is best described as an ovate biface, distinguished by its oval shape and knapped on both faces. Ovate bifaces had no clear base or tip. They served Clovis People as flake cores or knife preforms. If the Clovis knapper decided to use the ovate biface as a knife, he sharpened the edges, as needed. If the Clovis knapper needed the ovate biface for flake tools, flakes could be removed from the mother rock. Regardless of their ultimate use, ovate bifaces were preforms for projectile points and / or a source of raw material for additional flake tools.
I draw your attention once again to Figure four. Note the wide, long and shallow flakes running across the face of this prehistoric artifact. This is another Clovis trait. Ovate bifaces were thinned by overshot and overface flaking using both alternate-opposed and serial flaking (Figure five).
Figure Five
In the Figure four example, I believe the Clovis knapper used the alternate-opposed flaking method, a sequential method whereby the repeated removal of an overshot or overface flake from one edge is followed by a similar removal from the opposite edge on the same face. This was a common flaking practice within the Clovis prehistoric culture. 

In Figure six, I am demonstrating the bifacial reduction or lifecycle of an ovate biface from left to right. Please disregard the different materials of the four artifacts and assume the material is the same rock and the lifecycle of the ovate biface on the left ultimately ends up as the spear point to the right. Here is what I mean; 

Figure Six - Bifacial reduction from left to right, from the original 6.3 inch long ovate biface on the left to
a Clovis spear point on the right.

Our Clovis knapper originally created the ovate biface on the left, perhaps at the prehistoric rock quarry. As time went on, the knapper whittled away at the ovate biface as he needed raw material for stone tools, reducing the overall size of the ovate biface (second from left). At some stage, the Clovis knapper created a spear or knife preform (third from left). After more time passed, this preform ended up as a knife or a spear point (far right). Even the original knife or spear point was reduced in size through resharpening to the point where it was either lost, broken, or retired. I imagine that the process from left to right in Figure six may have taken anywhere from a few weeks to a year or so. Who knows?  

CLICK to ORDERSHADOWS ON THE TRAIL QUADRILOGY for the rest of the story. Available at and other fine booksellers.


Friday, January 6, 2017

Kennewick Man and the SHaDOWs oN tHe TrAiL QuaDriLogy

Figure One - 4.1 inch long discoidal biface or core stone which was
the inspiration for the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL Quadrilogy.   
One of my goals when I wrote the prehistoric adventure book series entitled the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL Quadrilogy was to squash the myth that Paleoindians in North America were not intelligent, that they were a tiny evolutionary step away from chimpanzees. North American Paleoindians had the same intelligence level and foresight as we do. They did not have the same situational learning experiences as us, but then again, we do not have the same situational learning experiences as them, especially when it comes to surviving in a hostile world ten thousand plus years ago. 
I often claim that there are very few modern-day people who could survive in North America ten thousand years ago and I believe that. What would many of us do without our homes or doctors or smart phones or cars or television or grocery stores or fast food restaurants or
Figure Two - GHOSTS OF THE HEART, the second book in the
SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL Quadrilogy. Available at 
policemen or modern weapons?
How tough were these Paleoindians? Archaeological evidence demonstrates this,  but first, here is an excerpt from the second book of my SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL Quadrilogy.  In this excerpt, a Paleoindian named Kangi was confronted by something much larger and much meaner than himself. I ask you, how would you deal with the same situation?   

……….Squatting alongside the game trail was a grizzly bear cub, about the size of a small wolf dog. With his heart racing in his chest, Kangi glanced across the meadow, looking for the location of the mother. Instead he spotted another grizzly bear cub running straight toward him, making woofing and snorting sounds.   

Then the bear cub that was squatted on the game trail finally noticed Kangi and it rolled over onto its feet and immediately began bawling loudly. Kangi turned around quickly towards the tunnel, hoping to make a quick escape, but he ran right into the first hunter coming out.
A-ah! – Watch out!” Kangi screamed. “Mato! - Bear!”

The hunter appeared confused when Kangi shoved him back into the pine branch tunnel.

HOPPO! – LET US GO!” Kangi yelled, shoving the hunter into the tunnel.  
Coming to her cub’s rescue, the grizzly bear sow lunged through the water of the mountain stream, leaving a massive wake behind her. She was across the stream in two lunges and barreled across the meadow at full speed. With her head held low, she grunted loudly as her thick body shimmered and swayed. She closed the gap to Kangi with astonishing speed.

Kangi shoved the hunter into the deceptive safety of the tunnel, but there was still no room for him. Kangi turned to face the grizzly bear sow instead. He placed the butt of a spear into his spear thrower and raised the spear above his shoulder. He reared back his arm and with his entire body, he launched the spear at the charging bear. The spear left the spear thrower with tremendous speed, its trajectory heading straight at the massive grizzly bear sow’s skull. By the time the spear arrived at the grizzly bear sow, she had traveled much closer to Kangi. The spear flew harmlessly over her back, ricocheting off the rocks of the mountain stream. Kangi was just notching another spear when the humongous grizzly bear slammed into him, knocking him a good distance across the meadow where he landed hard on his stomach. With the wind knocked out of him, Kangi attempted to crawl away, but before he got very far, the grizzly bear landed on top of him with her front paws.  
MATO! MATO!” the hunters screamed at each other in the tunnel, pushing and shoving each other back down the game trail. Chayton held his ground until the frightened hunters, heading in the opposite direction, plowed right over him.       

The grizzly bear sow pounced up and down on top of Kangi’s back, driving him into the soil of the meadow………..

Figure Three - The proposed orientation of the burial of Kennewick Man
along the Columbia River in Washington.  
What happened to Kangi? Well, you will have to read GHOSTS OF THE HEART to find out. Living in Prehistoric America was not for the weak or timid.   
How rough was life in North America thousands of years ago? For that answer, let's look at  archaeological evidence. Some of the best archaeological evidence we have comes from prehistoric skeletons which are rare, especially skeletons from our First Americans or Paleoindians.

One of the more famous and controversial prehistoric skeletons was named Kennewick Man. Some of the more renowned forensic scientists in the country  studied the prehistoric skeleton of Kennewick Man. Authors Douglas W. Owsley and Richard J. Lantz documented the controversial history of this skeleton and their findings in an excellent book entitled KENNEWICK MAN The Scientific Investigation of an Ancient American Skeleton. I took my information below from this groundbreaking book.   
Let me introduce you to nine thousand year old Kennewick Man through his facial reconstruction in Figure Four. He came later than the Folsom
Figure Four - Forensic reconstruction
of Kennewick Man's face.  
People in my SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL Quadrilogy by about seventeen hundred years, but as an early hunter and gatherer, he had the same lifestyle as the Folsom People.

Two college students discovered Kennewick Man's skull in 1996 along the banks of the Columbia River in Washington. Scientists believe he was between 35 to 39 years old at the time of his death. They estimated that he was 5’7” or 5’8” tall and weighed around 162 lbs.

Thirty-five years old is young in the context of modern-day life expectancies, but by this time in his relative young life, Kennewick Man had already experienced some very traumatic health issues. The scientists determined that he had several healed depression wounds on his skull and he may have been hard of hearing. Kennewick Man was right handed and there were indications that his arms had gone through strenuous use.  

Figure Five - Throwing a spear dozens of times per day,
using an atlatl, would damage anyone's shoulder.  
The scientists found that while Kennewick Man’s left shoulder had normal morphology, his right shoulder or his throwing shoulder exhibited degenerative wear and tear, arthritis, possible cartilage erosion, and a rim fracture of his right scapula. Since Kennewick Man’s survival depended on throwing spears at fleeing animals, we should expect some shoulder wear and tear, just as we would expect it from a major league baseball pitcher or a NFL quarterback.

Figure Six - Kennewick Man's teeth
were wore down to a nub. 
In addition, Kennewick Man’s upper arms showed humeri asymmetrical in both size and shape. The scientists determined that Kennewick Man had atrophy of his left humerus with right side bowing. The scientists postulated that a left arm fracture in his early life caused the condition. Of course, 'Kennewick Boy' did not have a doctor to go to for his arm fracture.   
 Kennewick Man’s teeth were not in any better shape. He was missing a molar and he had extensive teeth wear. Molar attrition suggested that he ate food contaminated with fine abrasives and courser particles, such as sand. His tooth wear suggested he used his teeth for more than just chewing food. It appears that Kennewick Man used his teeth in task-oriented activities, such as hide preparation and cutting. 
What about his chest? Kennewick Man had healed fractures in at least five ribs on his right side with a failure of those ribs to reunite. He also received a possible left rib fracture at the same time the right rib fractures occurred. The scientists found no indication of infection or significant blood supply issue associated with the ribs. They postulated that this was another young adult injury. Perhaps, Kennewick Man had a collision with a three-thousand pound Bison antiquus?
Figure Seven - I recently broke three ribs so I understand how Kennewick
Man felt. The difference I had a hospital to go to.   
Kennewick Man also had bad knees. He had osteochondritis in his knees caused from damage of the meniscus, which then eroded cartilage and eventually went bone on bone. The scientists could tell that he lived with inflamation of the cartilage or bone in the knee. In real cases, bone under the knee cartilage can die due to lack of blood flow and then bone and cartilage can break loose, causing pain. This type of injury comes from the habitual loading of a tightly flexed knee.  

Then, there was the pièce de résistance of injuries. Kennewick Man had a stone projectile point imbedded in his right posterior ilium. The stone projectile had been in his hipbone long enough for bone to grow over it. Scientists speculate that the possible symptoms for this injury could have included pus drainage for the rest of his life. He might have had a moderate degree of pain, all of the time. He might have had anorexia, sleeplessness, derangement of secretions, great irritability and despondency. An analysis of his leg bones indicated that Kennewick Man had no lasting / significant mobility loss from this injury. The scientists believe that this injury occurred in Kennewick Man’s teen or young adult years. 
So, you think you are tough enough to be a Paleoindian, one of our First Americans? Not me. These people had a challenging existence. They could not dial 911 when they needed help or go to the doctor if they did not feel well or call a cop if they got into a bind. They were on their own, for better or for worse. So, next time we feel sorry for ourselves, think about Kennewick Man and what he had to endure. Amazing, all of a sudden, I feel a whole lot better about my minor aches and pains. ;).

So, now your next assignment is to read the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL Quadrilogy to see if I accurately depicted life 10,700 years ago. Then, let me know what YOU think!    
                  CLICK to ORDER Shadows on the Trail Quadrilogy