Friday, March 3, 2017

SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL- Folsom and Clovis and School in Session




Figure One - Wide range of High Plains Folsom Points from Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota.
Could you identify these projectile points as Folsom?  Longest point is 1.9 inches long. John Branney Collection.
My prehistoric adventure books entitled the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY took place 10,700 years ago in a land that someday we would call Texas and Colorado. The books are about a mysterious group of people called Folsom who actually lived on the Great Plains over ten thousand years ago. There is no archaeological evidence that the Folsom People had a written language. Therefore, their customs, processes, rituals, and folklore must have passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Folsom People was a uniquely fluted projectile point that is both beautiful and quite complex to make. One of the processes that the Folsom People had to pass on from generation to generation was the making of these fabulous fluted projectile points. Figure One shows a few examples from my collection of Folsom projectile points from the Great Plains. Even with the variability in shape, material, and quality of these projectile points, a person with a little knowledge could identify them as Folsom projectile points.


Figure Two - The finale and third book in the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY 
In the third book of the TRILOGY entitled WINDS OF EDEN, I wrote about how I thought the Folsom People and other prehistoric people might have passed along their flint knapping processes. In the passage below, taken from my book WINDS OF EDEN, an elder teaches a few children how to make these wonderful fluted projectile points. School is in session!     

Waste! – Good!” the old man proclaimed. “We will finish a spear point.”

Just then, two more boys walked up to the campfire and greeted the old man. They looked at the young boy sitting at the old man’s feet, but did not say a word.

“You are late!” the first young boy scolded the latecomers.

“Late?” the older boy named Hogan challenged. “He has not started his story, has he?”

Hee ya, – No, he is showing me how to flute spear points,” the young boy replied, “and I will not show you.”

Enila! – Be quiet!” Hogan replied. “That is the old way and I already know how!”

“Be kind, Hogan,” the old man said to his grandson.

The old man picked up a square of tatanka – bison hide. He placed it on top of his left thigh. He then picked up the flat rock and placed it on top of the bison hide. He then placed another square of bison hide over the top of the flat rock. The old man picked up an unfinished spear point and the antler punch. The three boys watched, never taking their eyes off the old man’s skilled hands. The old man then adjusted the flat rock so it was on the inside of his left thigh. He pushed the tip of the unfinished spear point against the flat rock and lined up the antler punch against the tiny knob on the base of the spear point. When the old man was satisfied with the positioning of the spear point, he placed the other end of the antler punch against his right thigh.

 

 Since the elder was teaching the children a very complex process, we would expect variation in the final projectile points the children made. Ten thousand years later, we might just find one of the children's projectile points and wonder why all Folsom points aren't of the same quality or don't look alike. In general, the Folsom projectile points in Figure One exhibit the flint knapping hallmarks from Folsom; 1). flutes, 2). thinness, and 3). micro retouch along the edges. Now, let me switch gears to another group of prehistoric people called Clovis.
Figure Three - The first book in the TRILOGY.
CLICK THIS LINK TO OWN BOOK  

Ever since the discovery of the now famous Folsom, Clovis, and Plainview sites in the earlier part of the 20th Century, there has been an ongoing effort to identify and categorize different Paleoindian projectile points into specific projectile point types. Before the discovery of these sites, archaeologists and collectors lumped most Paleoindian projectile points into a broad category called Yuma, named after the town in Colorado where collectors were finding these artifacts.


One Paleoindian projectile point type that had a very broad geographic distribution is Clovis. Collectors and archaeologists have found Clovis-like points in forty eight states and Canada. Clovis projectile points are normally fluted, just like Folsom, but Clovis projectile points exhibit a lot more variation than Folsom, as far as dimensions, shape, and manufacturing processes.


There are several reasons that explain this variation within the Clovis projectile point type. Clovis People did not work from blueprint diagrams or have specifications when they knapped a fluted projectile point. Additionally, all prehistoric flint knappers were not created equal. The creation of Clovis projectile points came from people with different levels of skill, experience, and creativity, ranging from novice to expert. Thirdly, these Paleoindian flint knappers had to deal with a broad range of raw materials. Some raw material was just better for creating projectile points than other materials, this resulted in varying quality between one projectile points. The bottom line is that we should expect variability in quality, dimensions, and sizes in Clovis projectile points. 

No one can dispute the variability of Clovis-like fluted points across the different regions on the North American continent. This variation in Clovis-like fluted points across regions has led to many debates as to whether or not these Clovis-like variants of different sizes, shapes, time-periods, and manufacturing technologies can fit within the one and only Clovis projectile point type. Some analysts argue that these Clovis-like fluted point variants prove that they did not come from a single Clovis culture while others argue that these fluted point variants came from the same Clovis culture, but at a different time and/or place.


If these Clovis-like fluted projectile points came from the Clovis culture, one way to explain it is through a process called ‘drift’ where we see a changing of the standard through time within groups of people who share a same cultural ancestry. Drift can occur in any given culture and can happen for various reasons, including isolated populations, innovation, or evolving needs in a changing environment. As an example, when mammoths and mastodons became hard to find, Clovis people adapted their weaponry to new food sources, therefore, we would expect a change in the dimensions of the projectile points they used.   
Figure Four - Clovis - like regional variants from eastern U.S. (Haynes 2002) Were these made by the same
Clovis culture discovered in the west or different cultures who copied fluting technology?   



Figure Five - High Plains Clovis points demonstrating the wide range of variability. From left to right; New Mexico Clovis, Gainey variety; Nebraska Clovis, Colby variety, Montana Clovis, western variety; Colorado Clovis, Hazel Variety, Colorado Clovis, eastern variety; Colorado Clovis, Barnes Variety. Longest point is 3.8 inches long.
John Branney Collection.       







Figure Six - Clovis-like points from Nova Scotia, New York, and Main.
(Haynes 2002) Boy, they sure look like my Colorado Clovis
above (fifth point).   
Figure Five represents a few of my High Plains Clovis points in my collection. You can see that there is quite a bit of variation between the different Clovis projectile points. In my caption for Figure Five, I have identified the regional variants that my points most resemble. For example, the first point in my photograph is a Clovis projectile point that was surface found in New Mexico, yet it resembles a Gainey projectile point from the Great Lakes region (Figure Four). Figure Six shows some fluted projectile points from the east coast, yet, these are not called Clovis. Yet, they look an awful lot like my Colorado Clovis point in Figure Five (fifth from left).     


Bottom line is that there are a variety of reasons that a single point type such as Clovis shows  variation between different projectile points. This does not mean that these regional variants are not Clovis projectile points represented by a Clovis culture.  


Now, I am going to say goodbye for now with this food for thought. Let's return to WINDS OF EDEN to see what happened between the elder and the children. School is back in session.      

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.
Figure SevenGHOSTS OF THE HEART, the third book in the TRILOGY.
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