May 6, 2012

Fight! Fight! Settle dispute with a game! Settle dispute with a game!

Filed under: Pre-Clovis — acagle @ 10:10 am

And I venture back to blogging with. . .controversy! Here in my own resident state: Tribal gathering celebrates unifying culture of an ancient game

The set of 13 sticks today are at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma, where the largest of them, believed to be the so-called Chief’s Stick in a Sla-hal set, with its intricate markings, is on public display. On a recent visit there, Marvin Kempf, a Snoqualmie tribal member, held the sticks in his gloved hands. Kempf and other tribal members have been working to reignite discussion of the meaning of the sticks, and Sla-hal, as a unifying force among tribal families, starting with the gathering Saturday.

“We have songs that go back into the ice age,” Kempf said. “This is the evidence that we go back to time immemorial.”

He sees purpose in the re-emergence today of the ancient sticks, to remind tribal families of their unity: “When times get tough, Sla-hal comes back to us.”

This is from the Richey-Roberts Clovis Cache from lo these many years ago. I remember the site itself being controversial at the time, big hullabaloo over who would excavate, whether they would excavate, who would keep the objects, and whether there were “sacred burial grounds” present (there weren’t). Much of the article is about the usefulness of oral histories as far as, specifically here, determining the function of the sticks. People who buy into oral histories tend to be fairly selective, of course (e.g., Native American creation stories = good, Christian creation stories = bad), and you can detect the myth of the peaceful Native American running through this article with the talk of the game being a nice peaceful way to resolve disputes (meanwhile, Kennewick man is sitting there with an arrow in his hip). Disputes continue in the comments.

March 19, 2012

North American Solutreans update

Filed under: Pre-Clovis — acagle @ 3:14 pm

At Long article.

March 2, 2012

More on Solutrean North Americans

Filed under: Pre-Clovis — acagle @ 1:00 pm

Supposedly: Radical theory of first Americans places Stone Age Europeans in Delmarva 20,000 years ago

When Stanford proposed this “Solutrean hypothesis” in 1999, colleagues roundly rejected it. One prominent archaeologist suggested that Stanford was throwing his career away.

But now, 13 years later, Stanford and Bruce Bradley, an archaeologist at England’s University of Exeter, lay out a detailed case — bolstered by the curious blade and other stone tools recently found in the mid-Atlantic — in a new book, “Across Atlantic Ice.”

There’s a bit more in this article than the earlier one including a couple of the named sites, one of which is an underwater one where a blade was brought up (supposedly) along with a mastodon tusk. Scant obviously and there are other difficulties that David Meltzer brings up:

Meltzer is among those still skeptical of the Solutrean hypothesis, citing the scant evidence. “If Solutrean boat people washed up on our shores, they suffered cultural amnesia, genetic amnesia, dental amnesia, linguistic amnesia and skeletal amnesia. Basically, all of the signals are pointing to Asia” as the origin of the first Americans.

One aspect of all this that I actually like is that the tools are actually tools. Something about a lot of pre-Clovis sites in the past that has always bugged me is that the lithics are usually cruddy little things that are barely assignable as “modified”. People elsewhere who moved here all of a sudden forgot how to make bifaces and devolved to simple little flake and pebbles? That’s always been a major weakness IMO.

I’m going to read a couple of the papers having to do with at least the Lowery Miles Point site and will get back.

UPDATE: Just read through the Mile Point article. Not bad. You know, I get the feeling that if the dates on this were Holocene, archaeologists would accept it pretty much at face value. Here’s the abstract:

New pedological, geological, archaeological, and geochronological data from the Miles Point site in eastern Maryland are compared with similar data from other nearby sites to develop a framework for interpreting the upland stratigraphy in the western Delmarva Peninsula. Our results indicate the presence of two different intervals of loess deposition. The earlier loess (Miles Point Loess) was deposited between 41 and 25 ka. A paleosol (Tilghman Soil) formed in this loess was initially developed in grasslands and boreal environments during a subsequent period of landscape stability between 25 and 18 ka. Between 18 and 12.8 ka, the Miles Point Loess and the Tilghman Soil were eroded in many areas as evidenced by diagnostic ca. 12.8 ka Clovis-age artifacts lying unconformably on the Tilghman Soil. Cores adjacent to the deep channel area of the Chesapeake Bay confirm this erosional unconformity prior to 12.7 ka. A relatively uniform terminal-Pleistocene loess (Paw Paw), deposited prior to the Early Archaic period, buried Clovis-age lag artifacts and other archaeological remains older than 13.2 ka. Stratigraphic evidence from the Late Pleistocene lower Susquehanna River Valley suggests that the Paw Paw Loess is the result of eolian redeposition and reworking of non-glacial eroded upland sediments that filled the valley between 12.7 and 11.5 ka.

Ref: Late Pleistocene upland stratigraphy of the western Delmarva Peninsula,
Quaternary Science Reviews 29(11–12) June 2010, Pages 1472-1480
Darrin L. Lowery, Michael A. O’Neal, John S. Wah, Daniel P. Wagner, Dennis J. Stanford

The lithics were apparently in situ, not eroded (a few were, it’s on a bank), and intact paleosols were present without evidence of small mammal burrowing. They did both bulk sediment sample for luminescence dating and “Additionally, three
charcoal samples and one bulk soil sample were collected from an organic rich stratum for accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating.” The AMS dates are from a stratum directly above the surface where the artifacts were located (C14 are from 2ABtxb stratum, artifacts in the 2Btxb stratum). The position of the lithics was:

All of the exposed and excavated artifacts were located at the same relative depth and
were lying flat with respect to the overlying 2ABtxb soil horizon. The uniform depth and orientation of the artifacts does not suggest they are bioturbated and mixed.

The AMS dates range between 21,490 and 27,240 CBP and are reasonably consistent with luminescence dates from the same stratum of 27,940 and 29,845 BP; lum dates from below are also stratigraphically consistent ranging from 24,770 to 41,090.

The lithics themselves aren’t anything special — and they are undoubted artifacts — a couple of blade flakes, a projectile point and a polyhedral core, among others.

The dated paleosol (2ABtxb) correlates with nearby units with similar dates (ca. 18k CBP).

So, undoubted artifacts, in a securely dated context, with no apparent evidence of displacement. I’m not seeing any major problems here.

February 28, 2012

And now for something completely different

Filed under: Pre-Clovis — acagle @ 7:44 pm

The original Native Americans: stone age Europeans discovered the New World

Europeans may have been the first people to settle in America, possibly more than ten thousand years before anyone else set foot there.

A series of European-style tools dating from twenty-six-thousand to nineteen-thousand years ago have been discovered in six separate locations along the east coast of the United States.

. . .

Professors Dennis Stanford and Bruce Bradford, the two archaeologists who made the discovery, suggest Europeans moved across the Atlantic during the peak of Ice Age.

Nothing entirely new there, this is something Stanford has been arguing for years now, although I’m not sure if any of these “tools” are new (one seems to be from 1971).

October 21, 2011

(Pre) Clovis update

Filed under: Pre-Clovis — acagle @ 11:59 am

Just hitting the wires, from both of my states. Science has an article out now:
Pre-Clovis Mastodon Hunting 13,800 Years Ago at the Manis Site, Washington. Michael R. Waters, Thomas W. Stafford Jr., H. Gregory McDonald, Carl Gustafson, Morten Rasmussen, Enrico Cappellini, Jesper V. Olsen, Damian Szklarczyk, Lars Juhl Jensen, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Eske Willerslev. Science 21 October 2011: Vol. 334 no. 6054 pp. 351-353

The tip of a projectile point made of mastodon bone is embedded in a rib of a single disarticulated mastodon at the Manis site in the state of Washington. Radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis show that the rib is associated with the other remains and dates to 13,800 years ago. Thus, osseous projectile points, common to the Beringian Upper Paleolithic and Clovis, were made and used during pre-Clovis times in North America. The Manis site, combined with evidence of mammoth hunting at sites in Wisconsin, provides evidence that people were hunting proboscideans at least two millennia before Clovis.

Their basic analysis was to directly date the rib containing the point by AMS using bone collagen:

We obtained 13 accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C dates from purified bone collagen (4) extracted from the mastodon rib containing the embedded osseous object and from both tusks (table S2). All dates were statistically identical at 1 SD and establish an age of 11,960 ± 17 14C years before the present (yr B.P.) for the Manis mastodon.

Hence, they established that both the critter and the rib (some question whether they were from the same critter) date to the same time.

Second, they CT scanned the bone containing the point (click for larger):
Desert Fox

and found that it penetrated about 2 cm into the bone and “would have penetrated the hair and skin and about 25 to 30 cm of superficial epaxial muscles”. They also note that there was no bone growth around the point indicating perimortem penetration. Thus, they establish both that the rib came from the same animal (probably; I suppose there’s always room for disagreement there given the range of ages) and that it was, in fact, a bone point sufficient to do serious damage and presumably part of the cause of death. They also did a couple of side analyses (IMO) demonstrating that the rib was, in fact, mastodon, and that the point was also, for a bit of added irony.

Next, they bring in a couple of other sites suggesting hunting of large mammals, one in Wisconsin and one here in the San Juans (former is mammoth and the latter is bison). Both of these, IMO, don’t necessarily demonstrate active hunting but are good candidates for at least use. They then argue that this puts the kibosh on the “blitzkrieg model” of overkill and suggests that people were still responsible as they had more time to hunt the critters. Well, I suppose you could also argue that the added time just shows they were there hunting them and thus could have developed a typical predator-prey relationship like in other parts of the world where extinctions also occurred (and places they didn’t). So, that part doesn’t seem particularly strong to me. But this seems to nail down Manis’ place as a hunting and butchery site.

I have a post up on the present state of the Manis site so you can see what it looks like today.

June 8, 2011

Clovis alert

Filed under: Pre-Clovis — acagle @ 6:59 pm

Scientists love their prehistoric garbage in northwest Alaska

This summer, archaeologists are continuing work at a 12,000-year-old prehistoric site which is yielding evidence of generations of wandering hunters who camped on a bluff overlooking the Kivalina River. What they have found is contributing new insights — and contrary new evidence — into the thinking on how humans spread throughout North America at the close of the Pleistocene.

The Raven Bluff site was discovered in 2007 by BLM archaeologist Bill Hedman and a crew conducting an archaeological site survey in the far northwest corner of Alaska. The Bering Land Bridge between Russia and North America may have still existed — or had just submerged for the last time — when hunters first frequented Raven Bluff.

Good article. They have a link going to a PDF report on the site. The neat thing is they found a fluted point at 12k BP in NW Alaska which they say (and as far as I know are correct) that it is the earliest well-dated on in Beringia. That’s been a sticking point of the out-of-Beringia Clovis origin hypothesis.

May 13, 2011

Buttermilk Site update

Filed under: Pre-Clovis — acagle @ 3:54 pm

Artifacts spark debate on the Clovis culture

Archaeologists burrowing in the dirt of central Texas are stirring up a scientific debate that could change history in eastern New Mexico.

At issue is the recent discovery of artifacts at an archeological site on Buttermilk Creek, Texas. The artifacts found have been dated between 13,200 and 15,500 years old, said George Crawford, chief archaeologist for the Blackwater Draw site.

Nothing really new there from earlier stories, but I thought I’d pass it on. I think I mentioned earlier that the dating might be problematic for some.

April 4, 2011

Buttermilk Creek site update

Filed under: Pre-Clovis — acagle @ 10:34 am

Technically the Debra L. Friedkin site. Okay, I have the 25 Mar issue of Science and have read through the article and skimmed through the supporting online material. Overall, they have made a good case for a pre-Clovis site and I doubt many people will seriously criticize it as not being one. It might have a couple of weaknesses that could cause it to have something of an asterisk, but I tend to think only a few specialists will really question the findings in any detail. Here’s the abstract:

Compelling archaeological evidence of an occupation older than Clovis (~12.8 to 13.1 thousand years ago) in North America is present at only a few sites, and the stone tool assemblages from these sites are small and varied. The Debra L. Friedkin site, Texas, contains an assemblage of 15,528 artifacts that define the Buttermilk Creek Complex, which stratigraphically underlies a Clovis assemblage and dates between ~13.2 and 15.5 thousand years ago. The Buttermilk Creek Complex confirms the emerging view that people occupied the Americas before Clovis and provides a large artifact assemblage to explore Clovis origins.


March 29, 2011

Pre-Clovis update

Filed under: Pre-Clovis — acagle @ 2:40 pm

Artifacts upend theory on first North Americans

A massive cache of 15,500-year-old artifacts from a Texas flood plain is providing what archaeologists are calling the first unequivocal evidence that the people of the well-known Clovis culture, long thought to be the first humans to inhabit North America, were not.

Archaeologists had previously found several sites, such as the Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Pennsylvania and the Paisley Caves in Oregon, that appeared to predate the Clovis culture and its distinctive fluted spear points, but the paucity of artifacts from those sites made such a conclusion highly controversial.

More of an update than anything else, although I noticed this: The tools included 14 spearheads that looked similar to the Clovis points, but lacked the grooves. Which is, I think, the most significant thing about this. They quote someone as saying no other site has been convincing, which I suppose is a viable opinion, but not one that I hold. OTOH, this actually seems both earlier and related to Clovis which makes it far more significant IMO because it gives some inkling of a source for Clovis.

March 26, 2011

Pre-Clovis update

Filed under: Pre-Clovis — acagle @ 4:21 pm

Earliest Americans Arrived Even Earlier

Everything’s bigger in Texas, even the piles of debris and tools left alongside a stream some 15,000 years ago by some of the earliest known inhabitants of North America.

The newly discovered trove of 56 stone tools and thousands of flaky rock bits at an archeological site north of Austin is the largest and oldest artifact assemblage of its vintage discovered to date, says Michael Waters of Texas A&M University in College Station. Waters and a large team of colleagues describe the collection of artifacts, dubbed the Buttermilk Creek Complex, in the March 25 Science.

I think I just got that Science issue, too. I shall read the article and go over it in more detail later. The tools actually look like tools for a change. . . .

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