Archaeologists Find Pre-Clovis Projectile Points in Texas

  
Via:  dignitatem-societatis  •  2 years ago  •  30 comments

Archaeologists Find Pre-Clovis Projectile Points in Texas

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


At the Gault archaeological site in central Texas, archaeologists have unearthed a projectile point technology never previously seen in North America, which they date to be 16,000-20,000 years old. The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, suggest humans occupied the North American continent prior to Clovis — considered the first culture to use projectile points to hunt on the continent, and dated to around 11,000 years ago.

image_6208-Gault-Tools.jpg

Full article at Sci-News


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Bob Nelson
1  Bob Nelson    2 years ago

Very cool.

Thank you.Thumbs Up 2

 
 
 
Kavika
2  Kavika     2 years ago

I'll be in Texas in March of 2019 and hope to get to the Gault site. 

The discovery of the ''Montana Boy'' and resulting DNA testing showed that the skeleton was 12,500 years old and the DNA connected the Clovis people to modern American Indians. 

Good article.

 
 
 
Kavika
3  Kavika     2 years ago

Here is some additional information on the Gualt and how and why it is called the Gault Site. 

You can hardly walk 10 steps along Buttermilk Creek about 45 miles north of Austin without finding evidence that people lived here thousands of years ago. The ground is littered with flakes of chert, a plentiful stone from which projectile points, blades, cleavers and other tools were fashioned.

Archaeologists who have dug as deep as 14 feet found layer after layer of stone tools, weapons and flakes that accumulated over time, indicating that prehistoric humans began gravitating to this area about 16,000 years ago.

The Gault Site, as this tract in southern Bell County and northern Williamson County is known, and a parcel just downstream known as the Debra L. Friedkin Site are among a handful in North America with compelling evidence of human occupation predating what is known as the Clovis period. The makers of Clovis-era tools lived about 13,000 years ago and were for decades considered the earliest humans in the New World.

Researchers say the Gault Site also has yielded evidence of the oldest known house site in North America, rock carvings that are among the oldest artwork found in the Americas and bones from a mammoth .

Thanks to the generosity of one of Texas’ most respected archaeologists, who purchased the Gault Site and donated it to a conservation group, the property will be preserved for all time. The Texas Historical Commission recommended last month that the site be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service, which decides such matters, typically goes along with state historical agencies. The Historical Commission previously designated Gault as a state archaeological landmark.

“Why were people here?”  Michael B. Collins , a Texas State University research professor and the site’s benefactor, said during a recent tour. “I think we’re closing in on the answer: It’s an ideal habitat.”

Besides the spring-fed creek, which flows even in drought, the tract features a wide variety of animals, plants and other resources for sustaining life because it occupies an ecotone, an area where environmental regions converge, in this case the Blackland Prairie and the Edwards Plateau, including the plateau subregions known as the Balcones Canyonlands and the Lampasas Cut Plain. There are limestone outcrops rich with chert for tool-making as well as deep soils nourishing abundant plant life.

“Living in an ecotone like that is like living between H-E-B, Randalls and Home Depot,” said  D. Clark Wernecke , an adjunct professor at Texas State, director of the university’s  Prehistory Research Project   and executive director of the  Gault School of Archaeological Research , a nonprofit group that administers the site.

Preserving the past

Excavation began in 1991 and continued in off-and-on fashion into 2013, but researchers at the university continue to study some of the 2.6 million tools, weapons, flakes and other artifacts that the project yielded, including the largest pre-Clovis assemblage found in North America.

Collins’ purchase of 74 acres in 2007 means the site will never be developed. He donated 54 acres to the  Archaeological Conservancy , a nonprofit organization that protects about 500 sites nationwide, and gave the remainder to the Gault School, which he chairs.

“It is one of the most important Paleo-Indian archaeological discoveries ever made,” said James B. Walker, senior vice president of the conservancy.

Collins, who joined Texas State in 2009 after working at the University of Texas, said he agreed to pay the Lindsey family, the property’s former owners, a sizable premium over the market value after his efforts to drum up donations failed. He declined to reveal the purchase price. He said he fills gaps in the Gault research budget with his own money and draws no salary from Texas State.

Collins inherited oil and gas holdings from his father, who was an executive of Humble Oil and Refining Co., a predecessor of Exxon Mobil Corp. “They pay me a comfortable living so I can afford to feed my archaeological habit,” he said.

Few academics have such wherewithal and fewer still would spend it this way, said  Tom Dillehay , an anthropology professor at Vanderbilt University.

“Most people would take the money and run off, go casino hopping, live in the Caribbean,” Dillehay said. “This is a man who is modest and honest. I’ve seen Mike get up to speak in professional meetings in overalls and a straw hat.”

David Meltzer , a Southern Methodist University professor of prehistory, said Collins’ financial support of the Gault site is “astonishing and admirable, both. It’s an extraordinary site and Mike’s an extraordinary individual for what he has done on behalf of that site and on behalf of archaeology.”

Treasure trove of artifacts

The Collins-Wernecke archaeology lab is housed in the Pecos Building, a nondescript structure on the San Marcos campus. Shelves are lined with plastic bags stuffed with projectile points, knives, scraping tools, drilling tools, flakes and other materials, all labeled with the precise location where they were found. The people who dwelt along Buttermilk Creek made tools and weapons from chert by striking it with harder rocks like granite and perhaps pieces of wood and antler.

The artifacts provide clues to human behavior in the past. For example, the trove includes nearly 200 stones with grids, spirals or other designs carved into them, some dating to 13,000 years ago, among the oldest dated art in the Americas, Wernecke said. The designs are impressive, with some consisting of perfectly parallel lines and herringbone patterns. This suggests that the hunter-gatherers had time for artistic creation, he said.

Archaeologists also found a small stone floor dating to more than 13,000 years ago, evidence of the oldest known excavated house in North America, Wernecke said. The discovery of the lower jaw bone of a Columbian mammoth — prehistoric relative of the modern-day elephant — along with stone tools suggests that it might have been killed and butchered at the Gault Site. The jaw bone, with teeth that look like the tread of a running shoe, occupies its own shelf at the lab.

The age of the stone artifacts was determined using a technique known as  optically stimulated luminescence , which discerns when particles of quartz and feldspar in soil samples around artifacts were last exposed to sunlight. Runoff, flood deposits and wind action buried layer upon layer of artifacts over time, and the lack of organic material meant that the radiocarbon dating method would have been useless.

“This is a place that people came back to time and time again and throughout 16,000 years,” Wernecke said. “It was a huge manufacturing site; people were making tools there for a long time and left a lot of debris. There are 22 archaeological cultures in Central Texas. We have all 22 plus an unnamed one that is older than Clovis. The cultures get defined by the styles of stone tools, much like harvest gold kitchen appliances are associated with the 1970s.”

Clovis projectile points are fairly long with sides that are roughly parallel, a form known as lanceolate, with grooves called flutes chipped out of both faces, creating a fairly thin base where a wooden spear or dart could be hafted onto the stone. Pre-Clovis points look altogether different, without fluting and instead with a kind of stem that could have been attached to a spear or dart.

The excavations produced evidence of leather-working — “hide scrapers, things used to cut and work hide or punch hide, the equivalent of an awl,” Wernecke said. “Sometimes people say these are really primitive cultures; you’ll see one of us cringe because they invented all these tools, and we still use every single one of the tools they invented.”

More than 2,000 volunteers from around the world assisted in the excavations over the years. And although just 3 percent of the site was excavated, that was more than enough to get the measure of its history because it is so rich with artifacts. The site has been known in amateur and professional archaeological circles for decades, and previous owners charged visitors to dig. That turned out to be serendipitous.

“They did not dig very deeply. We didn’t have to fool with the first 8,000 years,” Collins said. “That would have added 15 years to our project.”

The analysis and cataloging of the artifacts has been underway since 2001, spinning off eight Ph.D. dissertations and 13 master’s theses. Collins, Wernecke and their team are working on a book about the site.

Michael Waters , a Texas A&M University anthropology professor who led excavations at the nearby Friedkin site, said artifacts unearthed there provide evidence that people were in North America by 15,500 years ago.

“Our excavations ended in 2016. We’re separated (from the Gault Site) by another property, but it’s basically the same deposits,” Waters said, adding that it was “terrific” of Collins to preserve the Gault Site “for future generations of archaeologists to study. We still have a lot to learn about Clovis and pre-Clovis at that site.”

Other sites in North America with evidence of pre-Clovis toolmaking include the  Meadowcroft Rockshelter   in Pennsylvania, Paisley Caves in Oregon and the Page-Ladson Site in Florida.

“Gault went a long way to contributing to the unraveling of the Clovis-first model,” said James Adovasio, a former University of Pittsburgh professor who excavated the Meadowcroft Rockshelter. “We used to think that the makers of Clovis artifacts were the first people into the New World. Now we know for a fact that’s not the case.”

It’s pretty clear from genetic and other evidence that the people of the pre-Clovis era migrated from Asia. They looked a lot like current generations except they were shorter, Adovasio said, adding, “If you dressed them up in a Brioni suit, they would go unnoticed.”

We owe Mr. Collins a huge thank you for saving this site. It will be protected forever courtesy of Mr. Collins.


 
 
 
Dignitatem Societatis
3.1  seeder  Dignitatem Societatis  replied to  Kavika @3    2 years ago

Interesting read. I didn't realize the site was so big, with 2 separate digs spanning at least 3 properties, with the Collins property alone coming in at 74 acres. Think of all the undiscovered artifacts undoubtedly surrounding the actual excavation sites.

I wonder what the climate and environment was like there 16,000 to 20,000 years ago, still in the grip of the last glaciation. The ice was several hundred miles north of the site, but surely winters were colder and harsher than now. I wonder how these people lived, what kind of shelters and clothing they made, if they depended on the megafauna or just made the occasional opportunistic kill, were they far-ranging and nomadic or permanently occupying the locality?

I find this stuff fascinating.

Thanks Kavika.

 
 
 
Kavika
3.1.1  Kavika   replied to  Dignitatem Societatis @3.1    2 years ago

Your welcome Dignitatem, dave (comment below this) and I are really into these type of articles and currently dave is posting a whole series of videos that explore the Indigenous peoples of South America, Central America and then into North America...

The civilizations were so advanced that people are just now beginning to understand how advanced they were. 

 
 
 
Raven Wing
3.2  Raven Wing  replied to  Kavika @3    2 years ago
You can hardly walk 10 steps along Buttermilk Creek about 45 miles north of Austin without finding evidence that people lived here thousands of years ago.

I was there at Buttermilk Creek when I was about 8 y/o. We were living in Austin at the time, as my Father, who was with the Texas Rangers, had to give testimony on a very big undercover case. We heard about the area and having just moved to Austin from Pawhuska OK where we had lived for over 3 years. Being Native American I was anxious to see the area for myself, and hoped to learn about the Native people who had lived there long before the Europeans and Spaniards came to that part of the world. 

Having dreamed of being an Archaeologist and/or Anthropologist when I grew up I had a passion for finding rare items from the people who had helped make our world livable, their customs, traditions and way of life. So being able to visit a place like Buttermilk Creek at that time of my life was like part of my dream come true. 

 
 
 
dave-2693993
3.2.1  dave-2693993  replied to  Raven Wing @3.2    2 years ago
I was there at Buttermilk Creek when I was about 8 y/o.

Raven Wing, it just occurred to me you have had a chance to see the site progress since you were a child. I realize that was some time ago, yet you had a strong interest.

Given the limited view of things from the photos, how would you describe how the work at the site has advanced?

 
 
 
dave-2693993
5  dave-2693993    2 years ago

For anyone who bypassed clicking the link to the photos in Kavika's post, taking the time to follow the link is highly recommended. Here is the straight link:

https://www.mystatesman.com/news/local/photos-austin-area-dig-gives-rare-clues-how-people-lived-000-years-ago/PIrfXiMpZ8FB15vv5UbvZK/

A lot more than stone points are presented in the photos.

It is good to see the mainstream archeologist begin to stick their necks out a little bit and begin presenting more realistic dates of human habitation in the Americas.

The are still a little shy of what many researchers have come across.

Excellent article.

 
 
 
Dignitatem Societatis
5.1  seeder  Dignitatem Societatis  replied to  dave-2693993 @5    2 years ago

Lots of bones busted open for marrow in slide 22. Probably eaten raw, too. I don't think I could have handled the Paleo diet. Then again, if it was all I knew and my life depended on it I'd probably think it was A-OK. But still... 

And the horse teeth in slide 25. Imagine how different the Americas might have been if horses hadn't gone extinct and had been domesticated. The whole of the Americas lacked large, possible beasts of burden after what, about 10,000 years ago? I guess there were still buffalo in the north, but I have no idea if they could be domesticated efficiently. Maybe they need to range too much and consume too much grass for easy domestication. It's quite a shame in some ways. Imagine the civilizations that might have been produced with beasts of burden? Not to mention the technology their use probably would have enabled, especially in warfare, which I know sounds morbid at first but would have given them a much greater ability to resist the European invasions. Just the survival of the horse in the Americas could have changed all of history.

 
 
 
dave-2693993
5.1.1  dave-2693993  replied to  Dignitatem Societatis @5.1    2 years ago

Those are some good thoughts about the loss of the mega fauna. Related to this, in researching the Younger Dryas, evidence is beginning to point towards an event as the leading cause to the extinction of these animals, rather than mainly over hunting.

I can tell you, the technology of the ancients is very difficult to match. Even one of the CARTA lecturers mentioned how his post grad students were incapable of achieving the technology needed to make the cores which were then shaped into a specific tool resulting in the perfect points that have been uncovered.

Here on the east coast along the Potomac and Patuxent rivers we have found buckets of stone artifacts. Our interests grew enough to begin learning the techniques used by the ancients to create stone points or arrow heads in our case.

Here are some examples we found:

IMG_0618_a.jpg

The two in the upper left are a form of chert. Some say chert is the same as flint, some say they are different. It all looks the same to me.

Here are some we made mixed with some we found;

IMG_0621_a.jpg

The blue one was made from the bottom of an old Alka Seltzer bottle I found while fishing on the Patuxent back in the 60s or 70s. The upper two are from obsidian which really is glass. The white ones are quartz.

Of course we had to learn about making bows too. This example was made from a locust stave we aged for over 20 years using stone tools and methods used by the ancients. It is over 120# draw. I can not fully draw it anymore. Sorry for the picture, I could not get the bow shot very well.

bow1.jpg

A note about the phrase cores used above, for anyone not familiar, when making a stone tool, you don't start by just chipping on a rock. A "flake" must be created which becomes the basis of the tool which is then shaped.

We leaned the basics of creating a simple flake by striking two stone together at low impact angles.

The ancients, such as the Clovis engineered a better way. They would start with a workable stone and based on it's shape and proportions strike it in various locations then give it one last hit in the very back and out would pop a bifacial core from which to begin working.

At the end a beautiful tool is produced.

 
 
 
Kavika
5.1.2  Kavika   replied to  dave-2693993 @5.1.1    2 years ago

Thanks dave, outstanding information.

 
 
 
dave-2693993
5.1.3  dave-2693993  replied to  Kavika @5.1.2    2 years ago

Thank you Kavika.

Another thing worth turning attention to are the "markings" on the large stone. If these were found in other locations they might be called hieroglyphs or just plain glyphs.

Here from the photos:

https://www.mystatesman.com/rf/image_lowres/Pub/p9/Statesman/2018/05/11/Images/avx%20gault%2008.JPG

https://www.mystatesman.com/rf/image_lowres/Pub/p9/Statesman/2018/05/11/Images/avx%20gault%2010.JPG

Then we have artwork, such as this. Or is it more than artwork?

https://www.mystatesman.com/rf/image_lowres/Pub/p9/Statesman/2018/05/11/Images/jwj%20Gault%200231.JPG

 

 
 
 
Kavika
5.1.4  Kavika   replied to  dave-2693993 @5.1.3    2 years ago

To me that looks like more than artwork, dave. You really have to wonder if it's a code of some sort..Sure would be fun to be there working with the archaeologists.

 
 
 
dave-2693993
5.1.5  dave-2693993  replied to  Kavika @5.1.4    2 years ago

I agree, in that what we see are not just artful repetitious shapes. Other uniquely markings appear to be embedded.

It is not difficult to think this stone is a record of something and the same applies to the glyphs.

Some time working there would be fun. The is contact information in your earlier post. The site researchers might have programs for that.

 
 
 
Dignitatem Societatis
5.1.6  seeder  Dignitatem Societatis  replied to  dave-2693993 @5.1.1    2 years ago
The blue one was made from the bottom of an old Alka Seltzer bottle I found while fishing on the Patuxent back in the 60s or 70s. The upper two are from obsidian which really is glass. The white ones are quartz.

Pretty cool. I used to play around with knapping, myself. I still have my kit stored away in a box somewhere. Some antler hammers, pressure flakers and a few hammerstones. I may have to dig it out and have a go at it again.

 
 
 
dave-2693993
5.1.7  dave-2693993  replied to  Dignitatem Societatis @5.1.6    2 years ago

That is also cool.

It is a rainy day here now and a good time to break some rocks.

 
 
 
Dignitatem Societatis
5.1.8  seeder  Dignitatem Societatis  replied to  dave-2693993 @5.1.7    2 years ago

It's been a while since I've knapped anything, but I remember a goose-pimply, spine-tingling good feeling when flakes came off cleanly and exactly how I wanted them to. It can be extremely satisfying.

Unfortunately, it can be extremely frustrating as well. I used to want to be able to make gorgeous, flat blades with overshot flakes like this one from the Fenn Cache:

fenn piece.jpg

...but it seemed like all I got good at was making hinge fractures. I can make those all day long. ;-)

I never had a good source of stone, either. There's chert all over the place where I live but it's mostly frost-fractured surface stuff, which I guess can be fine for little bird points if the fractures are far enough apart, but not for giant bifaces. I had to order what I was working with and got tired of breaking it.

I think I'll just try to find some thick colored glass i f I ever start playing around with it again.

 
 
 
Dignitatem Societatis
5.1.9  seeder  Dignitatem Societatis  replied to  dave-2693993 @5.1.7    2 years ago

Well, I did it. I dug out my tools. I found a few small pieces of raw chert in the box as well, so I took them out back and being 10 years out of practice promptly turned two of them into piles of useless chips. :)

I did manage to reduce the third one to a nice lenticular biface, though, about 4 inches long. I thought I was well on my way to a Clovis or Goshen-like lanceolate point, but it was a bit thick in the middle and when I tried to make some thinning flakes I held it wrong and snapped it in half.

I'm more out of practice than I realized. It did remind me of my interest in the art of it all, though, and now I'm wanting to do more. I'm going to have to go on a rock hunt, and soon.

This conversation actually seems to have have revived an old hobby for me. How cool is that?

 
 
 
Skrekk
5.1.10  Skrekk  replied to  Dignitatem Societatis @5.1.9    2 years ago

I hope you wear good leather gloves when you do that.   Darn easy to slice one's self open on a flake!

 
 
 
Dignitatem Societatis
5.1.11  seeder  Dignitatem Societatis  replied to  Skrekk @5.1.10    2 years ago

I wasn't wearing anything special then, just some eye protection. I was only doing some freehand percussion to try to make a preform. If I hadn't broken that last piece I would have gotten a glove out for my holding hand before I did any pressure flaking. As it was I only bled once, from a tiny little knick on a knuckle, I think from brushing debris off of a platform I was grinding. Gotta remember not to do that. :)

 
 
 
Enoch
6  Enoch    2 years ago

Dear Friend D-S: Great article.

Interesting and informative.

Same for the many good contributions to it from members here.

Please do keep up the good work.

Peace and Abundant Blessings Always.

Enoch.

 
 
 
Raven Wing
7  Raven Wing    2 years ago

A wonderful article, D_S. Such a rich and full display of items of their time that gives some insight to the way of life of those who lived in that area long before it became part of a country. 

 
 
 
pat wilson
8  pat wilson    2 years ago

Thank you DS, I love articles like this. I can enjoy some of it now and come back for more later. I have some pieces I found in a corn field prior to planting.

 
 
 
pat wilson
8.1  pat wilson  replied to  pat wilson @8    2 years ago

Here are two of the better pieces.

IMG_3602.JPG

IMG_3603.JPG

 
 
 
pat wilson
8.1.1  pat wilson  replied to  pat wilson @8.1    2 years ago

I think the arrow head is chert and the other piece is flint. They came from an area on the southern Indiana/Ohio border.

 
 
 
MUVA
8.1.2  MUVA  replied to  pat wilson @8.1.1    2 years ago

Did you find them?i have found some arrows in the back bay wild life refuse my father law own a Island in the park and found many arrow heads and some pieces of what he thinks is pottery.

 
 
 
pat wilson
8.1.3  pat wilson  replied to  MUVA @8.1.2    2 years ago

I did find them, we had permission from the farmer. Are you from the southern Indiana/Ohio area.

There's a beautiful wildlife sanctuary near the Oxbow area where the Great Miami meets the Ohio River.

 
 
 
Dignitatem Societatis
8.1.4  seeder  Dignitatem Societatis  replied to  pat wilson @8.1.1    2 years ago
I think the arrow head is chert and the other piece is flint.

I'd call them both chert, especially the tan and orangy one. I'm not sure the tan and orangy one is actually an artifact, though. I suppose it could have been a graver, but if it was it wasn't worked very much (not that they really need to be, I guess).

Finding arrowheads is always fun, though, isn't it?

 
 
 
Dignitatem Societatis
8.1.5  seeder  Dignitatem Societatis  replied to  pat wilson @8.1    2 years ago

By the way, Pat, I was looking for your point in Overstreet's guide to try and find out what kind it might be. I could be wrong, of course, but it looks like a Big Sandy type to me. A straight base, random flaking, side notched, straight blade, etc.

Here's the webpage for Big Sandy points from Projectilepoints.net.

It's in the right region and it matches all of the descriptive criteria, and some of the example images at the bottom of that page look a lot like your point.

And here's something totally cool.... If it is a Big Sandy, then it is old. We're talking Early Archaic, 10,000 to 8,000 years ago according to that website, although Overstreet dates them between 10,000 and 3,000 years ago. (Go figure)

Here's something interesting from that page, though:

There are three examples of the Big Sandy point.  The early point is smaller and thought to be re-sharpened Graham Cave points.  Middle points bases become rounder.  Later points have longer stems and more articulated ears.

You seem to have a smaller one that isn't rounded and doesn't have a "long stem and more articulated ears." In other words, yours looks to be one of the oldest. That's pretty darn cool.

 
 
 
Dignitatem Societatis
8.1.6  seeder  Dignitatem Societatis  replied to  Dignitatem Societatis @8.1.5    2 years ago

On second thought, if the earliest Big Sandys are resharpened Graham Caves, then your point can't be one of those. Graham Caves have curved concave bases and yours is flat, so unless it was retouched at some point that can't be it.

Maybe it is a later version. Still pretty old, though.

 
 
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