Following Up on the South Bank

The South Bank of the Clovis site refers to an area at the southern end of the prehistoric pond around which lie a group of cultural sites spanning a time from the end of the last ice age until recent historic times.  This watering hole provided a marshy habitat for plants and animals and was the focus of human activity for the last 14,000 years.

SouthBank

The South Bank area of the Clovis site. View to the southwest.

Professional research on the South Bank of the Clovis site has been going on since the mid-1930s.  In fact, this is the area of the Clovis site where it was discovered for the first time, beyond any legitimate doubt, that humans were hunting mammoths in North America.  Other than the spear points we now know as Clovis, major discoveries in the South Bank area include bone spear points embedded in mammoth, spokeshaves, gravers, Levallois blades, turtle shells, bone flakers, bone foreshafts, and a variety of knives and other cutting tools.

Although more work has been done in the South Bank area than any other portion of the site, only a tiny fraction of all the work in this area has been published to date.  A few of us are working hard to remedy this and I have dedicated my career to unraveling the mess of 80+ years of excavation, sampling, and recording of this site.

Howard

Edgar Howard at the Clovis site, 1933.

What we’re up to now.  A building was placed over a small portion of the South Bank in the 1990s to preserve in situ some of the spectacular preserved specimens from this area.  As time permits, we are slowing removing the overburden in this area to reveal the palimpsest of bison kills, butchering, and other activities in this area.  A particularly good crew of excavators with faunal experience were willing to volunteer some of their time over the past couple weeks and huge progress is being made.

 

Here’s a gallery of random photographs from the excavations so far.

Thanks to those who are giving time to this project of mine.  Since, for me, archaeology isn’t worth doing without disseminating the information to the broader public I’ll update the blog as we continue to make progress.  Unfortunately, day-to-day operations of the Landmark and the university take precedent over the fun stuff like this so it will be back to the grindstone before too long.

A Bison Trap at the Clovis Site (poster)

Bison Trap_S.BennettAn excellent poster about Ms. Bennett’s work on the South Bank Bison Trap at the Clovis Site.  Click the image for a larger image or the following for a full pdf:

Bison Trap_S.Bennett_10-7-2013_smallest

PaleoAmerican Odyssey – Afterthoughts

I have hesitated to post anything about the Paleoamerican Odyssey, in part, because there was so much information and so many conversations that it’s hard to know where to begin.  It certainly made an impact on many of us.  I began drafting posts during the event, but upon reading my own words, most of what I was saying was reaction to the more appalling and shocking things.

PAC3For those who were not in attendance, let us get this straight.  This was not a scientific “conference” in the sense that papers were submitted, examined by a jury of peers, and talks selected. Feelings were mixed but as one colleague pointed out, “this was created in darkness, by an unknown committee, sponsored by collectors in antiquities, and presented to the working Paleoindian community as a completed package of self-appointed rock stars of our business.”

PAC1Some talks appeared as re-runs of Forrest Fenn’s Clovis and Beyond conference (upon which, this meeting was modeled).  Sometimes there was the feel of a very tired Dog and Pony Show.  Angry personal comments came from the podium.  Nevertheless, throughout the meetings, there were many excellent and informative papers concerned with genuine research from North and South America, and more importantly Beringia and Siberia.

PAC2As a spill-over, I had about 29 folks extend the weekend by coming to the Clovis site Sunday afternoon.  I pulled a smattering of artifacts from the type-site for people to examine and photograph in person.  We had a great time talking, knapping, and experimenting in general.  Several inquiries were made as to how to return items bought, sold, or taken from the Landmark over the years and one retired archaeologist told us of a sale he witnessed claiming to originate at the Clovis site was arranged in a “back room” meeting over the weekend.  Sad news for us.  I truly hope they are fakes, but somehow I doubt it.

As comments come in, and I have time to catch my breath, I would like to hear more from attendees as I’m sure we all had differing experiences.  I am also glad to get the opinions of the organizers if there is an interest in communicating openly with the actual archaeological community.  My intent is not to focus on the bad because I think a lot of good happened throughout the event.  I just hope it isn’t overshadowed by the dark side.

Paleoamerican Odyssey

I hope to keep this page updated during the Paleoamerican Odyssey Conference.  It will be a chore but it could be interesting. With the somewhat dark connections associated with the Clovis and Beyond Conference, rumors abound about this one including motives, funding, and possible personal agendas. After speaking of this with colleagues, I think the latter fear comes from the recruitment of the speakers as opposed to a general call for papers.  I’ll keep an open mind and let it flow over me.  I certainly expect to learn some new things.

And of course I’ll keep posting if I can.

Here’s a small copy of one of my posters to be presented.  The original is much larger but this will give the gist.  Just finished up at the printer’s.  Please don’t use without permission as the resolution is terrible on this one.

Late Paleoindian Bison

An interesting day, as usual.  The Late Paleoindian sediments have yielded many intact bison over the years that have to be seen to be appreciated.

DSC_0653I decided to make an attempt to collect the forelimb as a whole.  Paleobond helped consolidate the bone, but the soft silt was uncooperative.  It was a risk, but a piece of masonite was slipped under the block to remove the limb as a whole.

DSC_0661A little more cleaning in the lab and this specimen will be suitable for a new museum display.  This was a young Bison antiquus.

Field School Update

Lots of remarkable progress has been made using the field school students in and out of the South Bank Building.  The bonebed has yielded a few surprises and given up more excellent paleontological specimens.  More information to come, but here are a few photos to entice.

DSC_0625 DSC_0624 DSC_0622 DSC_0620 DSC_0618DSC_0634 DSC_0631 DSC_0628DSC_0643 DSC_0640FieldCrew2013

Field School 2013

We’re up and running, and therefore have little time to attend to the blog or emails.

I’ll try to post some photos as time permits but here’s a few for now…

DSC_0560

With the relatively large number of students and volunteers we have undertaken two separate, but related projects.  Some are fortunate enough to work in the shade much of the time as seen above.DSC_0564

The majority of the crew are back in Isequilla’s pit that we re-opened in 2009, working on the northeast profile.DSC_0574

The Southbank bonebed excavation is being expanded by about six square meters.  Some are finding that the bonebed is a difficult, and confining space, but it has it’s rewards.DSC_0578

At lunch there almost always an opportunity to pick up a spear thrower, and get in touch with our prehistoric hunter ancestors.DSC_0579

After a year of sandstorms, some of the deepest excavations need to be shoveled out.DSC_0582

Luckily, there’s enough bone, lithics, and interesting sediment changes to keep us all interested and busy most of the time.