Score one, possibly a definitive one, for the pre-Clovis people. Below is an abstract from an article by Michael R. Waters et al published in the October, 2011 issue of Science that summarizes his findings concerning a projectile point lodged into a rib of a mastodon at a potential pre-Clovis site.
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. [Waters et al, 2011]
Here is a full reference to the Science article, as well as a link to a BBC article that discusses the findings. Additionally, I have found an NPR interview with Waters, and I will provide a link to it also.
I was fortunate enough to see an amazing wildlife battle yesterday evening. It was life at its rawest on the Llano Estacado. I wanted to be an impartial observer but, being human, I stepped in and intervened. I live in a rural area with a lot of wildlife including many raptors and snakes. It is not uncommon to see a hawk swoop down and catch a rabbit, rat, mouse, or lizard. I was heading home to eat so I wasn’t too concerned with watching when a large hawk landed hunched over some prey out in the scrub. I went past to check our back gate and came back the same way a minute later. I saw the hawk was hopping around and it looked like it was fighting something. Due to the brush and growing darkness I couldn’t tell what it was fighting with but wanted to have a closer look. There was a split second of frenzied activity and suddenly the hawk was flipped onto its back on the ground. Luckily, I had a camera so I was able to snap off this shot.
I would have had a hard time believing it had I not seen it. A relatively small coachwhip snake was all over the hawk and choking the life out of it. It was getting dark and my initial thought was that it had been bit by a prairie rattler. The hawk’s beak was open, eyes bulging and obviously gasping for air. Closer inspection showed the snake to be a gopher snake, and net even a very big one. A friend pointed out that it is likely the hawk grasped it near the head to keep from being bit but the long lithe coachwhip was able to fling itself around the neck and body.
My presence was obviously upsetting everybody and there was more thrashing. The snake was able to hide under the feathers pretty effectively. I wanted to just grab the snake and unwind it but images of being bitten or clawed by a frightened hawk kept me at a little distance. Not sure what to do next I was able to call someone down to give me hand; at least to take a few more pictures as I expected to be slashed or bit by the hawk.
I grabbed a yucca stalk to help hold the hawk down while I grabbed for the snake and tried to avoid talons. I doubt it would have done much but it was all I had.
Here I am awkwardly pulling snake out with one hand and holding the hawk away with the stick.
She got up, staggered around, shook herself out and flew up into a nearby tree.
This irritated snake actually pursued me, snapping at me until I left.
Anyway, it was a wordy story. I have spent a lot of time outdoors and seen many interesting animal behaviors but nothing like this before.
Illustration of a worked mammoth tusk excavated and on display at the Blackwater Draw site.
Archaeologically speaking, finding the raw material (mammoth ivory), or finding finished tools (ivory rods, shaft wrenches…), is far more common than finding ivory in the process of being modified. The stone tool marks on this artifact are quite distinctive and clearly visible to the naked eye. Read more about this interesting artifact in the 1990 article written by Jeffrey Saunders et al. Dr. Saunders is responsible for most of the identification and stabilization of the faunal remains excavated during the 1960s. He is currently a curator at the Illinois State Museum and his work is displayed with pride at the BWD site’s visitor center.
Saunders, J.J., C. Vance Haynes, Jr., Dennis Stanford, and George A. Agogino
1990 A Mammoth-Ivory Semi-fabricate from Blackwater Locality No. 1, New Mexico. American Antiquity 55:112-119.
Its seems the date of dog domestication keeps being pushed further back in time. Recent finds in the Altai mountains of Siberia indicate domestication by 33,000 B.P., near the peak of the last ice-age. The specimen shows paedomophism in the snout, but with large, wolf-like teeth. Dogs are so important to recent bio-cultural evolution that they are something we shouldn’t leave out of any look at hunter-gatherers.
photo credit: BBC News
There are no dogs reported from the Paleoindian excavations at Blackwater Draw but I suspect we will someday have some evidence of their interaction with the First Americans in the area. Our excavation bias at the Landmark is that we have primarily a series of kill-sites but little domestic evidence. I am often asked by the public “why are there no humans buried here?” What we find are piles of bison, mammoth, pronghorn, etc. but the hunters were not dying here. If they were, I suspect even then they would be taken away for some sort of mortuary practice. The dogs, just like their more recent descendants, likely went off to die alone or possibly were eaten and ended up in the trash midden.
Humerus from a Paramylodon harlani discovered in 1963 by the El Llano Archaeological Society the Gray Sands at or just below the Clovis levels. This is the upper front leg of a large ancestral sloth that lived in the Southern High Plains.
This bone tool was was discovered by F. E. Green in 1963 during the Blackwater Draw North Bank excavations. This tool is made from a portion of bison scapula or shoulder blade. The scapula is used for making numerous tools but may be most recognizable on the Great Plains in the form of a scapula hoe used for gardening.
To learn more about scapula hoes and many other bone tools, visit Bone Tools.
The photo archives of the Blackwater Draw site contain thousands of photographs dating back to the 1930s. Michele Green, a graduate student at Eastern New Mexico University, is currently undertaking the enormous task of converting these images into a digital format. As photographs enter the digital database we will select some of those images for our Archival Photo of the Week post. These images help illustrate the history of discovery and transformation of the Clovis site.
The Archival photo of the Week post attempts to present some of the lesser known photographs of excavation in progress, past workers and excavators at the site, and overviews and images from the period of the active gravel mining operation on the property. If you have visited the Blackwater Draw archaeological site and are familiar with the present landscape, you may recognize some of views from different areas around the site. The information connected to many of these photographs is limited and any comments or additional information to add to our archives is welcome.
Many of these photographs have never been published or made available to the public and any unauthorized use of these photographs is strictly prohibited.
A large turtle carapace (shell) excavated from the standing water at the Clovis site in 1960. Ernest Lundelius (1972:150) identified this carapace to the genus Testudo rather than the smaller and more commonly found turtle genus Terrapene from the site. The hand in the photo rests on top of the shell to provide scale. Numerous turtle remains were discovered during excavations at the Blackwater Draw site, many dating to the Clovis cultural period and some even earlier. Three of these shells have been restored and are on display at the visitor center at the Blackwater Draw site. Gordon Greaves is credited for taking this photograph.