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.
For 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.”
Some 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.
As 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.
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.
From PLOS ONE:
Early and Middle Holocene Hunter-Gatherer Occupations in Western Amazonia: The Hidden Shell Middens
We report on previously unknown early archaeological sites in the Bolivian lowlands, demonstrating for the first time early and middle Holocene human presence in western Amazonia. Multidisciplinary research in forest islands situated in seasonally-inundated savannahs has revealed stratified shell middens produced by human foragers as early as 10,000 years ago, making them the oldest archaeological sites in the region. The absence of stone resources and partial burial by recent alluvial sediments has meant that these kinds of deposits have, until now, remained unidentified. We conducted core sampling, archaeological excavations and an interdisciplinary study of the stratigraphy and recovered materials from three shell midden mounds. Based on multiple lines of evidence, including radiocarbon dating, sedimentary proxies (elements, steroids and black carbon), micromorphology and faunal analysis, we demonstrate the anthropogenic origin and antiquity of these sites. In a tropical and geomorphologically active landscape often considered challenging both for early human occupation and for the preservation of hunter-gatherer sites, the newly discovered shell middens provide evidence for early to middle Holocene occupation and illustrate the potential for identifying and interpreting early open-air archaeological sites in western Amazonia. The existence of early hunter-gatherer sites in the Bolivian lowlands sheds new light on the region’s past and offers a new context within which the late Holocene “Earthmovers” of the Llanos de Moxos could have emerged.
Citation: Lombardo U, Szabo K, Capriles JM, May J-H, Amelung W, et al. (2013) Early and Middle Holocene Hunter-Gatherer Occupations in Western Amazonia: The Hidden Shell Middens. PLoS ONE 8(8): e72746. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072746
A tardy post.
Several weeks back I, along with David Kilby, was fortunate to be asked to come help with an excavation in central New Mexico. The project was the brainchild of Robert Dello-Russo from the New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies. Since funding is always an issue with this type of research, this was very much a volunteer-based project, bringing in archaeological professionals and skilled avocationals from around the state.
The project area is west of Socorro, New Mexico between two mountain ranges. There is a surprising amount of energetic water that comes from the mountains to the west, moving enormous amounts of sediment, and sometimes very large cobbles and pebbles. This has created a sort of fan that covers the very old Paleoindian and paleontological deposits and is overlaid with several meters of fine silt.
Evidence of a much wetter environment abounds in the arroyo cuts where black mats are revealed in the profiles. The area has produced Paleoindian tools, projectiles, and bone in the previous two seasons of work.
With only a couple weeks to remove 3.5-4 meters of overburden, a heavy excavator and backhoe were required to uncover the site. This was done quickly and with remarkable precision as seen below.
Once the black mat was reached (or nearly so), mechanical excavation ceased and 1 x 1 meter hand units were begun.
A common problem with bison kills is proving that they are, in fact, kills. To do this, something has to point toward human intervention. Luckily this occurred, in the form of a projectile point, visible in the above photo near the left edge of the above excavation photo.
Above is a close-up field photo of the fine Eden Point it turned out to be. Fortunately, it even fits the expected dates for the strata where it was found.
I was glad to be part of this exciting investigation and hope to make it back to this remarkable site in the near future. More information can be found HERE http://www.nmarchaeology.org/water-canyon.html.
(Look for more photos to follow as my co-conspirators pass them on.)
The most recent New Mexico Archaeological Council newsletter is out. this issue focuses on Paleoindian archaeology and includes a short article of recent activities at the Clovis site. Click here to download. If you are a New Mexican, or have an interest in the archaeology of our fine state, consider joining NMAC.
Paleoindian Archaeology in New Mexico
In Memorium: Patrick Culbert
Current Research and Investigations at Blackwater Draw, NM
Recent Research at the Mockingbird Gap Clovis Site
New Finds at the Water Canyon Paleoindian Site
Recent Paleoindian Studies at Spaceport America
Interpreting the Paleoindian Signature of Southeast New Mexico
Late Paleoindian Projectile Point Technology
Interesting news from the genetics world. We’re slowly building a clearer picture of early Americans.
“A new genetic study of South American natives, published on the journal PLOS Genetics, provides scientific evidence to reformulate the traditional model and define new theories of human settlement of the Americas” from a new article by Professor Daniel Turbón, from the Department of Animal Biology of the University of Barcelona.
“This new research is based on the analysis of male Y-chromosomal genetic markers in about one thousand individuals, representing 50 tribal South American native populations.”
The Clovis age hand-dug well located within the South Bank area of the Blackwater site got an unexpected visit from its original excavator this summer. Shirley East, pictured above standing in the well, was a regular face around the Blackwater site between 1962 and 1969. Shirley was a crew member for many of the excavations at the site and actively involved with the Paleo-Indian Institute of Eastern New Mexico University.
Shirley and her husband visited the museum and site in early August while in town for business. Shirley’s last visit to the site was in 1993 when she was summoned to help locate the long-backfilled well as part of a mapping project with ENMU and the Smithsonian Institute. Shirley located the well in no time happily stating, “well its just right there!”.
Shirley shared many stories from those early days and even offered to share her knowledge of those excavations of yesteryear. The Blackwater site was certainly honored to receive the visit, and I am personally thankful for her extended hand of help.
As an added bonus, I learned that Shirley was the artist who painted the Pleistocene animals on display at the Blackwater museum and worked diligently to prepare displays for its Grand Opening in 1969. The Blackwater Draw Museum was first opened to the public primarily to display artifacts discovered at the Blackwater Locality.