All day, every day at the Paleoamerican Odyssey we were bombarded with a few images on the information televisions. One of these images was the Rutz Clovis point. It, or at least a good cast, was viewable in the artifact display room along with the Fenn Cache and some other truly remarkable finds. Of course, the initial advertisement for the
conference meeting mentioned that there would be artifacts from the actual Blackwater Draw Clovis site but if they were there, I missed them. Maybe they were not in plain sight.
For those of you NOT familiar with this remarkable biface, it is alleged to be a Clovis-age point discovered in Douglas County, Washington and, if authentic, is the largest Clovis point known in North America. Pretty cool surface find, eh? This is not to say that every knapper or archaeologist is convinced, but I don’t know many people who could even get a hands-on look. If by some chance, it is authentic, it is a little outside the norm for a Clovis point. Who knows? My initial impression, as a person who has handled many authentic Paleoindian points, and made a fair few, is that the margins are remarkably poorly-formed for the finished state of the base and extremely long and very rippled flute.
From what I know of the history, and it is very little, is that this point was announced and immediately put up for sale on a “Treasure Hunter” website in February of 2013 by a “family member” of the finder. Apparently then, sometime recently, a website was created called the http://rutzclovispoint.com/ with vital statistics and images of the point.
Where is this all going? Well, the Rutz “Clovis” point is now up for auction! What lucky timing. Didn’t something like this happen in conjunction with the Clovis and Beyond?
Okay then, your cultural heritage is bought and sold piece-by-piece every day. But who cares?
A fine question (as I am a pessimist when it comes to the natural goodness of people).
So the rub with this sale, and the others rumored this week, is that this was facilitated by the very conference that we, as professional archaeologists, just attended. Or is it just a lucky coincidence? I personally feel like a sucker. It was difficult to even go to this meeting after the blow-back of the preceding weeks. Now this? Did Texas A&M and the Center for the Study for the First Americans really want this association? I sincerely hope not but the list of Board Members at the CSFA concerns me greatly. I am ready to throw my hands up in despair at our readiness to turn to the dark side. To further your career, what is your price?
This is a real and legitimate question. What is the proper relationship between those who trade in bits and pieces of the past and those who are meant to study it? I have looked through many private collections in my career and most collectors are good people. But there is something special bout the Paleoindian
hoarder collector just as there is a gritty edge to some Paleoindian archaeologists. Much like the need to possess an artifact from the Clovis type-site, regardless of the morality or even legality of the claim.
Please, feel free to comment. I’ll continue this discussion…mañana.
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.
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.
I 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.
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…
Luckily, there’s enough bone, lithics, and interesting sediment changes to keep us all interested and busy most of the time.
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.)