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Further Insights into Paleoindian use of the Powars II Red Ocher Quarry (48PL330), Wyoming


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We report major new insights from recent research at the Powars II Paleoindian red ocher quarry (48PL330). We salvaged more than 7,000 artifacts from Powars II between 2014 and 2016 by screening redeposited sediment from the talus slope below the intact portion of the site. Clovis artifacts dominate the diagnostic artifact assemblage, including 53 Clovis points, 33 preforms, and artifacts associated with a previously unrecognized blade core industry. We report the first radiocarbon dates from the site, determined from dating bone tools, which indicate Cody-aged use (ca. >10,000 cal BP). Further, salvage efforts discovered a previously unknown toolstone source from which many of the Clovis artifacts were produced. The Powars II Clovis points most resemble early Paleoindian points from the far Northern Plains and were likely both produced and discarded in the red ocher quarry after hunting, as evidenced by preform production and the presence of impact fractures on many used points. Given these production and discard patterns, Powars II holds some of the best evidence archaeologists currently have for Paleoindian ritualism related to hunting.
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George C. Frison, George M. Zeimens, Spencer R. Pelton, Danny N. Walker, Dennis J. Stanford,
and Marcel Kornfeld
We report major new insights from recent research at the Powars II Paleoindian red ocher quarry (48PL330). We salvaged
more than 7,000 artifacts from Powars II between 2014 and 2016 by screening redeposited sediment from the talus slope
below the intact portion of the site. Clovis artifacts dominate the diagnostic artifact assemblage, including 53 Clovis points,
33 preforms, and artifacts associated with a previously unrecognized blade core industry. We report the first radiocarbon
dates from the site, determined from dating bone tools, which indicate Cody-aged use (ca. >10,000 cal BP). Further, salvage
efforts discovered a previously unknown toolstone source from which many of the Clovis artifacts were produced. The Powars
II Clovis points most resemble early Paleoindian points from the far Northern Plains and were likely both produced and
discarded in the red ocher quarry after hunting, as evidenced by preform production and the presence of impact fractures
on many used points. Given these production and discard patterns, Powars II holds some of the best evidence archaeologists
currently have for Paleoindian ritualism related to hunting.
Presentamos nuevas perspectivas importantes derivadas de investigaciones recientes en la cantera de ocre rojo Paleoindia
Powars II (48PL330), ubicada en la parte oriental del estado de Wyoming. Recuperamos más de 7,000 artefactos en Powars
II entre 2014 y 2016 mediante el tamizado de sedimentos redepositados en el talud abajo de la parte intacta del sitio. Los
artefactos Clovis predominan en el ensamblaje de artefactos diagnósticos, incluyendo 53 puntas Clovis, 33 preformas y
artefactos asociados con una industria de núcleo de hojas no identificada previamente. Presentamos las primeras fechas de
radiocarbono procedentes del sitio, determinadas a través del fechado de herramientas de hueso, que indican uso durante
el complejo Cody (ca. 10.000 cal aP). Además, las investigaciones descubrieron una cantera previamente desconocida de la
cual se extrajo el material para producir muchos de los artefactos Clovis. Las puntas Clovis de Powars II tienen el mayor
parecido con las primeras puntas Paleoindias del extremo norte de las Planicies norteamericanas y probablemente fueron
producidas y desechadas en la cantera de ocre rojo después de cazar, como lo demuestra la producción de preformas y la
presencia de fracturas por impacto en muchas puntas. Powars II proporciona algunas de las mejores evidencias encontradas
hasta la fecha para el ritualismo Paleoindio relacionado con la caza.
Archaeologists interested in early Amer-
icans have known of the Powars II
site (48PL330) since the late 1980s
because it is a rich source of high-quality red
ocher, a mineral that appears frequently in early
North American sites, and contains rare artifacts
such as beads and incised bone, as well as a
remarkable abundance of early Paleoindian spear
points, stone tools, and worked bone (Morrow
George C. Frison, Spencer R. Pelton, Danny N. Walker, and Marcel Kornfeld Department of Anthropology,
University of Wyoming, 1000 East University Avenue, Department 3431, Laramie, WY 82071, USA
(, corresponding author)
George M. Zeimens Western History Center, 2308 Highway 26, Lingle, WY 82223, USA
Dennis J. Stanford Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, MRC 112, Smithsonian
Institution, 10th and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20560, USA
2016; Stafford et al. 2003). Archaeologists were
excluded from the privately owned site for the
past 25 years, so Powars II has remained an
intriguing but poorly understood Paleoindian
archaeological site. However, a change in owner-
ship allowed fieldwork to resume between 2014
and 2016, which resulted in the salvage of around
7,000 artifacts eroded from the intact portion
of the site. This study presents insights gained
American Antiquity, page 1 of 20
Copyright © 2018 by the Society for American Archaeology
from Powars II after these salvage excavations.
We find that (1) the assemblage is dominated
by Clovis points typical of the far Northern
Plains and that almost all of them exhibit damage
typical of use during hunts; (2) the biface and
flake assemblages are characteristic of Clovis
preform production, confirming that weaponry
was produced on the site; (3) the site contains
a previously unrecognized blade industry from
which large flake tools were produced; (4) we
can now present the first radiocarbon ages from
the site, determined directly from two bone tools;
and (5) the site contains a previously unknown
toolstone source buried beneath historic fill only
130 m from the Powars II site from which many
of the Clovis points and blades were produced.
Background on the Powars II Site and
Recent Salvage Excavations
Red ocher is present in a relatively large num-
ber of early Paleoindian sites in North Amer-
ica, and the Powars II site (48PL330), located
in the Hartville Uplift of southeast Wyoming
(Figure 1), is the only known source of red ocher
associated with Paleoindian artifacts (Stafford
et al. 2003; Tankersley et al. 1995). The circum-
stances surrounding the discovery of Powars II
are summarized elsewhere (Stafford et al. 2003).
In short, after being collected by Wayne Powars
in the early twentieth century and revealed
to archaeologists in the 1980s, the site was
almost destroyed during mine reclamation in
1986 (Figure 2a) but was saved in part by efforts
of archaeologists, who briefly documented the
site over several days in 1986.
Most previously known artifacts were col-
lected from the redeposited surface below the
intact portion of the site in 1986. Frison and
others placed a 1 ×2 m trench on the east side
of the intact portion of the site in 1986 (arrow
in Figure 2b; Stafford et al. 2003:Figure 3), con-
firming the presence of intact deposits containing
diagnostic Clovis artifacts (Figure 3d–g, i) of a
little over a meter deep that lie directly on sloping
schist bedrock (Figure 2b). Additionally, Stanley
Ahler noticed a Clovis projectile point partially
exposed in the profile of the 1986 test trench
during a brief site visit in 1988 (Figure 3h). Until
recent (2017) excavations (not reported here),
the artifacts in Figure 3 were the only diagnostic
artifacts recovered from the intact portion of the
We began our reinvestigation in 2014 with
salvage excavation to recover all artifacts known
to be out of context before further investigation
of the remaining in situ deposits. Salvage work
first involved the removal of vegetation on the
talus slope below the site and along the north
edge of the roadbed below the site (Figure 2c).
We then screened all redeposited talus deposits
through 1/4-inch mesh until reaching bedrock or
the modern surface of the valley floor. The eroded
deposits have likely been disturbed many times
by various historic activities on the valley floor
after their initial removal from in situ deposits.
Attesting to this, salvage excavations revealed
diagnostic Paleoindian artifacts interspersed with
historic glass, metal, sawed bone, and other
historic detritus. Most notably, we found a Clovis
point inside a historic mine adit revealed through
salvage excavation.
The 2014–2016 salvage excavations yielded
around 7,000 artifacts from an area of around
350 m2and in places over a meter deep. The work
produced projectile points diagnostic of Clovis,
Goshen, Folsom, Midland, Agate Basin, Hell
Gap, and Alberta cultural complexes along with a
large tool and flake assemblage that for the most
part cannot be assigned to specific Paleoindian
cultural complexes. Clovis artifacts dominate the
diagnostic cultural material.
The Clovis Projectile Point Assemblage
Salvage excavations at Powars II produced a total
of 53 Clovis projectile points (e.g., Figures 4 and
5), in addition to the five recovered during the
1980s. Wayne Powars collected at least six other
Clovis points (Stafford et al. 2003:Figure 4a–
e). In this section, we summarize the Powars II
Clovis points, first, in terms of their morpholog-
ical affinities to other early Paleoindian points
and, second, in terms of the distinctive types of
damage observed on the Powars II points.
Although the Clovis points from Powars II
exhibit a wide range of forms (e.g., Figure 5c,
k; Stafford et al. 2003:Figure 4k), the majority
fall within a narrow range of variation gen-
erally comparable to “western Clovis” forms
Figure 1. Uplifts and basins in Wyoming and location of the Powars II Paleoindian red ocher quarry (48PL330) in the
Hartville Uplift. (Color online)
(Buchanan et al. 2014; Morrow and Morrow
2002) and specifically comparable to “stubby”
Clovis points, which are primarily recognized
from the Northern Plains of Montana, Alberta,
and Saskatchewan (Dawe and Kornfeld 2017;
Gryba 2002;Ivesetal.2013; Wormington and
Forbis 1965). Similarities include the following:
(a) They are relatively short, perhaps as a result
of reworking (see below; Figures 4 and 5); (b)
they exhibit comedial to transmedial flaking that
is commonly oriented at oblique angles near the
tips of short points (e.g., Figure 4c–i); (c) they
sometimes retain large bifacial thinning scars on
their faces from a prior reduction stage (e.g.,
Figure 2. (a) Location of the Powars II red ocher quarry relative to earthmoving equipment on the day of the initial
site visit by archaeologists in 1986. (b) View to the west at the Powars II site in July 1986 from the valley bottom.
Arrow points to the 1-×-2-m test made at that time. (c) Schematic annotation of panel b denoting major surface
characteristics at Powars II. (Color online)
Figure 4f, i); and (d) they are most often min-
imally fluted and/or basally thinned (Figures 4
and 5; for comparisons, see Gryba 2002:118–
128; Wormington and Forbis 1965:Figures 19,
27, and 37). Most interestingly, the Powars
II points are comparable in size and shape
to Clovis points from the Wally’s Beach site
(DhPg-8), Alberta, that tested positive for horse
protein (Kooyman et al. 2001), suggesting that
these forms were produced at a time prior to
Figure 3. (a, c) Blade cores, (b, d) blades, and (e–i) Clovis points recovered in the 1986 1 ×2 m test (a–d illustrations
by Tyson Arnold). Catalog numbers noted. (Color online)
end-Pleistocene faunal extinction ca. 12,800 cal
BP, even if they are poorly dated at present.
Recent large-scale analyses of Clovis points
corroborate the similarity between Powars II and
sites to its north by showing that Powars II is
located within a Clovis-aged Northern Plains
subregion that extends from roughly northern
Colorado in the south to the US border to
the north and is defined by both raw material
networks (Buchanan et al. 2016) and projectile
point shapes (Buchanan et al. 2014).
We must also acknowledge the similarities
between the Powars II Clovis points and Goshen
points from the Hell Gap site (48GO305; Bradley
2009). First, the bases of many Powars II Clovis
points are comparable to those on Hell Gap site
Goshen points, both the variety observed on the
type specimen, characterized by a shallow basal
concavity and slight ears (Bradley 2009:Figure
17.3b; Kornfeld and Larson 2009:Figure 1.3),
and the variety with a deeper, more V-shaped
basal concavity (Bradley 2009:Figure 17.3c).
Second, Powars II Clovis points with minimal
reworking often exhibit the parallel, comedial
flaking (e.g., Figures 4b and 5a, g–h) typical
of Goshen points from Hell Gap (e.g., Bradley
2009:Figure 17.3) and elsewhere (Bradley and
Frison 1996). This raises the possibility that
many of the “stubby” Clovis points from Powars
II and locations farther north could be reworked
Figure 4. (a–j Clovis points recovered during salvage excavations between 2014 and 2016. Catalog numbers noted.
(Color online)
Goshen points that no longer retain evidence of
parallel, comedial flaking. In a recent evaluation
of the Hell Gap site chronology, Pelton et al.
(2017) present a Clovis-aged date for the Goshen
component at Hell Gap of ca. 12,800 cal BP, so
perhaps the Hell Gap site’s Goshen component is
best conceptualized as a Northern Plains Clovis
variant that is also present at Powars II. Radiocar-
bon dates from the intact portion of the Powars
II site should help resolve this issue.
Due to their large numbers and association
with red ocher, we considered the possibility that
the Powars II Clovis points were derived from a
cache (e.g., Butler 1963;Gramley1993; Lahren
and Bonnichsen 1974). However, Clovis artifacts
from caches are often complete and sometimes
unused, whereas those from Powars II are all
obviously used (Stafford et al. 2003:77). Upon
examining them, we determined that the point
damage patterns observed at Powars II closely
resemble the impact damage on points recov-
ered from hunting sites, specifically Paleoindian
bison kills (Frison 1974; Frison and Stanford
1982; Frison and Todd 1987; Stanford 1978) and
mammoth kills (Frison and Todd 1986; Haury
et al. 1959) familiar to us. Experiments using
thrusting spears and projectiles add to the infor-
mation acquired from animal kill sites (Frison
1989; Huckell 1982), and in the following we
present specific comparisons with these studies
to establish that many of the Powars II Clovis
points were used during hunts.
Twenty-four of the Clovis points recovered
during salvage excavations and two from the
1986 test demonstrate light to moderate damage
that we think would have allowed restoration to
a functional condition, and 10 were undamaged.
Four from salvage work and one from the 1986
test are proximal ends reworked to form complete
points. In addition, nine distal ends may be
Figure 5. (a–k) Clovis points with impact fractures from salvage excavation between 2014 and 2016; a–f are
accompanied by schematic illustrations. Catalog numbers noted. (Color online)
fragments of completed Clovis points. Details
of the Clovis projectile points are presented in
Table 1.
The most common form of damage is bend
breaks, which probably occurred when points
were forced to rapidly change direction after
entry into animals. This is well demonstrated on
Clovis points from the Powars II site (Figures 3g,
i, and 5b, k). Similar evidence was observed
on Hell Gap points from the Casper bison kill
(48NA304; Frison 1974:71–84) and on Hell Gap
points from the Jones-Miller site (5YM8; Stan-
ford 1978:Figures 10.2–10.4). This type of dam-
age has also been demonstrated experimentally
with a Clovis point replica on a freshly killed
African elephant (Frison 1989:Figure 9). Direct
impact on the flat side of a rib using an atlatl
and dart (Frison 1991:Figure 3.6) destroyed both
wooden and lithic components.
There are several types of distal point fractures
that result from impact damage. One type results
in a flute-like scar on one face of the projectile
point, present on one point from Powars II
(Figure 5a). Comparable damage is present on
a Casper site Hell Gap point (Frison 1974:Figure
1.42e), an Agate Basin point from the Agate
Basin site (48NO301; Frison and Stanford 1982:
Figures 2.59c–d and 2.60a–b), and an Eden point
Table 1. Clovis Projectile Point Attributes from the Powars II Site.
Catalog Length Maximum Base Thickness) Raw Figure
Number Portiona(mm) Width (mm) Width (mm) (mm) MaterialbReference
41 CP 51.0 26.3 23.6 5.7 Q 3e
44 PR 15.0 23.7 5.4 C 3i
45 CP 45.2 26.0 21.1 7.8 C 3f
822 PR 37.6 27.4 21.0 5.8 Q 3g
823 CP 57.5 28.7 23.2 7.9 C 3h
1090 DS 41.7 28.5 6.2 Q
1093 CS 35.3 26.3 7.0 C
1095 DS 46.2 30.2 5.8 C 5e
1097 DS 47.1 29.6 7.4 C
1114 CP 42.9 25.7 23.7 5.3 C 4i
1115 PR 50.9 28.2 25.0 6.5 C 5a
1116 CP 57.1 31.1 27.1 6.1 C 5h
1118 CP 50.9 24.9 21.7 6.0 Q 4j
1119 CP 59.0 31.9 23.2 8.0 Q
1123 CP 51.4 28.5 18.5 6.8 C 5d
1126 CP 52.7 25.6 21.1 6.8 C 5j
1131 CP 54.3 28.5 24.9 6.4 C
1132 CP 57.6 29.4 24.2 5.8 C 5g
1136 CP 40.0 22.7 19.5 5.6 C
1137 CP 45.2 29.0 25.0 7.8 C
1138 CP 42.3 25.8 22.3 6.7 C
1140 CP 45.3 25.5 22.7 5.5 C 4d
1143 CP 45.2 24.8 22.1 5.7 C 4c
1144 CP 50.4 29.0 24.9 6.1 C 4e
1146 CP 35.9 24.6 21.0 6.0 Q
1147 CP 43.0 23.4 19.1 5.8 C
1464 CP 62.6 26.1 22.2 6.9 C
1521 CP 40.9 25.5 21.2 7.0 C
1944 PR 54.6 24.9 6.2 Q
1965 CP 41.0 21.0 16.7 5.9 C
1966 PR 45.3 34.1 25.0 7.7 C 5k
1968 CP 45.1 27.4 23.7 6.5 C
1969 CP 52.5 26.8 23.9 6.4 C 5c
1970 CP 77.5 28.6 24.3 7.5 C 4a
1971 CP 67.7 27.0 19.1 6.4 Q
1972 CP 47.2 26.3 23.2 6.1 Q
1973 PR 33.1 27.9 22.5 6.8 Q 5b
1975 PR 35.5 29.5 22.5 7.7 Q
1976 CP 48.3 26.9 23.0 5.2 C 4g
1981 DS 56.1 26.0 7.6 C
1982 CS 27.4 31.2 7.6 C
1986 DS 51.3 29.0 7.2 C
1993 DS 38.0 5.5 C
2000 CP 61.0 25.7 22.6 6.0 C 5f
2164 CP 53.7 28.7 24.0 7.1 Q
2168 PR 53.5 32.0 28.1 6.8 Q
2169 CP 46.6 27.3 29.7 5.4 C 4f
2170 CP 55.1 25.9 23.0 4.8 P
2171 PR 14.1 21.0 4.0 C
2172 CP 42.7 24.1 22.0 5.8 C
2173 CP 44.9 22.2 5.6 Q
2174 CP 54.9 28.9 21.9 5.7 C
2175 DS 52.7 29.0 7.0 C
2176 CP 42.7 24.1 21.0 5.7 C 4h
Table 1. Contiuned.
Catalog Length Maximum Base Thickness) Raw Figure
Number Portiona(mm) Width (mm) Width (mm) (mm) MaterialbReference
2177 CP 45.5 26.1 23.0 5.9 C 5i
2178 CP 59.6 30.5 27.2 8.2 C
2179 CP 62.6 29.1 22.0 6.0 C 4b
2304 PR 20.1 24.4 5.6 Q
aCP =complete or nearly complete; PR =proximal end; DS =distal end; CS =center section.
bQ=quartzite; C =chert; P =porcellanite.
from the Horner site (48PA29; Bradley and Fri-
son 1987:Figures 6.9a–c and 6.10a). At Powars
II, another form of distal flake removal occurred
due to what was probably contact with a solid
object at an angle, which produced several flake
removals on one side of the distal end along with
intersecting bend breaks on the proximal end
(Figure 5e). This kind of impact damage appears
on two other points from Powars II, suggesting
that it could be a common, if poorly understood,
way for stone projectiles to fracture. A final form
of distal fracture (Figure 5c) removed the distal
tip and resulted in a burin-like spall on a blade
edge that traveled over half of the distance toward
the basal corner.
Another type of impact damage on Powars
II points resulted in crushing of the distal end
(Figure 5i) and, as demonstrated in experiments
on freshly killed elephants and bison, was most
likely caused by attempted entry of the point
at an angle that caused the hide to “bunch up”
thickly enough that the point could not penetrate
it (Frison 1989; Huckell 1982). In these situa-
tions, enough forward movement of the projectile
allowed crushing of the tip rather than severe
damage from direct impact with a bone.
Yet another kind of impact damage occurs
when the point penetrates for a short distance
and a blade edge contacts a rib or other bone,
which can remove several flakes or a section of
the distal blade edge (Figure 5d). Comparable
damage is present on points from the Lehner
mammoth kill site (EE:12:1; Haury, Sayles, and
Wasley 1959:Figures 12 and 13j), on Cody
complex points from the Horner site (Bradley and
Frison 1987:Figures 6.9a–c and 6.10a), and on
Casper bison kill site points (Frison 1974:Figure
1.41). Unless other damage occurs at the same
time, such as snapping off part of the distal
end (Figure 5h, j) and/or corners (Figure 5g), the
projectile point can remain functional with only
minor repair.
On rare occasions, the point was forced side-
ways in the hafting element, breaking the sinew
binding, forcing a corner of the point against
the haft element, and causing burin-like spalls
originating at a corner of the base for a distance
distally along a blade edge (e.g., Figure 5f).
Many points were discarded in the Powars
II ocher quarry prior to being completely
exhausted. As at most animal kills, some points
remain undamaged (Figures 3f and 4a–d, i–j),
and some were broken transversely with enough
remaining to rework into points (e.g., Figures 3f
and 4e–h). Three other points demonstrate distal
tips with alternate beveling (Figure 4i–j), which
may have been an innovative way to improve
entry into the animal. Experimentally, this is an
easy way to restore the penetrating ability of a
point with minor damage on the distal end.
We think that this body of evidence related to
impact damage is sufficient to support the notion
that most Powars II Clovis points were used
during hunts. If correct, it implies that the points
were recovered from hunts and then discarded
at Powars II, which was certainly not an animal
kill site. At the least, this interpretation implies
the presence of nearby Clovis-age animal kills.
Extending our inference, we repeat Stafford
and colleagues’ (2003:88) suggestion that the
presence of used weaponry at Powars II may be
good evidence for some form of hunting ritual
wherein used weaponry was “exchanged” for red
Biface Reduction and Preform Production
Clovis biface reduction is a newly realized
site activity well documented at Powars II, as
evidenced by discarded preforms and bifacial
Figure 6. (a–j) Clovis preforms from the Powars II site. Catalog numbers noted. (Color online)
thinning flakes. We have recovered 33 complete
and broken preforms (Figure 6;Table 2) and 284
bifacial thinning flakes, which likely represent
projectile point production. Both preforms and
flakes span nearly the entirety of the bifacial
reduction sequence, from early-stage bifacial
reduction to nearly complete points, and most
preforms appear to have been discarded due to
some flaw encountered during bifacial reduction
that could not be fixed.
The earliest-stage preform is a large flake with
several small flakes removed near the striking
platform (Figure 6a). At least five preforms are in
an early thinning stage (e.g., Figure 6b–c), with
some flake scars resulting from near overshot
flakes, and at least 12 more demonstrate fur-
ther reduction (e.g., Figure 6d–e). At least four
preforms are in advanced stages of completion
(Figure 6f–i), requiring only minor thinning for
completion, but most (Figure 6f–h) exhibit some
minor flaw that prevented further reduction.
Vugs, some lined with crystals, are a common
cause of internal flaws. A crystal pocket in an
early-stage perform was entirely enclosed and
was exposed when a thinning flake penetrated
one side (Figure 6j).
Table 2. Clovis Preform Attributes from the Powars II Site.
Catalog Length Width Thickness Raw Figure
Number Portiona(mm) (mm) (mm) MaterialbReference
82 PR 32.9 35.0 7.4 C
113 CP 56.1 34.6 9.3 C
114 CP 81.9 41.4 15.8 C
815 CP 46.6 41.2 10.1 Q
825 DS 56.7 32.3 13.7 C
1002 CP 66.8 34.2 10.5 C
1006 CP 69.5 43.7 10.0 C
1008 CP 70.9 40.2 13.5 C 6e
1009 CP 60.1 32.6 10.6 P
1011 CP 62.6 40.0 10.3 C
1012 DS 56.0 39.6 8.5 C
1013 CS 57.0 30.5 13.5 C 6g
1016 CP 66.2 34.5 10.1 C
1019 CP 52.8 44.2 10.6 C
1020 CP 61.2 34.7 10.1 C
1096 DS 47.0 32.3 6.7 Q
1099 CP 60.0 35.8 11.2 C
1100 DS 36.0 34.8 9.1 Q
1117 CP 70.0 36.1 7.8 C 6i
1120 CP 75.8 42.1 9.2 C 6d
1157 PR 51.3 40.6 8.2 C
1168 CP 61.4 43.1 8.9 C
1169 PR 54.5 37.2 9.1 Q
1205 CP 65.6 38.5 11.2 C 6b
1964 CP 74.2 34.9 8.7 Q 6f
1966 CP 73.5 44.9 16.3 C 6c
1970 CP 74.1 40.7 8.3 C
1976 CP 60.8 32.1 7.4 C 6h
1977 CP 63.2 32.4 9.4 C
1987 PR 34.1 45.0 9.6 C
2165 CP 61.2 37.2 6.9 Q
2182 CP 66.3 45.0 10.4 C 6a
2208 DS 47.7 33.5 14.5 C 6j
aPR =proximal end; CP =complete or nearly complete; DS =distal end; CS =center section.
bC=chert; Q =quartzite; P =porcellanite.
Most of the preforms from Powars II fit well
within the stages proposed by Morrow (1995)at
the Ready/Lincoln Hills site (11JY46) in Illinois,
as well as those presented by Waters and Jennings
(2015) for the Hogeye Clovis cache. However,
there is more emphasis on preform fluting else-
where than on the Powars II preforms. There is
no evidence that Clovis points were finished at
the Powars II site, because there are no final-stage
point production failures, although many of the
complete or nearly complete preforms could have
easily been transformed into projectile points
with minimal edge preparation.
The bifacial thinning flake assemblage com-
plements the preform assemblage well. There
is one full overshot flake in the assemblage
(Supplemental Figure 1c), and 37 flakes are iden-
tified as partial overshot flakes by the criteria of
Waters, Pevny, and Carlson (2011; Supplemental
Figure 1a–b). Other notable types of bifacial thin-
ning flakes include tabular core reduction flakes
(n=91; Supplemental Figure 1d–e), which are
created during early-stage bifacial reduction of
tabular raw material packages, and edge collapse
flakes (n=33; Supplemental Figure 1f–g), which
are mistakenly created during bifacial reduction
when the objective biface is struck too far into
its margin and both sides of it are removed. The
preforms and bifacial thinning flakes together
suggest that local raw materials were transported
Figure 7. (a–c) Blade cores and (d–f) core tablet flakes from the Powars II site. Catalog numbers noted. (Color online)
into the site as early-stage bifaces, reduced to
late-stage preforms on the site, and then removed
for completion into finished projectile points
Blade Technology
Although Stafford (1990) reported tools made on
blades from Powars II, the recognition that the
site contains a formal blade industry is a new
insight informed by inquiry into Clovis blade
technology during the past two decades (e.g.,
Collins 1999). Blade technology is evident at
Powars II in the form of cores, core maintenance
flakes, unmodified blades, and modified blade
tools, suggesting that a range of blade reduction
stages occurred on-site.
In addition to the two blade cores and three
blades recovered in 1986 (Figure 3a–d), two
wedge-shaped cores (e.g., Figure 7a), a con-
ical core with the core tablet removed but
with no subsequent blade removals (Figure 7b),
and a depleted or nearly depleted blade core
(Figure 7c) were recovered during salvage exca-
vations. The conical core was used bidirec-
tionally and appears to have been abandoned
after an attempted blade removal failed and
resulted in an uncorrectable step fracture on
the core’s face (Figure 7b). The pointed end
also appears to have been used as a hammer
or crushing implement. One wedge-shaped core
was sharpened unilaterally on the distal end to
form an edge (Figure 7a) that bears hammerstone
or crushing use-wear. We identified at least three
core tablet flakes (Figure 7d–f) and four blade
core maintenance flakes from the site, all from
the 1986 collection. One edge of one of the core
tablet flakes (Figure 7e) is retouched.
We identified 175 unmodified blades in the
salvage excavation flake assemblage. Forty-five
blades are “prismatic” blades with a triangular
cross section, while others (n=102) have blade
attributes such as longitudinal, parallel flake
scars and platforms in line with their long axis
Figure 8. (a–l) Blade tools from the Powars II site (illustrations by Steve Wallmann). Catalog numbers noted.
but exhibit trapezoidal or other cross-section
shapes (Supplemental Figure 1h–i). There are 28
blades identified as microblades (Supplemental
Figure 1j), but as with comparable artifacts from
the Gault site (Bradley et al. 2010), it is not
known whether they are derived from a formal
microblade industry or are by-products of some
other lithic reduction trajectory.
We recovered at least 32 tools made on blades,
which exhibit a wide range of variation resulting
from edge retouch and use. The most common
forms of edge retouch form gravers (Figure 8c,
k) and concave spokeshave margins (Figure 8e,
j). Use retouch is highly variable, from light
use retouch (Figure 8h) to heavy use retouch
resulting in step fracturing of margins (Figure 8b,
l) and tools that exhibit a combination of these
(Figure 8a).
Several blade tools retain classic hallmarks of
blade technology. Three are cortical blade tools
with cortex on one edge and wear on the oppo-
site (e.g., Figure 8i). One blade (Figure 8g) has
what Stafford describes as a “use crushed ridge”
(1990:50), which may alternatively be a crested
blade created during blade core reduction. Two
blades (Figure 8d, f) are markedly curved, sug-
gesting that they were removed toward the final
stages of conical blade core reduction (Collins
Blades may have been produced at Powars
II to aid in the red ocher extraction process in
some way, but considering the wide diversity
of modifications on blades, they may also have
been used for other tasks on-site. For example,
the presence of spokeshaves combined with
evidence for weaponry production suggests that
some blade tools may have been used to produce
wood or bone components of the weaponry
Salvage excavations recovered 6,119 chipped-
stone flakes, totaling 11.32 kg, in addition to
the 463 reported by Stafford (1990). We have
already discussed aspects of the blade and bifa-
cial thinning flakes, and here we summarize
major attributes of flake size, raw material, and
An initial size sorting of flakes smaller and
larger than 2.5 cm suggests that they largely
represent mid-stage reduction. We compared
flake size with that from the Gault Clovis quarry
assemblage (Pevny 2009; Waters, Pevny, and
Carlson 2011), and two complementary aspects
of Powars II flake size differ from the Gault
site to suggest mid-stage reduction. First, there
are significantly more flakes greater than 2.5 cm
long from the Powars II site (n=1,772; 29%)
compared with Gault (controlling for screen size;
χ2=1,745; df =1; p<0.05), or alternatively,
significantly fewer flakes less than 2.5 cm long.
Second, flakes greater than 2.5 cm are less than
half the size (by mass) than those from the Gault
site (4.7 g at Powars II and 10 g at Gault),
which is largely due to the absence of very
large, cortical flakes typically produced during
quarrying. Given that there are relatively many
large flakes but that the large flakes are relatively
thin, the Powars II flakes appear to represent mid-
stage lithic reduction activities between primary
quarrying and final-stage tool production, which
is consistent with the previously discussed pre-
form assemblage and with Stafford’s (1990:51–
56) flake analysis.
The flakes are overwhelmingly dominated by
raw materials procured within a local radius of
the site, with 60% of the assemblage composed
of dendritic “Hartville Uplift chert” (local to
the site) and another 14% from the Powars II
toolstone quarry, detailed below. There is also a
small amount of metaquartzite, other unidenti-
fied cherts, and a raw material tentatively iden-
tified as metabasalt, each of which could poten-
tially be from local sources, pending further raw
material survey. The only possible exotic raw
material identified in the flake assemblage is
a single potential Knife River Flint flake from
central North Dakota.
Finally, it is notable that very few of the
flakes (0.03%) are burned. Considering the small
number of burned artifacts, there were likely
few fires present at the Powars II site, and by
extension one might surmise that the site was not
a camp.
Bone Objects and Radiocarbon Dates
Two pieces of bone could be opposite ends of
a polished bone rod. One (Supplemental Figure
2d) is rounded on the complete end, and the other
(Supplemental Figure 2e) has a single tapered
end. A direct accelerator mass spectrometry date
on the tapered end is 9250 ±30 14CBP(Beta-
442511; bone carbonate; δ13C=−7.5), which
has a 2σcalibrated age range of 10,489–10,356
cal BP (IntCal 2013). Upon analysis, this object
appeared devoid of collagen, and the lab analyst
suggested that it may have been “cremated,”
thus explaining why bone carbonate was dated.
Two other polished bone rod fragments refit to
form one end (Supplemental Figure 2c), and one
piece yielded an accelerator mass spectrometry
age of 8920 ±30 14C BP (Beta-445766; bone
collagen; δ13C=−14.2), which has a 2σ
calibrated age range of 10,158–9965 cal BP
(IntCal 2013). The dates on these objects are
slightly younger than expected given that most
of the diagnostic projectile points are Clovis;
but we did recover an Alberta point from the
site (see below), and these dates are consistent
with ages on Alberta/Cody complex sites, which
also contain bone technologies similar to those
from Clovis sites (Holen and Holen 2009;Ives
et al. 2014; compare to Lahren and Bonnichsen
1974). More dates using more refined methods
will be determined on material from contexts
with better provenience, but these initial attempts
to date the site at least confirm that Paleoindian-
aged bone is preserved in the site and that
previously reported bone objects (Stafford et al.
2003:83–84) are likely to be Paleoindian-aged as
Another object is a midsection of a bone rod
with a semicircular cross section (Supplemental
Figure 2a), with the flattened side showing coarse
abrading marks. One fragment of long-bone has a
rounded and flattened end (Supplemental Figure
2b). The opposite end is missing, and wear
striations parallel to the long axis of the tool
are present on one side of the flattened end. A
section of a rib, probably Bison sp., has intense
wear on the ventral side of a transverse break.
It is nearly identical to a rib fragment found on
the day the site was discovered in 1986 (Stafford
1990:Figure 3.14a).
Several poorly preserved and unidentified
fragments of medium and large animal long-bone
were recovered. The exception is the proximal
half of a left metatarsal, probably Bison sp., that
was broken at an angle with what appears to have
been a green bone break. Finally, there are many
small (less than 3 cm maximum length), heavily
weathered bone fragments in the salvage exca-
vation assemblage. These fragments may have
broken in place, but we note the possibility that
they are detritus related to bone tool production,
given the presence of broken bone tools in the
assemblage, the relative paucity of unmodified
bone potentially related to subsistence, and the
fact that bone tools are characteristic of Clovis
technology (Bradley, Collins, and Hemmings
Post-Clovis Evidence at Powars II
Although Clovis provides most of the evidence
of Paleoindian activity at the Powars II site,
salvage excavations produced several other Pale-
oindian diagnostics. A classic Goshen point
was recovered in two recently broken pieces
(Figure 9a), and an additional point base exhibits
comparable Goshen production techniques. The
proximal end of a Folsom point from Powars II
was broken transversely (Figure 9b), and another
distal end exhibits impact damage comparable to
that on a Clovis point (Figure 5c), along with a
transverse break near the midsection (Figure 9c).
Four other Folsom points are midsection
The only refitted biface in the Powars II
chipped stone assemblage bears little resem-
blance to other bifaces from the site but resem-
bles three bifaces from the Folsom level at
the Agate Basin site (Frison 1982:Figure 25a–
c) and another at the Hanson Folsom site
(48BH329; Frison and Bradley 1980:Figure 24).
The artifact is a thin (5.1 mm) chert biface
(Figure 9n) with well-controlled wide percus-
sion flake scars. It broke as the result of a
perverse fracture caused by an internal flaw
in the raw material. Well-controlled pressure
flaking is present with possible light tool use
on most of the edges. Differential weathering is
evident on both pieces, suggesting that it broke
The salvage excavations produced three
nearly complete Midland points that demonstrate
pressure flaking and parallel blade edges with
very fine bilateral retouch along with impact
damage on distal ends (Figure 9d–f). One prox-
imal end shows the exceptionally fine and well-
executed blade edge pressure flaking diagnostic
of Midland (Figure 9f).
Four Agate Basin projectile points are broken
transversely near the base and show minor impact
damage on distal ends (e.g., Figure 9g–h). An
additional Agate Basin point is complete but with
a broken and reworked distal end, and six addi-
tional point bases were broken transversely in a
manner similar to Clovis points. Four relatively
long and narrow preforms could be related to the
Agate Basin complex (e.g., Figure 9l–m).
We recovered two complete but distally
reworked Hell Gap projectile points (e.g.,
Figure 9j) and three proximal ends broken trans-
versely from impact (e.g., Figure 9i), along
with one late-stage Hell Gap perform. We also
recovered a single Alberta point (Figure 9k).
We did not recover any Scottsbluff, Eden, or
more recent Late Paleoindian diagnostics during
salvage excavations.
Figure 9. (a–n) Paleoindian artifacts of post-Clovis age from the Powars II site. Catalog numbers noted. (Color
Except for the complete Goshen point
(Figure 9a) and the Alberta point (Figure 9k),
the damage to the post-Clovis projectile points
is remarkably similar to that in the Clovis
assemblage. This leads us to propose that all
Powars II site Paleoindians were involved in
similar activities related to ocher procurement
and weaponry discard.
A Chert and Quartzite Toolstone Source at
Powars II
We suspected from the beginning of our work
at Powars II that the toolstone used at the site
was not all derived from common, Mississippian-
aged deposits found throughout the Hartville
Uplift. This proved to be the case in 2015, when
a backhoe trench exposed a chert and quartzite
source buried under more than a meter of railroad
ballast across the drainage from the Powars II
The toolstone occurs in the form of nodules of
chert and quartzite with thick crusts buried in a
relatively soft, red sediment matrix, as opposed to
the limestone formations where Hartville Uplift
cherts normally occur. The nodules vary from
fist-sized up to possibly a ton and larger in many
color combinations from translucent to opaque
that can only be observed by first removing the
thick external crusts (Supplemental Figure 3a).
Some quartzite is very fine-grained and requires
magnification to distinguish it from chert. Cherts
and quartzites from this toolstone source are
distinctive enough in color and texture to identify
them in blades and Clovis points from Powars II,
which is located only 130 m away from the tool-
stone source. Further, we excavated a small test in
the quarry area and discovered blade cores (Sup-
plemental Figure 3b–e) and several blades (e.g.,
Supplemental Figure 3f–g), which further sug-
gests that Clovis flintknappers used the quarry.
We also recovered several large cortex removal
flakes, the largest of which (7.4 kg) demonstrates
a thick crust on the dorsal side and multicol-
ored chert on the ventral side (Supplemental
Figure 3a).
The Powars II toolstone appears to be a
primary deposit closely related to ore bodies. In
fact, some of the cherts and quartzites contain
reddish veins of iron that penetrate throughout
the material. Had these materials been brought
in from another source, it seems likely that most
of the soft and crumbly matrix would have fallen
away during transport. A photograph dated to
1903 shows what appears to be a deposit of
nodules of toolstone in their present location and
is a strong indication that they were not moved
there by historic mining activities.
There are several exposures of iron ore along a
road cut through the hills near Sunrise, Wyoming,
and mining exploration also exposed a large
iron ore deposit in a hillside near the Chicago
mine (Figure 1). Examination of these exposures
revealed that the iron ore body is contained in
a rust-colored matrix that contains chert and
quartzite similar to the Powars II quarry.
There is a geologic hydrothermal process that
forms gossans that are often associated with
iron ore deposits and have been documented
near the Sunrise mining area (Ball 1906; Hausel
1989:67–72; Snyder 1980:5). Gossans produce a
rust-colored material and often contain minerals
such as hematite, copper, limonite, malachite,
chrysocolla, and kaolinite (Taylor 2011:33–76),
all of which occur in the Powars II toolstone
quarry matrix. The gossan process can also
produce chert (Koski 2012:186). Use of this
hypothesis to explain the geologic context of the
Powars II toolstone quarry is worthy of further
consideration. At present, we rely largely on
visual criteria to identify the materials, but both
mineral and chemical analyses are needed.
Lacking both reliable stratigraphy and radio-
carbon dates with good provenience, we have
thus far relied on projectile point typology to
establish a chronology of Paleoindian presence
at the Powars II red ocher procurement site.
We recognize Clovis as the oldest occupation,
defined by two kinds of lithic technology. One
is a core and blade technology employed to
produce tools used at the quarry site, and the
other is a biface technology used to produce
projectile point preforms. Points were collected
from kill sites and deposited at the quarry after
use. Other tools made on large flakes and blades
were also discarded at the quarry, but for now we
suspect that these tools were produced, used, and
discarded at Powars II in conjunction with ocher
quarrying or other production tasks specific to
the site, given their bias toward spokeshaves and
use-retouched margins to the near exclusion of
other stone tool types such as endscrapers.
Although projectile point discard in the
quarry may have simply been a function of
routine weaponry maintenance, the fact that
many retained some amount of remaining utility
suggests the possibility that points were ritually
discarded at the quarry site. Hunting, which is
typically described as a “secular” activity, was
likely surrounded by suites of rituals both before
and after hunts by Clovis foragers:
How “secular” is a hunt anyway?...Fromthe
acquisition of the stone and other raw mate-
rials to the culturally specified manufacture
of tools and objects, to the location, propitia-
tion, processing, sharing and tasting of prey,
to the maintenance and refurbishment of
needed equipment, the hunting of animals by
Paleoindians consisted of a series of activities
or ritualizations that comprised a success-
ful strategy for over one thousand years
despite dramatic shifts in climate and flo-
ral and faunal communities [Morrow 2016:
Morrow’s characterization of Paleoindian rit-
ual describes Powars II well, where we have
evidence for both pre-hunt activities, as exem-
plified by preform and blade production, and
post-hunt ritual, as exemplified by discarded,
used weaponry. Although these activities could
have been undertaken anywhere, the procure-
ment of high-quality red ocher (Supplemental
Figure 3h) appears to have been the driving force
behind the Paleoindian presence at the Powars II
site. The prehistoric use of red ocher has been
explored (e.g., Roper 1991; Wreschner 1980),
but the Powars II site is the only known site
where a large diagnostic Paleoindian projectile
point assemblage has been recovered in con-
text with a red ocher procurement site. Conse-
quently, ongoing investigations into undisturbed
deposits at Powars II will in many ways define
archaeological understanding of early American
Acknowledgments. We would first and foremost like to
acknowledge the property owner of the Powars II site, John
Voigt, for access and his continuing commitment to the site.
Many dozens of volunteers and private donors contributed
their time and money to the site, and we thank them all for
their generosity. No permits were required to accomplish this
Data Availability Statement. The artifacts described in this
study are housed at the University of Wyoming Department of
Anthropology, Laramie, Wyoming, and the Western History
Center, Lingle, Wyoming. Analyses of these items are
Supplemental Materials. For supplementary material
accompanying this report visit
Supplemental Figure 1. (a–j) Examples of flake types
identified at the Powars II site (photos by Alexander Craib).
Supplemental Figure 2. (a–e) Worked bone objects from
the Powars II site.
Supplemental Figure 3. Raw material from the Powars II
site: (a) cortex removal flake from a chert nodule from the
toolstone quarry; (b–e) blade cores from the toolstone quarry;
(f–g) blades from the toolstone quarry; (h) specularite iron
nodule from the Powars II red ocher source. Catalog numbers
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Submitted December 20, 2017; Revised January 14, 2018;
Accepted January 15, 2018
... Of great interest is the large ochre quarry at the Powars II site in Wyoming (Frison et al. 2018). A large number of Clovis points (most called Western Clovis; Frison et al. 2018, 486) and blanks were found in direct association with the quarry, many of which were made from stone quarried nearby. ...
... Ochre has been reported from some kill sites (e.g., Frison 1982;Mackie et al. 2020), several camps (e.g., Mackie et al. 2020;Tankersley et al. 1995), a burial (Anzick-1; e.g., Lahren and Bonnichsen 1974;Owsley and Hunt 2001), and from some caches (Table 3), especially those containing Clovis points (e.g., Huckell and Kilby 2014;Kilby 2008;Kilby and Huckell 2014). At least some of the ochre was obtained from the Powars II ochre quarry (Wyoming) known to have been used in Clovis times (e.g., Frison et al. 2018;Stafford 1990;Stafford et al. 2003). Ochre from Powars II has been found at sites located as far as 100 km from the quarry (e.g., Tankersley et al. 1995;Zarzycka et al. 2019). ...
... It is possible that the use of ochre was functional, such as an abrasive in lithic production (e.g., Titmus and Woods 1991), but more likely, it had a ritual value (cf. Frison et al. 2018;Roper 1992), used, for example, in funerary rituals (e.g., Anzick-1; Frison 1991; Kilby 2008). ...
It is becoming increasingly apparent that the initial migrants into the Americas arrived via the Pacific coastal route prior to the inception of the Clovis complex. It further appears that these initial immigrants had non-Clovis technology and a generalized (or broad spectrum) economy with little use of the megafauna in their midst. Once developed, Clovis, marked by a different lithic technology, quickly spread over most of the Americas as far south as Panama, and is associated with the exploitation of proboscideans. This begs the question of why these animals were not exploited by the apparently earlier people. It is speculated herein that the seemingly abrupt appearance of Clovis, its focus on proboscideans, and its sudden demise reflects the appearance of a technologic and organizational system focused on the ritual exploitation of mammoths operating within preexisting Paleoindian societies, herein called the Western Clovis Ritual Complex.
... The Powars II site, located in the foothills of the southern Rocky Mountains in Wyoming (1,2), is one of five hematite quarries identified in the indigenous archaeological record of the Americas, along with two definitive quarries in Quintana Roo, Mexico (3), San Ramon 15 near the coast of northern Chile (4), and Mina Primavera in the Ingenio Valley of Peru (5) (Fig. 1). Powars II was first proposed as a hematite quarry in 1986, when archaeologists observed Paleoindian artifacts associated with hematiterich sediments in a redeposited context. ...
... The earliest use is associated with artifacts of the Clovis and Plainview cultural complexes in component 1, whose occupants quarried hematite with bones and antlers, produced and repaired weaponry, and performed other tasks associated with the extensive stone tool assemblage over a period of several hundred years. Based on our excavated sample and consistent with previous studies (1,2), most Powars II artifacts appear associated with the early Paleoindian occupations of component 1. After an occupational hiatus of possibly a century or more, the site was occupied by individuals of the Hell Gap complex. ...
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Significance Red ocher (also known as hematite) is relatively common in Paleoindian sites exceeding ca. 11,000 calibrated years B.P. in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains of North America. Red ocher fulfilled a wide range of functions within Paleoindian societies, as indicated by its association with graves, caches, campsites, hide-working implements, and kill sites. To date, the Powars II site is the only red ocher quarry identified in the North American archaeological record north of Mesoamerica. Prior studies of Powars II were based on analyses of artifacts recovered from a redeposited context. This study presents in situ evidence for red ocher quarrying at Powars II.
... The recent publication of the points from the Powars II site (see Frison et al. 2018) is an example of typological confusion. Located in Wyoming, the Powars II site is an ochre quarry repeatedly visited by many different groups during and after the Clovis era. ...
... Located in Wyoming, the Powars II site is an ochre quarry repeatedly visited by many different groups during and after the Clovis era. Frison et al. (2018) found at the site a point form they call Clovis. So far there are no radiometric dates on these points. ...
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Nine decades after the discovery of the Clovis type site, Blackwater Draw Locality No. 1, we are getting closer to solving the perplexing mystery of Clovis origins. Working together, geneticists and archeologists are closing in on the ancestral Northeast Asian and Beringian homelands. We can anticipate that future archaeology will fill in the details about the emergence of Clovis lithic technology, south of the ice sheets, from its Beringian precursors. Morphometric analysis of fluted points is increasingly used to address the origins of Clovis and the "mutation" of the Clovis form into other fluted point types. Since the early 2000s, cladistics, a technique borrowed from biology, has been employed in such analyses; the results are computer-constructed cladograms that purport to illustrate pseudo-genetic phylogenies of fluted points. Here, I critically examine the utility of cladistics for addressing the issue of Clovis origins and the stylistic or functional evolution of fluted points.
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Since the emergence of the niche in Folsom, New Mexico, in the late 1920s, peopling archaeology has sought to understand the earliest human occupants of the Western Hemisphere. Three generations of practitioners have made great strides in the techno-environmental arena. However, we have largely failed to tap into PaleoIndigenous intellectual, emotional, and social lives—the very domains that made Ice Age people as fully human as we are. As a result, our interpretations of those pioneering populations could often apply as readily to a colony of ants or a herd of wildebeest as they do to living, breathing, thinking, dreaming, loving, striving human ancestors. This article first explores the reasons for our failure to fully actualize First Peoples, identifying and implicating a feedback loop that includes practitioner homogeneity (we have always been and continue to be disproportionately white men of European descent); our predominantly positivist worldview; our language, training, and practice; and even the limited nature of the material record we study. This article also, however, highlights the ways that an important minority of peopling scholars have sought to access the humanity of PaleoIndigenous people. By more consistently mobilizing our own human capacity to creatively interrogate the deep past, we will produce scholarship that more consistently recognizes the capacity of the people who lived it and, just as importantly, respects those living today.
We highlight the significance of process, event, and context of human practice in Indigenous Creation traditions to integrate Blackfoot “Napi” origin stories with environmental, geological, and archaeological information pertaining to the peopling of the Northwestern Plains, where the northern Rocky Mountain Front may have played a prominent role. First, we discuss the potential and limitations of origin stories generally, and Napi stories specifically, for complementing the fragmentary records of early human presence in the Blackfoot homeland. Second, we demonstrate the intimate connection among processes, events, place-making practices, and stories. Last, we aim to expand multivocality in the interpretation of the deep past through an archaeological practice that considers Indigenous philosophies and stories to be as valid as non-Indigenous ones.
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The state of Sonora, located in northwest Mexico, represents the southernmost nucleus of Clovis cultural development. Clovis is the oldest cultural tradition yet known in the Americas, extending over most of North America and is characterized by the unique lanceolate Clovis projectile point that has been widely dated to the Late Pleistocene. Archaeological investigations over the past 20 years have revealed that around 13,500 years ago the northern half of the state of Sonora was an important Clovis territory (Sanchez 2016:37). Currently, 140 Clovis projectile points have been documented within Sonora; 60 as isolated finds and 80 having been recovered from six sites. A variety of site contexts have been recorded to date, including encampments, lithic quarries, and a gomphothere kill location. In this paper, we describe and characterize the Sonoran Clovis site patterns, along with the organization of lithic technology and the cultural landscape. Based upon this characterization of Sonoran Pleistocene occupation, we can infer patterns potentially applicable to the existing archaeological data from Mesoamerica. Whereas in Sonora and the Southwest USA the Pleistocene inhabitants were affiliated as a group represented by the Clovis cultural tradition, the peopling of Mesoamerica was a complex process involving multiple waves of Pleistocene and Early Holocene period immigrants that adapted to a variety of environments; the small group size and regionalization of the first people of Mesoamerica obscure the identity of the groups for the archaeologist. The first people of Mesoamerica brought with them technologies developed in North America but that were modified to adapt to the neotropics.
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In the early 1890s, Logan County, Colorado farmer John Frost was digging a lateral line from an irrigation ditch to his field when he encountered probable human bones. Associated with these skeletal remains were three large Clovis chipped stone preforms or projectile points, and at minimum five hematite beads. We report on the portion of the private collection that was available for study over a century later in 1999, including four hematite beads and one large projectile point preform. The history and significance of the discovery are outlined, and comparisons are made with other Paleoindian localities containing beads or hematite.
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Investigations in the now-submerged cave systems on the Yucatán Peninsula continue to yield evidence for human presence during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. Skeletal remains are scattered throughout the caves of Quintana Roo, most representing individuals who died in situ. The reasons why they explored these underground environments have remained unclear. Here, we announce the discovery of the first subterranean ochre mine of Paleoindian age found in the Americas, offering compelling evidence for mining in three cave systems on the eastern Yucatán over a ~2000-year period between ~12 and 10 ka. The cave passages exhibit preserved evidence for ochre extraction pits, speleothem digging tools, shattered and piled flowstone debris, cairn navigational markers, and hearths yielding charcoal from highly resinous wood species. The sophistication and extent of the activities demonstrate a readiness to venture into the dark zones of the caves to prospect and collect what was evidently a highly valued mineral resource.
The Fox site (5WL8848) is a collection of Clovis artifacts from the Kersey Terrace in northern Colorado. In the early 1970s, land-leveling for the construction of a large turkey farm near the town of Kersey revealed chipped stone tools in eolian sand dune sediments at the southern margin of the Kersey Terrace of the South Platte River. Max Fox and other employees of the turkey farm collected three complete Clovis projectile points, several fragmentary points, bifaces, and flake tools at the site. Fox forwarded information about the site to professional archaeologists in the early 1990s, but it was largely ignored after a brief geoarchaeological investigation. The Fox site contains a moderate frequency of chipped stone tools relative to other known Clovis assemblages in Colorado’s South Platte River basin, and it is located within a concentration of Paleoindian kill-butchery sites on the Kersey Terrace. Despite several contextual issues the Fox site is a significant contribution to the Clovis record of Colorado.
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The Hell Gap National Historic Landmark, located on the northwestern plains of Wyoming, is one of the most important Paleoindian archaeological sites in North America because it contains a stratified sequence of occupations spanning nearly the entirety of the Paleoindian period. Although Hell Gap is central to archaeological knowledge concerning North American Paleoindian chronology, consistently assigning component ages has been problematic due to conflicting radiocarbon determinations from individual strata, stratigraphic age reversals in age-depth relationships, and other issues related to the stratified open campsite. Toward resolving the Hell Gap chronology, we devised a procedure for correcting age-depth relationships for incorporation in chronostratigraphic models and then used the Bayesian age-depth modeling qprocedures in Bchron to estimate the ages of 11 stratified components present at Hell Gap Locality 1. We present these age estimates and discuss their significance to Paleoindian chronology. Notable aspects of our chronology include a revised age estimate for the Goshen complex, the identification of three Folsom components spanning the entirety of the Folsom temporal range, and relatively young age estimates for the Late Paleoindian Frederick/Lusk component(s) at Locality 1. More broadly, our study demonstrates a procedure for creating chronometric models of stratigraphically complicated open stratified sites of any type.
Models of the first peopling of the Americas characterize arrival routes either along the coast or through the ice-free corridor following the Last Glacial Maximum. While the pendulum has currently swung somewhat towards the coastal route, archaeological evidence for either entry is lacking. In this paper we introduce a third option, an icy corridors entry route. We argue that the traditionally envisioned corridor is an unnecessary feature for the terrestrial arrival of Clovis or Clovis predecessors below the ice sheets. The recent genomic data is fully compatible with a re-envisioned peopling route.
Early Paleoindians mined specular and earthy hematite (henceforth known as Sunrise red ochre) at the Powars II site, Platte County, Wyoming. Sunrise red ochre has a distinctive mineralogy, chemical composition, and bioinclusions in comparison to other sources of red ochre. Artifactual red ochre from the pre-Folsom levels at the Hell Gap site comparesfavorablywith the physical, chemical, and biological properties of Sunrise red ochre. These new data allow the identification of examples of Sunrise red ochre from other Early Paleoindian contexts. In doing so, we also may perceive associated economic and ideological aspects of Early Paleoindian lifeways
One aspect of the Denver Elephant Project, the experimental use of thrusting spears, is presented. A recentlydeceased elephant was made available for archaeological experimentation, and as a part of this work the author manufactured and, with the aid of others, employed a series of thrusting spears tipped with Clovis fluted point replicas. It was found that the use of composite thrusting spears permitted penetration of the elephant carcass, but also revealed problems in spear design. The types of projectile point breakage which occurred were found to compare favorably with archaeological specimens. Other implications of the work for the understanding of Clovis elephant procurement strategy and weaponry are presented, and suggestions are made for future experiments.