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Frontiers in Colorado Paleoindian Archaeology

Frontiers in Colorado Paleoindian Archaeology: From the Dent Site to the Rocky Mountains

Robert H. Brunswig
Bonnie L. Pitblado
AFTERWORD BY George C. Frison
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    Frontiers in Colorado Paleoindian Archaeology
    Book Description:

    As the Ice Age waned, Clovis hunter-gatherers began to explore and colonize the area now known as Colorado. Their descendents and later Paleoindian migrants spread throughout Colorado's plains and mountains, adapting to diverse landforms and the changing climate. In this new volume, Robert H. Brunswig and Bonnie L. Pitblado assemble experts in archaeology, paleoecology-climatology, and paleofaunal analysis to share new discoveries about these ancient people of Colorado.   The editors introduce the research with scientific context. A review of seventy-five years of Paleoindian archaeology in Colorado highlights the foundation on which new work builds, and a survey of Colorado's ancient climates and ecologies helps readers understand Paleoindian settlement patterns.   Eight essays discuss archaeological evidence from Plains to high Rocky Mountain sites. The book offers the most thorough analysis to date of Dent--the first Clovis site discovered. Essays on mountain sites show how advances in methodology and technology have allowed scholars to reconstruct settlement patterns and changing lifeways in this challenging environment.   Colorado has been home to key moments in human settlement and in the scientific study of our ancient past. Readers interested in the peopling of the New World as well as those passionate about the methods and history of archaeology will find new material and satisfying overviews in this book. Contributors include Rosa Maria Albert, Robert H. Brunswig, Reid A. Bryson, Linda Scott Cummings, James Doerner, Daniel C. Fisher, David L. Fox, Bonnie L. Pitblado, Jeffrey L. Saunders, Todd A. Surovell, R. A. Varney, and Nicole M. Waguespack.

    eISBN: 978-0-87081-976-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Contributors
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    Robert H. Brunswig
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)
    Robert H. Brunswig and Bonnie L. Pitblado

    The state of Colorado has, since the dawn of Paleoindian archaeology, occupied a central position in the field, both geographically and intellectually. Several Paleoindian “firsts,” a suite of archaeological characters in the discipline’s colorful cast, and many methodological and theoretical innovations can all be linked to three-quarters of a century of Colorado Paleoindian archaeology. Advances in Colorado Paleoindian archaeology often either presaged or unfolded in lockstep with developments in North American Paleoindian archaeology as a whole.

    It is true that Blackwater Draw’s Locality 1, near Clovis, New Mexico, won the right to name the continent’s earliest sustained human culture by...

  8. Part 1: Environmental and Archaeological Context

    • CHAPTER ONE Late Quaternary Prehistoric Environments of the Colorado Front Range
      (pp. 11-38)
      James P. Doerner

      This chapter examines the prehistoric environments of the Colorado Front Range during the past 25,000 years, the interval encompassing the most recent glacial-interglacial cycle (Porter 1983). This interval is generally referred to as the late Quaternary Period and is a critical time in both human and earth history. It was during this time that humans first arrived in North America, large-scale extinctions of Pleistocene mammals occurred, and boreal vegetation consisting mainly of tundra plants and spruce woodlands covered large areas of North America south of the continental ice sheets (Holloway and Bryant 1985). The interval also includes the termination of...

    • CHAPTER TWO That Was Then, This Is Now: Seventy-Five Years of Paleoindian Research in Colorado
      (pp. 39-84)
      Bonnie L. Pitblado and Robert H. Brunswig

      The origins of Colorado’s Paleoindian studies are virtually synonymous with the foundations of Paleoindian archaeology in the United States. In fact, two of the state’s earliest, albeit poorly and incompletely reported, discoveries, the Dent Clovis and Lindenmeier Folsom sites (1924–1931), pre-date discoveries and early investigations of their respective cultures’ type-sites: New Mexico’s (Blackwater Draw) Clovis and Folsom sites. As we explain later, “Clovis” culture should have, on the basis of historical precedent, been known as the “Dent” culture.

      Certainly, when myriad archaeologists and artifact hunters took to the field in Colorado in the early twentieth century, little was known...

  9. Part 2: New Research at the Dent Clovis Site, Northeastern Colorado Plains

    • CHAPTER THREE New Interpretations of the Dent Mammoth Site: A Synthesis of Recent Multidisciplinary Evidence
      (pp. 87-122)
      Robert H. Brunswig

      The Dent Mammoth Site (5WL269) was discovered in the spring of 1932 when flood runoff eroded mammoth bone from a draw draining low sandstone cliffs west of the South Platte River floodplain near Milliken, Colorado (Figure 3.1). A passing railroad foreman, Frank Garner, noted the eroding bones and informed the local Dent depot operator, Michael Ryan, of the find. Ryan’s son later reported the discovery to his Regis College geology professor, Father Conrad Bilgery.

      In November 1932, Bilgery and several Regis students traveled to Dent and conducted a brief excavation. During the excavation a large, basally fluted projectile point, of...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Season of Death of the Dent Mammoths: Distinguishing Single from Multiple Mortality Events
      (pp. 123-154)
      Daniel C. Fisher and David L. Fox

      The Dent site, in northeastern Colorado, is the first discovered, and still one of the most influential, of the sites that document association of Paleoindians with late Pleistocene mammoths (Mammuthus columbi) in North America (see Brunswig, Chapter 3, this volume for an overview of site history). Yet the nature of this association remains a matter of debate. Open questions include whether the deaths of the mammoths were brought about directly by human hunting activity or by some other cause and whether the association represents a single, temporally coherent event or more than one event occurring at the same site. The...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Processing Marks on Remains of Mammuthus columbi from the Dent Site, Colorado, in Light of Those from Clovis, New Mexico: Fresh-Carcass Butchery versus Scavenging?
      (pp. 155-184)
      Jeffrey J. Saunders

      In 1978 I examined skulls, mandibles, and teeth of the Dent site mammoth sample in storage at the Denver Museum of Natural History (DMNH)—now the Denver Museum of Nature and Science—and on exhibit in museums in Cleveland, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Skulls, mandibles, and isolated teeth in the DMNH were assembled into dentitions that, with the skeletons in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, represented thirteen individuals. Age at death for these individuals was assigned on the basis of cheek tooth progression through the jaw and occlusal wear, using criteria for Loxodonta africana (African elephant) provided by Laws (1966). Individual ages...

    • CHAPTER SIX Phytolith and Starch Analysis of Dent Site Mammoth Teeth Calculus: New Evidence for Late Pleistocene Mammoth Diets and Environments
      (pp. 185-192)
      Linda Scott Cummings and Rosa María Albert

      Mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) teeth excavated from the Dent site (5WL269) in 1932 and 1933 by the Denver Museum of Natural History (DMNH) (now the Denver Museum of Nature and Science) were examined for phytoliths (Table 6.1). All teeth had been “stabilized” with varnish, which was removed prior to recovering calculus for examination of their phytolith records. One lower mammoth mandible (DMNH 1636) with two intact teeth and two independent mammoth teeth (DMNH 3801 and 3809) provided the calculus that was examined for microbotanical remains to provide dietary and paleoclimatic interpretations.

      Previous analysis of a mammoth tooth from the Dent site...

  10. Part 3: New Research in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Building a Picture of the Landscape Using Close-Interval Pollen Sampling and Archaeoclimatic Modeling: An Example from the KibRidge-Yampa Paleoindian Site, Northwestern Colorado
      (pp. 195-218)
      Linda Scott Cummings, R. A. Varney and Reid A. Bryson

      Understanding the past environment is made more difficult because no modern analogs exist for many of the previous vegetation communities or environmental systems. Vegetation communities when Paleoindians lived on the North American continent were governed by climatic conditions and an earth-sun relationship that do not exist on earth today. Therefore, rather than simply examining pollen records to provide information concerning the plants that were present, we have found it more insightful to incorporate archaeoclimatic modeling to understand the variations in seasonal temperature and precipitation that affected local plants and animals. Once the model is created, it is essential that pollen...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Folsom Hearth-Centered Use of Space at Barger Gulch, Locality B
      (pp. 219-260)
      Todd A. Surovell and Nicole M. Waguespack

      This chapter concerns organization and use of hearth space at a Folsom residential site in the mountains (Middle Park) of north-central Colorado. Based on ethnoarchaeological and ethnographic observations of hunter-gatherer camps, it has been well established that hearths frequently served as focal activity loci (Binford 1978, 1983; O’Connell, Hawkes, and Blurton Jones 1991; Walters 1988; Yellen 1977). Fires not only aided in the performance of specific activities (e.g., cooking, wood working, or mastic preparation) but also provided micro-environmental enhancements in heat and light that often made areas adjacent to hearth features preferred working environments. Prehistorically, this pattern is evident in...

    • CHAPTER NINE Paleoindian Cultural Landscapes and Archaeology of North-Central Colorado’s Southern Rockies
      (pp. 261-310)
      Robert H. Brunswig

      This chapter summarizes the current status of Paleoindian archaeology in north-central Colorado’s southern Rocky Mountains. A significant increase in archaeological activity in the past two decades has resulted in major advances of our understanding of that region’s earliest inhabitants. Increasingly clear patterns of Colorado mountain colonization, seasonal transhumant migratory cycles, and economic adaptations are emerging from a rapidly expanding Paleoindian database.

      The north-central Colorado region of the southern Rocky Mountain physiographic province encompasses several environmental zones on either side of the Continental Divide, occurring within several minor mountain ranges, dozens of smaller river valleys, and two large parkland basin valleys...

    • CHAPTER TEN Angostura, Jimmy Allen, Foothills-Mountain: Clarifying Terminology for Late Paleoindian Southern Rocky Mountain Spear Points
      (pp. 311-338)
      Bonnie L. Pitblado

      In 2003, I published a book on my research into late Paleoindian use of the southern Rocky Mountains. The research was based on detailed, hands-on analyses of 589 late Paleoindian spear points from 414 sites all over Colorado and Utah. The study area included the focal region of the southern Rockies that constitutes a substantial portion of the two states and, for comparative “big picture” purposes, the adjacent Plains and Far West (Colorado Plateau and Great Basin).

      As I illustrated, photographed, and measured specimen after specimen, it quickly became clear that I would need to develop a projectile point typology...

  11. AFTERWORD: A Wyoming Archaeologist’s Past and Present View of Wyoming and Colorado Paleoindian Archaeology
    (pp. 339-356)
    George C. Frison

    Within the lower forty-eight states, Wyoming claims the questionable distinction of being the leading contender as the last frontier in North American archaeology. If it were not for the proven association of extinct animals and humans at the Folsom and Blackwater Draw sites in the late 1920s, which, over a decade later, drew attention to several Paleoindian (then “Early Man”) bison kills in Wyoming, this status would probably have been maintained longer than it was. Other than these bison kills, there was little to attract the attention of archaeologists, as did the Anasazi in the Southwest and Plains villages along...

  12. INDEX
    (pp. 357-364)