Some time ago, I made a post illustrating that Clovis projectile points are known from a number of undated contexts in Puget Sound. Most of these are surface finds, though a couple were buried in or under wetland deposits. These were largely under the archaeological radar until Croes et al. briefly summarized the data within a book chapter on Puget Sound Projectile Points. One of the wetland finds was from Yukon Harbor on the Kitsap Peninsula, across Puget Sound from Seattle, of which I previously posted a low-quality photo. A short article describing this artifact has recently been published in the journal Current Research in the Pleistocene, and the author, Phil LeTourneau of Seattle’s Burke Museum, was kind enough to send me a copy.
It’s really welcome to be able to read more about this piece and to see the fine illustration, above. The find was made by a farmer in 1995 on the edge of a pond that was being excavated. Archaeologists visited the site (45-KP-139) and established a general stratigraphic sequence, showing peat deposits over glacial drift, with a layer of Mt Mazama ash dating to about 7600 calendar years ago also present. No other artifacts were found, and the relationship of the point to the stratigraphy is, of course, unknown. Nonethless, at Clovis times, some 13,000 years ago, this was probably a wetland setting on a landscape already deglaciated for several thousand years, and so the location “makes sense” archaeologically.
Indeed, as we will see when I post about sometime soon, recent discoveries have been made of in situ Clovis under peats in suburban Seattle. Further, both the likely archaeological site at Ayer Pond and the somewhat likely site at Manis (both pre-Clovis) were found in wetlands. Because wetlands can change through time, because they are stereotyped as places to gather plants, and because peats are often metres thick, they are often considered to be low potential for archaeological sites – or, more precisely, low potential to actually find any archaeological sites! They may be high frustration, but I sincerely hope they aren’t being written off just because shovel tests can’t easily make it through the peaty bits.
Despite recent discoveries pre-dating Clovis, it is still a touchstone early culture type for North America, The more we can learn about how these distinctive fluted points arose from predecessor types, and how they spread so quickly and then disappeared within 300 years, will teach us much about human ecology on the early landscape. As I’ve argued elsewhere I think, Clovis is a strikingly unusual archaeological phenomenon which includes a kind of hyper stylistic expressionism. Coupled to the archaeological angst attached to its study, it might eventually be best understood in one of the post-processual archaeological idioms. Now that it is unburdened from the weight of “being first”, I look forward to reading creative and innovative essays which try to understand it in truly human terms and not cram it into one preconceived model or another.
Anyway, I am grateful to Phil for sending me this paper and I look forward to the promised follow up paper elaborating on the geological setting. With Phil’s permission, I am making a link available to download the paper here. You can also see a draft of the Croes et al. paper online here.