An archaeological dig in Michigan unearths some surprising artifacts

An archaeological dig in Michigan unearths some surprising artifacts

  • Science
  • December 10, 2022
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Brendan Nash: So this is the sub-plow sediment from unit 133, and everything in here will be undisturbed for about 13,000 years. Really looking for the smallest flakes. And then you have to put your face in really well because these things are tiny. We have shown a biface renovation flake here. Generally people bring their hunting guns here after they’ve been used and they overtake them for another round of hunting.

Tom Talbot: This is a Flake Fragment of Attica Chert. That’s exactly what we’re looking for. I became aware of the site probably in the mid 1970’s while surveying and identifying the sites around this large glacial swamp and the Belson site is on the north side of this swamp. I had gone into the field and found this in the lower section.

I knew exactly what it was. I got right back in the truck and drove home. And this time… The first Clovis point appeared in 2006. And I recorded him. I identified it. It has been there for 13,000 years.

At first I thought it was a coincidence because Clovis has never been spotted here in Michigan before. The theory is that Clovis would not be found here as the rippled cutting edge technology had morphed into a different style by the time it reached the Great Lakes Basin. You opened the page and we are very pleased with what we found. The big question was, was there undisturbed Clovis material underground beneath the plowing zone?

And yes, we’re recording a whole layer of Clovis footage that’s undisturbed. It has been there for 13,000 years.

Nash: So we map every one of them, and we find it in the ground, create a data map of exactly where all these little bits of debris fell. And hopefully we can start to understand how people used their space.

Talbot: 7.8 in length. We think we’re locating places they’ve dismembered game, we’re locating places they’ve scraped hides, places they’ve re-sharpened their tools, or made tools with some of the larger flakes. All of these little details point to different, different things that were going on on the site. Clovis People was constantly traveling. They constantly followed the herds.

They probably hunted migratory animals twice a year. Whether it would be large megafauna like the woolly mammoth or mastodon. Caribou would be more likely.

Henry Wright: I actually worked on the drawings for a while, so the original drawings are here. Clovis is usually seen as a simple way of life. Did these guys come out of the prairie like the Clovis bison hunters and then switch abilities to smash the hunt for the caribou?

Or have they realized that they’re moving into the environment and immediately embracing a different kind of technological and social organization, and oh, well, see, we still have a lot of work to do.

Talbot: I think the most important thing is that it shows that Clovis actually traveled as far north as the Great Lakes, basically both sides. You know, Clovis has been studied extensively in the southwest and southeast.

But finding him here in Michigan is truly an extraordinary thing.

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