Category Archives: Human Dispersals

Early Clovis knew their land and stone


Via Phys.Org

Some 60 km southeast of Socorro, N.M., a low gravel ridge runs above the Chupadera Wash in the Rio Grande Rift Valley. The remote Mockingbird Gap is a dry, narrow strip half a mile long, but thousands of years ago it was a lush wetland – and a popular site for an early Clovis culture, judging by the wealth of projectile points found there.


Recently, anthropologist Marcus Hamilton, a postdoctoral fellow at SFI and the University of New Mexico, and colleagues examined 296 projectile points from two locations: Mockingbird Gap and a region in the central Rio Grande Rift collected by the late geologist Robert Weber over 60 years ago, the earliest and biggest collection of Clovis tools yet found.

The broad, bifacial spear points fit the manufacturing pattern the Clovis used 13,000 years ago. Geological analyses link all the points’ obsidian, chert, and other high quality stone to a handful of rock outcrops, mostly nearby but some hundreds of kilometers away.

“The two assemblages are probably linked, as all the raw materials are coming from known outcrops in the northwest corner of New Mexico,” Hamilton says. “It suggests strongly that the same people probably settled in this region for a while.”

The clusters of artifacts suggest different camping events, possibly by groups coming together, briefly, over many years, to camp seasonally amid a verdant Pleistocene riverside.

Hamilton’s research interests include understanding how human ecology evolved, particularly its shift from hunter-gatherer lifestyles to more settled agrarian societies.

The study of Clovis points “gives you a nice flavor of what human adaptation and human ecology looked like at the time, where Mockingbird Gap was a summer camp,” he says.
One distant source of obsidian, Cow Canyon, is so small that residents “would have to know it, not stumble across it,” he says.

A novel find was a set of miniature points, just a few millimeters long, that might have been children’s toys or pieces flintknappers practiced on while learning point making techniques.

The rich findings in this poorly documented region indicate that early human arrivals to North America adapted to the landscape in part by learning a vast geographic region in great detail, the paper notes.
The paper was published in American Antiquity (April 2013)

Leave a comment

Filed under America peopling, Human Behaviour, Human Dispersals, Lithic technology

Middle Stone Age human occupation and dispersals in the Messak plateau (SW Libya, central Sahara)

by Emanuele Cancellieri and Savino di Lernia

(Open access source: Quaternary International 300:142-152, 2013 via

Aterian artefacts from Messak: a-f: tanged point; g-m: tanged piece (see text for details).Scale bar: 5 cm (drawings: E. Cancellieri).

Research conducted since the 1990s in SW Libya has provided wide-ranging data on the Pleistocene archaeology of this vast region, which principally relies on surface scatters of lithic artefacts, a series of soundings and two MSA/Aterian dated sites. The Middle Stone Age of the region is thought to date from roughly MIS 6/5 to approximately 60 ka (the latest dated Aterian occurrence). Its distribution varies from sand seas to mountain ranges, with different states of preservation and archaeological visibility. This paper presents data from the last surveys (2010–2011) carried out on 46 transects across the Messak massif. One component of the research strategy was specifically designed to handle the impressive Pleistocene record through sampling a series of spots placed at fixed distances along predetermined survey strips. Field documentation of the techno-typological traits allowed the creation of a territorial data-set used to infer patterns of raw material exploitation, technological variability and the significance of the principal chrono-cultural markers. Quartzarenite, the most available and used raw material, is a diffusely distributed resource. This should have played a role in patterns of land use and mobility and, ultimately, in the composition of archaeological assemblages, mostly characterised by complete reduction sequences. Variability in the application of the Levallois method highlights widespread adoption of recurrent and lineal schemes. Among the latter, point production is extremely rare. The retouched blanks inventory is dominated by scrapers and notches, whereas more specialised tool classes (i.e., tanged pieces, points, foliates) are less common. The dimensions of a small sample of Aterian artefacts provisionally signal a higher degree of homogeneity among pointed tanged specimens than other types. Despite the overwhelming presence of roughly labelled MSA contexts, these show little evidence of a MSA stricto sensu chrono-cultural signature, among which scanty but precise elements are comparable with the sub-Saharan and Nile valley early Middle Stone Age, reinforcing the picture of multiple dispersals across the Sahara and North Africa around MIS 6/5. The evolution of MSA occupation and its cultural trajectories is difficult to assess, while the last phases, represented here by the Aterian, can be framed in hyperarid MIS 4 – after the dates from Acacus – and likely represent the adaptation of residual groups almost confined to mountain environments.

Leave a comment

20/09/2013 · 4:13 PM