Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Search for Paleoindian Contexts in Florida and the Adjacent Southeast (pages 27-28)

James S. Dunbar
Florida State University
pages 27-28

"While pre-Clovis contenders have been identified in Florida, other site are scattered along the eastern Atlantic Coast from Virginia to Florida. Important pre-Clovis sites outside Florida include Cactus Hill (44SX202)(Feathers et al. 2006; McAvoy and McAvoy 1997; Wagner and McAvoy 2004), Miles Point site (18TA365) on the western Delmarva Peninsula (Lowery et al. 2010), and the Topper site (38AL23) in South Carolina (Goodyear 1999). The Atlantic seaboard sites are yielding dates assignable to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM as occurring from 26.5 to 19.0 ka cal BP see Clark et al. 2009) yet they do not represent the oldest sites with artifacts and faunal remains.

"Perhaps the oldest pre-Clovis site contender in North America is the Burnham site (34WO73) in northwestern Oklahoma. The site yielded the fossil remains of Bison chaneyi in association with 52 debitage flakes, a biface fragment, a flake tool and large chert cobble (Buehler 2003). According to the most recent interpretation of the site the bison remains and related stone artifacts date from about 43.0 ka cal to 34.5 ka cal BP with a median age of 39 ka cal BP (Wyckoff et al. 2003). Biostratigraphically Bison chaneyi is the correct form of bison for this temporal placement. Bison chaneyi is the descendant of Bison latifrons and progenitor of the late Pleistocene, Clovis-age Bison antiquus. Although an attempt to conduct uranium series radiometric dating failed, the site’s excellent organic preservation allowed age determination to be made by radiocarbon and ESR methods. These assays place the age of the site prior to the LGM during Marine Isotope Stage 3 (MIS-3) around 39 ka cal BP (Wyckoff 1999; Wyckoff and Carter 1994).

"The Burnham site is controversial because of its age, but the depth of the site’s burial, the cluster of artifacts surrounding the bison remains (but nowhere else above, below, or laterally adjacent to the remains), as well as the species of bison that matches the expected bio- and chronometric stratigraphy is difficult to reject. The Burnham site, similar to Monte Verde I in Chile, dates prior to the LGM (Dillehay and Collins 1988), and should not be dismissed, though additional sites and context studies will be needed before such an early age for Paleoindian in the Americas will be considered for acceptance (Meltzer 2009). In Florida the Latvis-Simpson site (8JE1617) in the Little River Section of the Aucilla River has the remains of a mastodon with three statistically related radiocarbon dates (Mihlbachler et al. 2002) that average 35,872 ±606  cal BP. Sediment samples collected from the profile wall of the excavation has yielded a single debitage flake from the MIS-3 mastodon level (Hemmings 2010). Given these data, just how far back in time the Paleoindian occupation of Florida extends is, and should be, an open question."

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