Ethnicity and the Archaeology of the Front Range
B.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 1995
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Masters of Arts
Angela M. Rayne
This thesis for the Master of Arts
Angela M. Rayne
has been approved
Rayne, Angela M. (M. A. Anthropology)
Ethnicity and the Archaeology of the Front Range
Thesis directed by Professor Tammy Stone
This thesis develops a theoretical approach to the study of ethnicity. It
argues that collective identity is based on shifting seasonal migrations and alliances
that are situational, subjective identifications of self and others. The method by
which this is accomplished is through an analysis of stylistic variation in material
culture remains based on a chronological framework established through contextual
associations with diagnostic artifacts. Such an approach was utilized in the
CRADDLE Project, Colorado Regional Absolute Date and Diagnostic Link Effort,
which forms the research foundation for this thesis. The CRADDLE Project
provided a basic understanding of the nature of shifting variation through time in
projectile point typologies allowing an analytical framework to be established that
could identify the processes involved in the production and transformation of ethnic
identity. The research for this thesis focused on the Front Range of Colorado during
the Archaic period. The geographic location of Colorados Front Range places it
between two better established archaeological traditions, the Great Plains and the
Great Basin. Thus, the identity of Front Range traditionally has been lost by
assuming that the group occupying this region was associated with either the Great
Plains or the Great Basin. The choice of the Archaic period was based on the
hypothesis that the change in economic strategies employed in the Front Range that
mark the Paleoindian/ Archaic transition are not a change in lifeways, but instead
reflects a Paleoindian period migration that results in the formation of a new ethnic
group. Therefore, this thesis conducts a comparative analysis of cultural, ethnic, and
material culture differences in the Front Range to the Great Plains and the Great
Basin to in an effort to establish a collective identity for the Front Range inhabitants.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
This thesis is dedicated to my husband Roger, for his enduring support,
encouragement, and love.
Space and training for the collection of data for this study were generously provided
by the Colorado Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. I am grateful to
the Division of Information Management, and particularly Margaret Van Ness, for
having shown me the need for a local chronology and for generously giving me her
time and advice. I also with to thank Jennifer Klahn and Rebecca Hutchins for their
aid in reading site reports. The second set of recognitions go to the data entry crew
without whom this thesis would not have been possible. I am indebted to Dr. Jeffery
Eighmy for the hours he spent promoting the project, the crew, and the funding. I
would like to credit the calibration and data entry crew, Matthew Littler and Byran
Uhl for the hours they spent in front of a computer screen and chasing down
suspicious information. And of course, a special thanks to The Colorado State
Historical Fund for so graciously funding the CRADDLE Project. Finally, and most
important of all, I want to acknowledge the unfading encouragement, inspiration,
and patience of my committee, Dr. Tammy Stone, Dr. Antonio Curet, and Dr.
1. INTRODUCTION............................................ 1
The Archaeology of Ethnicity: A Historical and
Anthropological Overview.......................... 2
Statement of the Problem: Reconstruction or
Fabrication of Collective Identities?..............6
Statement of the Solution: A New Perspective
on Ethnic Identity................................ 8
2. A COMPARATIVE THEORY OF ETHNICITY.......................11
Power Relations.................................. 15
Common Descent............................ 16
Boundary Maintenance...................... 18
2. A COMPARATIVE THEORY OF ETHNICITY (CONT.)
What is needed to make ethnic distinctions
emerge in an area?........................ 21
Ethnicity and Material Culture.................. 22
3. THE NATURAL SETTING.....................................28
Front Range..................................... 30
3. THE NATURAL SETTING (CONT.)
4. REGIONAL CULTURAL HISTORIES............................ 45
Cultural Traditions of the Great Plains......... 46
Pre-Projectile Point Stage.................46
Middle Archaic............................ 59
Cultural Traditions of the Great Basin.......... 66
4. REGIONAL CULTURAL HISTORIES (CONT.)
Subsistence and Settlement Strategies........... 80
Seasonal Transhumance Systems............. 82
The Broad Spectrum Model...................85
Overview of Sites within the Front Range...86
Discussion of the Front Range............. 93
Mountain versus Plains Origins.............98
Paleoindian Occupation of Southwest Colorado.. 101
5. THE CRADDLE PROJECT: RESEARCH DESIGN AND
5. THE CRADDLE PROJECT: RESEARCH DESIGN AND
Phase 2................................... 114
Phase 3................................... 114
Phase 4................................... 118
6. THE CRADDLE PROJECT: RESULTS AND DISCUSSION...120
Hafting Traditions.............................. 127
Comparison of Hafting Traditions with the
Other Qualitative Variables......................131
Degree of Reshaping............................. 132
6. THE CRADDLE PROJECT: RESULTS AND
Site Data.............................. 137
A Comparison of the Perspective to the Culture Group... 140
Summary and Conclusions.................144
7. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS.......................145
WORKS CITED............................................ 148
SITE DAT A................................ 161
MATERIAL TYPE CODES........................163
PROJECTILE POINT DESCRIPTIVE CODES.........165
PROJECTILE POINT METRIC CODES............. 168
PROJECTILE POINT METRIC DIAGRAM........... 169
SITE TYPE DESCRIPTIONS.................... 172
3.1 Map of U. S. Showing Relationship of Different Regions
3.2 Map of the North American Great Plains Area........
3.3 Map of the Great Basin.............................
4.1 Clovis Complex Points..............................
4.2 Folsom Complex Points..............................
4.3 Plainview Points...................................
4.4 Agate Basin Complex Points.........................
4.5 Hell Gap Complex Points............................
4.6 Alberta Complex Points.............................
4.7 Cody Complex Points................................
4.8 Federick and Pryor Stemmed Complex Points..........
4.9 Early Archaic Points from Laddie Creek, Lookingbill,
and Southsider Cave................................
4.10 Middle Archaic McKean Points.......................
4.11 Duncan, Hanna, and Mallory Points..................
4.12 Pelican Lake Points................................
4.13 Late Archaic Besant Points.........................
4.14 Late Archaic Avonlea Point.........................
4.15 Clovis/Fluted Points from the Great Basin.....................71
4.16 Western Stemmed Points....................................... 73
4.17 Archaic Projectile Points: Pinto, Gatecliff, and Elko Series. 77
4.18 Archaic Projectile Points: Rosegate and Desert Series........ 79
4.19 Seasonal Shifts in H & G Subsistence in the Blackfeet System.82
4.20 Interpretation of the Rotary Transhumance System..............83
4.21 Relationship of Flake Weight to Quarry Location...............84
5.1 Map of Colorado showing the 15 Counties within the Project
6.1 Cluster Analysis of Complexes............................... 122
6.2 Bar Graph of Point Types by 1000 Years B.P...................125
6.3 Bar Graph of Stem Type...................................... 129
6.4 Cluster Analysis of Stem Types...............................135
6.5 Bar Graph of Site Types......................................137
6.1 Complex Percentages............................................123
6.2 Hafting Styles by Stem Type (Percentages)..................... 130
6.3 Material Type by Complex (Percentages)........................ 131
6.4 Correlation Coefficients for Length........................... 136
6.5 Correlation coefficients for Width and Thickness...............136
6.5 Top Feature Percentage........................................ 138
6.7 Site T ype Percentages.........................................138
...the expansion of archaeologys relation to nationalism and ethnicity in the
construction of collective identity seems certain to continue. Partly the
materiality of the archaeological record will assure this. Partly also the
creation of alternative pasts is increasingly being used to legitimate land
claims, ethnic territories and access to economic resources (Rowlands
Archaeology has been defined as the study of the human past. In Americanist
archaeology the initial objective is the construction of a cultural chronology
followed by the reconstruction of past lifeways and ultimately, the discovery of the
processes that underlie and condition human behavior (Thomas 1989). Throughout
the history of archaeology the material record has been attributed to particular past
peoples. A significant role in the development of the discipline has been to link the
present peoples back to their presumed primordial origins (Trigger 1989). Yet the
relation-ship between material culture and past peoples in the construction of
culturally defined communities has only recently become subject to self-conscious
analysis and criticism (Trigger 1989). This situation is not surprising given the
increased global awareness that the mass media has provided during the 1980s and
1990s. Ethnicity and nationalism seem to have become critical as different cultures,
levels of political organization, and other forms of cultural and social diversity
become more evident. One begins to search for roots, acceptance, and place. Nash
defines this as primordial ties that are the social expression of ...identity, selfhood,
and of others who are like the self, and yet others who are different form the self
(1986:4). Focusing on the nature of ethnicity, its relationship to material culture, and
the validity of archaeological attempts to identify collective identity, this thesis
explores the concept of ethnicity which has been both central to traditional
archaeological interpretation and yet at the very heart of recent debates about the
political and economic implications of archaeological inquiry. Working from these
current discourses on identity, a theoretical framework is developed to re-evaluate
the way in which the collective identity of the Front Range of Colorado has been
constructed in the Archaic period.
The Archaeology of Ethnicity: A Historical and
The earliest archaeological research was within the humanistic tradition,
concerned primarily with defining the classical civilizations discussed in the Bible.
Today however, archaeology can be divided into two major divisions: Old World
and New World. As the names imply, Old World archaeology is concerned with
populations from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Middle Eastern countries and New
World archaeology is the study of North and South American populations. Implicit
in this division is whos ancestry is being studied, Old World archaeologists study
their own ancestors, where New World archaeologists study the ancestors of Native
Americans. This difference may explain why legislation such as the Native American
Graves Protection and Reparation Act were so long in the making.
In Americanist archaeology, A. V. Kidder is credited with transforming
archaeology from antiquarianism to a systematic discipline. Archaeology became the
division of anthropology that studied prehistoric peoples (Thomas 1989). The
theory that grew out of Kidders and other early archaeologists work was termed
the culture-historical approach. Jones characterizes the culture-historical approach
as the empiricist extraction, description and classification of material remains within
a spatial and temporal framework made up of units which are usually referred to as
cultures and often regarded as the product of discrete social entities in the past
(1997:5). Trigger defined the culture-historical approach, with its emphasis on the
prehistory of specific peoples, as providing:
...a model for national archaeologies not only in Europe but around the
world. It remains the dominant approach to archaeology in many countries.
Like nationalist history, to which it is usually closely linked, the culture-
historical approach can be used to bolster the pride and morale of nations or
ethnic groups. It is most often used for this purpose among peoples who feel
thwarted, threatened, or deprived of their collective rights by more powerful
nations or in countries where appeals for national unity are being made to
counteract serious internal division. Nationalist archaeology tends to
emphasize the more recent past rather than the Paleolithic period and draws
attention to the political and cultural achievements of indigenous ancient
The culture-historical paradigm was replaced in the 1960s and 1970s with
the new archaeology. Influenced by social anthropology, the new archaeology
entailed a re-conceptualization of culture as a functioning system, rather than the
homogeneous normative framework of a particular group of people (Jones
1997:5). The new or processual archaeology was concerned with generalizing
explanatory models of social processes, particularly the analysis of economic and
subsistence strategies, exchange systems and social organization. In contrast to the
culture-historical approach, within processual discourse there was very little
concern with problems of nationalism, ethnicity and multi-culturalism. Having
dismissed the equation of archaeological cultures with ethnic groups, processual
archaeologists in general did not regard ethnicity as an important focus of enquiry; it
was merely seen as the product of an outmoded and unfashionable archaeological
paradigm (Jones 1997:5). The use of archaeology by nationalists continued to be
perceived by processualists as an external political influence on the discipline that
could lead to a distortion of scientific objectivity (Jones 1997).
The post-processual archaeology of the 1980s and 1990s explores socio-
political issues. Interest is once again spurred in nationalism, ethnicity, and multi-
culturalism in general, and specifically, the ways in which archaeology intersects
with the construction of cultural identity. The so-called ethnic revival (Jones
1997:8) brought about by fundamentalist religious movements, the breakup of the
Soviet Union, the secessionist movements in other areas of the world, and the
passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act in the
United States, have forced a recognition of the plural, multi-cultural realities of
most contemporary states, whether or not diverse identities are acknowledged in
state ideology (Jones 1997:8). Many scholars (e.g. Clifford 1988; Hannerz 1989;
Marcus 1989) have rejected the ideal that each culture was unique, identifiable,
circumscribed, and describable and instead speak of shifting, situational, subjective
identifications of self... subject to transformation and discontinuity (Jones
1997:13). Thus, the nation-state is only one of many possible foci for the study of
collective identity or culturally defined communities. Jones defines a post-modern
world that is characterized by opposing tendencies towards increasing globalization
on the one hand, and the fracturing of identities resulting in hybridity, creolization
and indigenization on the other (1997:8). These diverse forms of identity have been
ignored or acknowledged only in passing. If the tendency to focus on nationalism at
the expense of other forms of group identity (such as minority and indigenous
identity) continues, it can lead to diverse, unstable configurations of cultural identity
leading to local rather than global conflicts (Jones 1997).
An example in Americanist archaeology of such local conflict can be found
in the effects of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
(NAGPRA). This act forces indigenous peoples to engage in western conceptions of
continuous, culture-historical development in order to legitimate their claims to land
and heritage. According to Jones in such contexts the issue of whether
archaeologists can identify ethnic groups and their continuity through time on the
basis of distinctive material culture styles takes on immense political importance
(1997:10). However, the ways in which indigenous communities conceptualize the
past does raise the possibility of alternative perspectives on the relationship between
the past and identity which are not necessarily compatible with existing
archaeological evidence. Confronted by conflicting interpretations of the past raises
several questions for archaeologists: Can archaeologists distinguish between
objective interpretations? Are the different interpretations a matter of competing
subjectivities or are they political in nature? While archaeologists seek alternatives
in social structure and behavior, when confronted with alternatives that do not fit
archaeological data, do they simply hide behind science as the only legitimate and
authoritative approach to uncovering the past?
Statement of the Problem: Reconstruction
or Fabrication of Collective Identities?
This dichotomy between political influence and subjective science lies at the
heart of the debate over the archaeology of ethnicity. Archaeologists often fail to
question the assumptions that underlie interpretations of ethnicity and, consequently,
the use of archaeology in the construction of culturally defined communities. If
archaeology is to be used in the construction of identities, it must involve a
reassessment of the relationship between material culture and ethnicity (Jones
1997:12). Jones states, and I agree, that there is a gap in the treatment of cultural
identity in archaeology:
On the one hand, the identification of past ethnic groups or cultures has been
a major concern within the empiricist framework of traditional archaeology.
On the other hand, recent critical studies have focused on the ways in which
archaeological knowledge is used in the construction of identities in the
present. However, neither has, for the most part, been concerned with
formulating new theoretical frameworks for the interpretation of ethnicity in
the past. There has been very little explicit analysis of the nature of ethnicity
and the relationship between material culture and ethnic identity. In contrast,
there has been a rapid increase in research and theoretical debate about
ethnicity in the human science since the late 1960s, resulting in a number of
important changes in our understanding of socio-cultural differentiation. As
yet these developments are largely ignored by archaeologists, many of whom
continue directly to equate archaeological cultures, defined on the basis of
repeated associations of distinctive material culture, with past ethnic groups
Without a new theoretical approach to the study of ethnicity in archaeology
that addresses the nature of collective identity and questions our assumptions about
the relationship between material culture and identity, the objectives of archaeology
can not be accomplished. The initial objective of archaeology, a cultural chronology,
requires that cultural groups be defined in a meaningful manner and linked to a
reliable chronometric dating process. Only then can the reconstruction of past
lifeways begin. Otherwise, archaeologists are only fabricating collective identities in
terms of assumptions in the material culture record, which is all to frequently used to
justify nationalist aspirations and land claims.
Statement of the Solution: a New
Perspective on Ethnic Identity
This thesis develops a theoretical approach to the study of ethnicity. It is not
based on subjective categories, but instead expresses ethnicity as an interaction of
people and group relations with a perceived common history. I argue that collective
identity is based on shifting seasonal migrations and alliances that are situational,
subjective identifications of self and others based on the daily practices of a people
that appear to share a common origin. Thus, as groups migrate, regroup, and
reconstruct their histories, culturally defined communities are subject to
transformation and discontinuity. Although ethnic groups are built out of social
elements such as kinship, religion, ritual, and art, they also need to be united with a
belief in a shared past and the hope for a common future. It is the historical process
that transforms the elements of social structure into a collective identity. Ethnic
identity is thus situationally expressed and self affirmed and as such, it is dynamic in
nature and reforms history in different ways through time. Therefore, a theoretical
analysis of the dynamic and historically contingent nature of ethnic identity in the
past and the present has the potential to submit claims of identity and territorial
association to critical analysis.
The method by which this is accomplished is through analysis of stylistic
variation in material culture remains. Analysis of stylistic variation needs to be based
on a chronological framework established through contextual associations with
diagnostic artifacts. Such an approach to dating was utilized in the CRADDLE
Project, Colorado Regional Absolute Date and Diagnostic Link Effort (Rayne
1995a, 1995b, 1995c), which forms the research foundation for this thesis. The
CRADDLE project provided a basic understanding of chronological change for the
state of Colorado, and with this spatial and temporal control, an understanding of
the nature of shifting formal variation in styles through time in projectile point
typologies became possible. This research thus provides the analytical framework
that identifies the processes involved in the production and transformation of ethnic
The research for this perspective focused on the Front Range of Colorado
during the Archaic period. The geographic location of Colorados Front Range
places it between two areas, the Great Plains and the Great Basin, with the Front
Range acting as a geographic and ecological transition zone. Because of the
territorial association, the identity of the Front Range traditionally has been lost in
past archaeological work by assuming that the group occupying the region was
associated with either the Great Plains or the Great Basin. The choice of the Archaic
period was based on the hypothesis that the change in economic strategies employed
in the Front Range that mark the Paleoindian/Archaic transition are not a change in
lifeways, but instead reflects a Paleoindian period migration that results in the
formation of a new ethnic group. Therefore, a comparative analysis of cultural and
ethnic differences in the Front Range to the Great Plains and the Great Basin is an
important goal in establishing a collective identity for this group.
The reconstruction of an ethnogenesis from the archaeological record (i.e.
the reconstruction of the components that constitute a certain ethnos, their mode of
integration, the subsequent history, inclusion into it of new groups, and the
transformation of its culture) is hard to prove empirically (Hollman 1978). The
definition of ethnicity offered in this thesis does however have the potential to
submit claims of identity and territorial association to critical analysis because it
eliminates the concept of static, pristine cultural entities embedded in western
notions of cultural continuity and tradition and instead seeks shifting, situational,
subjective identifications of self that are open to transformation and discontinuity.
A COMPARATIVE THEORY OF ETHNICITY
In American archaeology, primarily as a result of the Native American
Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the need to establish a link between modem
and past peoples is bringing new urgency to the study of ethnicity in archaeology.
However, the past that archaeologists construct and the ways in which indigenous
communities conceptualize the past is not always consistent. Of course they are
harmonious to some degree, in that the histories were produced by the same series
of events. Oral histories and archaeological culture histories, however, do this in
fundamentally different ways, for different purposes (Dongoske et al. 1997:600).
These divergent perspectives are manifest in the concept of archaeological cultures
and how indigenous communities identify their past. Indigenous people tend to view
their past in terms of the real live people who lived at the sites whereas
archaeologists have classified the past in terms of archaeological cultures based on
similarities in material culture traits. This desire to attach an identity to material
culture has been at the heart of archaeological inquiry. These interests have become
explicitly formulated in the methodological principle that archaeological areas reflect
past people or ethnic groups. Archaeological culture areas have traditionally been
defined on the basis of repeated associations of distinctive material culture with past
ethnic groups and ...were designated as having roots, stems, and branches to
identify spatial differentiation, with periods and phases to identify temporal
differentiation (Dongoske et al., 1997:602). The assumption has been of a one to
one relationship between culture and ethnic identity. The collective group identity
was assumed to be a passive reflection of cultural similarities with each culture
defined as a discrete, homogeneous cultural entity that is identifiable, describable,
This process is epitomized by the type site, which supposedly contains the
archetypical traits of a particular archaeological culture. According to Jones, the
concept of the type site is based on the assumption that material culture traits
reflect the mental makeup or cultural norms of the people who produced them, and
that these norms would have been homogeneous throughout a bounded socio-
cultural group (1997:49). These issues have been particularly problematic in the
Front Range where the type site and culture area are derived from two very
different traditions, the Great Plains and the Great Basin. These studies have
concentrated on the similarities and continuities rather than difference and
discontinuities between the type site and other sites within a region. As a result,
assumptions about the holistic, monolithic nature of culture and societies have
persisted. The inevitable methodological problems concerning boundary definition
were overcome by conceptual modifications such as socio-geographic region. Here,
cultural traits were assumed to be passed between discrete cultures as a result of
instances of contact which in turn lead to amalgamation of one culture with another
ultimately resulting in a single homogeneous bounded entity.
The use of the term ethnicity to refer to archaeological culture areas has
resulted in considerable discussion about the nature of ethnic groups. The debate
relates to a difference of opinion about the nature of ethnicity itself. Are ethnic
groups based on shared objective cultural practices and/or social-structural
relations that exist independently of the perceptions of the individuals concerned, or
are they constituted primarily by the subjective process of perception and derived
social organization of their members (Jones 1997:57)? I would have to side with
the later. Ethnic groups, in my opinion, are part of a multi-cultural society, whose
members set themselves apart and/or are set apart by others with whom they interact
or co-exist on the basis of their perceptions of cultural differentiation and common
descent. Ethnicity could then be defined as all the social and psychological
phenomena associated with a culturally constructed group and ethnic identity as that
aspect of a persons self-conceptualization which results from identification with a
broader group in opposition to others on the basis of perceived differentiation
(Jones 1997). If ethnic groups are conceptualized as parts of multi-cultural
economic and political interest groups, then groups with different cultural
backgrounds can choose whether or not to hold the same ethnic identity as the
broader society. Ethnicity can thus be subject to shifting, situational, subjective
identifications of self and becomes open to transformation and discontinuity. From
this perspective, culture plays a secondary role in the formation and transformation
of ethnic identity in that existing cultural practices and beliefs will change to provide
the organizational features of the group.
This conceptualization of ethnic groups as self-defining systems emphasizes
the fluid and situational nature of both group boundaries and individual identification
in the mediation of social relations and the negotiation of access to resources,
particularly economic and political. Changes in ethnic identity can then be related to
the economic and political circumstances of individuals that collectively organize for
the protection of resources (Barth 1969; Cohen 1974). Ethnicity thus constitutes the
shared beliefs and practices that provide the group with the boundary maintenance
and organizational dimensions necessary to maintain, and compete for, resources.
Although the society may be collectively organized as an economic interest
group, this organization is developed to cope with ecological situations that exist in
the natural environment. While the environment creates the context, the choices are
made by the individuals within the culture. The members of different ethnic groups,
and to some extent members of the same ethnic group, will perceive their interests
and their identities differently and follow different courses. As a result, the cultural
and political organization develops in situ as a local complex, usually driven by big
men or other leaders. Consequently, the shifts in political power are found within
both intra- and inter-group relations.
While analysis of economic and political dimensions of ethnicity explain the
dynamic and situational aspects of organization, consideration of these factors alone
can lead to the belief that ethnicity only comes into existence in order to serve the
purposes of interest groups. However, ethnicity is in fact, the product of a range of
processes embedded in relations of power between groups which are reproduced
and transformed through time. The relationships are negotiated in cultural symbols
that communicate cultural differences. These differences in culture are centered on
everyday activities and are expressed in material culture. The components of
material culture may have ritual meaning, but they also have practical, or functional,
meaning and the two types are never wholly distinct. This section discusses how the
power relations are reproduced and transformed between groups of different
cultures and is then followed by a discussion of the relationship of ethnicity to
Ethnicity has been defined as an interaction of people and group relations
with a common history. Ethnic identity is thus derived from the perceived shared
origin and background of individuals, expressed by myth, religious belief, ritual, and
art. The expressions of ethnic identity provides the character of the group and
therefore ethnicity is an aspect of a relationship not a property of a group (Keyes
1979). It is crucial to understand, however, that the individual formation of ethnic
identity is due to the interaction of the social and political structures over time. Nash
states "ethnic identity involves the use of'strategies' at the level of interpersonal
interaction as well as at the structural level and the symbolic levels" (1986:115).
Ethnic groups are built out of social elements, but they need to be united with a
belief in a shared past and the hope for a common future. For it is the historical
process that transforms the elements of identity into ethnicity, but do not confuse
the historical process with a static state. Ethnic identity is situationally expressed
and self affirmed, therefore, it is dynamic in nature and reforms history in different
ways through time. In the past, collective identity may be the result of shifting
seasonal migrations and alliances that are situational, subjective identifications of self
and others based on daily practices. History forms the past of a culture, in that it
expresses a continuous identity with self that represents a past, present, and a future,
i.e. a historical process that establishes origin. However, it is the daily practices that
establishes legitimacy with the practices and beliefs of each group. Self is thus
identified by the symbols of the group which, in turn, enshrines history, melding the
two into a personal identity.
Thus, as groups migrate, regroup, and reconstruct their histories, culturally
defined communities are subject to transformation and discontinuity. A culturally
defined community would then be described as an aggregate of people with similar
features of culture and consciousness. They share an understanding of common
values, a realization of and a distinctiveness from other units. They proclaim self
affiliation with the unit and organize some forms of their behavior to maintain
perceived interests. The culturally defined community is expressed not only
culturally but also economically and politically. The fact that this community
encompasses other aspects requires that it work at several levels and thus allows
individuals to hold more than one identity concurrently. Holloman (1978) divides
these other levels into units: 1) Basic Unit aggregates of local peoples such as kin
groups and bands; 2) Micro Unit smallest unit of a basic unit such as nuclear or
extended families; 3) Macro Unit constitutes of ethnic units such as regional
groups of kin or bands; and 4) Intermediate Units ethnic groups that are parts of
basic units such as sodalities.
"Where there is a group, there is some sort of boundary, and where there are
boundaries, there are mechanisms to maintain them" (Nash 1986:10). The most
pervasive ethnic boundary is a perceived shared origin and background of
individuals. Origin is used here to refer to the "presumed" biological and descent
unity that each group member possess and others who posses different biological
unities (Nash 1986). This presumed link symbolizes equality, peership, and of the
potential for a future within the group. The shared origin and background suggests a
similar social organizational structure that forms a basis for establishing a value
system with cultural symbols that serves to unite and differentiate us from them.
There must also be structural opposition between groups for ethnic
boundaries to exist, otherwise there will either be no interaction, or interaction
without reference to ethnic identity (Barth 1969). This opposition between groups
serves to make meaningful the interaction among groups or their members.
Boundary maintenance is established by formal social differences that are
expressed symbolically by the group in either daily activities or material culture. The
intensity of the maintenance is usually dependent upon the stability of political,
social, and economic life. Ethnic conflict arises when there is a crisis situation.
According to Nash "the root of the crisis does not have to be, and frequently is not,
itself, ethnic" (1986:16). An increase in ethnic signaling by the group, however, is
how the crisis is expressed. For example, if an unrelated group crosses an
established boundary to hunt, signaling may include an increase in hunting activity
on the boundary with blinds and point manufacture. These daily activities
communicate cultural differences that are expressed in the cultural symbols found in
the material cultural remains. The competition may have arisen from scarce
resources, a change in political leadership strategies, internal conflicts altering the
form of some social structures, or any other internal or external stress to the society.
Ethnic identity, however, is only expressed when the rights of a people and all the
symbolic and political accouterments that accompany the group are perceived as
threatened. The level of symbolic signaling is intensified as stress between groups
rises. The boundary maintenance can be as passive as a myth that does not allow
hunting beyond a known point thus retarding contact, or as aggressive as an active
manipulation of symbols such as the example above.
Within the constraints of boundary maintenance there are situations where
social contact between different cultures exists. According to Barth "the persistence
of ethnic groups in contact implies not only criteria and signals for identification, but
also a structuring of interaction which allows the persistence of cultural differences"
(1969:16). In essence, ethnic identity establishes a series of roles an individual is
allowed to hold and thus the different kinds of transactions an individual is allowed
to choose from. This systematic set of rules governs the social encounters and
establishes that the agreement on values is only relevant to the situations in which
they interact. This serves to protect parts of the cultures from confrontation and
The tie that connects the ethnic groups is dependent on the shared cultural
features of each group. Where the shared features are based on only a few kinds of
activities, the structure of social organization will be similarly limited (Barth 1969).
Here boundary maintaining mechanisms are extremely important to allow the
cultural characteristics of each group to persist within the close inter-ethnic contact.
Such interdependencies allow adaptation to each other and to the natural
environment. This adaptation may allow for distinct niches in the natural
environment and result in minimal competition for resources or they may cooperate
in the production and/or procurement of resources for each other. A cooperative
effort requires that each group occupy reciprocal niches but in close
interdependence allowing for a variety of interactions. The difference here lies
between a system for controlling and a system for sharing.
Holloman (1978:390) discusses two types of ethnogenesis: 1) ethnic division
- division from the original group such as in migration, and 2) ethnic unification -the
merging of several previously independent groups into a culturally defined
community. The formation of a collective identity can include consolidation,
assimilation, and integration of previous cultural traditions. Thus, ethnogenesis is the
synthesis of a peoples cultural and political struggles to exist, as well as their
historical consciousness of these struggles. Erikson states that a change in "Ethnicity
arises often in circumstances of social upheaval and transformation, which are
frequently accompanied by severe cultural erosion and the disappearance of many
customs that might serve as marks of distinctiveness" (1993:67). During periods of
change associated with migration, demographic shifts, or integration into or with
another group, ethnic symbolism referring to the historical language, religion,
kinship system, or way of life associated with identity maybe lost because of the
increased stress put on the society by the change.
What is needed to make ethnic distinctions emerge in an area?
Barth explains that the incentives to develop an identity are inherent in the
change in circumstances (1969). It follows that just as there are forces in the
environment enacting changes, social circumstances change. Some cultural groups
may become extinct, while others may emerge. The changes in material culture as
well as everyday ethnic traditions may become less adaptive, marked cultural
differences may be overcome, and assimilation of individuals or groups into another
ethnic group may occur. These structural contrasts may be eliminated or redefined,
new structural contrasts may emerge or old ones may be redefined, leading to the
formation of new ethnic identities or the application of old identities in new ways
Ethnicity and Material Culture
The nature of ethnicity presented in this thesis has shown that a one-to-one
relationship between ethnic identity and cultural similarities and differences cannot
be assumed. Therefore, ethnic groups must be conceptualized as self-defining
entities. Additionally, I have suggested that the communication of ethnicity is an
active process involving the manipulation of economic and political resources. This
communication is accomplished through the use of cultural symbols embedded in
material culture. Therefore, material culture is the basis for interpretation of
ethnicity in archaeology.
Culture symbols are manifest in the style chosen in material culture.
Wiessner (1983) has developed these ideas concerning style as an active
communication in her analysis of stylistic variation among the Kalahari San.
Wiessner suggests that both individual and group identity is ultimately based on a
universal human cognitive process of comparison through which the self is
differentiated from others and the ingroup from the outgroup (as quoted in Jones
1997:113). Style, in Wiessners terms, refers to the active symbolic role of particular
characteristics of material culture in mediating social relations and social strategies.
In relation to social identity, style is thus used in the disruption, alteration, and
creation of social relationships.
Wiessner defines two types of style, emblemic and assertive. Emblemic style
refers to the formal variation in material culture that has a distinct referent and
transmits a clear message to a defined target population about conscious affiliation
and identity and assertive style refers to that formal variation in material culture
which is personally based and which carries information supporting individual
identity (Wiessner 1983:257-8). Wiessner goes on to point out that emblemic style
usually refers to a social group and the norms and values associated with that group.
Assertive style, while it refers to personal identity, does not directly symbolize
individual identity. However, unlike assertive style, emblemic style does not reflect
degrees of interaction across group boundaries, because it carries information about
such boundaries and as a result is likely to have a distinct and discrete distribution,
in contrast to the random distribution of assertive style (ibid.:259).
I argue that material culture that transmits ethnic identity is found in items
used in day-to-day activities, however, identity also may reside in other items. The
form that between-group relations take is usually related to the internal organization
of social relations of each group. Therefore, the expression of ethnicity must be
understood in terms of symbolic meaning generated within the group that reflects
the social organization of the cultures way of doing. According to Jones,
...strategic manipulation of material culture is likely to result in discontinuous non-
random distributions of material culture, which are often the foci of interaction
rather than relative social isolation and distance (1997:115). Thus Jones concludes
that archaeologists cannot then assume that degrees of similarity and difference in
material culture provide a straightforward index of interaction (1997:115).
Although a discussion of style does not explicitly provide an account of how
ethnic identity is produced, reproduced or transformed, there is apparently a
relationship between symbolic structures and the form and expression of ethnic
relations. So what does account for the social production of style? Jones states that
All social practices and social relations are structured by cultural schemes of
meaning which mediate social relations and social action, [but] such structuring
principles are not abstract mental rules, but rather durable dispositions toward
certain perceptions and practices (1997:117). These principles structure peoples
decisions and actions, but often lie beyond their ability to describe. They both
structure and are structured by social practice. Yet, material culture may operate
simultaneously in any number of social fields with its meaning subject to
reproduction and transformation throughout its use. Thus, all material culture is
active in the processes of social production, reproduction, and transformation. Jones
explains that structure and function cannot be regarded as distinct domains -
structure provides the framework through which function is defined. In essence,
distinctive forms and styles of material culture may be actively maintained and
withheld in the process of signaling ethnicity, while other forms and styles may cross
cut ethnic boundaries (1997:117). I further suggest, that the choice of cultural
forms and style used in signaling ethnic boundaries is not arbitrary, but in fact is a
self-conscious expression of ethnicity that through material culture, negotiates the
cultural differences that represents a particular way of life. However, the
relationship between style and the expression of ethnicity may constantly shift
according to a particular place and time. Thus, the configurations of ethnicity and
consequently the style of material culture, may result in discontinuous, non-random
distributions of material culture across cultures, but not within particular cultural
historical contexts. One material culture class with stylistic variability and that is
particularly well suited for showing these distributions are projectile points, because
of the importance of their stylistic variability (Warburton and Duke 1995).
The theoretical overview presented is meant to be comparative and general
to the extent that it identifies the basic processes involved in the production and
transformation of ethnicity across historical contexts. It does so by providing an
analytical framework for not only the similarities, but also the differences in the
manifestations of ethnicity. As a result, I suggest that exploring differences in the
past is not only possible, but can be done without reproducing the past in the image
of the present. The method by which this is accomplished is through analysis of
stylistic variation in material culture remains.
Analysis of stylistic variation needs to be based on a chronological
framework established through contextual associations with diagnostic artifacts.
Such an approach to dating serves to undermine the circularity of relative
typological dating on the basis of a single class of artifact. Additionally, it is the only
approach to the dating of sites and archaeological contexts of material culture that
have the potential to be associated with the construction of ethnicity. Such variation
in material culture must be the subject of analysis rather than the assumption that
historical types have legitimate prehistoric meaning.
While I argue that variation in material culture is the basis for interpretation
of ethnicity in archaeology, it should be noted that a great deal of the stylistic and
morphological variability in artifacts could be attributable to other factors. For
example, artifact variability could be due to the limitations of the materials used in
the creation of the artifact or technological constraints of the maker. Variability also
could be due to the differing ecologies and economic systems of the makers.
Unfortunately however, we need considerably more archaeological control
concerning how artifacts are produced, distributed, used, and also why they change
through time before the framework presented in this paper has more than limited
potential in identifying ethnic identity.
The theory presented in this thesis suggests the need for a fundamental
reevaluation of the assumptions that underlie the interpretation of typological
classifications and the cultural processes that underlie stylistic variation through
time. The approach to dating and analysis being proposed here is somewhat
restricted by the existing archaeological reports in that material culture are rarely
analyzed in conjunction with datable stratified contexts in the Front Range. Instead,
diagnostic artifacts are classified by type designations and interpreted using the
typological approach. Working from the theoretical overview developed in this
chapter, the remaining chapters of this thesis investigate the potential of this theory
by re-evaluating the way in which the collective identity of the Front Range of
Colorado has been constructed in the Archaic period by utilizing data from the
THE NATURAL SETTING
The geographic location of Colorados Front Range (Figure 3.1) places it
between two regions, the Great Plains and the Great Basin. While the Great Plains
and the Great Basin are better established territorially, geographically they are
distinct areas from the Front Range. However, past archaeological studies have
traditionally subsumed the Front Range within either the Great Plains or the Great
Basin traditions. Therefore, the Front Range is thought of as a transition zone
culturally. The focus on these areas at the expense of the Front Range is in part due
to the relatively high intensity of human occupation in both the Great Plains and the
Great Basin and in part because so little is known of the Front Range and the Rocky
Mountains occupants. There is a lack of inhabitation in the higher elevations, and
therefore, there is little archaeology or understanding of this important area. Hence,
there are clearly gaps in the description of the project area, especially in the Rocky
Mountains, which unfortunately is beyond the scope of this theses ability to fill.
Consequently, this overview discusses both the Great Plains and the Great Basin
environments because the past treatment of the Front Ranges material culture and
archaeological research is meshed within these two larger traditions. This chapter
therefore defines the Front Range, the Great Plains, and the Great Basin
geographically and describes their physical environment, climate, flora, and fauna.
Figure 3.1. Map of U.S. showing the Relationship of Different
The foothills area is an environmental transition zone between the Rocky
Mountains and the Colorado Plains, beginning naturally at the base of the foothills.
The area is characterized by linear formations of resistant Dakota Sandstone known
as the Hogback. The Hogback forms the eastern boundary of the zone with the
Rocky Mountains forming the western boundary. The valley between the Hogback
and the mountains, part of the Colorado Piedmont, was formed by the removal of a
Tertiary mantle by erosion and sedimentation by the South Platte and Arkansas
stream systems (Black 1991). The result was a incised river system covered by
grassland. Areas surrounding drainages also exhibit rich riparian species and as
elevation increases, scrub vegetation occurs.
The mountain area of the Front Range includes part of the Rocky
Mountains, which forms a broad north-south band, characterized by peaks (some of
over 14,000 feet high). Between these peaks lie valley and parks, forming a complex
drainage system that includes the Upper Arkansas, North Platte, South Platte, and
the Rio Grande rivers. Water is plentiful throughout the area and mountain passes
provided routes between drainages, parks, and valleys. The area also is
characterized by large forests (Guthrie et al. 1984). The mountains are bounded on
the east by the Hogback Valley, the west by the Colorado Plateau, and the project
area binds the north at state lines and the south at Custer and Pueblo counties.
The foothills area of the Front Range climate is characterized as semi-arid
with an average of 300 days of sunshine. Light rain (13-17 inches annually)
followed by high winds off the mountains and large swings in daily temperature are
quite common in spring and summer months (Guthrie et al. 1984). Snow melt feeds
the drainages to compensate for the low annual rainfall and at times has caused
severe flooding. Periodic droughts lasting several years also are not uncommon.
In the mountain area of the Front Range, precipitation is two to three times greater
than the foothill area, and average temperatures are 10 to 15 degrees colder. The
snow falls as dry powder that is redistributed by wind into bands that remain
throughout the summer season (Guthrie et al. 1984).
The foothills area is covered in shortgrass varieties such as buffalo grass,
blue grama, and mountain sage (Guthrie, et al. 1984). Drainages contain
cottonwood, willow, and a variety of forbs. As elevation increases, scrub oak,
ponderosa pine, juniper, and prickly pear become common. Micro-environments
exist within each valley, changing the variety of vegetation available.
The mountains have forested areas with the upper fringes on the tundra
ecotone. Tree varieties such as Englemann spruce, subalpine fir, and limber pine
grow in the terraced topography. Between the trees are lush plant communities of
grasses, sedges, and herbs (Benedict and Olson 1978).
As with the flora varying from micro-environment to micro-environment, so
do the fauna that feed within each system. Bison, antelope, and varieties of deer are
the most common of the larger species, but wolf, fox, rabbits, squirrel, and various
small rodents are also abundant (Guthrie, et al. 1984). Birds range from hawks to
small jays and larks, and varieties of reptiles also are present.
The Great Plains have been defined in many different ways by a myriad of
researchers (Black 1991; Butler 1986; Cassells 1983; Eighmy 1984; Grady 1984;
Gunnerson 1987; Jepson 1994; Stone 1994; Zier 1991). To most, the Great Plains
denotes the generally flat, semiarid grasslands lying west of the Mississippi-Missouri
Valley, east of the Rocky Mountains, North from well into Canadas border and
south to Mexico. Within the Great Plains, the land mass has been further divided by
Wedel into subregions; the Central Plains, the Southern Plains, the Middle Missouri,
the Northeastern Periphery, and the Northwestern Plains. With the exception of the
Rocky Mountains however, there are no true natural borders, but instead transition
zones from one flora or climatic area to another. The border zones may be subtle,
sometimes the differences can only be seen by a seasoned Plains dweller. Examples
of such are the transitions from short grasses to long grasses, or long grasses to
woodlands. In others, such as the line separating the Plains from the Rocky
Mountains, the transition is quite clear. These transitions also are formed from
various land forms, including stream valleys, uplifts, erosional remnants, and other
features resulting from geographic process (Frison 1991). What the transition zones
accomplish, is to provide relief to a monotonous and drab environment and create
niches or microenvironments that allow human habitation. Figure 3.2 shows a map
of the North American Plains area as defined by Wedel (1978).
This extensive region has great internal diversity. Nonetheless, there are
certain broad uniformities of environment in the region. Generally, the
environmental characteristics can be described as
...a comparatively level (flat) surface of great extent, treelessness, and a sub-
humid or semiarid climate in which rainfall is insufficient for the agriculture
practiced in humid lands, Each of these characteristics is found over a great
part of the United States. The region in which all three coincide and dominate
the land constitutes the Great Plains (Wedel 1978:24).
Figure 3.2. Map of the North American Great Plains Area.
(Reproduced from Wedel 1978)
The Great Plains has been described as a monotonous uniformity of
landscape, of an endless expanse of flat, featureless country covered with grass
(Wedel 1978:24). However, this characterization is not altogether accurate. The
surface is largely a result of repeated and widespread uplifts of the Rocky
Mountains. As the land rose, and water fell, erosion caused wide, deep streams and
valleys. The eroded materials, gravels, sands, clays, and silts, were deposited as
alluvial fans. The deposits merged and lengthened into what is now called the High
Plains encompassing, in the north, much of Montana and eastern Wyoming, and
most of North and South Dakota. In the Central Plains it included most of
Nebraska, more than half of Kansas, eastern Colorado, and may have included
central and western Oklahoma. Extending from the southern boundary of South
Dakota southemly to Mexico, the land is a flat expanse. Northward, the High Plains
developed into rolling hills, terraced plains, wide interstream areas, and badlands.
The area to the east is comprised of lowlands and is essentially a gentle rolling plain
In a land that is characterized as semiarid, the stream valleys are of extreme
significance. The valleys provided not only water, but access to animals for food and
clothing, cultivable bottom lands for garden plots and transportation routes. The
major water ways originating on the Plains are the Saskatchewan and Assiniboine
river systems in the east, Arkansas, Canadian, Mississippi, and the Red River in the
north, and in the south the Trinity, Brazos, and Colorado. The mountains are the
source for the Saskatchewan, Missouri, Platte, Arkansas and Canadian Rivers.
The Great Plains are marked for their low precipitation, thus again their
semiarid designation. Wedel best describes the regions outstanding climatic features:
...low precipitation, especially limited in winter; the irregular and uncertain
distribution of moisture received over long and short periods; the pronounced
daily and seasonal temperature ranges; the low relative humidity, high rate of
evaporation, and frequent droughts; the abundant sunshine; and the persistent
winds of relatively high velocity (1978:30).
The distribution of moisture is the most notable climatic limitation. The
annual precipitation varies from a high of forty inches in the east, falling westerly to
about ten inches. Irregularities in the land surface bring about local variability and
enhance the niches discussed in the introduction. The distribution of precipitation
seems to coincide with growing seasons with sixty-five to seventy-five percent
occurring in the spring and early summer. Temperatures also show a wide annual
range with minimum readings from -16 degrees F in the south to -55 degrees F in
the north. Some summer readings exceed 100 degrees F and sharp changes that
exceed 45 degrees F may occur within a twenty-four hour period.
Other characteristics are wind, humidity, and evaporation. The enormous
expanses of flat landscape give winds unprecedented velocity known to relatively
few other regions and the low relative humidity, combined with the high evaporation
rate, enhance the already semiarid climate.
The Great Plains predominantly consist of grasses with trees growing along
the water ways. The grasses vary from east to west reflecting the greater aridity on
the westerly fringes. The grasses consist of short grass plains, mixed grass prairie
and bluestem prairie. The region also includes shrub and mesquite savannas. The
areas adjacent to the grasslands contain blackjack oak, post oak, white spruce, black
spruce, balsam fir, jack pine and white birch (Schlesier 1994).
Herbaceous flowering plants also have played a large part in the landscape.
Many were used as foods such as starchy roots, tubers, and beans. Edible fruits and
berries were available: in the north, currant, gooseberry, and cranberry and in the
south choke cherry and plum. Nuts of the hickory, walnut, pecan, and hazelnut were
gathered in prehistory. Other plants were used as medicinal items, for example herbs
like milkweed and sunflower. Dyestuffs and fibers for cordage were obtained from
hemp, nettle and other so called weeds(Wedel 1978).
Game resources such as the bison, pronghorn antelope, and mule deer
flourished on the steppe and mixed grass areas. The uplands and valleys also
contained wolf, coyote, fox, rabbit, grizzly bear and bighorn sheep. Woodland
environments added major animals such elk, black bear, cougar, wildcat, beaver,
otter, mink, raccoon, and, of course, rodent. Birds were abundant and utilized for
food, feathers, and bone ornaments (Wedel 1978).
The Great Basin has been called many things by archaeologists working in
the region. Jesse Jennings (1964) calls the area The Desert West, but this
characterization is not altogether accurate. The area contains vast
microenvironments ranging from deserts to marsh lands to mountain ranges. Each
microenvironment supports a variety of life and life ways. This section attempts to
define the Great Basin geographically (Figure 3.3) and describe the physical
environment, climate, flora, fauna and culture groups from the Paleoindian through
Late Archaic periods.
The Great Basin covers approximately 165,000 square miles, but within that
area, three different definitions have been used to describe it. The hydrographic
definition stems from the fact that all the Great Basin streams drain internally. The
little precipitation that falls is either absorbed into the ground or disappears through
evaporation. The physiographic definition focuses on the distinctive topography of
wide desert valleys flanked by often massive mountain ranges that run roughly
north-south, and that generally parallel one another (Grayson 1993:14). The final
definition used in describing the Great Basin is biological or floristic in nature. The
area here encompasses lower elevations that are characterized by shadscale and
sagebrush and in which higher elevations are marked by pinyon and juniper
Figure 3.3. Map of the Great Basin (Reproduced from Jennings
The Great Basin, along with the Colombia Plateau and a part of the
Colorado Plateau makes up what is termed the Basin Plateau province. Central to
this wide, peak-studded trough between the Rockies and the Sierra lies the Great
Basin, a vast triangular region characterized by a lack of outward drainage. Of the
three geographic definitions used to define the region, only the physiographic
definition delineates a distinctive natural area using the mountain ranges as borders.
Otherwise, there are no true natural borders, but instead, transition zones from one
flora or climatic area to another. The border zones may be subtle, sometimes the
only differences to be seen are from a lake to marsh environment. In others, such as
the line separating the valleys from the mountains, the transitions are quite clear.
These transitions also are formed from various land forms resulting from geographic
processes. The transition zones provide niches, or microenvironments, that allow for
The region has great internal diversity. Nonetheless, there are certain broad
uniformities of environment. Jennings summarizes the environmental characteristics
The region is elevated and is one of abrupt parallel mountain ranges with
long, narrow valleys between the sometimes very tall peaks. The valleys are
themselves often without external drainage; ...show an occasional or even a
series of shallow, dry lake beds or playas, where water briefly stand after flash
runoffs. Such lakes as are in any sense permanent are normally brackish or
saline. The region has been described as a steppe or, more often, as a desert
...While the desert designation implies the dominance of sagebrush and the
associated flora, the region has such contrasts in relief that several floral zones
are repeated endlessly as one moves from valley to mountain (1964:24).
In a land that is characterized as The Desert West, one could imagine that
waterways are of extreme importance, especially when considering that in the Great
Basin there is no water flowing in from an external source. The result is what are
called pluvial lakes. Pluvial lakes form because they receive greater amounts of
water or lose less to evaporation, or both. Excess water can not flow outward
through stream channels so in basins that have no lakes, they are created and those
basins that have lakes, the lakes become larger or overflow into other valleys. The
process does not stop until evaporation balances or exceeds precipitation. Thus,
waterways in the Great Basin should be considered ephemeral and the list of lakes
varies not only seasonally, but through time.
The standard accepted climatologic interpretations of the Great Basin are based on
Antevs (1962) reconstructions (Grayson 1993; Jennings 1964, 1978). To review
these climatic conditions, we will follow Antevs lead and divide them into three
The first event is called the Anathermal. This is a time of cooler temperatures
and more moisture than now where annual rainfall is less than twenty-five inches. It
has been suggested that the Anathermal marked the end of ice advances beginning
around 9,000 B.C. This period is followed by the Altithermal where there were
gradual increases in temperatures and aridity until 5,000 B.C. By 2,500 B.C. a
cooling trend began resembling modem conditions in what Antevs called the
The Great Basin can be divided in three subregions, each with a different
type of vegetation. The desert regions, such as Death Valley, with its high
temperatures, low precipitation, and saline soils, limit the kinds and densities of
plants that can survive. Most of the plants that do occur here depend on the
availability of groundwater and must be tolerant of its salinity. The most prevalent
plant is pickleweed. Other flora include saltgrass, Torrey inkweed, arrow weed,
desert holly, and four-winged saltbush. There are a few trees such as honey
mesquite and tamarisks and the bush varieties include saltbush, creosote, and white
Sink areas and the surrounding hills above the valley floor are covered by
shadscale, greasewood, Winterfat and spiny bud sage. Indian ricegrass provides an
important source of edible seeds throughout the Great Basin. Bush varieties include
smokebush, four-winged saltbush, and horsebrush.
The central Great Basin hosts the Ruby Valley, which is well watered by
precipitation from the Ruby Mountains. The vegetation here is determined by the
water table and where it rises to the surface, the dominant plants include saltgrass,
shrubby cinquefoil, baltic beaked sedge, and silverweed. Where the water is low,
saltgrass occurs with greasewood, rubber rabbitbrush and Great Basin wildrye
(Grayson 1993; Jennings 1964).
Game resources at the end of the Pleistocene saw an episode of extinction in
the Great Basin. The most well known mammals to become extinct were the
mammoths, mastodons, and saber tooth cats, but ground sloths, camels, llamas,
horses, and short-faced bears also disappeared. Vertebrates and mammals associated
with Holocene and more recent times in montane areas of the Great Basin include
shrew, jack rabbit, chipmunk, marmot, squirrels packrat, ermine, antelope, mule
deer, mountain sheep, bison, and wolverine. The lakes contain fish such as whitefish,
trout, chub, dace, sucker, and sculpin. In the desert areas, vertebrates are limited to
amphibians and reptiles (Grayson 1993, 1988).
In summary, there is actually no stereotype environment applicable for the
entire Great Plains or the Great Basin regions. The wide variety of land forms,
climate, flora, and fauna that define the regions are simply too diverse. This regional
variability may have compensated for the marginal productivity of any single
environment and allowed human habitation. A comparison of the Front Range to
both the Great Plains and the Great Basin environments uncovers a vital difference.
The Front Range, as an environmental transition zone, contains elements form both
regions, but in essence, forms a unique environment of its own.
The next chapter details the culture histories and subsistence and settlement
strategies employed in these different areas. This effort is undertaken in order to
examine the effects that the different ecological situations have social organization.
This step is important in the study of ethnicity, because while it is recognized that a
society is organized to cope with the natural environment, the structural choices are
made by the people within the society based on their particular way of doing.
Therefore, the cultural organization develops in situ as a response to ethnic identity
and identifies a local complex.
REGIONAL CULTURAL HISTORIES
The antiquity of humans in the western United States is an issue as yet
unresolved. While it is universally accepted that the First Americans originated in
the Old World (Turner 1992:7), when they arrived is still debated. Part of the
reason for the debate is that the migration was probably a slow, long, intermittent
movement by small groups, and thus, little evidence remained. However,
archaeological evidence of human occupation in the West spans from 12,000 years
B.C. to historic times.
The following sections examine the groups from the Front Range, the Great
Plains, and the Great Basin from their earliest occupation until the end of the
Archaic period in an effort to understand the particular lifeways of the inhabitants.
The Great Plains and the Great Basin will be reviewed first to compare their
particular lifeways to the Front Range occupants. This step is necessary in that the
identity of the Front Range traditionally has been lost in past archaeological work by
assuming that the occupants were associated culturally with either the Great Plains
or the Great Basin traditions. By untangling the Front Range from these larger
regions, the Front Ranges material culture and archaeological research may come
Detailed descriptions are given of projectile point complexes to assist the
reader in understanding the stylistic variation in material culture remains through
time and the similarities and differences in morphology between the different areas.
This examination is appropriate because projectile points are one type of material
culture where style does change through time and can be separated from function. I
follow the cultural histories with a discussion of the economic strategies employed
by each tradition and examine how they have structured their everyday activities to
reflect their particular way of doing. This comparative analysis is important, as
discussed in Chapter 2, because it provides the framework that identifies the
processes involved in the production and transformation of identity and may be used
to identity the Front Range occupants.
Cultural Traditions of the Great Plains
Pre-Projectile Point Stage
The pre-projectile point stage on the Great Plains is characterized by stone
core and flake tools, pebble tools, and bone tools. No projectile points have been
associated with human occupation during this time period. The Pomme de Terre
Valley in Benton County, Missouri (Wedel 1978) and the Selby and Dutton sites in
northeastern Colorado (Frison 1991) are examples of habitation during what has
been called pre-Clovis occupation. Mammoth is usually associated with these sites.
The Plains region is characterized in the Paleoindian stage by large, fluted
lanceolate projectile points associated with megafauna such as mammoth, Bison
antiques, and camel. The groups were egalitarian bands of hunters and gathers and
are considered to be specialized in their hunting strategies of large megafauna
(Eighmy 1984). Accordingly, tool kits become specialized, exotic materials are
present, the tools are finely made, quite thin, and exhibit split stem hafting.
There are 10 projectile point complexes identified for the Great Plains in the
Paleoindian stage: Clovis, Folsom, Plano, Agate Basin, Hell Gap, Alberta, Cody,
Federick, Lusk, and Pryor Stemmed. The term complex has been specifically used,
although some of the labels discussed may be equivalent to traditional type
designations. This definition categorizes projectile points broadly rather than
splitting them into infinite categories. The rational for this treatment is that it focus
attention away from the idea that types are equal to specific groups of people,
toward the exploration of generalized chronological patterns and relationships at a
broad scale [i.e. regional analysis] (Pitblado 1993:17). Hence, the remainder of this
section discusses the complexes found on the Great Plains.
Clovis Complex. Clovis projectile points are widespread on the Plains from
approximately 11,200 to 10,900 B. P. Sites are known for their association with
mammoth remains. Points are lanceolate in shape with either parallel or convex
sides. They have concave bases with flutes extending half way up on one side. The
flake pattern displays parallel convergence with split stem hafting (Figure 4.1). The
most well known of Clovis sites are the Colby site in northern Wyoming, Dent,
Dutton, Lamb Spring, and Selby sites in northern and central Colorado, and of
course the site the complex was named for, the Clovis-Portales district on the
Staked Plains of eastern New Mexico (Cassells 1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson 1987;
Figure 4.1. Clovis Complex Points.
(Partially reproduced from Cassells 1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson 1978)
Figure 4.2. Folsom Complex Points.
(Partially reproduced from Cassells 1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson 1978)
Folsom Complex. The Folsom Complex follows the Clovis. The Folsom
Complex occurred from approximately 10,900 to 10,200 B.P. In contrast to Clovis,
Folsom sites are not associated with mammoth remains. This may denote the
extinction of mammoth by this time, or instead mark the beginning of bison hunting.
These points are also lanceolate in shape with either parallel or convex sides. The
base often contains a nipple left over from the fluting which extends to the tip on
both sides. The point is quite thin and exhibits split stem hafting (Figure 4.2).
Among the notable Folsom sites are its namesake in Folsom, New Mexico, the
Cattle Guard and Lindenmeier sites in Colorado, the Folsom component at the Hell
Gap and Agate Basin sites in Wyoming, the McHaffie and Indian Creek sites in
Montana and theLipscomb site in Texas (Cassells 1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson
It should be noted here that there is reference to a Midland Complex by
some researchers (Frison 1991). The difference in defining Folsom and Midland are
a lack of fluting in the Midland projectile points. However, Folsom site assemblages
from Lindenmeir and Agate Basin contain fluted and unfluted specimens. So rather
than distinguish a Midland Complex separate from Folsom, I would call Midland a
group within Folsom.
Plainview is also a group within Folsom. These points take their name from a
locality near Plainview, Texas. The points may be described as more or less
lanceolate, with parallel or sightly convex edges and concave bases. They show
some of the same morphological characteristics as Folsom, but like Midland, lack
fluting (Wedel 1978). There is usually some thinning of the base (Figure 4.3).
Figure 4.3. Plainview Points.
(Partially reproduced from Cassells 1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson 1978)
Agate Basin Complex. The Agate Basin Complex falls between 10,850 and
9,000 B.P. The points, shown in Figure 4.4, are long and narrow with a thick,
lenticular cross section. Major sites within this complex are the Agate Basin site in
eastern Wyoming, the Agate Basin component at the Hell Gap site in southeastern
Wyoming, and the Frazier site in Colorado (Cassells 1990; Frison 1991;Gunnerson
1987; Wedel 1978).
Figure 4.4. Agate Basin Complex Points.
(Partially reproduced from Cassells 1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson 1978)
Hell Gap Complex. This complex acquired its name from the Hell Gap Site
in southeast Wyoming. Hell Gap sites date to approximately 10,000 to 9,600 B.P.
The Hell Gap point seems to have developed out of the Agate Basin point and there
is some overlap. The major change seen in the Hell Gap point is a widening of the
shoulder from the long, narrow point of the Agate Basin point type (Figure 4.5).
Noted sites for this complex are the Casper and Jones-Miller sites in eastern
Colorado with the latter being the largest bison kill known of the Hell Gap Complex
(Cassells 1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson 1978; Wedel 1978).
Figure 4.5. Hell Gap Complex Points.
(Partially reproduced from Cassells 1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson 1978)
Alberta Complex. The Alberta Complexs duration is from approximately
9,500 to 9,000 B.P. The points associated with this complex introduce large stems
and abrupt shoulders (Figure 4.6). Sites included in this complex are the Hudson-
Meng Alberts Bison Kill Site in Nebraska and the Carter/Kerr-McGee Site in the
Powder River Basin in Wyoming (Frison 1991).
Figure 4.6. Alberta Complex Points.
(Partially reproduced from Cassells 1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson 1978)
Eden Scottsbluff Cody Knife
Figure 4.7. Cody Complex Points
(Partially Reproduced from Cassells 1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson 1978)
Cody Complex. This complex shares the same temporal span as the Alberta
Complex, from approximately 9,500 to 9,000 B.P. The Cody complex was also
widespread in the Great Plains, but unlike the other complexes, was known by the
occurrence of the Cody Knife and the Eden and Scottsbluff points types (Figure
4.7). Why they were mixed in assemblages is not known, but Wedel (1978) provides
the best description of the two point styles:
The Eden point is long and narrow, with slightly convex edges and
pronounced ridges down the center of each face which result in a markedly
diamond-shaped cross section. The base is usually straight; above it, is the
stem which is set off from the blade by a very slight shoulder. The length
ranges up to about five inches, with the blade from one-fourth to one-seventh
as wide as it is long. The flaking is often very well done, and the edges show
fine secondary retouching. The finest examples of the Eden type show a
superlative measure of skill and craftsmanship on the part of their makers. The
Scottsbluff point is proportionately broader and shorter, bi-convex in cross
section, with more prominent shoulder to set off the stem, and with coarser
flaking and retouching. [There] is likely to be an almost complete gradation
from the typical Scottsbluff to the typical Eden. It seems quite likely that
both types could have been produced by the better flintsmiths of the groups
Cody knives are stemmed bifaces similar to Eden and Scottsbluff points
although they are asymmetric and exhibit heavily worn and/or resharpened laterals.
Eden points had a more restricted distribution, appearing in the High Plains, while
Scottsbluff points held a wider distribution (Figure 10). Sites of principal interest
with these materials are the Homer, Finley, Olsen-Chubbuck, Jurgens, Claypool, and
Nelson sites and the Cody level at the Hell Gap and Lamb Springs sites (Cassells
1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson 1987; Wedel 1978).
Federick and Lusk Complexes. This complexs duration is estimated from
about 8,400 to 8,000 B.P. The Federick complex points show an abrupt change
from the points of the Cody complex (Frison 1991). They are characterized by a
lanceolate style with parallel-oblique flaking (Figure 4.8). These points are known
from the Frederick level at the Hell Gap site. It might be noted that Federick points
bear a morphological resemblance to Jimmy Allen points and therefore may not be a
valid designation. The Lusk Complex, like the Frederick complex was proposed on
a small artifact assemblage at the Hell Gap site. As Frison states:
... they are similar to the Frederick point but with a somewhat degenerate
appearance. They are usually made on a flake or blade with a triangular cross
section so that the projectile points tend to be plano-convex in cross section.
Bases tend to be more concave than Frederick points and blade edges vary
from convex to those with pronounced lateral restrictions (1991:66).
Federick Pryor Stemmed
Figure 4.8. Federick and Pryor Stemmed Complex Points.
(Partially reproduced from Cassells 1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson 1978)
Pryor Stemmed Complex. Pryor Stemmed people were present from
approximately 8,000 to 7,800 B.P. The name, Pryor Stemmed, comes from a
distinctive horizon marker found in a cave and rockshelter deposit near the Pryor
Mountains in southern Montana and northern Wyoming, but recent research
suggests that the distribution may have been larger. Pryor Stemmed points (Figure
4.8) are produced by working alternate blade edges, producing a steep beveling.
The points are lenticular in transverse cross-section with parallel-oblique pressure
flaking. The overall form may be lanceolate or have an expanding, parallel-sided or
slightly contracting stem (Frison 1991).
Summary. Considerable attention has been paid to the projectile points in the
Paleoindian section, with only a brief description of the life ways. The reasoning
behind this discrepancy is that the majority of information gleamed for these people
relies predominantly on the points themselves. Other than generalizations stated in
the introduction, little more can be said without redundantly describing site after
The on-set of the Archaic Stage brings very little change in the lifeways of
the Great Plains inhabitants. According to Michlovic (1986) Great Plains prehistory
is characterized not by progressive and inevitable change, but rather by adjustments
to exterior stimuli that did not affect, or were not reflected in, existing technological
or socioeconomic systems. Artifact changes were mainly stylistic in nature with an
expanded ground stone.
Figure 4.9. Early Archaic Points from Laddie Creek, Lookingbill, and Southsider
Cave. (Partially reproduced from Cassells 1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson 1978)
The beginnings of the Early Archaic span between 8,000 to 7,500 B.P. The
changes marking the transition from Paleoindian can most easily be seen in the
projectile points. As Frison states:
The change from the lanceolate and stemmed projectile points of the late
Paleoindian to the side-notched types of the Early Plains Archaic was abrupt
and easily detected in the archaeological record. It also represented the
finalization of an Archaic life way that probably began in late Paleoindian
The points associated with Early Archaic have been referred to as early side
notched and examples are Pahaska Side-Notched and Blackwater Side-Notched.
However, not all followed this pattern; some were also corner-notched or base-
notched (Figure 4.9). Sites in Wyoming representing Archaic remains are the
Mummy Cave in Yellowstone National Park, Medicine Lodge Creek and Laddie
Creek in the Bighorn Mountains, Lookingbill in Absaroka Mountains, and
Southsider Cave. In Colorado the Granby and Hill-Horn sites have produced
interesting information, as well as a series of sites in the Curecanti National
Recreation Area. Slab-lined floor structures have been found in the Sisyphus,
DeBeques, Deluge, 50R 243 and Kewclaw sites (Cassells 1990; Frison 1991;
Gunnerson 1987; Wedel 1978).
The Middle Archaic is usually associated with the McKean Complex because
of its rapid appearance, increased number of this site type, and the dominance of the
period by this stylistic group. In addition, the locations of sites became more diverse
with open plains and intermontane basins becoming more frequently used. Stone
circles seem to appear anywhere that stones of proper size were available. Further,
ovens appeared. Bison hunting apparently became important again as seen in the
faunal remains found in sites.
Figure 4.10. Middle Archaic McKean Points
(Partially reproduced from Cassells 1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson 1978)
McKean Complex. According to many Plains researchers (Benedict and
Olson 1973; Cassells 1990; Frison 1991), the term McKean, when applied to
projectile points, has been the subject of much debate. The source of the argument is
in the wide variation in projectile points accepted under the term McKean. Still,
the original problem remains: what does the variation mean? Are the different
variants in a single site representative of different bands of the same complex coming
together at the a single time, are they functional differences, differences in raw
material characteristics, different occupations in the same site that represent
temporal differences, or simply just a matter of one group using a large number of
point styles? The traditional, or true, McKean point is lancelolate in form with an
indented base and convex blade edges, narrower at the base than the middle (Figure
4.10). A variant is a stemmed form with sloping shoulders, sometimes called a
Duncan point (Figure 4.11). Another variant has been called the Hanna, and it has
distinct shoulders and a slightly expanding stem (Figure 14). Mallory is also a
common variant style, as seen in Figure 14, with wide, thin, deep side notches
placed forward and either straight, slightly concave, or deeply indented bases
(Cassells 1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson 1987; Wedel 1978).
McKean points get their name from the McKean site in northeast Wyoming.
Other sites associated with the McKean Complex are Mummy Cave, Dead Indian
Creek, Granite Creek Rockshelter, Shell Canyon, and Pelican Lake in Wyoming. In
Colorado, the Dipper Gap, LoDaisKa, Cherry Gulch, and Magic Mountain sites
have examples of this complex.
Duncan Hanna Mallory
Figure 4.11. Duncan, Hanna, and Mallory Points
(Partially reproduced from Cassells 1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson 1978)
The Late Archaic begins about 3,000 years ago and is marked by an increase
in side-notched and comer-notched points. It is thought that the McKean Complex
may have been replaced by two generalized manifestations: Pelican Lake and
Yonkee, and a third, more specialized group, Besant. One additional group appears
to have entered the area, Avonlea, which overlaps temporally with Besant. Other
materials of this era include evidence of extensive coiled basketry, woodworking,
shell, feathers and bark cordage. Hafted points mounted with sinew and pitch on a
foreshaft also were found, along with atlatls and weights.
Figure 4.12. Pelican Lake Points.
(Partially reproduced from Cassells 1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson 1978)
Pelican Lake. Pelican Lake points are the oldest of several styles
characterized by wide, open comer notches that form sharp points or bards as they
intersect blade edges and bases. Both blade edges and bases may be slightly convex,
straight, or very slightly concave(Frison 1991:103). The designation of the point
(Figure 4.12) comes from the lower levels of the Mortlach site in Saskatchewan and
is associated with other sites such as McEndree Ranch, Blue Lake Valley, and Vail
Pass sites in Colorado; Medicine Lodge Creek and Wind River Canyon in Wyoming;
and Powder River Basin in Montana. Variations of these comer-notched points
persist on the Plains until approximately A.D. 500.
Yonkee. Yonkee differs from Pelican Lake in that these points have usually
been associated with communal kill sites containing bison and pronghorn. Bison
jumping also was practiced by Yonkee groups as seen from the Kobold Jump in
Montana. Site 48CA1391 in Wyoming is the most stunning example of the Yonkee
complex (Cassells 1983; Frison 1991).
Figure 4.13. Late Archaic Besant Points.
(Partially reproduced from Cassells 1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson 1978)
Besant. The Besant complex produced a distinctive projectile point that is
derived from the Mortlach site in Saskatchewan. The point (Figure 4.13) represents
an extremely sophisticated bison hunting strategy. This group constructed bison
corrals built of logs with deeply set posts that apparently were used in running the
bison. Once corralled, the bison were bombarded by large quantities of points, as
seen in the remains from the Ruby and Muddy Creek sties (Cassells 1983; Frison
Avonlea. Avonlea appears to have overlapped with Besant from the remains
found at the Avonlea site in Saskatchewan. This complex is characterized by true
side notches placed close to the base, although there is considerable variation in
notch placement (Figure 4.14). Sites associated with Avonlea are located on and
around buttes, suggesting either defensive activity or the need to see great distances.
The sites contain large slab-lined food preparation pits and some have ceramics.
Figure 4.14 Late Archaic Avonlea Points.
(Partially reproduced from Cassells 1990; Frison 1991; Gunnerson 1978)
Summary. The end of the Late Plains Archaic was indicated by the
appearance of ceramics, albeit in relative small amounts. The Ceramic Period
occupation of this region brings cordmarked pottery and small side and comer
notched points "suggesting a continuity of the hunting and gathering tradition
extending from the preceding Archaic Stage" (Eighmy 1984:84). Some use of com
is recorded suggesting incipient horticulture or the beginnings of a sedentary
Cultural Traditions of the Great Basin
A standard chronology consisting of Paleoindian, Archaic, Ceramic, etc. has
been eliminated by most Great Basin researchers in favor of regional time-
environmental definitions, using projectile point chronologies as time markers. This
stems from the fact that most Great Basin archaeological sites are surface sites.
Unfortunately, there are no reliable dating techniques known that can be used to
assign ages to the vast majority of these surface sites. As a result, the regional time-
environmental definitions utilize a chronological framework that has been
established through contextual associations of chronometric dates and diagnostic
artifacts from the Great Basin region. Hence, the name, regional time-
environmental. This is the same concept, outlined in Chapter 2, that the CRADDLE
Project and my analysis of stylistic variation is based on.
It is important to note that the datable context must be from an
archaeological site in the Great Basin to be included in this discussion. This
requirement comes from the argument centered around the definition of traits
(Aikens 1982; Grayson 1993; Jennings 1964; Steward 1938 ). The cross-dating
argument according to Jennings (1982) is that The notion that traits or a trait
complex is known if spatial and temporal distributions are known, and that traits
diffuse from centers of invention toward peripheral areas, the center being the point
of highest elaboration and complexity (Jennings 1982:109). Grayson uses Clovis
points to illustrate the argument. He says
...in the Great Basin itself, fluted points are fairly common, and many, though
by no means all, appear very similar to classic Clovis points from the Plains
and Southwest. However, most Great Basin fluted points do look more like
classic Clovis points than they look like anything else. As a result, the term
Clovis is routinely applied to both the points and the sites that contain them.
Doing that, however, almost automatically implies that the Great Basin
examples are the same age as those from elsewhere. It also implies that the
Great Basin versions are so similar to those from the Plains and Southwest
they are virtually indistinguishable. Great Basin fluted points, however, are
extremely variable in form. Because of these ambiguities, I will simply call
these objects Great Basin fluted points; to call them all Clovis implies to
This view is not to deny that a specific technological tradition may eventually
be demonstrated to be a consistent part of a cultural tradition. It is often assumed
that an archaeological culture can easily be recognized simply by identifying a
distinctive standardized artifact class. But such assumptions must first be tested, not
simply assumed to be true.
The second argument for using time-environmental definitions is exemplified
by Jenningss Desert Archaic culture which basically defines only one culture
group occupying the Great Basin spanning from 10,000 B.P. to A.D. 400. The
concept is to be viewed from the synthetic level, emphasizing the similarity of
purpose rather than difference of form in the artifact assemblages from all sites in the
several regions of the Western culture area. Hence, the concept was concerned less
with artifacts per se than with the inferable lifeway and the ecosystem to which it
was most effectively suited (Jennings 1978:29). The lifeway is defined as
...a broad-spectrum adaptive strategy- an economic pattern in which a wide
range of locally available plants and animals are exploited across regional
microenvironments by populations familiar with their distribution and
seasonality. As an adaptive strategy it does not bespeak any one particular
tool kit, technology, settlement pattern or time period, and should not be
equated with these except in the context of well known and well dated local
sequences (Willig and Aikens 1988:5).
The term Archaic in the Great Basin is used to specify an economic based
strategy and is unconstrained by time periods. While this may be viewed simply as
an adaptation, it has utility in the study of ethnicity, because while it is recognized
that a society is organized to cope with the natural environment, the structural
choices are made by the people within the society based on their particular way of
doing. Time then becomes relevant to the concept in that an analysis of stylistic
variation in material culture remains provides a framework that identifies ethnic
identity. Used thusly, one must then ask how old the broad spectrum Archaic
adaptations in the Great Basin are to test the Desert Archaic culture concept.
What you find is that neither the Clovis nor the Western Stemmed points discussed
above are suggestive of settlement and subsistence strategies that were limited to
specialized big-game hunting or any other kind of narrow focus. In fact, fluted and
stemmed points were widespread and persisted to 7,000 B.P. Additionally, the
climate from 12,000 to 7,000 B.P. is characterized by punctuated change. Willig and
Aikens suggest that
During a time of increasing aridity and frequent change in local ecological
conditions and resource distributions, related cultural groups through the Far
West would have maximized success by retaining flexible, wide-ranging,
adaptive strategies geared to a broad spectrum of available resource, but
tethered to mesic habitats containing reliable source of food and water
So with the evidence presented, it appears that the contrast between Clovis
and Archaic periods in the Great Basin is an artificial one. Consequently, in the
Great Basin sections, the term Paleo-Archaic (Willig and Aikens 1988) will be
used to designate the presence of Archaic strategies among the earliest inhabitants
of the Great Basin (from approximately 12,000 7,500 B.P.) and the term Archaic
for those that follow. The remaining sections of this chapter will discuss projectile
point chronologies, sites, and lifeways.
The use of the points subsumed under this heading spans from approximately
12,000 7,500 B.P. It is important to note that points from this period, thought to
come from the earliest inhabitants of the Great Basin, continued well into the
Archaic period and overlapped with assemblages of later dates. The adaptations, not
unlike the Arachic, were a broad-spectrum adaptive strategy. There are two
assemblages associated with sites in this early period, 1) Clovis/fluted points similar
to Clovis types defined in the Plains and Southwest, and 2) Western Stemmed
(Grayson 1993; Heizer and Hester 1978; Holmer 1986). The sites also contain a
variety of other artifacts including ground stone, scrapers, knives, and gravers. The
site locations vary from caves to overhangs to open camps.
Clovis/Fluted Points. In toolkits, typology, and intra-site variation,
Clovis/Fluted points from the Great Basin closely resemble Clovis types from the
Plains and Southwest. However, the paleoenvironmental context and settlement
patterns of major sites such as China Lake, Borax Lake, Tulae Lake, Mud Lake,
Tonopah Lake, Sunshine Locality, and the Dietz site (Willig and Aikens 1988),
suggest that the Great Basin complexes are a regional variant of the specialized big-
game hunting tradition on the Plains. In fact, fluted point sites seem to be confined
to valley bottoms. On the other hand, there are points called Great Basin concave-
based points that are similar to fluted points that have not been fluted. These points
are basally thinned, lanceolate in shape, and contain concave bases. The flake pattern
displays convergence and uses split stem halting (Figure 4.15). The difference
between the stemmed and basally thinned points seems to reflect hafting technology.
The basally thinned lanceolate points were hafted onto a split or beveled shaft while
the basal thinning was done to fit the point into the shaft. Thick stemmed points are
hafted into a socket carved into the shaft and the base of the point inserted into it
Figure 4.15. Clovis/Fluted Points from the Great Basin.
(Partially reproduced from Grayson 1993; Heizer and Hester 1978)
Western Stemmed Points. There are several projectile point styles associated
with Western Stemmed points, Lake Mojave and Silver Lake (Figure 14.16 are two
of the most well known coming from sites around Lake Mojave.
Both of these points styles have distinct stems with bases that are generally,
but not always, rounded. In Lake Mojave points, however, the stems are
distinctly longer than they are in Silver Lake points. Indeed, Silver Lake points
generally have stems that are less than half the length of the point, while Lake
Mojave points have stems that take up half or more of the whole object
The dates for these points fall between about 11,200 and 7,500 B.P. In
addition to Lake Mojave and Silver Lake points, there are Cougar Mountain points,
Haskett points, Lind Coulee Points, Mount Moriah points, Parman points, and
Windust points, some with even named varieties within these groups. But all of them
share thick stems that usually contract to a base that is rounded to square in
outline; many also have a distinct shoulder that separates the stem from the blade
portion of the point. It is also typical of these points that the edges of the stems have
been dulled by grinding (Grayson 1993:240). As a result of the overall consistency
in style (i.e. large stemmed, shouldered and lanceolate points) these points are
routinely grouped together as Western Stemmed with the variations defined as
phases, horizons, complexes, traditions, or distinct regional styles (Willig and Aikens
The Archaic, like the Paleo-Archaic, defines a broad-spectrum adaptive
strategy from 10,000 B.P. through to Historic times. Jennings defines some
generalized traits for the lifeway as cave and overhang locations for settlement,
bark or grass beds, seasonal gathering, intensive exploitation of resources, small-
seed harvesting and special cooking techniques, basketry, netting and matting, fur
cloth, atlatl, pointed hardwood dart shafts, varied projectile points, flat milling stone
and mano, scraper and chopper tools, tublar pipes... (1964:154). There are several
9 Parman point, 10 Cougar Mountain
11 Haskett point, 12 Windust point
Figure 4.16. Western Stemmed Points.
(Partially reproduced from Grayson 1993; Heizer and Hester 1978)
projectile point assemblages associated with the sites in this period. The following
sections define these points and list the sites from which they are found.
Pinto Series. Pinto points were originally defined by Amsden in 1935 at the
site type of the same name. He named five varieties: 1) shoulderless, 2) sloping
shoulder, 3) square shoulder, 4) barbed shoulder, and 5) one shoulder (Figure 20).
Some investigators (Grayson 1993; Holmer 1986; Thomas 1989) have observed
that the Pinto series is too broad and loosely applied and suggest that there are
important differences between the point varieties (Heizer and Hester 1978). Holmer
states that the Pinto points have created the greatest confusion and most discussion
regarding its chronological placement. The discussion is based on an inconsistency
in the ages of Pinto points. Dates seem to fall into two groups: one from 8250 to
6150 B.P. and the other from 4950 to 3250 B.P. Holmer suggests that this
dichotomy has been the focus of attention for some time and has become know as
the Pinto Problem(1986:97). He agrees with Thomass conclusion in calling the
early series Pinto points and assigning Gatecliff to the later. The rationale in
Thomass approach is consistent in that Gatecliff Series are not true Pinto points
morphologically, even though they are all bifurcate-stemmed points. Holmer used a
discriminant analysis to compare Pinto points to those recovered from Gatecliff
Shelter. The analysis demonstrated a significant morphological difference (F =20.53;
df = 569). Holmer concluded that:
...the significant morphological differences involves both the basal and corner
notches. The basal notch on the Gatecliff points are deeper and wider than is
that of the Pinto, resulting in much more pointed basal projections; on Pinto
points the projections are more rounded and bulbous. The shape of the stem
on the Gatecliff points is usually parallel sided or contracting toward the base,
resulting in a broader comer-notch opening. Pinto points more often expand
toward the base and have a narrower comer-notch width (1988:97).
In brief, analysis illustrates that the two types may slightly overlap or
segregate in form and in area. Basically, the pattern is: east equals early points
(Pinto) and west equals late (Gatecliff). For the northern and southern portion of the
Great Basin, however, points dating to both time periods occur. True Pinto points
are associated with Sudden Shelter, Danger Cave, and Hogup Cave.
Gatecliff Series. The Gatecliff Series contains two types of point styles, the
Contracting Stem and the Split Stem. Both point types have triangular blades with
medium to large contracting bases (Figure 4.17) with only the stem style differing.
Gatecliff points span from 4950 to 3250 B.P. and are best known from the type site,
Elko Series. The Elko type was originally defined by Heizer and Bumhoflf
in 1961 from the type site, South Fork Shelter. The series is widely distributed
throughout the Great Basin, but it appears to have emerged in the eastern basin first,
at approximately 7,500 B.P. and then terminated by 1450 B.P. Other sites where the
Elko Series has been found are OMalley Shelter, Gatecliff Shelter, Conway Shelter,
Rose Spring, Swallow Shelter, Newberry Cave, Hogup Cave, and Hidden Cave.
The points are large with comer-notches, and the angles at the notches are less than
60 (Grayson 1993; Heizer and Hester 1978; Holmer 1986). The Elko Series also
contains two named point styles, the Comer-notched and Eared. The difference in
the two points seems to be in the base where the Eared points seems to form ears
Rosegate Series. Points within this series are small and comer-notched with
triangular blades and expanding stems that occur from 1650 B.P. and continue until
Historic times. Archaeologists recognize two major types of points within the series,
Rose Spring and Eastgate. Rose Spring was first named by Lanning in 1963 with
three varieties: 1) side notched, 2) comer notched, and 3) contracting stem.
Eastgate was defined by Heizer and Baumhoffin 1961 with two forms, expanding
stem and split-stem (Figure 4.18).
Archaeologists working in the Great Basin believe that both series, since they
usually occur together, represent a continuum, with only minor morphological
differences distinguishing the two groups. One of these differences, and one
which has been used to separate the two series, is that on Eastgate points the
bards are usually squared. On the other hand, Eastgate points seem to have a
distribution largely restricted to central and western Nevada, and Rose Spring
points are found in most parts of the Basin (Heizer and Hester 1978:8).
Sites associated with both of these point types are Conway Shelter, Newark
Cave, OMalley Shelter, Gatecliff Shelter, Scott Site, Rodriguez Site, Lovelock
Cave, Kings Dog Site, and Swallow Shelter (Grayson 1988).
7-9 Elko Comer-notched points g
10-12 Elko Eared points
Figure 4.17. Archaic Projectile Points: Pinto, Gatecliff, and Elko Series.
Desert Series. Desert Series points include three named forms: Desert Side-
notched, Cottonwood Triangular, and Cottonwood Leaf-shaped (Figure 21). Desert
Side-notched are triangular, side notched points that appear after 1510 B.P. and
continue into Historic time. Sites associated with this point are Conway Shelter,
Hesterlee Site, Tompson Site, GateclifF Shelter, Newark Cave, and Deer Creek
Cave (Heizer and Hester 1978).
Cottonwood Triangular and Cottonwood Leaf-shaped, are two varieties of
projectile points in the cottonwood series, that was first proposed by Lanning in
1963. Cottonwood Triangular points are unnotched, thin, triangular points with
straight to convex bases whereas Cottonwood Leaf-shaped points are identical in
every way except that the bases are rounded (Grayson 1993). These small points are
common from 600 B.P. to Historic times and often co-occur with Desert Side
Notched. Specimens have been found at the Hesterlee Site, Newark Cave, Conway
Shelter, and Scott Site (Heizer and Hester 1978).
Little changed in the Great Basin for the people who occupied the area
between Paleo-Arachic and Archaic times. The only changes evident are in the
projectile point styles and sizes. What explanation can be offered to account for the
patterns in projectile point change? One is related to ethnic groups, the other to
function. Undoubtedly, ethnicity and function have both played a role in the patterns
Rosegate Series Rose Spring
7-9 Cottonwood Triangular points
Figure 4.18. Archaic Projectile Points: Rosegate, and Desert Series.
exhibited in the Great Basin. So the question is: What distinguishes ethnic units
from adaptive ones? The next section of this chapter attempts to address this issue
by identifying the economic strategies employed by each tradition and examining
how they have structured their everyday activities to reflect their particular way of
Subsistence and Settlement Strategies
Several theories have been proposed suggesting the relationship between the
Front Range and a seasonal transhumance system that fits into a broader regional
exploitation system. The next sections look at some of the existing theories for the
Front Range which make reference to both the Great Plains and the Great Basin. A
comparison of the expectations of these models to site data from the Front Range is
then presented to determine their applicability to the project area.
One of the most widely cited general models of hunter and gather
subsistence and settlement strategies was proposed by Binford (1980) using a
collector/forager continuum model. Binfords model also underlies most of the area
specific models used in the region. Therefore, an understanding of Binfords
reasoning is needed before the discussion can proceed. The key points he lists for a
foraging system include: 1) frequent movement between resource patches, 2) little
or no food storage, 3) residential moves to resource locations, 4) limited length of
occupation, and 5) use of a limited range of site types. The key points for a
collecting system include: 1) food storage, 2) task groups going to resource patches,
3) variety of site types, and 4) limited movement resulting in longer base camp use.
These strategies represent the extremes of a continuum within which several tactics
can occur in the normal annual rounds. An example of this shifting can be seen in
seasonal shifts in hunting and gathering subsistence in the Blackfeet system (Figure
4.19). The Blackfeet system uses a seasonal settlement pattern based on the
availability of resources. The winter and fall months are spent as collectors, using
the stored foods, whereas in the spring and summer, the foraging system is used to
obtain food. This pattern also is reflected in their mobility and settlement patterns
where in the winter and fall there is relative little mobility. Instead they are
aggregated in camps for communal hunting and the sharing of the stored foods.
Their mobility increases in spring and summer and they once again follow the
resources as they either ripen or move, such as following a herd.
This general model of hunter-and-gatherer subsistence and mobility
proposed by Binford has been explicitly applied to the Front Range of Colorado in a
number of area specific models. Benedict (1992) presents a seasonal transhumance
system and Bender and Wright (1988) a broad spectrum model. While both
interpretations present a broad spectrum model of subsistence and settlement
patterns for the project area, Benedict assumes self conferred mountain tradition
while Bender and Wright tie the adaptation to the Great Plains tradition. A
discussion of both models follows.
' -.< > *\ '> SEASON
WINTER SPRING STIMMfcit FAIL
SETTLEMENT PATTERN aggregated in winter camps in wooded stream valleys dispersed in small groups in Plains/foothills aggregate for summer hunt and Sun Dance near Plains stream/grasslands aggregated, for fall communal hunt on open Plains
SETTLEMENT SYSTEM collectors, using stored foods foragers, plant foods common foragers, gourmet use of big game collectors, accumulation of winter-stores
RESIDENTIAL MOBILITY low high low high
LOGISTICAL MOBILITY high in early winter, low in mid-late winter low high low
Figure 4.19. Seasonal Shifts in H & G Subsistence in the Blackfeet System.
(Anderson, et al. 1994)
Seasonal Transhumance Systems
James Benedict (1992) proposes that there are at least two seasonal
transhumance systems followed in the Front Range through time. The simplest
consisted of an up-and-down (Piston) system of seasonal migration between low-
altitude winter base camps along the margins of the Front Range and summer
hunting rounds near the Continental Divide by the people of the Mount Albion
Complex and perhaps up to three other groups (Benedict, personal communication).
Benedict views the Mount Albion to be immigrants to the area about 6000 B.P. and
were either not familiar enough with the environment to develop an intricate system
or resources were circumscribed by other people. The second, which coexisted with
first system during the altithermal (Rotary System), involved a counter-clockwise
"grand circuit" operating out of winter base camps in the Front Range, but
encompassing a much longer route to the Continental Divide (Figure 4.20). On this
route, the people left their winter base camps in spring to drift northward along the
Front Range. The route continued to the Medicine Bow Mountains and passed into
North Park. As the season progressed, the band changed direction going southward,
crossing the Continental Divide into Middle Park, where they formed macrobands
for communal game-drive hunting. Once group activities were completed, the
people headed east towards their
winter base camps, back in the Front
Benedict used lithic raw
material and projectile-point
distribution data to support his theory
(Figure 4.21). He argues: "By tracing
distinctive rock types in their tool kits
to quarry sources at lower elevations
Transhumance System (Benedict 1992:11)
Microband Continental Divide
Macroband Game-drive Sites
Figure 4.20. Interpretation of the Rotary
it is possible to backtrack the routes by which people arrived in the high country.
Rates of tool stone attrition are influenced by many factors, including the physical
character of the rock and the use to which is was applied... the abundance of a rock
type in a lithic assemblage will vary inversely with the time elapsed between
quarrying and occupation" (1992:13).
This theory suggests that one or more cultural groups employed a seasonal
round, exploiting the Front Range as part of their regional system.
Comparing the site
data to the theory
shows that the project
conform to the pattern
of winter sites. This
theory and Kevin
Black's paper on
Lithic Sources in the
Rocky Mountains of
Figure 4.21. Relationship of Flake Weight to Quarry Colorado (1993), that
Location. (Benedict 1987:19)
embraces the same concepts by characterizing prehistoric procurement systems
throughout the upland environments, could suggest a broad spectrum foraging
adaptation in the foothills and mountains. Also, the coexistence of a Piston System
and a Rotary System could imply that two culturally distinct groups were competing
for resources in the Front Range during at least one time period. Unfortunately,
Benedict does not apply the data on lithic raw material and projectile-point-
distribution to sites within the transhumance system and Black does not apply his
data to seasonal subsistence rounds.
The Broad Spectrum Model
Bender and Wright (1988) also present a broad spectrum model of
subsistence and settlement patterns based on Binford's forager/collector model for
the Central Rocky Mountains. They state that the particular items of procurement
may shift from higher to lower elevations, but the same general broad spectrum
strategy and accompanying settlement systems remain the same. They assume that
hunter and gather land use patterns are a result of the interaction between the
adaptations and the landscape that the group inhabits and therefore, a consistent use
of land forms and how a society distributes itself over the landscape could be used
to infer cultural boundaries.
They interpret that the reuse of sites occurs because there are few areas that
are suitable for base camp locations. The evidence that they consider include: 1)