Sunday, March 01, 2009

13,000 YEAR OLD TOOLS FOUND IN COLORADO

Landscapers were digging a hole for a fish pond in the front yard of a Boulder (Colorado, USA) home last May when they unearthed some 13,000-year-old lost tools. They had stumbled onto a cache of more than 83 ancient tools buried by the Clovis people - ice age hunter-gatherers. The home's owner, Patrick Mahaffy, thought they were only a century or two old before contacting researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

"My jaw just dropped," said CU anthropologist Douglas Bamforth, who is leading a
study of the find. "Boulder is a densely populated area. And in the midst of all that find this cache." The cache is one of only a handful of Clovis-age artifacts uncovered in North America, said Bamforth.

The Mahaffy Cache consists of 83 stone implements ranging from salad plate-sized, elegantly crafted bifacial knives and a unique tool resembling a double-bitted axe to small blades and flint scraps. All 83 artifacts were shipped to the anthropology Professor Robert Yohe of the Laboratory of Archaeological Science at California
State, Bakersfield for protein residue tests that were funded by Mahaffy.

Biochemical analysis of blood and other protein residue revealed the tools were used to butcher camels, horses, sheep and bears. "I was somewhat surprised to find mammal protein residues on these tools, in part because we initially suspected that the Mahaffy Cache might be ritualistic rather than a utilitarian," said Yohe. "There are so few Clovis-age tool caches that have been discovered that we really don't know very much about them." That proves that the Clovis people ate more than just woolly
mammoth meat for dinner, something scientists were unable to confirm before. The study is the first to identify protein residue from extinct camels on North American stone tools and only the second to identify horse protein residue on a Clovis-age tool, said Bamforth.

The cache was buried 18 inches deep in a coarse, sandy sediment overlain by dark, clay-like soil and appear to have been cached on the edge of an ancient stream, and was packed into a hole the size of a large shoe box. The tools were most likely wrapped in a skin that deteriorated over time, Mahaffy said.

Mahaffy wants to donate most of the tools to a museum but plans to rebury a few of them in his yard. "These tools have been associated with these people and this land for 13,000 years," he said. "I would like some of these tools to stay where they belong."

Sources: EurekAlert! (25 February 2009), Associated Press, Yahoo! News
(26 February 2009), National Geographic News (27 February 2009)

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