Tag Archives: bone technology

Intriguing rumours about the Manis Mastodon site

Screenshot of Manis news from the website of the Center for the Study of First Americans. Click to go to page.

[October 20 edit: Manis article now out in Science, my post here.]

Quite a while ago I posted about some of the frustrations I felt about the Manis Mastodon site, near Sequim on the Olympic peninsula.  This 1970s find of a Mastodon skeleton had one singularly enigmatic feature: there appeared to be the broken tip of a bone point embedded in one of its ribs.  As I wrote before: yank that sucker out! – so we can determine for sure if this is a human made artifact dating to the same age as the Mastodon – about 14,000 years ago.  Being well pre-Clovis and right near the coast, this find would be of profound importance to our archaeological understanding of the first arrival of people into the Americas.  Now, as you can read above, there is an intriguing hint that Manis has finally been re-examined, and found to be a legitimate Pleistocene archaeological site. It’s real.  Wow.

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Mount St. Helens and experimental archaeology

Paul Kane: Mt. St. Helens erupting by night, 1847. Source: Wikipedia

Today is the 30th anniversary of the cataclysmic eruption of Mount St. Helens, an explosion so large that it could be heard as far north as southern Vancouver Island.  The mountain has erupted many times in the past – one of which was captured by the well known painter Paul Kane (above) – and will continue to erupt indefinitely.  Many of these eruptions and its fickle nature loom large in oral histories.  The ash from prior eruptions forms important geological marker horizons all over the Northwest.  Judging by this map, there are no known obsidian sources directly associated with Mount St Helens.  These are the more obvious kinds of connections to archaeology and they shouldn’t be discounted. Another approach exemplifies a kind of morbidly creative lateral thinking.

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Crafting an Antler Harpoon Point

Amy Margaris has a nice video online showing the making of a replica barbed bone point, typical of ones used by the Alutiiq People of Alaska’s Kodiak archipelago.  There are lots of flint knapping videos on the web but this is one of the only bone/antler ones I have come across, at least for this area. Shethen  illustrates the different properties of organic materials by hurling them from buildings, which is a nice touch. Following Dr Margaris’ links takes us to the Alutiiq Museum website, which is a very well done set of pages, informative and up to date, covering everything from collections management to repatriation and reburial to mini-reports on digs such as the well-illustrated one at Horseshoe Bay.  My only complaint is, Alutiiq web site folks: don’t bother with the little flash gizmo to make the pictures pop up, they are annoying. They are doubly annoying when the pop-up picture is no bigger than the thumbnail!  What is wrong with people putting these tiny thumbnails up and restricting access to anything finer — you are selling your own research short and making it less likely your website will be visited via links.  If it goes on the web, it is implicit you want people to know, so can the obfuscation and speak in your very best voice!