Folsom, New Mexico, George Mcjunkin discussed on Bear Grease

Bear Grease


On its plaster cast, and you can see the teeth in here. Wow, right? And there's the back of the skull, so that is a bison and tick with skull from the bullshit. Yep, and it's a big and it's pretty wild being in the same room with the skull of a bison antiques. If you want to see a cell phone video, the skull, you can check out my Instagram clay underscore newcombe. Doctor melzer is a unique guy when it comes to Folsom. The site was originally excavated between 1926 and 1928, but 70 years later there were unanswered questions that he knew our modern techniques and technology could now answer. Primarily carbon dating, which we'll talk about more in part three of this series. Like a dramatic movie sequel in 1997, doctor melzer and his team went back to Folsom. They dug up the place again with new questions about the site's geology, its antiquity, which is the site's age. The paleo topography, which is its former geography, and its depositional history, which basically means the layers that covered the site. Here's doctor melzer talking about the uniqueness of the Folsom site. For 50 years, there had been this very heated debate over how long people had been in the Americas and all manner of contenders were put forward. This is evidence that people have been here since the pleistocene. This is evidence that people have been here for 300,000 years. Here's evidence that people have been here for 350,000 years, but in each and every instance those sites failed to prove what they were claimed to prove, and they failed because of various reasons. The artifacts weren't actually artifacts. The artifacts were not in the geological deposits that were said to be that old. The artifacts had rolled downhill and ended up next to ancient animal remains, but they were not necessarily in what we call primary context. That is to say they didn't enter the deposit. At the same time, as those ancient animals enter the deposit. And so you had literally decades of people arguing back and forth over how long people had been in the Americas. When Folsom came along, it was just as advertised. What you had was a spot on the landscape where hunters had confronted and killed a herd of bison. We now know there were about 32 animals that were dispatched that day. And in the process, left behind their artifacts in ways that made it absolutely clear that those animals and those people had been on that very landscape at the same moment in time because we had spear points, what we now know is false and fluted points in direct association with the bones and what I mean by that is we had a projectile point in between ribs. It had sat there since that animal was killed, right? There was no question that that was some sort of adventitious association that somehow a projectile point had worked its way down into the dirt into the earth ten feet below the surface and ended up in between two bison ribs. Right. No, that animal was stabbed by a human, and because that animal was a now extinct form of bison, which went extinct at the end of the pleistocene. That was the first absolutely definitive proof that people had been in the Americas at the end of the pleistocene. The only question remaining after that was how much earlier might they have been? Right. But that's what made fulsome different. It was just as advertised. When you look back at the history of archeology itself as a study, there was an incredible amount of drama and ego involved in the discussion of human antiquity. It was highly competitive regarding who discovered what and where. So it's hard to overstate how important the find was because it was so indisputable. Here's another component of understanding Folsom and archeology that will help us. This is Steve describe into us what is called a type site. A lot of bygone cultures will have a thing called the type site. The type site is where they were identified. When we talk about Folsom hunters, the fulsome culture was identified at, wild horse Arroyo, your fulsome, New Mexico, was when it was first identified. The identifying feature of the Folsom culture. I was called Folsom hunters. And they took the name Folsom simply because that was the English name of the town. Sure, that was probably a brand new town. That has nothing to do as a descriptor of these people. Not at all. Just to keeping in the same state. It's the same point in the same state. When we talk about a Clovis hunter, it just so happens that the projectile points which stand for the hunters that made them were first identified near Clovis, New Mexico. They were there over 10,000 years before anyone even thought to name to make it to the place clothes. We happened to right now doing our conversation about Folsom near shattering Nebraska. Were you and I had to walk out and find holy cow. Look at this insane projectile point. Diagnostic, unfound point. And then we realized it was this whole culture of people and they made this point. They might wind up calling them the shattering hunters. I think they'd call it brunel newcombe. Okay. But if they were consistent with the days of yore, that's what they would wind up name them. Folsom hunters were identified near false New Mexico and so they the name, the nearby town name was applied to the culture. When we talk about a culture atom, like, what do you imagine? A culture of people. We know them when we see them based on the point. With our understanding right now, it's the point. The point has to be present. The projectile point that they like to make has to be present, meaning, if we know that the wholesome culture was active, 11,700 years ago. If you went down to South Florida and found a human campsite from 11,700 years ago that had a different projectile point, you wouldn't call it a Folsom site. Okay, so it's not two. Yeah, it's not when it's who and when. It describes a culture just like the culture of us to drive Chevrolet pickups. Sure, and there's another culture in France that drives some other kind of pickup. The Folsom culture is identified by the type of technology they use when making stone points, but this culture was also associated with something else, much bigger. They were tightly associated with a relics form of bison called bison antiques. Not something that went extinct, a relic form of the animal that lives here now. It was bigger, had different sort of horn configuration. It was about 25% bigger. They call it like bison antiquus. They had a lot of fidelity to a certain style of point. They had a lot seems to have a lot of fidelity to bison and they lived and what is now the American great plains. That's where they're found. So you can find them in the Panhandle of Texas. You can find them in New Mexico. You can find them in Montana. You can find Folsom points in southern Saskatchewan. You can find them all way the western Nebraska, but they stayed to the great plains. Where the most of the planes buffalo were. Yeah. And at the time, it was probably cooler and wetter, but it was an open grassland, and it was just going by how few Folsom sites there are and how widely dispersed they are and kind of the imprint of those people. It was probably insanely low population densities. I can't no one can say this for real, but I've run this by professional anthropologists. It's not unreasonable to think that a band of these hunters, which would be an extended family group. These bands of people, it makes sense that they were maybe they maybe didn't exceed ten or 20 individuals. It's not unreasonable to imagine that they could go a generation without it encountering individuals that you're not immediately related to. It seems very few people occupying that landscape at that time. Take a minute and imagine the North American continent 10,300 years ago with human populations that scarce. By the time Europeans arrived here, roughly 10,000 years after the Folsom bison kill, which would be about 600 plus years from the present backwards from the present. The place was basically like an urban center crawling with people. The civilization of the American Indians was in full swing at highly developed compared to when the Folsom hunters were here. Some American Indians are undoubtedly the descendants of the Folsom hunters. Wildly, though, of all the things these Folsom hunters used in life, there is one thing that has outlasted the rigor of time that we infer an incredible amount of data from. One of the things I like about the projectile point, since it's made of stone and it lasts a long time. So it winds up being some people that are ninja what we'd call Indian arrowheads. Sometimes don't get the fascination with it. A way to think about it, it's not so much that it's the arrowhead. It's just a piece of something that survived sometimes in a perfect state from the time they handled it. Their bones are gone, to large measure, they're homes and structures, the things they wore, the wood that they employed, I'd be as excited to find a spear shaft, but they're not laying around. It's like, but here's the thing that a guy can drop that thing. And it's considered for 12,000 years. What other thing can you drop on the ground? We talk about how long our stuff lasts, right? How long plastic glass? You set a plastic bottle. Underground for 12,000 years to come back and look at it. There might be something, but it ain't gonna look like a portable. Imagine archeologists 10,000 years from now. Well, I doubt this place will be around. But them taking just one of your material possessions and making vast inferences about your entire life from it. I wonder what they'd say. I had some questions about how an archeological site is verified, so it's legitimacy is known. I think it's important for us to understand the bigger picture of what's happening here beyond some dudes digging up bones and finding stone points, Q, the Randy Travis song. It's a pretty complex world and there were many missteps in early archeology and in the original excavation of the Folsom site that almost disqualified it. So from an archeological process, there's a prescribed way that a site should be excavated and understood. As I understand it, there were other sites in Texas and Nebraska and maybe even in Kansas that potentially had similar type evidence of humans in these older animals that are now extinct, but they were mishandled and so they have to be it's like evidence coming into a courtroom that was acquired the wrong way in the judge goes. I can't use this. That's exactly how it played out. But we also need to put a little bit of historical context here. This is the late 1890s, early 1900s, the teens. There weren't clear cut methods for field excavation. A lot of these excavations were not conducted by what we would now recognize as sort of professional scientists, professional archeologists, professional geologists, and they didn't know what they were doing. It's really what it came down to. So we had this site out in Frederick, Oklahoma, where it was a gravel quarry. And the folks who were working the gravel query said, oh yeah, we've got artifacts associated with mammoth bones. Well, you know, it requires a certain amount of expertise to sort of really be able to in an excavation know, okay, these are deposits of a certain age. These are things that are associated with those deposits. We know that they belong in those deposits. And so because there were not agreed upon field techniques and clear cut field techniques at the time, and because some of these discoveries were made by folks who really didn't understand what they were seeing. And they weren't even archeologists. You know, they're guys that work at the quarry. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And they're just their job is just to shovel that stuff out of the way. So you find an artifact in the spoil pile over here and you find some bones in the spoil pile over there. That doesn't mean that that artifact and that bone were associated back 20,000 years ago, 15,000 years ago. In retrospect, a couple of those sites, not the one in Frederick, but one out in Colorado city, Texas. In retrospect, we looked at the artifacts and we said, well, you know what? There is a possibility those artifacts could have been associated with that bison. But the problem was, in 1924, and this is a few years before Folsom, the bison was being excavated by a fella, who was just a local guy. He had discovered this bison in this creek bed and he wrote to the museum and said, you guys want it. So the folks folks in Denver said, yeah, we'd really like to have that bison skeleton. And they gave him instructions on how to get it out of the ground, plaster it, and put it into crates and ship it up to Denver. He excavates the bison, plasters it up. He puts it into a crate and the crate had been, you know, the folks in Denver had said make a crate, you know, this big by this big by this big, and so he had this giant plastered bison. Couldn't fit it into a crate. Instead of building a bigger crate, he simply knocked off chunks of the bone. Shoved it in there. So this was not done well, right? And even though they found artifacts with the bison, they didn't realize that that was of interest, or significance. Wow. And so they just ignored them, and it was only after the fact somebody was visiting Denver and said, hey, you know, I'd watched your guys excavate this thing down in Texas and did you know they have points that came out with the bison and the folks in Denver said, we had no clue. So, you know, you can't basic case for people having been here a very long time ago or hunting bison or a very long time ago when you had that kind of excavation. And so that very well could have been a totally legitimate site. And I think it is actually the Folsom site was originally excavated by an amateur archeologist named Karl shwa heim. He was a friend of George's. He was hired by the Denver museum of natural history to get them a bison antiquis skeleton. But while he was digging, he found a stone point. He made some sketches and notified the museum in this really perk their ears up and they told him if you find another one, Carl don't dig it up, leave it in place. Luckily, he did find another one, and they were able to send down a bona FIDE archeologist to verify in situ or in place. This then attracted the attention of the world. But I've got more questions. You know, and that brings me to kind of my biggest overarching question inside archeology that is just so it's intriguing to think about this is that how much of Planet Earth have we excavated to understand what is here. I mean, it feels like we're just going off these very like if you took the volume of the earth and said, how much of that volume has a professional archeologist in modern times actually excavated? It would be a number so small, it would be unbelievable. And so we're basing so much of what we know off these little bitty spots, but who's to say there's not another incredible spot 50 feet from the Folsom site that's gonna redirect history again. But you're absolutely right. A lot of these sites are deeply buried. A lot of these sites will never see the surface again. A lot of these sites disappeared over time. You've got erosion. If you were around on the high plains in the 1930s during the dust bowl, it would have been the worst time to live there, but it would have been the best time to do archeology there. Because what was happening was that basically the surface is blowing away. And what it did was is exposed. A lot of these old ice age pleistocene age, Lake beds, and they're all manner of bones and artifacts that came out of these sites, but of course once all that stops blowing, a lot of the archeological discovery is necessarily based on chance encounters where you've got ranchers that are putting in a stock tank. You've got farmers that are plowing. You've got a road that's getting cut, and you just get lucky. Or a George mcjunkin exactly a cult of wild horse aro. You know, George mcjunkin is such an interesting character to me. You know, this is a guy who is clearly really intrigued and interested and fascinated and wants to learn about what's around him. So he was the right guy at the right moment in the right spot. And it changed American archeology. We just can't get away from old George now can we? I kind of get obsessed with these characters that's not learn about them. And I'm considering a junk and tattoo. That. That's not true. I don't do tats. But I do need some more info on the actual site. From this, I think we'll begin to understand how archeologists think. Let's talk in specifics about the Folsom site and what was found there. So this flood in 1908, unearthed these bones that George mcjunkin found. So we know how they were found in the series, but what did they find there? So the initial excavations at Folsom took place in 1926, 1927, in 1928 as well. Unfortunately, the site was excavated by paleontologists. The site was excavated by folks that were interested in bones. And while they did a decent job, they, well, the term is telling. They referred to the Folsom site as the Folsom bone quarry. Their quarrying bone out of this thing. So they're not viewing it as an archeological site where it archeological site meaning it has evidence of humans. Well, I mean, they saw it as a bone query that had evidence of humans. But what they weren't doing was paying really close attention to the things that we as archeologists pay attention to. Where exactly were those artifacts found? How were the bones distributed? This is one of the things that really challenged us when we started excavating there was that there's basically where no maps of their excavations. Now we're archeologists. We're fairly compulsive about things. We're fairly compulsive about a lot of things, because when you're excavating an archeological site, you're destroying it. So you've got to make very, very careful records all the way through the process. Maps, photographs, detailed measurements, all this stuff. And the folks who were basically quarrying this for bone, were doing none of that. And so when we started, they had identified on their maps, here's a skeleton here. Here's a skeleton here. Here's a skeleton over here. They weren't nice discreet skeletons of animals. These were bone piles and they hadn't quite recognized that these were discard piles. They were not, you know, here's an animal stretched out on the ground. And of course, you know, they weren't paying attention to a lot of the things that we only subsequently started paying attention to, like, what's the surface condition of the bone? Because that tells you something about how long it was sitting out, exposed before it got covered by the sediment. They weren't really paying much attention to the sediment itself. What's the nature of the sediment? How did it originate? Why is the site in this particular spot? Where did the kill take place? There were so many unanswered questions. The thing that they did in the 1920s was they clearly showed people who had been here since the pleistocene. They did that just fine. But there were so many questions about the site that were unanswered. That's why I went back 70 years later because I said, you know, it's the most famous site in North America, one of the most famous sites in North America, and we know almost nothing about it in terms of what we hope and expect to know nowadays about an archeological site. It's funny, in 1928, when they finished up the excavations, barnum Brown, who had been in charge, said, there's nothing left. Don't bother to come here. We've excavated the whole thing. What I realized, and this was actually before we went out there. I was talking to a vertebrate paleontologist here at the university. And he said, oh, barnum Brown said that about all his sites. And the reason he said that about all his sights is he didn't want anybody coming in after him to go to dig the sites. So he said, you can probably ignore that. Wow, I bet that was encouraging. How many more bison did you discover when you did the excavations in the late 90s? Well, because we know there were a bison kill of 32 animals. We know that now. And so how many did they find and how many did you find? Well, so this gets back to the issue of they were just counting a pile of bones as an animal, right? They didn't really have a clear sense of how many animals they were. They had a clear sense of how many animal piles, how many bones that there were. But they did estimate that they were probably at least a couple of dozen. Okay. What we did and this is sort of the typical way in which you estimate the number of animals that were once present in a kill is that you take bones that, well, in this case, we were taking basically bison ankles. So bison have two ankles, a left and a right. And so what you do is you count up how many right ankles you have or how many left ankles you have. And you say, okay, I got 32 right ankles, or I got 30 right ankles and 32 left ankles. Well, there wasn't an animal walking around on three legs. You probably had 32 animals. I say, where did they teach you this kind of reasoning, doctor Meltzer? This is brilliant. No, well, it's not me. But see, this is the kind of thing that you didn't do in the 1920s. Yeah. This is why we had to go back. And in fact, by literally counting up all of the elements, that gave us insight into what the hunters were eating and what they took off site because you know, okay, so there's 200 plus or minus change of bones in a bison skeleton. There is X number of ribs. There's X number of thoracic vertebra, and so you've got 32 animals. So if you've got 32 animals and X number of ribs, 32 times X gives you the total number of ribs, and then you double it because you got a left side and a right side. So then when you go to the site, and you say, well, I've only got three ribs here. You know what you're missing. They took those ribs with them. And we have pretty clear evidence that these folks were literally taking rib racks off of these animals because we have an undercount of what we ought to have in terms of ribs in terms of thoracic vertebra. Those are the big sort of structural high spinous process ribs on a buffalo hump. That's what makes the hum, right? Yeah. Really good meat there. So we're missing a bunch of upper leg bones. And that's where the bulk of the meat would be in the hams of those big bison. Think of them as bison drum sticks. So when we go to the site, we do all these detailed counts of all the bones, how many should there be? How many are we missing? And are we missing them because of erosion or the bones, you know, fell apart, or are we missing them because the hunters when they did all the women took them with them? Exactly right. We're proud to welcome and introduce a new sponsor. Chevy Silverado, the strongest, most advanced Silverado ever. We all know a Chevy guy amongst our buddies, and this community of die hard, Silverado fans and hunting and fishing continues to grow. True story boys, I bought a brand new Chevy Silverado in 2015. I have now a 176,000 miles on that truck. I have driven it all across the United States of America, hall and mules, no joke, four trips to Montana, trip to Colorado, trip to New Mexico, hall and mules, and I've never done anything to that truck, but changed the old service to transmission and put a new set of brakes on it. No joke. I love my Chevy Silverado. 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So doctor melzer never fully got to the answer of my question about how many more bison he found when he redoubted fulsome. We need some answers, Doc. How many bison did your team find that were not found in the original excavations? Because an estimate. I mean, did you find 5 more? Well, whole skeletons are numbers of bones. Well, how many bison skulls did you find that they had not found? Oh, let me think about that. You know, usually the people that I deal with doctor Meltzer kind of can say offhand, how many bison and tick with skulls they found in their life? You're the only one I've talked to that it's like, well, I don't know. You know, I talked to a guy on one of my previous mercury's podcasts and I asked him how many times he'd been bit by venomous snakes. Oh, and he said, he said, I don't know. I've lost count. And he had been bit about 20 venomous snakes in his life. 20 plus. You're kind of like that guy. Well, you know, I'm talking about mister Fred lali from episode 12. Actually, I have the total numbers. So the Colorado museum collected 1600 elements, the American museum, 2000. We collected about 700. So there's a total of about 4300 bison elements. So you probably found 20% more roughly. Yeah. Mind you, we're not finding whole bison and complete parts. So we found about 17 cranial parts. We found at least three. Yeah, we have at least three intact crania, and many more exciting to dig up a bison skull. Were you there when were you the one digging when this happened? Actually, no, I got out of the way. So did your team find any points? No. Was that surprising to you? No. And the reason is, is that they literally had excavated back in the 1920s, most of the site. So if you imagine a kill site with that many animals, I guess there would be a central area and then kind of fringe animals out to the side of it and you guys kind of were finding well leftovers. We were finding the leftovers of the excavation, rather than the leftovers of the kill because I think we were in an area of the kill where a lot of the processing and butchering was taking place, but because we were where the area of processing and butchering was taking place, there weren't necessarily points there. Okay, so let's think about this in terms of a bison kill. Okay, so we've got a conundrum. We have no way of knowing really what happened that day in the fall some 10,000 years ago. I wanted to get some clarity from doctor melzer about what we 100% know. So we're trying to make sense of how the heck that these ancient humans could have killed that many big animals in one spot. How certain are you your hypothesis? I mean, when you really think about the amount of evidence that we have, and the kind of conclusions that we're coming to, it's kind of mind boggling to me because we have bones and we have points. We have the topography and now you have in depth researched what the land would look like at that time from the excavations that you've done. How certain are you? I mean, you being the chief authority on this. Are you just guessing? Okay. How it went down. That's inference, right? How they made the kill. The time of the year, they made the kill. Did they maneuver the animals and killed them in the Arroyo, or did they kill them in the tributary? I have to infer that, right? Okay, so that part. Absolutely. And in fact, when we wrote all this up in the Folsom book, you know, I made it clear. Here's one alternative explanation. Here's another. Now, the first part of your question was, am I sure this is a kill of 32 animals? Yes, absolutely. Yes, yes. Yeah, because there's no other way to account for it, right? So one of the things that we do as archeologists is, okay, you've always got to make sure that things are not there naturally. Before you can conclude that they're there culturally that is to say before you can conclude that they're there as a consequence of.

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