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Clovis and Folsom Peoples

The Clovis and Folsom hunters are well known as the Paleo-Indian hunters who chased down the massive big game and dwarf mammals of the Ice Age. Lions then were twice their size now, the mammoths lumbered across the icy ground, and the ancestors of today's horses were miniature relatives that, like the lion and mammoth, became extinct in North America by the end of the Ice Age.

The Clovis and Folsom sites found across North America are identified by the type of spear points they left behind. But the name Clovis and Folsom, while used to describe people all over the continent, are actually named after two specific sites first found in New Mexico in the Rio Grande Valley. In the Camp's geology section, we study how the Colorado Plateau was lifted up a mile in the sky due to the clashing of the continental plates out in California. When this lifting occurred, a large rift opened up and the Rio Grande river flowed down this rift towards the gulf of Mexico. Along this rift, a valley formed, and in this valley, the camps of the Clovis and Folsom peoples have been discovered in New Mexico.

Spearheads

Clovis hunters manufactured a long, distinct stone spear head with an indented channel (called a flute) that enabled them to securely attach the spear point to a strong, long wooden spear shaft. These spear heads date from 9500-9000 BC.

Folsom hunters manufactures a shorter spear tip that had a 'flute' nearly the entire length of the spear head. These date 9000-8000 BC.

Materials used for the spear heads were chalcedonies, jaspers, petrified wood, and some obsidians. The colors of the spear points range across the rainbow of stone colors, and over all, their points were of a softer materials than those to follow, and were generally not reusable once they had hit animal bone.

What Paleontologists and Archaeologist Find

Often the first evidence of a Clovis or Folsom Paleo-Indian site is a prehistoric animal bone protruding out of the soil after a rainstorm - the skull and tusk of a mammoth, the bones of a horse, the horn of a bison, or the remains of a tapir are an example. Upon closer examination, the paleontologists who study the animal bones, then discover that there are many of these ancient mammals all together in one place. Then they find human-made stone spear tips, scraping tools, bone sewing tools, and firepits. And upon further excavation, they may even find the holes from the tent poles that provided a shelter for these prehistoric hunters of the late Ice Age.

The Clovis and Folsom hunters did not live in permanent villages. They roamed vast areas of North America, following the game, setting up temporary camps as they went. Sometimes they stored materials at these camps to come back to later. In their time there were no state boundaries, North America was one vast open wilderness.

But not all Paleo-Indians spent all of their time tracking big game. In Southern Arizona, south of where the great ice sheets ever reached, archeologists have discovered the Ventana cave site that contains plant grinding stones and Clovis spear points. This suggests that in the south, where it was warmer, even in the Ice Age, people gathered plants for food as well as hunting game.