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21 September 2008
Early Paleoindians hunters may have relied on rabbits

Clovis points are the hallmark of one of America's earliest cultures: the Paleoindians. Since archaeologists found Clovis points lodged in the skeleton of a mammoth, they have viewed Paleoindians as big-game hunters par excellence. Nearly every book on the subject includes an image of a brawny hunter thrusting his spear into the side of a trumpeting mammoth. This macho view of Paleoindian prehistory has prevailed even though surprisingly little evidence exists to support it.
     In a study published in the October issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science, Kent State University archaeologist Mark Seeman and several co-researchers wrote of Paleoindian stone tools from the Nobles Pond site in Stark County. They reported the discovery of blood residue on eight Clovis points. Four were stained with the blood of a variety of relatively large mammals, including both cervid (caribou, deer or elk) and bison blood on one point, bison blood on another, bear blood on a third, and white-tailed deer blood on the fourth. But the blood on the other four points was rabbit.
     Seemingly disappointed with these results, Seeman and his colleagues attempted to downplay the rabbit blood and to emphasize the importance of the big game. But perhaps the predominance of rabbit blood on the Clovis points is telling us that Paleoindians weren't so macho after all. Among the Cree Indians of northern Ontario, for example, hare was one of the most important animals in their diet. One Cree man told the anthropologist Bruce Winterhalder that his family had lived "almost entirely on hare" for most of one winter. Hares typically are caught in snares that can be set by women and adolescents. So another reason why the importance of hare blood on Clovis points, or knives, should not be diminished is that it might provide a window onto the contributions of these often-forgotten members of Paleoindian societies.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch (16 September 2008)

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