|30 August 2009
Spear tip sheds light on ancient people in Arizona
A rare architectural relic discovered in Sahuarita and on its way to the Arizona State Museum in Tucson (USA) could help illuminate the way early humans lived in this part of the state. A Clovis point spearhead was recovered near Sahuarita this month. The artifact itself isn't so exceptional - they're found all over North America. What's significant is where it was found, said Arthur Vokes, who has curated the museum's architectural repository for nearly 30 years. The white rock spearhead, roughly two inches long and an inch wide and missing its tip, likely dates back 11,000 to 13,000 years when the earliest well-established human inhabitants of North America fastened objects like it to the end of wood poles and hurled them at mammoths, bears and other large prey.
These Clovis people, as they're now called, are the predecessors of the ancestors of Native Americans. They hunted and gathered all over the continent and in the Southwest. As a result, the bulk of the state's Clovis points are found at mammoth kill-sites near Naco and Sierra Vista. But a find in the Tucson basin, which roughly covers the area between the Santa Rita Mountains and north Tucson, could indicate a broader inhabitancy, Vokes said. "Human beings have been in this region for about 11,000 years or so," he said. "It does reflect the age of regular occupation here." And by examining the type of rock the point is made out of, Vokes said he could learn about ancient trade and hunting routes.
The spearhead was discovered during a routine archaeological survey on Arizona State Trust land by an environmental consulting company, said Steve Ross, an archaeologist with the State Land Department. It's distinguishable from more contemporary arrowheads because it's larger and matches a style of tool construction used by ancient people halfway around the world. "Through research they've traced this type of point-making back to the Asia area," Ross said. "So as they migrated over the land bridge (between modern-day Russia and Alaska,) they brought this type of point-making with them."
The spear tip was found on the surface, not "in-place" - the archaeological term for in the ground - but if more spearheads start turning up "in place" in this area, it could be meaningful, said Vance Holliday, a professor of anthropology and geosciences at the University of Arizona. "There's only a dozen, dozen and a half, sites that we have found and studied where we find Clovis artifacts in place," he said. "So finding another one could be a very, very big deal." Vokes said when the Clovis point arrives at the Arizona State Museum, it will be studied and may even go on public display.
Source: The Sahuarita Sun (22 August 2009)
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