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16 September 2011
Rare artifacts document Colorado's prehistory

In 2008 a landowner in Boulder, Colorado (USA), called Patrick Mahaffy, hired a contractor to landscape part of his land and dig out a pond. The contractor stopped digging when he heard an unexpected noise. He had uncovered a hoard of Stone Age tools, which later became known as the 'Mahaffy Cache'. 83 stone age tools were found, in total, dating back to the Pleistocene Era, approximately 11,000 BCE, when the Clovis people inhabited the area.
     The tools were made of a local Colorado material known as Kremmling chert and had been carefully made to fit comfortably into the palm of a hand and so were believed to be butchering rather than hunting tools. Analysis was carried out by the Laboratory of Archaeological Science at California Statew University, on the protein residue which was found on the tools. This analysis confirmed that they had been used to butcher a range of prehistoric mammals, or megafauna, which were prevalent in North America at that time.
     This find was important as it is one of only a few Clovis artifacts ever found in North America. The Clovis people were once thought to be the first people to populate North America, but it is now believed that a different 'Pre-Clovis' people got their first. They were big game hunters and evidence of them has been found from southern Canada through to northern Mexico. In fact the name Clovis is taken from the site in New Mexico where they were first found. Their culture was very short lived (from between 300 to 500 years) and they are believed to have become extinct after an asteroid landed on a glacier in Canada, with catrastrophic environmental effect.
     The landowner, Patrick Mahaffy, was a biotechnology enterepreneur and he must have been quite affecrted by his find as, shortly afterwards, he named his company 'Clovis Oncology'.

Edited from Daily Camera (9 September 2011)

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