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Spear Point May Be Oldest Idaho Human Artifact

September 13, 2005

SALMON, Idaho (AP) — The discovery of a carved obsidian spear point indicates that the earliest humans in what is now Idaho apparently spent time in the area’s mountains as well as its canyons.

The spear point, believed to be 11,000 years old, was found last year just west of the Idaho-Montana border in the Beaverhead Mountains southeast of Salmon. If proved to be that age, it would be the oldest example of humans in that area, said Lane Allgood, a spokesman for North Wind, a company hired to help the Bureau of Land Management to investigate the cultural resources of the area.

Denise Stark, an environmental planner and archaeological technician with North Wind, found the point just below the ridge line of the Continental Divide. Following protocol, she left it on the mountain, and North Wind retrieved it a year later only after analysis and authorization by the BLM.

“I could see why they were hunting here, but it was rugged,” Stark said. “I just kept thinking these people must have been nuts.”

The age of the point was determined first by its shape and then by its similarity to a spear point discovered at Coopers Ferry on the Lower Salmon River, about 25 miles to the west. The shape suggested the spear point was of the Lind Coulee type, named for its discovery site in Washington state. It dates to the late Pleistocene period, when its makers used the spear to hunt big game, including now extinct forms of bison, elephants, camel, horse, mountain sheep, elk and deer.

Archaeologists at the Coopers Ferry site were able to carbon date materials at that site, setting the age at 11,000 years old.

“They are the least-known people from an archaeological standpoint,” said Bill Harding, an archaeologist for North Wind. “If it holds up it is concurrent with the Clovis people recognized as the oldest people in North America.”

The Clovis People were a mammoth-hunting nomadic group that likely came over the Bering Strait to North America.

Steve Wright, an archaeologist with the BLM Salmon field office, said if the point is of the Lind Coulee type, it will be among the earliest of artifacts recovered in that region.

The BLM hired North Wind to survey the area because it is required to conduct archaeological surveys when planning major work in an area. The agency plans to do a forest restoration project.

After the BLM has completed its analysis of the point, the artifact, an analysis and records of its location will be kept at the Idaho Museum of Natural History on the campus of Idaho State University in Pocatello.




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