Monkey Business in the Pre-Clovis Controversy

A recent NYTimes article jumps onto the pre-clovis bandwagon. The reporter focuses on the Pedra Furuda archeo sites in Brazil.

The article quoted two of the antagonistes in the first Americans controversy, Stuart Fiedel and Tom Dillehay. Fiedel said that monkeys might be responsible for the lithics found at the Pedra Furuda site. Dillehay said that was “stupid.” The image below is a diagram of a Pedra Furuda stone tool and at right is today’s monkey knapper that live in the area.

capuchinpedrafurada (1)

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Crowdfunding Campaign Blows Pass Goal!

I am thrilled and relieved that the campaign has exceeded its goal. Yesterday I shipped two carbon samples and may do another one by the end of the week. The second sample recently shipped (and not mentioned in the campaign information) is from the Palisades Park. My notes on this sample:

3) Carbon sample from the trench.
Location recovered: Palisades Park, retaining wall for the soccer field
Comments: The area cleared for the soccer field was initially removed of topsoil,(approximately 2-3 feet). However, a trench was dug for the foundation of the retaining wall, which went down another 4-5 feet. The trench ran perpendicular to a rivulet. The depression of the rivulet resulted in a deeper soil horizon. The sample was found in the transition zone between the inorganic clay zone and the soil horizon above. It was partially embedded in the clay stratum, and located directly below (within 2 inches) of a nice rhyolite point. I have had several archaeologists look at the stone point, but identification is elusive. Some have said it’s Lamoka, others have suggested it’s from the Woodland period. It does have a general shape of Lamoka, but unlike other Lamokas found at the park, it is very well made. The “Lamoka” points I have seen are generally pretty crude. I’ve also noticed that “Lamoka” spans a fairly long period of time 5500 – 3500 B.P so maybe it can be identified to a more specific Lamoka type. The depth of the find suggests that it should be the oldest artifact and carbon sample. I am unsure if its location near the rivulet compromises the stratigraphy however.

The aformentioned point associated with this sample is a real beauty – and if hafted today, would still be deadly.

Rhyolite spear point

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Crowdfunding, continued

Since figuring out how to author my own campaign on WordPress, I’ve chosen to cut out the middlemen (Kickstarter, Indiegogo). I am publicizing the campaign today and also working out some issues with my crowdfunding website. I hope to broaden the methods of payment.

Oh yeah, I’d also like to mention that the Luau-party reward will include my homemade beer and a contest for guessing the date of the carbon sample. Take that Kickstarter!

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Radiocarbon Dating, a Crowd-sourced Campaign

Besides collecting prehistoric artifacts over the past decade, I have also bagged and catalogued carbon samples from different sites in the Palisades.  One of the most interesting samples (now wrapped in aluminum foil) is from my neighbor’s house during the construction of a new home.   This property on Potomac Ave.  is close to the precipitice of the palisades bluff, and likely very close to a small stream that tumbled down to what is now Chain Bridge on the Potomac River.   Demolition of the existing house and subsequent “stop work order” during excavation allowed me the opportunity to explore the property for nearly a year.   During this time, I peeled back partially excavated walls and found several artifacts along with an unusual bone and charcoal feature.

This feature sat at the bottom of the stratigraphic layer containing prehistoric artifacts (a Palmer Point, MacCorkle Point), and directly above red clay (free of any organics) layer.  The date from this carbon should put a temporal “floor” to the site and perhaps the Palisades’ prehistory in general. It’s rare to find ancient bone in our acidic soils, and its existence is thanks to having been (over?)cooked in the past.

From my notes when I catalogued the carbon sample:
Carbon and bone Location recovered: 5743 Potomac Ave. Comments: The sample consists of bone, charcoal, and dirt. The bone pieces vary in size, from 1.5 inch to miniscule. Two different archaeologist have looked at the bones. Dr. Fiedel offered only the observation that the bones are hollow, and therefore perhaps a bird. Jack Cresson believes it is a “large mammal” perhaps like a “raccoon” and that the hollows are the result of the soft part of the bone disintegrating. The charcoal is less plentiful. The dirt sometimes appears to be rusty and spongelike. The feature was found approximately 5.5 feet below the surface during the excavation of a new home. At about 4 feet below the surface was the old soil horizon which was about 18 inches deep. Below that was red clay on top of which the feature was found (presumably the oldest stratum). At the same depth, perhaps within 1 or 2 feet of the burnt material, I found a heavily patinated rhyolite ovoidal biface (see below). Other burnt material in the excavated site seems to be associated with the widely distributed FCR, which generally appears higher in the stratigraphy. At the same stratigraphy level as the FCR, a McCorkle type point was found which has an approximate date of about 5,000 – 6,000 BC. The total size of the spherical feature (which included burnt bone and charcoal and whose profile gently dipped down into the red clay stratum) was about 6 inches in diameter.

I have been dying to get this particular sample radiocarbon tested and thought it would be a good crowd-sourced project. With a recently successful luau-style party, I thought a party such as the one I just hosted would be a good way of thanking the contributors. So when I received word from Kickstarter that a luau-style party reward was insufficient for my campaign, I launched another campaign with Indiegogo. This is my second Kickstarter/Amazon attempt and I wonder why they are so concerned with contributor rewards . . . would a promise of kitsch ordered on Amazon be sufficient??? or does a luau party ring too decadent???

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Byproducts of Kalua Pig

I cooked a pig in the ground this past weekend, in what is likely a timeless fashion of cooking large animals.



I updated the procedure to include chicken wire, aluminum foil, and plastic tarps. The 83-pounder was wrapped in banana leaves and chicken wire, stuffed with sizzling hot river boulders, and placed in a brick-lined pit full of rocks and coals.


After fifteen hours we unearthed the beast and the results were delicious.

After the fire died down, most of the river cobbles had been reduced to pieces of fire-cracked rock (“FCR” for those into prehistory). Ancient FCR in the area sometimes produced nice specimens to be worked further into stone tools. In the image below, the top row of rocks are spalls from the pig fire and the bottom row are modified rocks from the adjacent archeological site resting about five feet below the pit.


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Deer Population Observation, Science Fair

My son Max’s science fair project this year touched on the controversial issue of deer population in urban areas. Below is a summary of his observations:

observation extends from Fletchers Boathouse to Washington Canoe Club

observation extends from Fletchers Boathouse to Washington Canoe Club

I stayed on the Capital Crescent Trail, while the boys fanned out between the trail and river. The deer generally coalesced in herds and then trotted in single file between us so counting them was not complicated.




Update . . . Max Dupin’s project is selected for “city-wide” and the crowd go crazy

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More Mark Winn Yard Art

Mark Winn’s latest creation – a bug. Mark’s previous work here and here.



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Palisades Winter Olympics

Today, the Potomac Palisades Winter Olympics were held at Dino Park located between Potomac Ave and Sherier Place. Some of the action below:

Winter Olympic extended sleigh ride competiton





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Happy Valentine’s Day

Team Dupin

Team Dupin

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Pre-Columbian Pottery Sherds

During trips to sunnier climes in the North and Central America, I have noted the ubiquity of pottery sherds on the ground. Places like Tulum have a steady stream of tourist treading all over these artifacts. Sometimes it can be tricky to determine whether the sherds are from pre-columbian societies or more modern, historic times. My latest trip to Costa Rica was no different. On a casual hiking trail in Parque Santa Rosa, a mish-mash of sherds could be found alongside the trail.


The proximity to a historic finca that produced ceramic roof tiles might explain some of the sherds, but further afield in the jungle, I found this sherd jutting out of a dry-stream bank (pictured in the shaded area of the photo).


The large, undecorated sherd must have been part of an enormous pot at one time.



I took the sherd to the ranger station where they put it on display with other local curios.


I asked the rangers about the time frame of the artifacts and the indios indigenous that made them. Their response, presumambly in years, was “billiones.” Okay.

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