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Archaeologists on the trail of a little-known ancient culture have found a cache of clues that may help unlock its secrets: a cave containing hundreds of children’s moccasins.
The cave, on the shore of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, was first excavated in the 1930s, but the artifacts found there — and the questions that they raised — were largely forgotten until recently.
Dr. Jack Ives of the University of Alberta and his colleagues resumed excavations in the cave in 2011 to better understand its occupants, some of whom Ives believes may have been part of one of the greatest human migrations in the continent’s history.
The site — part of a complex of natural shelters known as the Promontory Caves — contains “exceedingly abundant” artifacts numbering in the thousands, Ives said, marking a human occupation that began rather suddenly about 850 years ago.
This wealth of artifacts may go a long way in demystifying the distinctive, little-researched populations often referred to as the Promontory Culture.
“The beauty of the Promontory Culture is, probably 99 percent of the material culture that the people used was perishable,” Ives said in an interview.
“So, normally in the archaeological record, we only see the durable items — the pottery, the stone tools, the animal bones.
“[But] we have, with the Promontory Culture, spectacularly, more material culture, so we can see all aspects of daily life, together with nuances likely to reflect different cultural identities.”
Large piles of butchered bison and elk bones, for example, suggest that the Promontory lifestyle was based, almost exclusively and quite successfully, on big-game hunting, while other groups around them were farming and foraging.
Scant ceramic sherds and basket fragments, meanwhile, bear strong signs of influence from other Great Basin cultures, including the Fremont.
But it was the staggering amount of footwear in the caves that captured the attention of archaeologists, past and present.
With soles made from a single piece of bison leather, lined with fur, and sewn together at the heel, the moccasins are made in a style typical of the Canadian Subarctic, Ives said, a fashion his team describes as being “decidedly out of place in the eastern Great Basin.”
These moccasins and other cues have led some experts to theorize that the caves’ inhabitants were part of a great migration from the far north, a wave of people who moved into the Great Basin in the 12th and 13th centuries, and eventually gave rise to cultures that include the Apache and the Navajo.
To better understand the role that the Promontory may have played in this event, Ives and his colleagues used the moccasins to gauge the size and makeup of their population.
This was a time, Ives points out, when other cultures in North America’s interior were undergoing dramatic changes, as a drying climate and shifting social landscapes forced entire communities to relocate, most notably among the Ancestral Puebloans.
[Read about two new Puebloan villages found last summer: "Twin 1,300-Year-Old Villages Discovered in Arizona Sand Dunes"]
“It’s a tumultuous time period in which this is happening,” he said.
“We know there’s a significant environmental change going on.”
And yet, the large number of children in the Promontory population — along with other clues like the abundance of burned bones of large game — suggest that the Promontory people were “thriving,” Ives said.
originally posted by: bigfatfurrytexan
Interesting thread...bumping to see if there is more input.
At the moment, this is my top interest. What the native americans were doing, and how the turbidity in their migration created the tribes we found.
Of supreme interest: what tribes led into the Aztecs.
Five of the human skeletons at the site were from burials. The remaining seven exhibited many signs of cannibalism including defleshing, fragmentation of long bones to extract marrow, chopped, cut, and blackened bones. A stone tool kit appropriate for butchering a mid-sized mammal was found.(3)The initial excavation was supervised by University of North Carolina archaeologist Brian Billman, employed by a private firm contracted by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. The land on which the site was located is within the Ute Mountain Indian Reservation and was owned by a local Ute religious leader, who supervised the dig and reburied the bones once the examination was complete.(4)
What is particularly interesting about the Cowboy Wash site is that it appears to have been abandoned very quickly. Generally, the ancient peoples would have taken all salvageable materials with them, yet the excavators found everything had been left behind.
To investigate the theory that cannibalism had been practiced at the Cowboy Wash site, Richard Marlar, a University of Colorado molecular biologist examined the coprolite (fossilized human feces) found on site and discovered it tested positive for human myoglobin, which is found in human muscle tissue. This type of myoglobin was not found in 20 'control' coprolites in comparable sites.(7) This indicated the feces contained the remains of digested human flesh. Malar also found the myoglobin protein during a chemical analysis of a cooking pot at the ancient Anasazi site.
Of supreme interest: what tribes led into the Aztecs.
originally posted by: punkinworks10
The word Aztlan, literally means, "the land of blue herons", and according to their mythos aztlan lay to the north of the valley of mexico.
Last year researchers found that the drepession that filled in to form the salton sea, was a fresh water lake up to about 1000-1200 ad, and the most prominent shore bird found their was the great blue heron. The lake dried up during the same drought that led to conflict among the peubloans.
A recent proposal by David L. Shaul presents evidence suggesting contact between proto-Uto-Aztecan and languages of central California such as Esselen and the Yokutsan languages. This leads Shaul to suggest that proto-Uto-Aztecan was spoken in California's Central Valley area, and formed part of an ancient Californian linguistic area.