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THE AMATEUR ARCHAEOLOGIST ONLINE
The Cumberland/Barnes Tradition: Its Character and Chronological Position within a Greater Fluted Point Tradition
By Richard Michael Gramly
American Society for Amateur Archaeology
North Andover, Massachusetts 01845
The Cumberland point was named in 1954 by Thomas M.N. Lewis for the Cumberland River valley of Tennessee and Kentucky (Lewis 1954: 7-8; Perino 1985: 94). This distinctive point is concentrated within that fertile region, as are the several varieties of Clovis point. Cumberland points are routinely discovered between the Ohio River in the north and the Tennessee River in the south. The Mississippi River is their western boundary; while, the Appalachian Mountain chain is a border on the east and southeast. Very few Cumberland points have been reported for Virginia. However, a lobe of Cumberland-like (Barnes) point find-spots extends from Kentucky northeastward up the Ohio River into Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York State, Vermont, eastern Massachusetts and south-central New Hampshire (Figure 1). The significance of this lobe is open to debate, although I prefer to think it formed some time after initial cultural developments within the Cumberland River “heartland” itself.
Jump link: Figure 1
A variant of the Cumberland point – the Barnes point – was recognized in the Great Lakes region (Michigan and Ontario) by William Roosa (1963) and Henry T. Wright (Wright and Roosa 1966). Afterward, the distinguishing attributes between Cumberland and derivative Barnes points were made known. Key differences are the “Barnes finishing” technique, which may be observed upon the base of most Barnes points (Roosa 1977; Roosa and Deller 1982), and the lesser thickness of the Barnes type. Analysis of the assemblage of Barnes fluted points from the Thedford II site, Ontario (Deller and Ellis 1992) supports the argument that Cumberland and Barnes points are likely end-members (types) of a common industrial or cultural tradition.
Both Cumberland and Barnes types are present in Kentucky and Tennessee with Barnes points being the predominant, if not exclusive, form farther north in the formerly glaciated Great Lakes region. With these facts in mind, one is inclined to believe that evolution from one form to the other occurred within a Cumberland “core area” in the mid-South – somewhere south of the Ohio River. Afterward the evolved Barnes form was carried northward by colonizers. This line of reasoning would be strengthened if only we were supplied with published analyses of Cumberland flaked stone assemblages to compare to the excellent studies of Parkhill Complex sites with Barnes points (Roosa and Deller ibid.) in southern Ontario. Until now we have been unable to contrast the wide range of flaked toolforms (unifacial, bifacial, unretouched but utilized) known for the Parkhill Complex with products of the Cumberland toolmaker. Suffice to say, here for the first time, we attempt such a comparison using artifacts from the Phil Stratton Cumberland site, southwestern Kentucky (see Table 2).
Jump link: Table 2
Questions of Dating
Despite over 40 years of archaeological research, neither Cumberland nor Barnes points have been dated by absolute means (radiocarbon, etc.) to the satisfaction of most archaeologists. Further, no archaeological site in the United States or Canada has furnished stratigraphic evidence of the exact temporal relationship between Cumberland/Barnes and any other expression of the Fluted Point Tradition. Simply put, we are uncertain if Cumberland/Barnes is older, younger, or the same age as Clovis, Crowfield, Folsom, etc.
A presumed association of a Cumberland point and absolutely dated animal bones--these bones being caribou (Rangifer) – was reported by Robert Funk and others (1969) for Dutchess Quarry Cave 1 in Orange County, eastern New York State (Figures 2 and 3). The date, 12,530 +/- 370 years BP (I-4137, uncalibrated) was obtained on bone collagen. Most workers have considered this determination impossibly early for an occupation by makers of Cumberland points; yet, this case of artifacts and dated fauna occurring together is no less believable than accepted associations elsewhere on the continent.
Jump link: Figure 2 and 3
Prior to the discovery of the Dutchess Quarry Caves, prehistorians struggled to provide any sort of estimate, even a relative one, of the ages of Cumberland and Barnes points. Around the Great Lakes, find-spots of Barnes points on fossil strands of early post-glacial/late-glacial lakes provided some insight; however, south of the Wisconsin terminal moraine dating archaeological finds by reference to surficial geology has been more problematic. Of greatest value has been Hyde’s perceptive 1960 study of Ohio River terraces and fluted points in western West Virginia. He observed that flared-base (Cumberland) fluted points were found only upon the highest (oldest) river terraces; while, Clovis points occurred everywhere including lower (therefore, younger) terraces. He concluded, quite logically, that Cumberland points must be older than some, but perhaps not all, Clovis points.
Hyde’s surmise that Cumberland may have preceded Clovis is not directly testable in southern Ontario as the glacial Lake Algonquin shore has points and sites representing several components of the Fluted Point Tradition. Lake Algonquin when full persisted from 11,000 to 10,400 years BP or, in the opinion of some researchers (Karrow and Werner 1990:15), from 11,300 to 10,500 years BP. During this 600-800 year timespan the makers of both Clovis and Barnes points, as well as Crowfield Phase people, hunted and lived upon a common lakeshore (Ellis and Deller 1990).
In the face of the present limited and generalized evidence for dating fluted point manifestations in the Great Lakes, it is possible to argue, but not prove, that Barnes (Parkhill Complex) preceded Clovis and vice versa. Whatever the relative age of the two, Barnes points might have been made as early as 11,300-11,000 years ago; in terms of solar/calendar years, this estimate may be a 1-2 thousand years more ancient.
Additional information about the antiquity of Cumberland/Barnes has come forth from Dutchess Quarry Caves where sporadic fieldwork since 1969 has yielded four fragmentary or reworked Cumberland/Barnes points in association with extirpated or extinct species – caribou (Rangifer tarandus), flat-headed peccary (Platygonus compressus) and giant beaver (Castoroides ohioensis). Whether these faunal remains were left by Palaeo-Americans or scavengers, as investigators Funk and Steadman prefer to believe (1994: 73), is difficult to judge. Amino acids extracted from bones of these species provide an important series of 11 radiocarbon dates (Table 1 reproduced from Funk and Steadman 1994).
Jump link: Table 1
These 11 dates, when adjusted according to the Pretoria Calibration Procedure (Darden Hood, Beta Analytic, personal communication), yield the results:
The gross bracketing dates for these 11 bone samples (at two standard deviations) are, therefore: BP 17,030-13,430.
Most North American prehistorians continue to express skepticism about such early, calibrated bracketing dates for a Cumberland fluted point occupation (Petersen 2004). Even the “raw” or uncalibrated determinations from the Dutchess Quarry Caves are very ancient with a range (at two standard deviations) of: BP 14,200-11,530.
An age at the recent end of this spectrum, that is to say 11,530 years BP (roughly 13,530 calendar years), however, might be acceptable to some workers (I include myself among this number). Such an age exceeds the range of accepted radiocarbon dates for Clovis (11,050 – 10,800 years BP; see Waters and Stafford 2007). The idea that the Cumberland type might have arisen before Clovis is an attractive one. If Barnes points and the Parkhill Complex were direct outgrowths of a Cumberland cultural substrate, their age, indeed, might fall within the interval 11,300-11,000 years BP (uncalibrated) – making them contemporary with Clovis.
The commonly accepted view has been that Cumberland/Barnes is derived or descendant from Clovis and, therefore, younger (Gramly and Funk 1990). Certainly researchers working on Palaeo-American sites around the Great Lakes favor this idea – see, for example, most recently Ellis and Deller (1997). They draw attention to the fact that Barnes points are “intermediate between the Gainey [a Clovis variant] and Crowfield types in terms of thickness, depth of basal concavity, and degree of expansion from the base” (Ellis and Deller 1990: 45-6). These statistics notwithstanding, there is no hard evidence that change from Gainey to Barnes to Crowfield actually occurred. Put another way, there are neither absolute dates nor stratified sites to confirm that Clovis (Gainey), Barnes, and Crowfield are successive phases of a single cultural tradition. For ought we know they even may have been contemporaries – coeval or temporally overlapping expressions of a grand Palaeo-American Fluted point Tradition?!
In dealing with conjectural archaeological evidence, the proverbial “open-mind” is necessary.
Insights about the exact temporal relationships among Clovis (Gainey), Barnes, and Crowfield in the Great Lakes, of course, do not directly address the problem of Cumberland origins. Further, data about Palaeo-American behavior, diet, and customs are so scanty anywhere in eastern North America that actual cultural linkages between Cumberland and the other Palaeo-American entities are, at best, tentative.
Behavior, Diet, and Customs
The only Cumberland habitation site with a studied and inventoried flaked artifact assemblage is the Phil Stratton site, south of Russellville, southwestern Kentucky. The author’s excavations since 2000 have revealed that this extensive encampment has intact, undisturbed sectors and is virtually a closed site (a single-component occupation); however, bone is not preserved and prehistoric features are rare at Phil Stratton. Therefore, we have slight expectations of recovering information about prehistoric behavior and diet. Our knowledge of customs -- as it applies to tool-making, recycling, and raw material preferences – is beginning to accumulate and stands to be considerable when fieldwork is completed. Too, there is the chance that continuing archaeological excavations at this site will furnish data about artifact-caching and burial practices – as has been the case for the Parkhill Complex site Thedford II (Deller and Ellis 1992) and a remarkable Kentucky Cumberland site known as Trinity (Gramly, Vesper and McCall 1999, etc.).
By adding Barnes point-producing sites to our study of Cumberland, knowledge of ancient behavior, diet, and customs is on a better footing, namely:
This list is provisional and is based upon only a small number of sites and archaeological excavations. This fact should not be forgotten when we compare it to the much better-known Clovis archaeological culture east of the Mississippi River.
A wider range of site locations and types is on record for Clovis (see Gramly 2003 for a lengthy discussion); yet, like Cumberland/Barnes, Clovis dwellings everywhere appear to have been insubstantial and perhaps portable. Hearths, although present on a few Clovis sites, are rare, and just how Palaeo-Americans of all walks prepared and consumed their food is conjectural. Pit-digging by makers of Clovis points was practiced from coast to coast in the northern latitudes of North America. The pits may have been intended for storage and their dimensions were highly standardized --- underscoring the essential homogeneity of Clovis culture. For example, Feature 1 at the East Wenatchee Clovis site, Douglas County, Washington State (Gramly 1992) is identical in shape and depth to the oval, “cache” pits at Loci A and B, Vail site, northeastern Maine (Gramly 1982). The distance separating these sites is nearly 2,500 miles. Undoubtedly inhabitants of both sites knew that there was a “right” way to construct cache pits and behaved similarly. If no such pits are ever found at Cumberland/Barnes sites (as seems to be the case), we are justified in arguing that these cultures are of different ages or not very closely related.
Clovis diet (including animals that may have been scavenged but not often killed), was broad-based, even within eastern North America, and included: mastodon; caribou; hare; fox (see Storck 2004 for species discovered within a pit at the Udora site); fish; antlered cervids of unknown species; mammoth (?); and perhaps large and small birds. Cumberland/Barnes and Clovis hunters, insofar as we know, pursued but a single quarry in common – the caribou.
Although Cumberland/Barnes and Clovis seem, at first glance, to be separate and perhaps not closely related phenomena, they shared at least one custom that bespeaks smilar mind-sets, thus making them (after a fashion) “partners” in culture. I refer to the curious practice of depositing groups of bifaces, 10-30 in number. These artifact groups might have been hunting-kits of deceased individuals, although no skeletal evidence has survived as proof. Clovis sites in the greater Mississippi River valley and eastern North America that feature “caches” of projectile points, knives and performs are: Rummels-Maske in Iowa (Morrow and Morrow 2002) and Lamb in western New York State (Gramly 1999), as well as several caches from the Mid-West known to the writer but unreported in the literature. These discoveries are similar in substance to the find of 11 Cumberland points (one is a knife and another has been converted to a drill) at the aforementioned Trinity site in northern Kentucky (Figures 4 and 5) and the remarkable group of Barnes points and preforms at the Thedford II site (Deller and Ellis 1992) – see Figure 6.
Jump link: Figure 4
Jump link: Figure 5 and 6
George Frison (1991) has discussed the implications of “caching” as it was performed by Clovis in the American West. Finds in the East do not alter materially his conclusions. Why perfectly usable hunters’ flaked tool-kits should be abandoned by both Cumberland/Barnes and Clovis is a primary concern. A likely explanation might revolve around a (superstitious) fear of ghostly retribution should property of a deceased hunter continue in service. Such a notion is hardly commonplace among modern-day hunters, although here and there in the Arctic it was once held. Careful excavation of Palaeo-American hunters’ implement “caches,” which unfortunately are most often found disturbed and torn out of their original resting places, is required if we are ever to understand the full implications of this custom as practiced by Cumberland/Barnes and Clovis.
A Word About Flaked Tool Assemblages (See Table 2 and Figure 7)
Jump link: Table 2
Jump link: Figure 7
The employment of prismatic blades and the columnar/pyramidal cores used to generate them by ancient occupants of the Phil Stratton site is unlike the practices reported for ancient tool-makers at the Parkhill (Barnes) and Vail (eastern Clovis) encampments. At Phil Stratton it is possible that the peculiar habit of raw material, that is to say, its occurrence as spheroidal masses of chert (“cannonballs”), dictated the manufacture of prismatic blades, which were used as cutting tools and even transformed into fluted projectile points. Prismatic blades are also well-known for Clovis culture in the West and East – wherever spherical masses of raw materials determined knapping strategy.
Of greater value when discriminating among Palaeo-American cultures is perhaps the tool class -- chisels or wedges (pieces esquillees). At the Vail Clovis site they are abundant; yet, they are unreported for the Parkhill site and poorly represented at Phil Stratton. Pieces esquillees also appear to be absent at Thedford II, a Barnes point-producing station (Deller and Ellis 1992). Further, the tool class is uncommon at the culturally kindred Leavitt site in central Michigan (Shott 1993). Shott considers all of them to be cores rather than tools – a view not shared by this writer. The rarity of pieces esquillees on both Cumberland and Barnes sites, as opposed to sites producing Clovis points is not easily explained by dietary differences or access to raw materials. It seems to be a real cultural or behavioral issue, serving to define two separate cultural streams.
Regular endscrapers are uncommon at Phil Stratton site but tolerably common at Barnes point-producing stations. This toolform, on the other hand, is extraordinarily abundant at the Vail site and other encampments of the Magalloway Valley Complex in northwestern Maine. There it is possible to argue that caribou were hunted after calving and upon their return to cold-weather quarters when their hides were optimal for dressing into garments and other articles. By contrast, the Morss site of the Magalloway Valley Complex yielded no endscrapers although nearly every other toolform known for eastern Clovis culture was present in that site’s assemblage. An explanation that Morss was occupied during the spring, pre-calving season when caribou hides were unfit for human use has been advanced by the writer (Gramly 2001). The rarity of endscrapers at Phil Stratton as compared to Parkhill and especially Vail, where it is argued migrating caribou were ambushed, suggests that at the Kentucky site working hides was less important. Whether this difference is merely an outcome of seasonality or a concomitant of some deeper, cultural factor is impossible to say at this time.
Another difference among the artifact assemblages of Parkhill, Phil Stratton and Vail sites, I would like to point out, is the habit of Parkhill knappers to resharpen opposite edges of knives by unifacial retouch -- giving them a twisted or “corkscrew appearance” when their ends are viewed. Deller and Ellis describe these resharpened knives as “alternately beveled bifaces”. This technique was also employed by Crowfield knappers around the Great Lakes (Deller and Ellis 1984); also, it is commonly observed among later North American (Early Archaic) artifact assemblages. The technique might have been a late development among Palaeo-American cultures, universally employed by knappers of all walks and backgrounds. Alternatively, its use may be of value for discriminating among cultural traditions. More data are needed to judge the implications of resharpening by “beveling.”
A final possible difference between Cumberland/Barnes and Clovis assemblages would seem to be the use of celts and adzes. At the Vail site, these large tools were not present -- a fact not altogether surprising given the clear evidence for recycling and heavy reworking among the tools discarded there. Adzes and celts are unquestionably present at Clovis sites where reworking and salvage were not such important considerations (e.g., the Richey Clovis Cache, Washington State – see Gramly 1992). Likewise at Parkhill, adzes and celts may be present, although investigators Ellis and Deller may have classified them as a variety of endscraper (termed “large parallel-sided endscrapers”). Too, at Phil Stratton we have an adze or celt, which has shattered into at least seven pieces. This peculiar specimen is characterized by diagonal flaking on its broad upper and lower faces plus very heavy edge-grinding. In the writer’s experience this excavated specimen is unique in its combination of attributes; however, similar specimens have been collected from the surface of Kentucky sites (Dennis Vesper, personal communication). The diagonal flaking on the Phil Stratton site specimen may prove to be an useful indicator of an occupation by the makers of Cumberland points – and just as diagnostic as fluted projectile points themselves.
In sum, the current evidence provided by excavated flaked tool assemblages from Cumberland, Barnes, and Clovis sites is not particularly compelling for discriminating among them. When allowances are made for varying seasonality, diet, and habit of raw materials, actual socio-cultural differences may be few, indeed. The shapes of projectile points themselves and their performs may have a discriminatory value equal to or greater than all other types/classes within a particular artifact assembage Acceding to this possibility, one can argue that Cumberland and Barnes points stand in closer relationship to one another than either form does to points deemed “Clovis.” We look forward, however, to a time when discovery of features at Cumberland and Barnes encampments will furnish additional means (apart from points and preforms) of comparing the various expressions of Palaeo-American culture.
Origin of Cumberland
Whatever the temporal and cultural relationships of Cumberland people to other fluted point-using, Palaeo-Americans of the early Holocene, the question remains as to how Cumberland culture got its start. It is my belief that it cannot be derived from Clovis. Indeed, in my opinion it is more likely that Clovis developed from Cumberland and that Barnes was a contemporary of Clovis. This hypothesis can be tested only with more absolute dating evidence and cultural stratigraphy – these data to be presented forthrightly within the context of bona-fide archaeological site reports. Only then will the case for or against Cumberland primogeniture be made.
I would like to see archaeologists reconcile the separate hypotheses of early arrival (pre-Clovis) in the New World and Clovis first, proffering in their stead a grand, integrative hypothesis or covering explanation. In my opinion Cumberland will prove to be a bridge between early-arrivalists and Clovis-first believers. A principal of human biology supports this intellectual bridge, namely, “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.” That is to say, the development of an human embryo/fetus proceeds by stages -- successive stages mimic increasingly complex phyla of the animal kingdom. This principal reminds us of the long skein of ancestral forms that preceded humankind. Similarly, in my opinion, if we would know the technological (cultural) base from which Cumberland points were developed, we should examine Cumberland point preforms. A preform for a Cumberland point is a lanceolate point with a marked taper along the lower third or quarter of its cutting edges (Figure 8). Lanceolate points of such refined shape recall specimens unearthed in Dillehay’s excavation at the 12,000-year old Monte Verde site in Chile (1997: 424). The Taima-Taima kill site in northern Venezuela (Bryan 1983: 140) with its somewhat older(?) El Jobo lanceolate point (12,000-14,000 years old, as judged from a series of 18 radiocarbon dates) might be regarded as a precursor to Monte Verde and the elegant, long lanceolate projectile points occurring there. Closer to the Cumberland heartland we have Meadowcroft Rockshelter and its single, heavily reworked lanceolate point from lower Stratum 2A (Adovasio et al. 1978: 165). Such a specimen is very close in gross shape to a preform for a Cumberland projectile point.
Jump link: Figure 8 and 9
If an Early Lanceolate Industry ultimately gave rise to Cumberland and the full Fluted Point Tradition, then we would expect to see antecedents of adzes, drills, various forms of scraper, etc. – toolforms that are common on some Fluted Point Tradition stations – found with Early Lanceolate points. Unfortunately, the flaked tool assemblages recorded for Early Lanceolate sites in South and North America are mostly small – the most sizeable being the handful of utilized prismatic blades, flake-blades, and lightly retouched knives from Meadowcroft Stratum 2A. It is diificult to make persuasive arguments with such scant evidence.
Jump link: Figure 10
The hypothesized pathway leading from Early Lanceolate to Cumberland and ultimately to Clovis points (and their derivatives) may not have been the only one followed during the development of New World flaked stone industry. Haynes (n.d.) has argued on the basis of stratigraphy and absolute dating evidence that Plainview/Goshen points may have “paralleled the Clovis-Folsom-Midland line,” meaning that Plainview/Goshen points may have arisen independently from the Fluted Point Tradition. Their origin within an Early Lanceolate Point Tradition is possible.
Certainly for many parts of formerly glaciated northern North America the latest outgrowths of the Fluted Point Tradition are the earliest cultural vestiges we should expect to encounter; while, in the ice-free region south of the Ohio River, somewhat older evidence might be expected. Our search for Cumberland sites worthy of scientific exploration has lead us to the fertile Red River drainage of southwestern Kentucky and northwestern Tennessee, and our labor has not gone unrewarded. At the same time, however, a door has opened to the possibility of discovering even older remains within this archaeologically rich region. I predict that these earliest traces of colonizing populations will include lanceolate points. From whence these Late Pleistocene colonizers came and what was their ethnic background and language are likely to remain forever matters of speculation.
A first version of this paper was prepared as a handout at the Archaeological Society of Ohio symposium, “Peopling of the Americas,” held in Columbus, Ohio, on May 22, 2004. The author wishes to thank the ASO Conference Committee for organizing the Symposium and for offering to publish this version of my paper within its proceedings.
A second version of this paper, entitled “The Cumberland/Barnes Phase: Its Character and Chronological Position within the Fluted Point Tradition,” appeared in pages 4-14, Volume 58(2) of the Ohio Archaeologist.
Adovasio, J. M., J. D. Gunn, J. Donahue, R. Stuckenrath, J. Guilday, and K. Lord
Bryan, Alan Lyle
Deller, D. B. and C. J. Ellis
Dillehay, T. D.
Ellis, C. J. and D. B. Deller
Funk, Robert E.
Funk, R. E., G. R. Walters, W. F. Ehlers, Jr., J. E. Guilday, and G. G. Connaly
Funk, R. E. and D. W. Steadman
Gramly, Richard Michael
Gramly, Richard Michael and Robert E. Funk
Gramly, R. M. , D. Vesper, and D. McCall
Gramly, R. M. and D. Vesper
Haynes, C. Vance , Jr.
Hyde, E. W.
Karrow, P. F. and B. G. Warner
Lewis, T. M. N.
Morrow, Juliet E. and Toby A. Morrow
Petersen, James B.
Roosa, William B.
Roosa, William B. and D. Brian Deller
Shott, Michael J.
Storck, Peter L.
Waters, Michael R. and Thomas W. Stafford, Jr.
Wright, Henry T. and William B. Roosa
CAPTIONS FOR TABLES
Table 1. Radiocarbon dates from Dutchess Quarry Caves, Nos. 1, 8 and 9. From Funk and Steadman 1994 (Table 9). Used by permission.
Table 2. ----------------with table----------------
CAPTIONS and FIGURES
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