Bolen level interpretation

By Brinnen Carter

Mark Muniz's accompanying article has focused on connecting the artifacts we have located in the bottom of the Aucilla with specific behaviors of individual Early Americans, what Lewis Binford would term "middle range" archaeological analysis. However, there are broader questions that can be addressed with this same data. One of the first is how the groups living through the climatic changes at the end of the Pleistocene epoch changed their resource utilization strategies to accommodate a less diverse set of faunal resources. This is a broad question, but it has very specific derivative questions. For instance, one could easily ask -- How did hunting technology change from Early Paleoindian to Early Archaic times? The side-notched points we find on the Page/Ladson soil are far more prevalent throughout Florida than are the earlier lanceolate points. What does this reflect: a change in resource utilization from megafauna to deer, a population expansion, the persistence of the side-notched tradition for a longer period of time, or some combination?

Let us first look at the transition from megafaunal to deer utilization. It seems clear that, at least in the Southeast, deer bone tools and food remains co-occur with Bolen-style points, indicating that they were an important subsistence and industrial resource. However, side-notched points do not occur with megafaunal remains. This suggests that Bolen-style points are potentially a specific adaptation to hunting deer. It also suggests that the tools for which the points were intended were physically different than those used with the lanceolate points. Data from the Page/Ladson site confirms this general picture, with the technological transition appearing to occur prior to the early date of 10,200 BP we have on the site. Other sites in the Southeast like Dust Cave and Stanfield/Worley Rockshelter in Alabama indicate that the development of side-notched points, such as Dalton and Hardaway, came after the development of some types of lanceolate points.

If the transition occurred sometime before the Bolen Surface at Page/Ladson was occupied, then we know it was the people who manufactured side-notched points that survived some of the most dramatic climatic shifts around 10,000 years ago. Expanding populations is another hypothesis used to explain larger numbers of side-notched points in Florida. If a small hum group occupied the Page/Ladson site on at least a seasonal basis, it would be the first evidence we have of a well-preserved campsite in Florida. The site's physical location, on a relatively small river in North Florida, tends to support the proposal that populations were expanding the range of habitats they used for food.

It is likely that overall population was the driving force to settle these previously only intermittently used areas. As populations expanded in "core" settlement areas, off-shoot groups settled less desirable areas.

Another alternative explanation is the persistence of the side-notched to comer-notched tradition over a longer period of time than previous lanceolate traditions. Recent radiocarbon assays and calibrations indicate there is a substantial plateau in dates of 10,400 and 10,000 years in age.

This means that this 400 years may represent as much as 1,000 chronometric years. This is easily enough time to accumulate the larger number of side-notched points, even assuming no population growth.

The impact of the late Paleoindian finds from the Page/Ladson site will be substantial, not only revising our understanding about human use of the immediate area around the Aucilla River, but also altering our ideas of regional settlement patterns and adaptations.