Ecological implications of ivory foreshafts from underwater sites in Florida

By Dr. S. David Webb, James S. Dunbar, and Benjamin I. Waller

Study of several dozen ivory foreshafts (IF’s) from late Pleis-tocene underwater sites in Florida sheds new light on their usage and ecology. A Florida IF is typically about 300 mm long, 12 mm at the maximum diameter, with anterior end flatly bevelled and roughened for about 60 mm (presumably for hafting to a lithic spear point), smoothed along its length, with posterior end tapered (presumably for engaging in a wooden spear). An IF was made by cutting and husking outer ivory lamellae in four segments around and many segments along a fresh tusk of a mature Mammuthus columbi.

Florida IF’s are best known from two sites each in the Aucilla River and the Ichetucknee River, and also from a few other submerged sites. This distribution is quite localized within the broader range of abundant Paleoindian lithic sites in Florida. It does not appear to reflect either distinct age or preservational bias, but probably reflects specialized usage of a particular favorable ecological setting. The common feature shared by IF sites in the late Pleistocene of Florida may have been shallow watering sites surrounded by open grazing systems. Such settings probably resembled present “Florida prairies” and were the very sites where mammoths were ambushed with spears incorporating IF’s.

Editor’s note: This article is reprinted from the program of the Sixth International Conference for Archaeozoology which met May 21-25, 1990 at the U.S. National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution), Washington, D.C.