Black Mountain Folsom site (5HN55), located at an elevation of 10,160
ft. above sea level, was occupied by people of the Folsom culture,
skilled hunters of a now extinct form of bison. They are among the
earliest cultures to inhabit North America, dating from about 10,900
to 10,200 BP (years before the present).
covering excavation units
arrival, while establishing excavation grid lines, Smithsonian Institution
Archaeologist Dr. Dennis Stanford found a Folsom point preform which
had apparently just eroded from the ground due to heavy rains. The
first subsurface artifact found was a completed Folsom point which
had exhibited breakage consistent with impact. Kevin Black, Assistant
State Archaeologist and
PAAC instructor who volunteered for seven days, found this point
after finding an old, crushed tobacco can at the same level in the
1-meter unit. Needless to say, he and the whole crew were pleasantly
surprised with the find (especially after the can incident!). Another
surprise came when a crew member excavated a Folsom preform tip which
refit the Stanford surface find. The tip was found 30 meters away
and 30 cm deep in an excavation unit! Analysis of tool refits can
prove important in analysis of the site.
performing a cultural resource inventory of the area prior to
a timber sale, Forest Service archaeologists Vince Spero and
Marilyn Martorano discovered the site. A "preform"
fragment was found (see illustrations below), along with a light
scatter of nondiagonistic flakes of obsidian and local cherts.
testing of the site was undertaken by the Rio Grande National
Forest Service and the Smithsonian
Institution in 1991, followed by a small scale excavation
in 1993. In 1997, on a budget of about $40,000 from the San
Juan-Rio Grande National Forest and the Smithsonian Institution,
Spero and friends, Pegi Jodry, field director of the Paleoindian/Paleoecology
Program for the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and her
husband, Dennis Stanford, curator of North American Archaeology
for the Smithsonian, were able to launch a larger excavation.
"preform" fragment that led
to excavations at Black Mountain
Stanford find with
the refit tip
important artifacts were found which will add to the knowledge of
this high-altitude paleoindian site. Portions of several other preforms
were discovered, along with numerous flakes of stone resulting from
the tool making process. Other artifacts included cores, completed
Folsom point fragments, unifacial scrapers, flakes from the Folsom
point fluting process (channel flakes), gravers, and a flake identified
as possibly being the result of manufacturing an "ultra"
a fine stone knife which may have been used for skinning bison or
other large animals. A very important feature found was the remains
of a Folsom campfire location. Analysis of this hearth and Carbon-14
dating of charcoal samples taken from it yielded a date of about 10,500
BP. Another important aspect of the site involved identification of
the source of raw material for the tools found at the site as possibly
being from a location to the north of Pagosa Springs (Mosca Creek).
Material collected from the chert source matches up nicely with the
variety of material found at the Black Mountain site.
many small artifacts
feature at Black Mountain
30 square meters of the site were painstakingly excavated by the
end of the excavation, which lasted 40 days. The Smithsonian Institution
crew were joined by many volunteers including SLV Archaeological
Network members Vicki Goodrow, Loretta Mitson, Marvin
and Josh Goad, Bob and Judy Armagast,
Virginia Simmons, Harry, Pat, and Elli Fluck,
Yvonne Halburian, who painted an excellent
watercolor of the site, and Julee and Carrol Fleming.
Over 100 visitors who dropped by the site were given extensive tours
and about 200 school children from Creede, Center, Del Norte, Alamosa,
and a group of home-taught students were also led on tours of the
site. Special thanks are extended to all who worked on the site
and especially to project director Pegi Jodry, of
the Smithsonian Institution's Paleoindian/Paleoecology
Project, who led us through the endeavor.
"Pegi" and crew
One of the few sunny
days at the site
Artist Yvonne Halburian
at the Black Mountain digs
Preform fluted on one face
having fun at
in the weatherport
in the shelter of the tent
illustrations by Marvin Goad; courtesy of the Smithsonian
Institution's Paleoindian/Paleoecology Program.
Photographs courtesy of U.S. Forest Service, Rio
Grande National Forest, Monte Vista Supervisor Office.