Published on November 16, 2012 by Amy
The Paleo Period is the oldest of American time periods and existed from around 12,000 BC to 8000 BC. While the pre-history of other continents such as Europe, Asia, and Africa date back many millennia further, American history begins with Paleo man.
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Paleo man walked in upright form. They followed and hunted herds of animals including many that are now extinct, such as the larger mammals known as “Mega-Fauna” which included the mastodons, bison antiquus, and ground sloth. Small nomadic bands of Paleo people in groups of ten to twenty, subsisting mainly on a diet of meat, were known to hunt these large and dangerous animals, as well as many smaller game animals. These animals provided the basic necessities of life – that being food and hides to use for clothing and coverings..
This large skull is an extinct species of elephant called mastodon. Mastodon and its close cousin the mammoth had shaggy coats of hair and are ancestors of our modern elephants. Traveling slowly, herds of mastodon were followed and hunted by early man as a very important food source. These large elephants disappeared in late paleo times, around 10,000 years ago.
In the paleo time period man hunted primarily large game such as the Mastodon, Mammoth, and large versions of bison known as Antiquus, and Occidentalis. These large animals are sometimes called mega fauna. You often see depictions such as this one, of the hunters running up to these large mammals with a thrusting spear trying to dispatch it. This is a scenario that probably rarely happened and was more the exception than the rule. Early hunters made use of ‘natural traps’ or situations to help acquire food. Places that had sandy river bottoms like the Arkansas River, or marshes were a natural trap for large lumbering animals. These large animals could not maneuver well in the soft, unsteady terrain and often became mired down, which made them easier to dispatch of. Another tactic used on herd animals, such as the Bison Antiquus, was for a group of men to chase the animals over a steep drop off. The hunting party would then descend to the animal and butcher them on location.
The Americas are sometimes referred to as the “New World”. The Clovis and other fluted points are considered New World inventions because the fluted technology occurs only here. When you look at the Clovis point you will notice a groove, or flute channel, running right down the middle of them. This channel makes it easier to attach it to a spear or knife. Clovis fluted projectile points are one of the hardest point types to make with any degree of success, and were often broke during manufacture. Artifacts have been discovered at sites in Monte Verde, Chili, that have dates, which Archeologists believe could be even older than Clovis, exceeding 13000-14000 years.
Once an animal was brought down by the hunters, there was still much work to be done. The animal, being too large to carry back to comp, had to be butchered on site. Then, the meat was transported, and the hide prepared for future use as clothing or blankets. For this task, Paleo man used knives flaked from flint. these knives may differ largely in appearance from our modern day utensils, but the design and purpose were basically the same. Often held in hand without the use of a handle made from bone, antler, or wood, the knives would have a sharp cutting edge along at least one side created by the removal of small flakes along the blade’s edge. Through heavy use in cutting hide, meat, and bone, these knives would become dull. Then, another row of flakes would be removed along the edges to re-sharpen it. The overall size of a knife would eventually become greatly reduced by multiple re-sharpenings, rendering the knife un-useable. It would be discarded. Paleo man would then fashion a new knife from whatever flint type material was available nearby.