Saturday, September 8, 2012

Images of Paleolithic Stone Tool Artifacts form Phoenix AZ. U.S. And letters of corespondence from Old World Stone Tool Expert Prof. Curtis Runnels of Boston University about the discovery and the artifacts.


Early Pleistocene to latest Pliocene surficial deposits


Coarse relict alluvial fan deposits that form rounded ridges or flat, isolated surfaces that are moderately to deeply incised by streams. These deposits are generally topographically high and have undergone substantial erosion. Deposits are moderately to strongly consolidated, and commonly contain coarser grained sediment than younger deposits in the same area. (0.75-3 Ma)
This is a photo of the aluvial fan sediment that the artifacts are eroding form. 
Hi Ken,
The photos look great.
This is a conglomerate that overlies Proterozoic rocks in the Phoenix area.  A similar unit forms the head of Camelback Mtn and the Papago Buttes and is generally referred to as the Camelshead Formation.  The Cenozoic history of central Arizona is very complex and the ages of those conglomerates varies across the Phoenix area.  Near the Superstitions, I believe it is as old as 60 Ma (millions of years ago) and would be Paleocene or Eocene.  Other places it is Oligocene or Miocene (33-6 Ma).  In your top photos I can see the clasts derived from the Proterozoic basement but some of the other photos have volcanic clasts, probably Miocene in age.  The conglomerates are too well consolidated to likely be Pleistocene, but their clasts were likely the source of the artifacts.
Good luck in your studies,
Ron Blakey   
These are extremely interesting artifacts and the context is very interesting too.  I am not an expert in Arizona desert geology, but the the deposit looks like a cemented debris flow or perhaps a lake-margin deposit.  It could very well be Pleistocene in age.  It should certainly be possible to date that context if you can get a knowledgeable regional geologist to look it over; for instance by a technique like Infrared Stimulated Optical Luminescence on the sand grains I can see in the surround matrix). 

We can only guess about the nature of Pleistocene humans: our own species, Homo sapiens, is dated securely at sites like Herto (Ethiopia) to 200,000 years ago and would certainly be a candidate, as well as Homo heidelbergensis ( a hominin grade that dates to ca. 400,000 years ago).  Without fossils there is no way to tell because these kinds of tools were probably made by more than one hominin grade, perhaps by as many as four or five! 

My summary is that you have early looking artifacts in a definite geologic context that might help pin down their age.

Dear KC,Thank you for showing me the photographs of the lithic artifacts and their findspot from the site that you have discovered near Phoenix.          
My specialty is the Palaeolithic of the Old World in the eastern Mediterranean and SE Europe, and not the American SW, but the artifacts that you have shown me would be considered as Lower or Middle Palaeolithic if they were foud in my area.
They are definitely artifacts, and  the typological and technical characteristics that I see in the photographs are consistent with their identification with Pleistocene industries (modes or technocomplexes).  Similar artifacts are widely distributed in the Old World, and have been reported also in the United States over the past century or so. Unfortunately they are rather hard to date: in the Old World such industries have a wide chronological span, ranging from 1.6 myr to ca. 0.175 myr (and some similar forms occur in the Middle Palaeolithic or Middle Stone Age in Europe and Africa much later, down to ca. 50 kyr).  Therefore, it is of particular importance that your finds appear to be in a datable geologic context. The photographs you showed me appear to show artifacts in situ (geologically speaking) in a cemented breccia or debris flow. This suggests two things to my mind. The original sites, in the sense of living floors or occupation areas, have no doubt been destroyed by erosion and the artifacts have been redeposited downslope.  Dating the breccia/debris flow would, therefore, give a minimum age for the artifacts, but that would be an important start. My geological training is in the Mediterranean in regions (e.g. Greece, Albania, and Turkey) with similar arid conditions to the American SW, and from what I can see in your photographs I would consider the artifact-bearing deposit to have considerable age, probably Pleistocene.

A more precise estimate In short, I would accept as a working hypothesis to be tested by further research in the field that these artifacts are of Pleistocene age and likely to pre-date, perhaps by a considerable margin, the earliest accepted industries such as Clovis and Folsom in the SWof their age or the affinities with other industries would not be possible at this stage of research. 

Good luck! Sincerely yours, Curtis
Curtis Runnels, MA, PhD, FSA Professor of Archaeology Archaeology Department Boston University
675 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston MA 02215

Editor, Journal of Field Archaeology


Dear KC

Here is a longer message than I could manage yesterday on my phone in the train. No need to send me the Washington Artifacts; let's not risk getting them lost in the mail. I want to concentrate on the Arizona stuff for the moment. My plan is to discuss the artifacts you already sent me with a geoarchaeologist who is familiar with Arizona geology and get his opinion on the context.  

My other plan is to write an essay in the Journal of Field Archaeology as Editor-in-Chief (co authored with my contributing editor Professor Norman Hammond, who is also the Archaeology Correspondent for the Times of London and the editor of the Times Literary Supplement). He is a New World specialist and we have already talked about how the Pre-Clovis picture is becoming clearer. We will call for a total reexamination of the old sites (e.g., George Carter's Texas Street Site and Calico among others) and a new open minded approach to the Pre-Clovis question and invite contributions of manuscripts on the subject for publication. I think the timing is right. The Stanford and Bradley book, Across Atlantic Ice, will be published in January and in it they make their case for the movement of Solutrean people by boat across the Atlantic in the Palaeolithic to the east coast. If one group of Palaeoliths could make the trip, then anything is possible and a complete restudy of the archaeological record is warranted.

All this takes time and don't worry about your priority (i.e. credit for your discovery). I have the evidence before me that you found this stuff first and am willing to say so whenever and wherever necessary.

Best wishes,


From your description of your site location should be on the map.
Given the more lithified nature I see in your photos versus what I was
thinking Mid Pleistocene may indeed be the better age.
Let me know if you need more help.

Nyal Niemuth
Arizona Geological Survey
1520 W. Adams (call or use door bell for entry)
Phoenix, AZ 85007
602-771-1604 or page me at 771-1601


To all,
The images of artifacts on this site have been collected form "Private Lands" one is the community I live in which was developed in the early sixties and the other is my Friends property adjacent to the community I live and work in.

The images of the context on this site and any artifacts in the context are "In Situ" on public land. Location will not be disclosed for fear of the looting and or distinction of our National Heritage!  And any artifacts within Images of the context are in there original state.

It is also illegal to remove anything from Public Lands with out permission form Federal or Sate Agencies without permit.

Sincerely yours
Ken Stanton


In archaeology, in situ refers to an artifact that has not been moved from its original place of deposition. In other words, it is stationary, meaning "still." An artifact being in situ is critical to the interpretation of that artifact and, consequently, of the culture which formed it. Once an artifact's 'find-site' has been recorded, the artifact can then be moved for conservation, further interpretation and display. An artifact that is not discovered in situ is considered out of context and as not providing an accurate picture of the associated culture. However, the out of context artifact can provide scientists with an example of types and locations of in situ artifacts yet to be discovered.
The label In situ indicates only that the object has not been "newly" moved. Thus, an archaeological in-situ-find may be an object that was historically looted from another place, an item of "booty" of a past war, a traded item, or otherwise of foreign origin. Consequently, the in situ find site may still not reveal its provenance, but with further detective work may help uncover links that otherwise would remain unknown. It is also possible for archaeological layers to be reworked on purpose or by accident (by humans, natural forces or animals). For example, in a "tell-tell mound", where layers are not typically uniform or horizontal, or in land cleared or tilled for farming.