Stash of Paleoindian Artifacts Found at 12,000-Year-Old Connecticut Site
A site uncovered in the American state of Connecticut soon began revealing evidence about its earliest inhabitants. Some 15,000 artifacts related to a Paleoindian community were uncovered and they provided an unprecedented insight into the distant past. In particular, evidence was found of a throwing spear, which was key to the survival and success of the first people in the area.
The site was found during a massive Department of Transportation (DOT) construction project in 2019, while workers were building a bridge over the Farmington River, in Avon. It was only discovered because the bridge required a deep excavation. DOT informed the authorities, as is required by law, and they carried out a preliminary investigation.
Brian Jones, the Connecticut state archaeologist, after testing some soil samples, believed that the site was of great importance and he was the driving force behind ensuring that it was thoroughly investigated. For the past several years archaeologists worked there and DOT even supplied extra funding for the archaeological survey.
The Paleoindian site settlement uncovered in Connecticut. Source: © Connecticut DOT.
First People Lived at the Paleoindian Site in Southern New England
The experts determined that some of the artifacts found are up to 12,500 years old. Terri Wilson, president of the Avon Historical Society, told NBC CT that “this is the oldest known Paleoindian archaeology site in southern New England”. At the time of the first reports, the archaeologists had found 15,000 stone artifacts and the vast majority of them are stone tools, used mainly for the preparation of food.
Stone artifacts of the first people of the Paleoindian site. (© Connecticut DOT)
They also found an open fire pit and several posts holes that were used in the construction of shelters. NBC CT quoted Wilson as stating that “This is a human contact site. Not a human remains site. So, there’s no remains of humans. This is where they lived and worked”.
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The Paleoindian site contained an open fire pit and a number of posts from temporary housing, along with 15,000 artifacts. (© Connecticut DOT)
Archaeologists found the most extensive remains of Paleoindian culture in Connecticut, to date at the site. Previously only a few items had been found in the state, which were of only limited research value. Caroline Labidia is quoted by the Daily Mail as stating that “This site has the potential to make us understand the first peopling of Connecticut in a way we haven't been able to”.
Throwing Spears Found at the Paleoindian Site
Some tiny fragments of flint and stone were discovered which had unique chips and cracks that correspond to those found in spear-throwers. These “coincide with a study from 2015 that concluded the North American hunters used spear-throwers to hurl their weapons over longer distances” reported the Daily Mail. These spear-throwers or atlatls were probably brought to the Americas by the so-called Clovis people, who were among the continents’ first people.
Tiny fragments of flint discovered at the Paleoindian site. (© Connecticut DOT)
Professor Karl Hutchings, an anthropologist stated that this discovery “helps to support theories that these early hunters were able to kill large prey like mammoths and other megafauna” reported the Daily Mail. This was very important in hunting and ensured that the Paleoindians were able to thrive in the often-hostile environment. It seems likely that a traditional spear could not have killed large beasts and at the time the spear-throwers would have been much more lethal.
Peopling of America
The Paleoindians' ability to bring down large animals meant that they were not confined to one area. The atlatls or spear-throwers were highly portable and they did not require as many participants as hunts, that involved javelins. This technology probably allowed the hunters to follow the large animals as they migrated, such as the mammoth. This was very important in the peopling of modern North America.
Evidence of spear-throwers found at the Paleoindian site. (© Connecticut DOT)
The discovery of the site is an excellent example of what can be achieved between the construction sector and archaeologists when they collaborate. This archaeological area has been named after Brian Jones, who sadly passed away during the 2019 the summer. Work on the site, which has been thoroughly processed by archaeologists, concluded in 2020.
Top image: Native American hunter. Credit: Daniel / Adobe Stock
By Ed Whelan