Paleo Indian (12,000 to 10,000 B.P.) and Late Paleo Indian Period
(10,000 to 9,000 B.P.)

Clovis points such as this one from the Center for American Archaeology in Kampsville, IL were used to hunt mastodons and other large game during the Paleo Indian Period.

 

Paleo Indian and Late Paleo Indian Period

The last great Ice Age began 60,000 to 70,000 years ago and grew to cover most of Canada and the upper areas of the United States. Included in this great sheet of ice was the Great Lakes area, New York, northern parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey and all of New England. This freezing period reached a peak around 18000 B.P. and by 16000 B.P. a warming trend had started. So much water was frozen that the ocean was 400 feet lower than it is today and much of the continental shelf from New York to Nova Scotia became exposed land. By 14000 B.P. all of southern New England and the lower parts of New York, New Hampshire and Vermont lay exposed, as the glaciers melted. (Braun and Braun - 1994)

As the climate warmed and the glaciers retreated, tundra began to cover much of the exposed land. Mammoths, mastodons, musk-oxen(?), large beaver and caribou followed the retreating glaciers northward. By 11000 B.P. the tundra and grasslands began to be replaced with shrubs, trees and vegetation.

By 12000 B.P. early hunters followed the large Pleistocene animals into New England and out onto the continental shelf. They led a nomadic existence, constantly following migrating herds. Gradually the larger animals either moved north with the retreating glaciers or died out. By 10000 B.P. most had become extinct. Different animals such as caribou, moose, bear, elk and white tail deer came into the changing landscape and became the favorite hunting prey. Melting glaciers began to fill the ocean and slowly cover the continental shelf. The rising sea level caused the shoreline to slowly recede toward its present coastline. (Braun and Braun). In recent years trawlers have caught mammoth and mastodon teeth, while fishing (dredging) near Georges Bank. (Braun and Braun) Bones from Pleistocene animals are occasionally found in bogs or pond bottoms that have dried up. Peat is a good preservative for bones and tusks.

Few Paleo sites have been found in Massachusetts. Hunters often stayed only a few days in one place as the animals were constantly moving and man followed his food source. Many sites out on the continental shelf are now under several hundred feet of water. Wapanucket No. 8 on the northern shore of Lake Assawompsett in Middleboro had a small Paleo site that was left by a small band of hunters who stopped there for a short time around 9000 B.P. (Robbins-1980).

At the Wamsutta Site in Canton, MA, along the Neponset River many Paleo tools have been found, as well as caribou bone and fragments of a mammoth/mastodon tusk. (Chandler-2001) The Sugarloaf Clovis Site in Deerfield, MA (also called Dedic Site) is another Paleo site not fully explored. (Gramly-1994 and Fogelman-1998)

By far the largest Paleo site in Massachusetts is the Bull Brook Site in Ipswich, MA (10000 +/- B.P.) where over 8,000 artifacts have been found. It appears that seasonal visits to this site went on for many years. The site must have been located along caribou migration routes, as caribou bones have been found there. (Dincause-1996)

Locally, stray Paleo points have been reported through the years from Carver, Plymouth, Middleboro, Bridgewater, Raynham, East Taunton and Mansfield. These finds may represent stray spear points lost during a hunt thousands of years ago. Further west along the Connecticut River Valley stray finds from Deerfield and Montague have been reported. (Fowler-1973) Our local settlement by early man at Titicut along the Taunton River becomes quite strong during the Early Archaic Period (9000 to 8000 B.P.). This presence expanded during the Middle Archaic and Late Archaic Periods. (8000-3700 B.P.)

References:

Braun, Esther K. and David P. 1994 The First Peoples of the Northeast Lincoln Historical Society - First Printing 1996 Moccasin Hill Press - Second Printing

Chandler, Jim 2001 On The Shore of a Pleistocene Lake: The Wamsutta Site (19-NF-70) M.A.S. Bulletin 62 (2): 52-62 (10210 +/- 60 B.P.)

Dincauze, Dena F. 1996 Late Paleo-Indian Sites In The Northeast: Marshalling Camps ? M.A.S. Bulletin 57 (1): 3-17

Fogelman, Gary L. 1998 Sugarloaf Site, Mass. Indian Artifact Magazine 17(4): Page 65

Fowler, William S. 1973 Bull Brook: A Paleo Complex Site - Massachusetts Archaeologocal Society Bulletin 34 (Nos. 1 & 2): 1-6

Gramly, Richard Michael 1994 Dedic Site-Deerfield, MA. The Amateur Archeologist: Vol.(1) 78-81

Hoffman, Curtiss 1991 A Handbook of Indian Artifacts from Southern New England. M.A.S. Society Special Bulletin No. 4 Revised from 1963 Text By William S. Fowler

Robbins, Maurice 1980 Wapanucket - An Archeological Report: Massachusetts Archeological Society, Inc. Special Report published by The Trustees.

 

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Thank you to one of our local historians,
Bill Taylor of Middleborough, for photo and story.

Photo courtesy of Gallatin County School web site
in Illinois