Anthropological Papers at the University of Arizona

Paper #71
Murray Springs: A Clovis Site with Multiple Activity Areas in the San Pedro Valley, Arizona

Author(s): C. Vance Haynes, Jr.,* and Bruce B. Huckell,* Editors
Publisher: Anthropological Papers of the University of Arizona 71, 2007, $24.95
Order From: http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/books.php

 

Abstract

The Murray Springs Site, in the upper San Pedro River Valley of southeast Arizona, is one of the most significant Clovis sites yet discovered. It contained a multiple bison kill, a mammoth kill, and possibly a horse kill in deeply stratified sedimentary context. In clear association with these animal remains was a camp site where the game was processed before the Clovis people, arguably the first Americans, moved elsewhere.

The geologic setting of the site in Curry Draw, an ephemeral tributary of the San Pedro, is presented in detail. Five geologic formations are defined that have widespread occurrence in the valley and provide a detailed stratigraphic framework for assessing the geochronology and site formational processes and associated paleohydrological changes over the past 40,000 years. The chronology of these events is well established on the basis of more than 120 radiocarbon age determinations.

The excavations of the buried animal kills and processing localities revealed the killing of at least eleven bison (Bison antiquus) at one time and a young female mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) another time. Both were associated with a lowland area in and around a small spring fed stream system that had dried up as drought conditions worsened at the end of the Allerød postglacial climate episode. A water hole dug by mammoths appears to have been an important feature that attracted animals to the site. Detailed study of the dentitions of individual bison provided age estimates that indicated a kill in late fall or early winter.

Immediately after the Clovis abandonment, the occupation surface was buried by a unique algal black mat, fostering a preservation of the distributional integrity of the artifacts and debitage clusters that is exceptional for Paleoindian sites. Excavation of the hunters' camp 50 to 150 meters south of the kills revealed artifactual evidence of typical hunting camp activity, including hide working and weapons repair. Impact flakes conjoining with Clovis points clearly tie the camp to the bison kill. Detailed analyses of the lithic artifacts and debitage clusters showed discrete knapping loci and the use of at least 20 lithic materials. The location of five lithic source areas suggests a movement from northern to southeastern Arizona about 13,000 years ago.

With regard to Pleistocene extinction, mammoth, Bison antiquus, horse, camel, dire wolf, tapir, as well as other animals disappeared immediately before the black mat buried the Clovis age landscape. As far as we can tell from the stratigraphic record, eight centuries passed before humans again reappeared in the San Pedro Valley.

Contributors: Larry D. Agenbroad, George C. Frison, E. Thomas Hemmings, Jim I. Mead, M. Steven Shackley, Lawrence C. Todd, Michael C. Wilson, and Susan L. Woodward.

*C. VANCE HAYNES, JR. Is Regents' Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona, Tucson, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

*BRUCE B. HUCKELL is Interim Director of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology and a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

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