Exploring Technological Organization and Burial Practices at the Paleoindian Gordon Creek Site (5LR99), Colorado

Article excerpt


The goals of this article are to present the results of a new radiocarbon date and lithic analyses conducted on the artifacts interred with the Gordon Creek burial (5LR99) located in the Front Range foothills of northern Colorado. An AMS assay returned a date of 9650 ± 50 B.P. (NSRL-13179, CURL-6724; carbonized sap; [delta]^sup 13^C = -19.7[per thousand]). Reduction strategies and morphology were examined for two of the bifaces (13652.a and 13652.d) accompanying the burial. The results suggest possible long-term continuity in biface manufacture strategies throughout the Paleoindian period, as well as an affiliation with the Hell Gap Cultural Complex for the Gordon Creek burial itself. Results of high-magnification microwear analysis suggest that some of the lithic tools may have been manufactured for the burial event and highlight the need for additional microwear analyses to be conducted with other Paleoindian lithic tool assemblages. Finally, an examination of the burial goods indicates a possible emic distinction in how different material culture classes were treated at death by Hell Gap peoples.

Keywords: Paleoindian, burial, microwear, lithic reduction

The overall goals of this research are to refine the radiocarbon age of the Gordon Creek burial (5LR99) site and explore the technological organization of the people responsible for the site along the lines of biface production strategies and usewear. Gordon Creek is the only known Paleoindian-aged burial from the High Plains or Front Range of Colorado and Wyoming (Figure 1). Although the Hourglass Cave burial was discovered in the Southern Rocky Mountains of Colorado, its late radiocarbon age ranging from 7700 to 8100 uncalibrated B.R (Hall 1997) is considerably younger than Gordon Creek and aligns it closer to Early Archaic cultures. Analyses of the Ourdou Creek skeletal remains, artifacts, and burial pit were originally published over thirty years ago (Anderson 1966; Breternitz et al. 1971; Gillio 1970) and since that time new analytical techniques have been developed that offer the opportunity to refine what is currently known about the site.

A pooled carbon sample was gathered from a small intact block of sediment that was collected during the original excavation from the base of the burial pit. The type of carbon dated, the tight spatial clustering of the sample, and the use of the AMS dating technique result in a reliable date that has a small margin of error and can be averaged with two pre-existing dates from the site. In addition to recording metric attributes, the production strategies for two bifaces (13652.a, 13652.d) included in the burial were analyzed by mapping the sequence of flake removals based on overlapping flake scar patterns preserved on their surfaces. These data were then combined with observations of flake scar type and the overall morphology of the bifaces and compared to other known Paleoindian biface production strategies. This analysis provides two important results. First, the production strategy and shape of the smaller biface (13652.d) conforms closely with production strategies and the basic morphology of Hell Gap projectile points. second, the production strategy and morphology of the large biface (13652.a) conforms closely with the overall morphology and techniques used to make large Clovis bifacial cores, such as those recovered from the Fenn cache (Frison and Bradley 9 1999; Wilke 2002). Usewear analysis of the microcrystalline tools and single "smooth stone" from the site provides data on patterns of use for a variety of tool classes that were grouped as a burial assemblage. The results of the microwear analysis indicate that the tools were interred in the grave at the beginning of their active use-lives and highlight the need for additional microwear analyses to be conducted on other lithic assemblages of comparable age. Finally, a comparison of the treatment of the various burial items suggests an apparent symbolic duality that may have had emic importance to the group responsible for the site. …