Terminal Paleoindian Occupations in the Southeast
(10,800-10,000 rcbp, ca. 12,900-11,450 B.P.)



 Geography and  Environmental Conditions  

 Chronological  Considerations 

 Initial Human Occupation 

 Widespread Settlement 

 Terminal Paleoindian  Occupations 

 Initial Holocene Early  Archaic Assemblages 

 Property Types 

 Resource Distribution 

 Research Needs and  Questions 

 Evaluation Criteria 

 Possible NHLs in the  Southeast 


 Annotated References 

 References Cited 


The interval from 10,800 to 10,000 rcbp is a time of tremendous cultural and climatic change in the Southeast, roughly corresponding to the Younger Dryas climate interval, the completion of the late Pleistocene faunal extinctions, and the abandonment of Clovis fluting technology, in all probability closely related phenomena (Anderson 2001; Fiedel 1999; Taylor et al. 1996). A wide range of projectile point forms appeared and disappeared in various parts of the region, something that was quite puzzling prior to the recognition of the vast amount of time represented by this interval. Projectile point forms exhibit appreciable stylistic variability and in some cases fairly restricted spatial distributions, something interpreted as evidence for increasing regionalization or isolation of groups as population levels rose and group mobility decreased. Regional and subregional cultural traditions became widely established, population levels grew dramatically, and technological organization changed to accommodate Holocene climate and biota (Anderson 1990a, 1995a, 1996, 2001; Ellis et al. 1998; Morse et al. 1996). Well made stone tools characterized by a variety of specialized tool forms continued to occur, although these were increasingly made on locally available and often lower quality raw materials than before. The decline in the use of high quality raw materials is thought due, in part, to a decrease in group mobility, specifically the areas over which these groups moved. A decrease in mobility would have meant these groups had less opportunity to visit stone sources at great distances, and would have also had less need for high quality materials, since they would rarely be ranging far from sources, assuming stone was available locally. Other factors prompting a switch to lower quality raw materials could have included the exhaustion of readily available high quality chert at source areas, the alluvial/colluvial covering of outcrops due to erosion, possibly resulting from changes in climate and biota, and the inundation of source areas due to rising sea levels, both on the now-submerged continental shelf and in the interior due to changes in stream gradients (Tesar 1994:88, 1996:38; see also Goodyear 1999a).

From ca. 10,800 to 10,500 rcbp/12,900-12,500 B.P., identifiable southeastern projectile point forms include fluted, basally thinned, and unfluted forms, including some or all of the following types: Beaver Lake, Clovis Variant, Cumberland, Dalton, Quad, Suwannee, and Simpson, as well as a number of Plains Paleoindian forms in the western part of the region such as Folsom, Plainview, Midland, and Angostura (Figure 2). Sometime around or after ca. 10,500 rcbp/12,500 B.P., however, Dalton points become common over much of the Southeast, with a number of distinct named subtypes or variants occurring in specific areas, such as Colbert, Greenbrier, Hardaway, and Nucholls, as well as related forms such as San Patrice vars. Hope and St. Johns. Only in Florida are Dalton points rare, although some researchers believe that the Suwannee point is a local equivalent. Dalton points may also be rare in parts of the Middle Atlantic region (Fiedel, personal communication); plotting the regional distribution of the form would appear to be potentially quite rewarding. By ca. 10,200 rcbp/11,850 B.P., side notched point forms appear, as documented by dates at both the Dust Cave and Page-Ladson sites, and by 10,000 rcbp/11,450 B.P. or soon thereafter this point form is found in large numbers in many parts of the region.

With the passing of megafauna, human populations would have had no choice but to target smaller game animals, a practice that might have led to a more diversified subsistence economy (if one or a few big game species were the prey of choice previously), although there can be little doubt that human populations have always made opportunistic use of a wide range of species when favored resources were not available. A fundamental reorganization in culture and technological organization, in fact, characterizes the Clovis to post-Clovis transition, something reflected in the appearance of notched and resharpened points, greater use of local lithic raw materials, and a marked increase in the number of sites scattered widely over the landscape, including in rockshelters (Anderson 1990a, 1996; Dunbar and Webb; Walthall 1998). These changes are thought to reflect increasing population levels and decreasing group ranges, and a change in subsistence from the exploitation of Late Pleistocene to essentially modern floral and faunal communities. In particular, the change in point forms from lanceolate to serrated and notched types is thought to reflect a change from the occasional procurement of very large animals, such as mastodon, to a need to kill and process large numbers of much smaller and more dispersed game animals, such as deer.

Few absolute dates exist for Paleoindian point forms in the Southeast, particularly for the interval prior to ca. 10,500 rcbp/12,500 B.P. (Table 2). Our ideas on the dating of many point forms, accordingly, are tentative, and rely on stratigraphic evidence and on comparisons with morphologically similar forms securely dated in other regions. Thus, the Cumberland type, which is characterized by fine marginal pressure flaking and flutes running the length of the blade in many cases, is thought to be an Eastern Woodlands equivalent of Folsom technology, and hence occur about the same general time as that form occurs in the west, where it has been well dated to between ca. 11,000 to 10,300 rcbp/13,000 to 12,200 B.P. (Fiedel 1999; Tankersley 1990a:78). Some eastern Folsom points (Munson 1990) also resemble Barnes points, and all three types may be related. Daltons, in contrast, appear to span a much longer range, with some points exhibiting true fluting and hence perhaps occurring fairly early, while other Dalton points have pronounced shoulders, beveling, and notches, attributes ubiquitous on succeeding Early Archaic forms, and are hence thought to be fairly late (Ellis et al. 1998:159). Likewise, fluted points with deeply indented bases have been dated to ca. 10,600 rcbp/12,725 B.P. at Debert and other sites in the Northeast (Levine 1990; see also Bonnichsen and Will 1999), and a comparable age for similar fluted point forms may be indicated in the Southeast. Given the great variety of point forms observed during this interval, and the restricted geographic distribution many of them have, there can be little doubt that many distinctive forms were contemporaneous during the last part of the Paleoindian era.

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