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MUSEUM OF THE ALBEMARLE

Native American tools found along Pasquotank River are unique in N.C.

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By Jonathan Smith
Columnist

Sunday, October 30, 2016

In the early 1960s, located in Pasquotank County along the Pasquotank River, a man named James Pritchard was walking through a freshly plowed field on his property and started to discover various Native American artifacts. After nearly five decades of countless walks since then, Pritchard had recovered over 500 specimens, mostly stone tools and mostly made of stone sourced from the Fall Line of Virginia near Nottaway River. Of the stone tools found, three were identified as fluted points and after expert analysis were determined to be Clovis fluted projectile points.

Paleo-Indians had a distinctive technology called Clovis, named after the first Clovis point discovered in Clovis, N.M. The fluted projectile point is the most popular of the Clovis technologies. The making of the fluted points was very time consuming, so hunters would have to rework the points as they were worn down after a long time of use. Most Clovis points were found at archaeological sites in situ with animal remains, especially big game like mammoths. Paleo-Indians drove megafauna to extinction. The Clovis people may have moved down into the New World to hunt for game to provide for their groups/tribes.

The Clovis-first model suggests that the first peoples of the New World have origins from northeast Asia (Siberia). There is no evidence, for now, that people were living in northeast Siberia before 18,000 years ago. Around 14,700 years ago temperatures started to rapidly increase and a great amount of freshwater started to enter the ocean. The people must have left Siberia because of its frigid and icy conditions.

The New World was populated when people took the route of the Bering Land Bridge (Beringia), since the Laurentide ice sheet was melting. They first settled in Alaska before moving down south. From the melting of the ice sheet, an ice-free corridor was made between the coast of the Pacific Ocean and what is today Canada. At the time, the environment of this area was in an ice-age condition called the Pleistocene epoch.

The rapidly warming climate attracted small numbers of early Paleo-Indians to move southward from Alaska around 14,700 years ago. The Clovis people entered the New World around 13,500 years ago and started settling into the warmer areas. Around 13,000 years ago, the world went through the Younger Dryas and the climate became cold and arid. Within the next couple of centuries, the Clovis culture spread throughout the New World from the coast of California to the woodlands of the east. The Clovis culture went out about 12,900 years ago and entered into the Folsom culture around 10,900 BC.

In the summer of 2007, the site and its artifacts were researched by Dr. I. Randolph Daniel, Jr. of East Carolina University and William H. Moore. After extensive research and analysis, the Clovis points were interpreted to be part of a Paleo-Indian mobile toolkit. Clovis points are unique in North Carolina and these found in Pasquotank County represents some of the few Paleo-Indian sites in the southeast.

Jonathan Smith is a native of Chowan county and an information assistant at the Museum of the Albemarle.

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