Albert Goodyear | SEAC 2005 | Dr. Al Goodyear
... Albert Goodyear | SEAC 2005 | Dr. Al Goodyear
discusses the Topper Site at SEAC 2005One of the most exciting questions in North American archaeology, perhaps the most exciting, is who were the First Americans.The topic is now the focus of a scholarly quest stretching from Pennsylvania to Chile.At the Southeastern Archaeological Conference in Columbia, South Carolina, on Friday November 4, 2005, archaeologist Albert C. Goodyear discussed a site - the "Topper Site" in Allendale, South Carolina - that potentially could shed a lot of light on the answer to the question.Goodyear's
team of volunteers has found artifacts at Topper that may date to 20,000 years before present, and possibly far older.Goodyear, director of the Southeastern Paleo American Survey at the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, presented the keynote address, entitled "The Topper Site: Implications for Pre-Clovis occupation in the Southeastern United States".
Following is a slightly edited transcript of Goodyear's
The Topper Site is on a bench by the Savannah River.The site is a chert source that has been of interest to people for the last 13,000 years.When Goodyear
decided to start studying Paleo-Indians, he
decided to go the quarries where he
knew Paleo-Indians had to return.During the Pleistocene (the epoch that lasted from about 1.65 million years B.P. until about 10,000 years ago) the Savannah River would flow through the site and rinse off large boulders that would fall down the hill.Humans quarried the boulders for chert for tools.For the past seven years Goodyear's
team has done two digs at Topper.Goodyear and his team have been assisted by nationally recognized experts such as Michael R. Waters, the director of the Center For The Study Of The First Americans (http://www.centerfirstamericans.com/) at Texas A&M, and Stephen L. Forman, a geoscientist from the Luminescence Dating Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois in Chicago who has been doing the Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating for Goodyear's team at Topper.Goodyear and his team have been assisted by nationally recognized experts such as Michael R. Waters, the director of the Center For The Study Of The First Americans (http://www.centerfirstamericans.com/) at Texas A&M, and Stephen L. Forman, a geoscientist from the Luminescence Dating Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois in Chicago who has been doing the Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating for Goodyear's team at Topper.
"This has been going on in geology since the ,80s but it's finally caught on in archaeology," Goodyear
team doesn't know exactly how old the Pre-Clovis layer is, but it's certainly before 15,000-16,000.
How discovery was made Goodyear
described how his
team first found the Pre-Clovis level at the Topper Site.
team left the Topper Site in 1986 to work on a nearby Paleo-Indian site on the lower terrace."We were lovin' that, and we were getting what we wanted, and we were begining to make some breakthroughs."He
was running a program he
called the Allendale Paleoindian Expedition, which was sort of a version of the EarthWatch
program, that signed up people from all over America who would come and work on the project.
[Goodyear showed a slide of a Pre-Clovis chert core found right on the river terrace.] "These are probably anvil blows where you put one boulder and slam it against the edge of another.
[Goodyear showed slides of many possible Pre-Clovis artifacts and discussed the technology of how they were made and possibly used.He
noted that Pre-Clovis technology at Topper did not use bifaces.It's not true, he
said, that flakes with striking platforms and bulbs are not found at Topper.Hundreds of small flakes the size of U.S. 5 cent, 10 cent and 25 cent coins with striking platforms and bulbs have been found at Topper, he
noted, but they were generated by retouching chopper edges and making scrapers.Goodyear
discussed some of the qualities of the chert found at Topper, such as the fact that it is chemically unstable and weathers badly.He
showed slides of cores and flake tools found at Topper, and again noted that no bifaces are found there.]
"That puts some people off," he
stated that it is possible to make geological and archaeological errors.It's also possible to make anthropological errors, too, he
showed slides of some of the hundreds of flake tools that have been recovered at Topper: Prismatic blades, small microblades, "bend/break tools".Many times the goal was to make a 90 degree angle.He
showed photomicrographs of wear and polish on some of the blades found.
discussed how he
took some of the Pre-Clovis artifacts found at Topper to Texas A&M University
, where he
was able to make color microphotographs of flakes with discrete pressure scars, the kind of thing that happens when someone takes a deer antler tine and carefully make one indenture after another."You can't get that in nature," he
said."You need something with two eyes and five digits to make this happen."
Showing a microphotograph of one such flake, he
said, "These are well-placed, separate, partial Hertzian cone fractures that need an indenter placed right there and probably pressed off."
"I would submit there's nothing in nature with the specificity that you get when you have two functional eyes and five digits."Goodyear
showed microphotographs of microwear on a scraper, a flake tool, a spokeshave with seven or eight individually placed unifacial retouch scars.The spokeshave's edge had multiple, parallel scratches in two different directions, "exactly what you'd expect to see from tool use.These are striads that are going in myriad directions as though an animal had stepped on it in a sandy environment.I would submit this constitutes stroking in a normal human hand process."Goodyear
noted that research on the microwear of Pre-Clovis tools from Topper was being done by Robson Bonnichsen "and his
magic microscope at Texas A&M."
showed a photo of a large "anvil," a block of chert located on the surface of the Pre-Clovis level with smash marks on it where spalls had been removed.He
noted again that the block of chert was in a low-energy, fluvial environment while it requires an extraordinary amount of energy to crack spalls off the block.All around the block of chert on the top of the terrace were tools. Goodyear
noted that Topper researchers will be looking microscopically at pieces of debitage that they don't think were used as tools to see if the debitage contains natural polishes or striations that are occurring simply because of the matrix they were in. "We want to firm up what we think is culturally-induced wear,.You have to cross-check yourself.But these kinds of things [polish, striations], being on the edge, are consistent with what people in the microwear field normally call culturally induced wear."
Possible hearth found
Charcoal has seldom been found at the Topper Site, but Goodyear
showed a photo of a layer of charcoal recovered from the Pre-Clovis layer.The layer had reasonably well defined margins, a reasonably well defined bottom and a relatively flat top, he
noted that the Topper research team includes "a fantastic geoscience team" which is studying at the hearth-like charcoal."You won't do Pre-Clovis in America unless you've got a really ace geology team to get the context right," he
said."There's all kinds of dating issues, site-formation processes to consider as well as ,are these things made by nature?' So we've got a fantastic team of geologists working on this."Goodyear
noted that at the time the hearth-like structure was found, the Allendale Paleoindian Expedition was near the end of its dig.The Allendale dig had been financed by private grants, so a call was put out to volunteers and friends try to raise money to pay for the study the charcoal.Within three weeks $5,000 was raised."That's a real testimony to the kind of people that are behind this," Goodyear
said."We didn't have to write a grant [proposal] and wait 12 months to see if we got it."
What the charcoal is remains to be seen.Research has shown that in just two small samples there were six different species of plant material , prune, buckeye, conifer, some kind of hard wood, and fruity plant tissue."It looks like a hearth but we really can't say that it is.It could be a depression in the terrace where watershed charcoal was deposited," Goodyear
said.Dates from the charcoal were 50,000-51,000 BP, and because radiocarbon dating doesn't work that far back the dates are minimal and could be 60,000 or 70,000 BP, he
If it is a hearth, more will be there because "people are real messy," Goodyear
finished up his
talk by putting Topper into perspective in the broader Southeastern United States.He
noted the lower Southeast was never glaciated."When we speak of