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The Ancient Blood

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The country around Folsom, New Mexico, exudes an aura of primeval antiquity. Jagged hills and mesas rise wild to the west and north. Eastward lies a sloping, undulating plain, the contours of which are determined by an underlying flow of hardened lava. South of the village is Mt. Capulin, an extinct volcano. Jutting outcrops of lava rock, splashed with vari-colored lichens and crowned with evergreens, lend an eery touch to the grassy valleys. But for the town and a few roads and isolated houses, this might be a prehistoric landscape. It is fitting that such a setting yielded the first evidence of man's existence in ancient America.
Prior to 1926, the great body of scientific opinion had solidified upon the idea that man did not appear on this continent until less that 3,000 years ago. Few scientists were willing to depart from this dogma whatever the evidence, insisting that any association of artifacts (man-made tools) and extinct beasts was the result of material from widely separated periods becoming mixed through natural means. The discovery of 19 spear and dart points imbedded among the bones of 23 different specimens of a type of giant bison excavated from an arroyo near Folsom cast new light upon the origins of the American Indian. The giant bison had not walked the earth for perhaps 9,000 years, and ancestors of the Indians hunted them in New Mexico. The door was open to new discoveries; hardly had the furor over the so-called Folsom Man cooled when still older artifacts were found at Blackwater draw, between Portales and Clovis, New Mexico, among the gigantic bones of mammoths. Here was proof that man was a hunter of elephants in North America about 12,000 years ago. More Clovis Man sites were found in Arizona, Colorado, Texas and other parts of the Southwest. Another culture, possible contemporaneous with Clovis Man, was found in the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Other prehistoric cultures have been discovered near Plainview, Texas, in Utah, in the California desert and in many other parts of the United States. In Mexico cultures considerably older than the Clovis are being evaluated.

Nobody is sure exactly who they were or when they arrived, but it is almost certain that the ancestors of the Indians migrated here from Asia. They were not ape-like or sub-human in any way, but were men, fully the physical equals of the modern inhabitants of this continent. To have survived in a world then hostile to any but the most hardy forms of life, they must have possessed a high degree of intelligence, agility, craft, strength and daring.
Most scientists believe they were of a Mongolian strain from eastern Asia and that their blood flows in the veins of today's Indians, whose features bear a decidedly Oriental cast. Another theory is that they are of the Ainu, the hairy people who once inhibited most of the Japanese Archipelago but now are found only in a few isolated regions. They may have arrived as much as 30,000 years ago, although the oldest North American cultures now recognized are less than 12,000 years old. Some of the Mexican finds appear to be about 20,000 years old, and if the migration theory is correct, the ancients of Mexico must have passed through North America many centuries earlier.

The crossing from Asia probably was made via a land bridge at the Bering Strait. During the last Ice Age, beginning about a million years ago and lasting until recent times, much of the earth was covered by glaciers-great sheets of ice that moved down from the north. So much of the sea was locked in ice during glacial periods that ocean levels were perhaps 300 feet lower than now. Thus Bering Strait, which can be crossed today on waters not more than 150 feet in depth, effectively joined Siberia and Alaska during the glacial age. There probably were many migrations over a great span of time, possible of many human types. They may have been impelled by population pressures, by the nomadic tendencies of the game herds which furnished their food, by curiosity, or even by a desire for freedom from oppressive ruling groups. There may have been other points of crossing as well at various times. Modern American Indians, while similar in some respects, exhibit considerable variety in physical appearance.

Not all of America lay under ice. Glacial flows were, at least part of the time, separated by wide corridors of ice-free land leading into the interior. Many generations must have remained near the sea in Alaska, but other groups moved southward, possibly along a corridor just east of the Rockies. Survival was unbelievable difficult, what with constant bitterness of weather and the ever-present need for food. The glaciers were creeping back to the north, leaving comparatively temperate regions in what is now the American Southwest. It was in these regions that the nomadic tribes left traces sufficient to be interpreted by modern scientists.

The mammoth was another Asian-African immigrant which adapted to life in the New World. In the north they were of a variety heavily clothed in long hair, wool and great layers of fat. South of the glacial area were relatively hairless species, including some of the largest known elephants which stood 14 feet tall and bore tusks up to 16 feet in length.
Beside such creatures Clovis Man was a puny creature at best, and yet it is apparent that the mammoth was the principal source of food and clothing for these early American. How is it possible that a few men on foot and armed only with stone-tipped spears, could prey upon such titans? The answer, of course, is that man was gifted with an intelligence not owned by the other creatures he encountered. Man survived bitter cold by creating, or at least appropriating, the protective fur with which other animals were born. He had not the claws or fangs required by his essentially carnivorous appetite, so he created them of stone, providing himself with the weapons for killing and the tools for butchering his prey. These flimsy weapons would have yet been of little account had they not been used with all the cunning and craft the mind can devise.

There were natural traps into which mammoths might wander or be driven; marshes, pits and box canyons. Once in such a position the animal could be ambushed and worried for hours by spear thrusts and hurled rocks. One mammoth has been found with its massive vertebra shattered by a very large stone which must have been flung down from a cliff. Other large game was hunted as well, including an extinct species of musk-ox and a gigantic elk-like beast, both of which have been found in association with spear points in Burnet Cave, 32 miles west of Carlsbad, New Mexico, Camelops, a llama-like camel, fell prey to Clovis Man, as did native horses, several species of pronghorn "antelope," and deer. Giant ground sloths, shaggy, clumsy beasts of elephantine size, may have been hunted, although this is yet to be conclusively proven. The same is true of the elephant-like mastodon.

By the time of the Folsom culture, mammoths apparently were nearing extinction and the giant bison became the principal game. Gigantic herds swarmed over the Plains of 10,000 years ago. They greatly resembled the "American buffalo" of today but were about one-fourth larger and had long horns. Bison were less difficult to kill than elephants, being rather witless and easy to approach and stupefy with a sudden, concentrated attack. The large concentrations of carcasses at some sites indicate mass slaughter. At Folsom and Lindenmeier Ranch, near Fort Collins, Colorado, it appears evident that a small herd was driven into a cul-de-sac and destroyed. Another method known to have been used even in historic times was to stampede a herd over a cliff, killing or injuring enough animals to provide food for many a feast. This wasteful but effective means was probably used by hunters at a site near Plainview, Texas, at running water Draw, where about 100 bison were found along with flint points believed to be slightly more recent than Folsom.
Long before the bow-and-arrow was invented, man improved upon the hand-thrown spear as a weapon. Grooved rocks believed to be bolas weights have been found. Another ancient weapon was the atlatl, or throwing-stick, which facilitated the launching or javelins and darts.

Nothing is known of the religious beliefs of the ancient Americans, as they left no idols or shrines. Occasional artifacts indicate an appreciation of beauty, and he craftsmanship in the stone weapons is of a much higher quality than that found in most Indian work of historic times. While the ancients were almost entirely carnivorous, they did not eat raw meat. There were other hunters at large, including ravening packs of wolves (one of the most numerous was the extinct dire-wolf, which was six feet long and undoubtedly as vicious as a leopard); big cats, solitary stalkers; gigantic bears, some as large as today's Alaska giants.

The tradition of big-game hunting began to die out in most of North America thousands of years ago, giving way to cultures, which relied upon food-gathering as a means of sustenance. In the Plains, however, the bison hunters continued their way of life until the coming of European cultures destroyed the herds.

The ability of their ancestors to survive against overwhelming odds is reflected in the American Indian. It took unbelievable fortitude, daring and cleverness to follow the Indian way. They were able to do it because they came from hardy stock.
 

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Collection of books and papers, 1922-1925

Indian Warriors

 

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