Folsom technological and socioeconomic strategies: Views from Stewart's Cattle Guard and the Upper Rio Grande Basin, Colorado
The purpose of this study is to increase understanding of the Folsom Cultural Complex by linking technological organization with social dynamics, economic orientation, and environmental context. Two assumptions underlie this endeavor: primary subsistence practices strongly influence patterns of social and technological organization, and environmental circumstances hold important keys to the structure and variation of social and subsistence activities across the landscape. It is suggested that Folsom social organization and technology developed in the context of significant changes in climate and subsistence resource structure during the Younger Dryas cool episode (nearly 10,000 to 11,000 BP) when expansion of grassland ecosystems likely favored radiation in bison populations. An ecological model is proposed whereby the large size of Folsom-age bison is related to longer somatic growing seasons, favorable moisture regimes, and a postulated increase in nitrogen availability that resulted in abundant, high quality forage and a possible rise in bison fertility rates. These fundamental changes altered predator-prey relations in the aftermath of Rancholabrean extinctions and permitted economic development of bison specialization. Cooperative hunting during the late summer-early fall involved upwards of fifty animals in a single kill. It is suggested that recurrent, large-scale bison processing necessitated cooperative labor and a few specialized tools. Technological innovations included a possible woman's fillet knife to thin-cut meat for drying and weapon tips designed to kill bison that were easily repaired and conserved raw material. High residential mobility and extensive networks of kin and other social alliances were means of offsetting risks inherent in subsistence specialization. Study of sixteen raw materials at forty-five sites suggests that regular interregional communication may have characterized the period. In the first detailed analysis of an extensively excavated late summer-early fall bison kill and processing camp (Stewart's Cattle Guard site) the archeological remains of hide working identify activities likely performed by females and weaponry repair and manufacture distinguish male tasks. Use-wear, refit, and spatial studies provide insight into the demands placed on end scrapers and projectile points. Their attrition rates may vary by season. These findings provide a useful interpretive tool for assemblages of many time periods.