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Hell Gap

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Copyright: 2009
Trim: 8½ x 11
Pages: 472 pp.
Illustrations: 197 figures, 52 tables


Hell Gap

A Stratified Paleoindian Campsite at the Edge of the Rockies

Edited by Mary Lou Larson, Marcel Kornfeld, and George C. Frison

Anthropology / Archaeology

The Hell Gap site was first uncovered in the late 1950s and is one of the gems in the history of American archaeology. Yet it is still one of the least understood and most poorly published of the sites that helped establish the framework for Paleoindian archaeology as it exists today. No other excavated site in North America contains a record that includes all cultural complexes known on the Plains between 11,000 and 8,000 B.P. Major excavations during the 1960s, conducted by the University of Wyoming and Harvard’s Peabody Museum, not only removed vast quantities of Paleoindian deposits, but also trained some of the foremost archaeologists of our time. Much has happened in American archaeology in the intervening years and modern techniques of dating, excavation, and analysis are now capable of revealing much more about the specifics of Hell Gap.

This volume finally begins the analysis of the vast quantity of material recovered from one of the most significant Paleoindian sites in North America, as contributors consider such topics as settlement, subsistence, technology, paleoenvironments, and archaeological site formation. The studies included here expand our understanding of the results of the original investigators, while providing an important reevaluation of their interpretations.

Mary Lou Larson is a professor of anthropology and associate director of the George C. Frison Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Wyoming. She has coedited Aggregate Analysis in Chipped Stone (University of Utah Press 2004) and Changing Perspectives on the Archaic in the Rocky Mountains and Northwestern Plains.
Marcel Kornfeld is a professor of anthropology and director of the George C. Frison Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Wyoming. He is the author of seven monographs, most recently On Shelter’s Ledge: Histories, Theories and Methods of Rockshelter Research, and coeditor of Islands on the Plains: Ecological, Social, and Ritual Use of Landscapes (University of Utah Press 2003).
George C. Frison is professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Wyoming and past-president of the Society for American Archaeology. He has published many books including Survival by Hunting and Prehistoric Hunters of the High Plains.


George A. Agogino, Eastern New Mexico University; Douglas Bamforth, University of Colorado; Mark Becker, ASM Associates, Encinitas, California; Bruce A. Bradley, Exeter University, UK; Reid A. Bryson, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Robert U. Bryson, National Park Mojave National Preserve; Allison Byrnes, Mercyhurst College; David A. Byers, Missouri State University; Jim Duguid, Amissville, Virginia; Glen G. Fredlund, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Paul Goldberg, Boston University; Jun Hashizume, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Japan; C. Vance Haynes Jr, University of Arizona; Matthew G. Hill, Iowa State University; Henry T. Irwin, Washington State University; Andrés D. Izeta, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina; Christopher N. Jass, University of Texas-Austin; Edward J. Knell, California State University-Fullerton; Ruthann Knudson, Knudson Associates, Montana State University, and California Academy of Sciences; Jim I. Mead, Northern Arizona University; Christopher E. Miller, Eberhard-Karls-Universität, Tübingen, Germany; James C. Miller, University of Wyoming; Mark P. Muñiz, St. Cloud State University; Laura B. Niven, Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany; David J. Rapson, Iowa State University; Richard G. Reider, University of Wyoming; Danny N. Walker, University of Wyoming

Table of Contents:

List of Figures
List of Tables

Part I. Introduction to Hell Gap and History of the Research
1. Reinvestigation in Context: Paleoindian Prehistory at the Edge of the Rockies
2. The Early Expeditions: University of Wyoming, Harvard University, and the Peabody Museum

Part II. Natural History of Hell Gap
3. Geochronology
4. Soil Development
5. Micromorphology and Paleoenvironments
6. Phytolith Evidence for Vegetation and Climate Change During the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition
7. Gastropods and Their Paleoenvironmental Implications
8. Site Specific High-Resolution Climate Models of Paleoindian Sites in the Plains

Part III. Culture History, Adaptive Systems, and Technological Stategies
9. Faunal Assemblage, 1960–1966
10. The Agate Basin Faunal Remains at Locality II

Case Studies of Single and Multiple Components
11. The Locality IIIS/V Eden Complex Component
12. Cody Complex at Locality I
13. Microwear, Typology, and the Cody Component
14. Frederick Component at Locality I
15. Site Formation and Technological Organization at Locality I
16. Modified Chipped Stone and Implications for Paleoindian Technology and Adaptation
17. Bifacial Technology and Paleoindian Projectile Points
18. Paleoindian Projectile Point Breakage and Reshaping
19. Microwear, Tools, and Handles: A Pilot Functional Investigation of the Chipped Stone Assemblage

Part IV. Conclusion
20. Hell Gap: Fifty Years On

A. A Paleoindian Site Directory
B. The First Two Years of Investigation, 1959–1961: The Discovery and How the Later Excavation Leadership Developed
C. Site Rosters
D. Planview Maps of Selected Component Floors
E. Expedition Records, 1961–1968
F. Radiocarbon Assays
G. Backhoe Trench Stratigraphic Profiles
H. Geologic Profiles
I. Supplement Zooarchaeological Tables and Figures
J. Preliminary Analysis of Lithic Material
K. Data, Codes, and Descriptions of Attributes Used in Projectile Point and Biface Analysis
L. Projectile Point Breakage Data
M. Small Mammals from Locality I: A Paleoenvironmental Reassessment

List of Contributors

Praise and Reviews:

"The Hell Gap site has never been described in detail—until now. This long overdue volume is greatly welcomed by all who are interested in the earliest cultural compleses in the New World. Written primarily for professional archeologists and a host of researchers in related fields, but serious avocational archeologist interested in Paleoindian archeology also should find much to enjoy."
The Kansas Anthropologist

"Needed, dense, thorough collection that chronicles the life and content of this singulrly important archaeological site. The editors and authors are to be commended for digging into dusty bags and field records of the 1960s and bringing to light critical information on some of the earliest inhabitants of the continent."
—Great Plains Research

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