Table of Contents
- Iowa’s Earliest Residents
- Prairie Peninsula in Iowa Over the Last 18,000 Years
- Cast of Plants
- How Do We Know?
- Cultivated or Domesticated?
- Major References for Crops of Ancient Iowa
In 1965 Cedar County residents, Wayne Rummels and Richard Maske, contacted the Office of the State Archaeologist at The University of Iowa about a discovery of stone spearpoints from an upland cornfield near the Cedar River. The spear points from the Rummells-Maske site represent a version of the Clovis point, the oldest type currently known throughout North America. Clovis points are a defining artifact for a cultural complex archaeologists call Paleoindian. Paleoindian sites date to the end of the last Ice Age when early Americans hunted a number of large animal species which ultimately became extinct—mammoth, mastodon, early forms of bison, and possibly giant ground sloth. While other sites indicate that Paleoindian people utilized smaller types of animals and also plants, many Clovis sites represent kill sites associated with these large, now extinct forms.
Clovis points are long, leaf-shaped, and have a thin flake (flute) removed from both faces of the point. Fluting may have been a technique to create a smooth junction for the insertion or attachment of the point to a bone, ivory, or wooden foreshaft on the spear. Most Clovis sites represent kill or processing camps found in the western United States dated between 12,000 and 13,000 years ago.
The Rummells-Maske points were initially discovered over an area of about twenty feet in a cultivated field. The University of Iowa excavations in 1966 uncovered an additional number of points and point fragments in the plowzone. More than 20 points and point fragments were found. All were made of Burlington chert, a good quality stone embedded in limestone deposits throughout southeastern Iowa. Evidence suggests that Paleoindian people preferred good quality materials for their stone tools and often traveled or traded quite far to acquire it. No animal bone or other artifacts or features such as hearths or pits were discovered at the site. The archaeologists believe that the points had probably been cached perhaps for later use by their makers.
Clovis points occur throughout Iowa, many found by private collectors. Rummells-Maske, however, represents one of only two early Paleoindian sites in the state that has been excavated. The recently recognized Carlisle Cache is the other. Surrounding Midwestern states have all revealed intact sites of this time period, and it is likely just a matter of time before Iowa joins them.
Anderson, Adrian D. and Joseph A. Tiffany 1972
Morrow and Morrow 2002
Photograph of an artifact from the Rummells-Maske site, as well as a photo of the excavation.