Progress Notes

Forbidden Archeology: Early Man in the Western Hemisphere, Part 2

Rate this Entry
I learned bits and pieces of the legend of the Calico Site while digging in the pit to the west of Master Pit #1. When you are digging on your knees for hours, you have time to talk. Some of the story I heard from Dee Simpson herself at a picnic they had for the members and volunteers. I was brand new and I knew next to nothing but I realized it was an honor to hear some of the highlights of the story of the Calico Early Man Site from her.

Dee Simpson had collected some good samples of broken rocks that looked like they might have been worked by hominid hands, called artifacts, as opposed to stones broken by natural forces, or geofacts. This distinction becomes crucial as the story develops. Debunkers of the Calico Early Man Site will claim that all of the broken stones found at any depth and representing any age at Calico are geofacts.

Artifacts or "worked pieces" begin with a usable core of material that will break off in clean flakes when struck properly. Sometimes the core becomes the tool after it is chipped or flaked into the proper shape. (The pieces of chalcedony and jasper left and bottom are cores.) sometimes the flake becomes the tool such as in small cutting blades. (The tools on the right are flakes, chipped off a core.) They can make very good tools. Well made stone flake tools have been used successfully in surgery.

001 copy.jpg
Tools like the ones in the picture can be found many places on the surface in the Mojave Desert, where some unknown person at some unknown time made them and discarded them. It is illegal to collect artifacts most places even though they have no archeological value. The pieces above where photographed where they were found against a Jeep floor mat background then put back where they were found. In order for an artifact to have value it must be datable, which in the case of stone tools means it has to be found in place below the surface of the ground at a level that can be dated. The Calico stone tools are found below the surface at levels dated far earlier than the 12,000 year date for the presence of humans. This is the second crucial fact of the story. The actual date of the strata (levels) in which the tools are found is disputed. Unfortunately, even though geology is a fairly precise science, the kind of soil and strata in the Mojave Desert in the Calico area is difficult to date accurately or with confidence. We dug up flakes, cores, and tools at a level dated tentatively to between 80,000 and 100,000 years ago. That is a problem, since it predates accepted human habitation of the continent by 70,000 years or so.

Another problem is that the available methods of dating strata had a margin of error as great as +/- 20,000 years. Without getting into the scientific details too deeply, rocks don't have DNA and organic material in the desert does not last long enough to fossilize in the alkaline soil of the strata where the stone tools are found. So, scientists try to date the surrounding soil, which is difficult to do. Just attempting to move the date of human habitation back say, 2,000 years from 12,000 to 14,000 or more becomes nearly impossible. It is an extraordinary claim that requires more than ordinary proof and the available tests are not up to the task.

The hills around Calico are a jumble of uplifted, faulted surfaces and mudslides which a geologist can unravel given some time and thorough survey. A geologist can date a level with reasonable accuracy but that probably is not accurate enough for archeology purposes. One thing is certain, though. If you are digging up possible artifacts in undisturbed soil more than eight feet below the surface of the desert, you are finding things that have been in place longer than 12,000 years. If you make that claim publicly, you are going to have trouble. But, that was later.

Calico 041 copy.jpg