Discovery of the Ancient Hunters

The Lost Americans

“A Negro cowboy, with an old slouch sombrero, jogged along with a jaded horse. The trail skirted the edge of a deep arroyo which showed jagged black in the late afternoon sun. This part of northern New Mexico is chilly in the spring of the year, and the rider hunched his left shoulder against the nippy wind. His eyes, which were constantly fixed on the ground looking for the tracks of cattle, wandered for a moment to the opposite bank of the arroyo where, some distance down from the top, a line of white bones showed in a patch of sun.

With a slight twitch of the reins, he pulled up his horse to look at the peculiar jumble of bleached objects in the dirt on the far bank. For a moment the cowboy mused as he sat askew on his horse: these could not be cow or horse bones, they were twenty feet deep; not even buffalo bones could have that cover of earth on them.

The layer of bones in the bank of the arroyo was peculiar, there was no doubt of that. The cowboy hesitated, as his tired horse stood quiet with dropping head; and as the rider sat undecided, a considerable portion of our early history hung in the balance. Had the cowboy grunted and ridden on, we might never have known about these early hunters. But the New Mexico cowman did not go on. After a moment of indecision, he swung stiffly out of the saddle and walked under the horse’s next to the edge of the deep wash. Because of the interest of this one man, tired as though he was, we came to know the story.

As the cowboy slid and stumbled down the steep bank to the bottom of the arroyo, the pale spring sun struck a glitter from among the white bones which he saw before him. He prodded tentatively with his knife at one of these bright objects and a piece of flint came away in his hand. It was no ordinary piece of flint but obviously part of a stone point which had once been a spear tip. Working feverishly now, with something of a premonition of the importance of the discovery, the man pulled and strained at the huge bones protruding from the hard adobe of the bank; and, as he uncovered more and more bones and threw them carelessly to the ground at his feet, he collected several of the bits of flint all of them worked and obviously were made by the hand of man.

The flint points were peculiar and like no other arrowheads he had ever found before. Indian arrow tips of the usual varieties were quite common on the ranch where he worked. Some of these recent ones could even be identified on old Comanche and Ute camping sites. But the chipped points that he dug from the arroyo bank were different, and the bones with which the points occurred were different, also. They were huge bones, larger even than those of dead cattle with which every range rider was familiar; these bones were massive and white and chalklike. They looked very old and they were a good twenty feet below the surface of the ground, exposed only by the wash of the fast-eroding arroyo.

It is the things out of the ordinary that we notice; the details that do not fit. Even after the cowboy had slipped the pieces of flint he had found into his well- worn blue jeans and remounted his horse, the circumstances surrounding his discovery burned in his mind with an insistent questioning. This was 1926, and the cowboy told many people in the vicinity of the small town of Folsom, New Mexico, about his discovery.

It was in this way that word reached the ears of Dr. J.D. Figgins of Colorado. Scientists ever have their ears atuned for the word of such a discovery. After all, almost all scientific discoveries are accidents, and this was no exception.

After its original notice in this purely accidental way, the Folsom site became the focus of scientific attention. The word traveled like wild fire that a discovery had been made of flint implements, mixed with the bones of extinct bison. What looked like crumbling, overlarge, curious bones to the cowboy were recognized as the bones of a type of animal that had not been alive for the last ten thousand years!

The evidence was indisputable. ‘Taylor’s’ bison, as these extinct animals were known, resembled modern buffalo superficially, although they were somewhat larger.”

“The original specimens of the ancient Taylor’s bison had been collected only a few miles from the Folsom site. Here paleontologists from the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Nebraska had found these distinctive bison bones in deposits which they estimated to be from ten to fifteen thousand years old. The Taylor’s bison truly belonged in the same age with the mammoths and the mastodon.

There they were, the jumbled bones of the animals and the flint points lying in and around them, the points which had probably killed these same animals.”

“The word went out to the newspapers with all the tumult that accompanied the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb. Newspaper headlines announced ‘Evidence of Ancient Hunters Discovered 10,000 Years Old!’ And even the scientific publications departed from their usual, quiet manner to the effect of: ‘Evidences of Man Found With Extinct Animals.’ That rare thing in scientific circles had been achieved – unanimity of opinion. That which a few had suspected and most had doubted was proved. There had been men, very early ones, who lived in that place and who hat hunted animals now extinct. In true scientific fashion, this unknown was called ‘Folsom man.’”