2 million to 11,000 BP : Pleistocene to Paleo



       The Pleistocene Period began around 2 million years ago, as did the Quaternary

Period which is still ongoing. Petrifaction of objects even this old need not occur if

the preservation conditions are suitable - re: 2 million year old unpetrified Sequoia

and Bald Cypress found in Italy. Common current Ozark flora which probably date back

to the early Pleistocene include the locust (Robinia pseudo-acacia), osage orange

(Maclura pomifera), red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Nyssa sylvatica, Vaccinium

arboreum, Ulmus alata, and Carpinus caroliniana. Representatives of the Homo habilis

species have been found with stone tools from around 1.8 million BP.

      The Pleistocene was a period of dramatic temperature fluctuations with a series of

glaciations concurrent with a low sea level, and interglaciation periods concurrent with

a high sea level. The Blancan interglaciation period began around 1.6 million years ago, at

which time Homo erectus was living in Kenya. The abbevillain handaxe, the first

standardized tool, existed 1.5 million years ago, and evidence of fire usage in Kenya has

been dated to this time. Around 1.3 million years ago the Maui Islands were raised. The

Nebraskan glaciation period began around 1 million BP, and lasted about100,000 years.

Also around 1 million BP, Homo erectus migrated into Europe. The Aftonian Interglacial age

existed from around 900,000 to about 700,000 BP, and between 900 and 800,000 years ago

Homo erectus arrived on the islands of Indonesia. 800,000 years ago the Hawaiian Islands

built up, and archaic Homo sapiens was evolving. The Long Valley, CA eruption occurred

760,000 years ago, and the Kansan Glacial age began around 700,000 BP. The Yellowstone,

Wyoming, eruptions, considered a superplume, occurred around 600,000 BP, near the

beginning of the Yarmouth Interglacial age. Java Man (Pithecanthropus), lived around

500,000 years ago. Peking Man (Sinanthropus), lived about 350,000 years ago, the Illinoisan

glacial age began near 325,000 BP, and pre-Neanderthals lived in northern Spain about

300,000 years ago. Homo erectus was gone from the scene by 250,000 BP, and 230,000 years

ago, the Neanderthals of northern France were caring for the sick, and burying their dead.

       About 225,000 years ago, the Sangamon Interglacial age began, and Greenland was

buried beneath a sheet of ice 2 miles thick. 200,000 years is the limit of our earliest K-Ar

dating, and ostrich eggshell amino acid dating may also reach back that far. The Vostok

ice core from northern Russia holds ice frozen from recently back to 180,000 years ago.

By 160,000 BP, Middle Paleolithic mousterian and levalloisian flake tools were widely used.

130,000 year old Neanderthals of Croatia sported an occipital bun. Modern human footprints

dated to 117,000 years ago have been found on the west coast of Africa, though 100,000 BP

is the generally accepted time of the appearance of modern Homo sapiens. A cave on the

southern coast of South Africa contained bone tools, pressure flaked points, and ocher dated

between 95 and 80 thousand BP. By 90,000 BP, modern humans lived in the Middle East. Around

then, the Wisconsin Glacial age began.The Neanderthals lived in Israel around

60,000 BP, and in Croatia around 50,000. Some French and Iraqi Neanderthals who lived

between 54-40,000 years ago suffered from CPPD arthritis. Meteor Crater off I-40

in Arizona was created around 50,000 BP, while modern humans were colonizing Europe.

       The glaciers closest approach to this area is said to be the Missouri River, and from

49-41,000 BP we had a mild, moist climate with deciduous forests and alligators (Alligator

mississippiensis), mastodons (Mammut americana), and giant bison (Bison latifrons).

Between 40 and 38,000 BP, it was cooler and drier with mainly pine and some oak forests,

and the mastodon, mammoth (Mammuthus jeffersonii), ground sloth (Glossotherium harlani),

and large bison (Bison antiquus) roamed. Reliable radiocarbon dating reach back to 40,000 BP,

and this date was obtained from charcoal and burned bone associated with human artifacts in

Texas. From 38-34,000 BP, our area was a grassland with some deciduous forest in which an

extinct black bear (Ursus americanus amplidens), mammoths, two horse species (Equus

complicatus, and probably E. scotti), and bison existed. The Late Wisconsin glacial stage ran

from 35,000-10,000 BP. Human evidence dated back to 35,000 BP has been found in New

Mexico's Orogrande Cave. Our section from 34-23,000 BP was cooler and moister with pine

forests and muskox (Symbos cavifrons), stilt-legged deer (Sangamona fugitiva), mastodons,

and ground sloths. The Neanderthal peoples lived at Costa del Sol, Spain, between 33 and

29,000 years ago, then they disappeared from the earth.

       A modern human Italian mother and fetus, from around 24,000 BP, has been found

with a shell and ocher head covering and a deer tooth necklace. Between 23-13,500 BP,

our climate was glacial, colder, and drier, spruce forest predominated with some deciduous

willow, poplar, and elm, while ground sloths, giant beaver (Castoroides ohioensis), tapir

(Tapirus veroensis), horse, and small modern species browsed. Human materials in Peru have

been dated back to 20,000 BP and from this time elsewhere the earliest ceramics, woven

textiles, and needles have been found. By 18,000 BP, the Laurentide ice sheet was at full

glacial interval, stretched well below the Great Lakes, and produced a much greater

continental exposure, including the land bridge between Asia and North America. By 15,000

BP melted glacial ice had produced a rise in sea levels of about 210 feet which flooded the

coastal areas of all continents. By 14,000 BP, it was in late glacial interval with fingers

still reaching the bottom of the Great Lakes. Between 12,900 and 11,600, this area endured

a cold period called the Younger Dryas stadial. A mastodon stuffed with wild gourd was

found in northern Florida from around 12,500 BP. Around 11,600 BP, a mastodon was

butchered by humans near Newark, Ohio after having eaten or drank water lilies,

pondweed, and swamp grasses. Evidence of human activity has also been found on 11,300

year old mammoth remains just north of Mexico City, Mexico.

      Little is known of the early peoples of the western hemisphere but one item is highly

revealing. This is their common use of the Clovis fluted point. These spearpoints have

been found throughout the western hemisphere and are usually very well made. This

indicates a hunter driven society with a strong sense of communication - possibly even

a common language throughout the north and south Americas. The paucity of remains

indicates constantly moving small family groups and a reliance on poorly preservable

animal remains as tools. A Clovis point has been found just north of this section in

Jasper Co., Mo. The ascertainment of dates in prehistory is seldom an exact science.

Variabilities of weather and the activities of living agents normally preclude that.

Recently observed variations in atmospheric carbon-14 requiring adjustment to prior

radiocarbon dates exacerbates the problem. Statistical analysis noting dates outside

the mean as unreliable would exclude the above dates of human activity. A much greater

degree of certainty places the Clovis peoples between 11,200-10,900 BP. Folsom point

types appear toward the end of this period, and one each has been found in Ottawa Co. and

Jasper Co.





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   Chapman, C.H., 1975, The Archaeology of Missouri.

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