U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
The Paleoindian Era (c. 13,000–6,400 BC) is poorly represented in Northwest Colorado. However, sites from this era have been found scattered across the region. Examples of the well-known Clovis and Folsom types of projectile points have been found within the boundaries of the White River Resource Area. Paleoindian projectile points are typically much larger than those of succeeding eras.
The Paleoindian peoples of Northwest Colorado lived in a colder, moister environment than we experience today. Their adaptation required far-ranging seasonal migrations, following herds of megafauna such as the mammoth and mastodon. Paleoindian hunters also sought now-extinct animals such as early bison (Bison antiquus) and camels, in addition to more familiar game. By the end of this era, North American megafauna were extinct.
A typical Clovis point discovered in Canyon Pintado.
[scale in centimeters]
The Archaic Era (c. 6,400-400 BC) saw subtle shifts in the way people lived. With the extinction of North America’s megafauna and the warmer temperatures of c. 8,000 years ago, Archaic peoples developed new tools to adapt to these new environmental conditions. Archaic projectile points, for example, were smaller than Paleoindian points but substantially larger than those of the succeeding Formative Era. These points were used to tip spear-like darts, thrown with a device known today by the Nahuatl (Aztec) term atlatl.
As glaciers retreated in the face of warmer global temperatures, today’s alpine regions opened to seasonal use by animals and people alike. Still nomads, Archaic peoples traveled far smaller yearly circuits than their Paleoindian predecessors. As a consequence, groups of Arcahic peoples became partly isolated from one another, allowing for the development of different regional cultures. This is explains why the Archaic projectile points from one location may differ from the points of another region, while both areas boast identically crafted Paleoindian points.