E. Gary Stickel, Ph.D.
Principal Archaeologist, the Farpoint Site Project

An issue has arisen regarding the status of the Clovis Occupation at the Farpoint Site. The site, recorded as CA-LAN-451, was investigated with a Test Phase and a Mitigation Phase program, involving excavation, in 2000 (Stickel 2000). Given the tests of hypotheses conducted for the resultant mitigation report (Stickel 2000), the majority of the Farpoint Site's cultural deposits represent a habitation site. That interpretation might reasonably hold for all data recovered from the site (i.e. that they were deposited during the occupation of Farpoint as a habitation site). However the owner/developer of the property, on which the site rests, brought up the concept (first at the Oct. 10, 2006 meeting of the City of Malibu's Native American Cultural Resources Advisory Committee, held at City Hall), that Clovis points can be purchased on the Internet. The owner/developer has also repeatedly made the charge that the Clovis point our investigative team found at the site had been "seeded" at the site, i.e. that the point had been introduced or imported to the site. More recently, Ms. Trish Hernandez (Historical Archaeologist) and member of the State of California Historical Resources Committee, when the committee was about to vote on recommending James Flaherty's and my nomination of the Farpoint Site to the National Register of Historic Places last August 3, 2007, brought up the concept that the Clovis Point we found at the site could have been imported from another site and therefore she was not willing to call Farpoint a "Clovis Site." This essay is designed to address these issues of whether or not the point was "seeded" and/or "imported" (meaning that the point was originally brought in to the Farpoint Site from another place or site located elsewhere) and what is, indeed, the probable type of site associated with the Clovis find there. The owner/developer, to discount the importance of the find, has been attempting to assert that the point could have been purchased on the Internet and therefore recently (over the last few years) deposited on the site (i.e. presumably in the 2000s) as a de facto hoax. Ms. Hernandez, however, as we discussed it at the August 3, 2007 meeting, presented another, less perverse scenario, whereby a prehistoric person 9000 years ago (or the ancient point in time indicated by our radiocarbon date of 9000 B.P.) could have brought the point in from another site and then left it at the Farpoint Site where we found it in 2005. Both scenarios, de facto, if proven valid, would diminish the Clovis status at Farpoint, or dismiss it altogether if it were a hoax. I will now address those arguments.

There is a principle in science called "Occam's razor." originated by William of Occam (1670-1738) in England. His famous dictum states "entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem" (in literal translation: "beings ought not to be multiplied except out of necessity."). The principle has been utilized in Science, having been incorporated into the Philosophy of Science for scientific explanation. And, simply put, the principle has been utilized when there have been two competing hypotheses used to explain the same phenomenon. Operationally it states that the competing hypothesis which is the least complex in terms that it requires the fewest assumptions, the fewest steps or factors, and the least amount of supportive evidence to validate it, usually proves, upon subsequent and extensive testing, to be the more valid of the two competing concepts. The principle has been, for a long time, proposed for usage in Archaeological explanation (cf. David L. Clark’s Analytical Archaeology 1968; 79-81, 475). I have also long endorsed its usage in scientific archaeology, particularly with regard to proposing


scientific laws (Stickel and Chartkoff 1973). The owner/developer's charge that the point could have been purchased on the Internet and then somehow "seeded" at the site is a false and unjustified accusation. Aside from the fact that it casts aspersions on the integrity of Mr. Edgar Perez, Native American Cultural Resources Specialist, who discovered the point and myself as a professional archaeologist, such a scenario would be relatively easy to reject for the following reasons: the purchase of any such point would leave a traceable trail of documentable seller and buyer activity. So that fact would make the purchase of an ancient artifact off the Internet to use as a hoax a very chancy affair. Or any attempt that might have been made to use a recent-made Clovis style point and to pass it off as an ancient bona fide Clovis point again would not stand up to scientific scrutiny. For example, the Clovis point from Farpoint has been so scrutinized, even under magnification, by some of the foremost Clovis experts in the nation and none of them ever doubted that it is a genuine Clovis made artifact and one dating to the Clovis era. Secondly why would Mr. Perez and I wish to jeopardize our professional reputations with a hoax so easy to expose? Thirdly, why would anyone pay thousands of dollars (which some Clovis points sell for on the internet I'm told) and then randomly bury the point on the site hoping that our archaeological team would somehow, by coincidence, excavate precisely at that location? The last point is especially poignant given that the artifact was dug up from its buried locus with a backhoe, by a construction crew (therefore not by our research team). It was a minor miracle that the backhoe didn't destroy the fragile point altogether. Again why would someone take such a risk? Fourthly, that person committing the hoax would have to take it on faith that we would excavate down that deep (i.e. between -80 and -103 cm below surface), when, in our previous formal archaeological excavations we dug down to only about an average depth of 61.25 cm (for our excavated pits).

Fifthly, if the charge is modified to assert that the point could have been made by someone today to pass it off as a legitimate ancient point, such a charge could be dismissed by the fact that it is very difficult to make a Clovis point, relatively few people today can make them because the technology required is specific and requires experienced motor skills. And even if it were made that recently, any knowledgeable chert knapper or experienced archaeologist in stone tool manufacture could relatively easily identify such a hoax because the point would lack the weathering and patina on its flake scars and surfaces that only ageing can produce. Moreover since the point is made of material from the Monterey Formation, such a hoaxer would have to produce the point from that Monterey Formation material. All of those elements would make the faking of the point extremely hard to do. Again why would any professional want to take such risks? It is clear to me that the charge of the point being a hoax can be dismissed. It should also be pointed out here that Mr. Perez noted that the point came from an intact soil matrix at the bottom of the trench that was being excavated and that soil was of relatively hard earth and the point when he retrieved it was encrusted with that firm soil (i.e. it was not found in loose soil which is the only context in which a hoaxed point could have been found).

The context of the discovery of the point leaves the present situation, one where I think it is useful to apply the principle of Occam's razor to the two competing concepts (not yet elevated to formally devised hypotheses) concerning the Clovis presence at Farpoint: (1) The first, discussed above, states that there is no Clovis occupational presence at the site because the Clovis point was brought to the site much later in time by non-Clovis people (e.g. in Ms. Hernandez's scenario by an ancient person 9000 years ago [who would have been of the "Archaic People" at the time], or, in the owner/developer's scenario by a unscrupulous person within the last few years). The second concept (2), which is the one I propose to account for the presence of the Clovis data at Farpoint, involves a scenario that simply states that a Clovis person, 11,000 years ago or so, made a Clovis Point on-site at Farpoint (a site that was probably an Clovis habitation/occupation site as opposed to a single find-spot or "isolate" artifact locus). Now how can we distinguish between the two concepts using the Principle of Occam's razor?


I submit the following to address that question:

Scenario (1), the more recent (than Clovis) person importing a Clovis point to the site concept, would minimally require the following assumptions/steps/factors:

1)A person (modern or archaic in time) would have to go
2)to another Clovis site and
3)for some motivational reason pick up an ancient Clovis point (one from a culture alien from his/her own).

Note that that site would have to be present in the California coastal zone and that part of the zone which contains Monterey Formation chert. For we (James Flaherty and I) have identified the material of the Farpoint Clovis Point as having been made of local chert. That identification was corroborated by Prof. Don Johnson of the University of Illinois, who specifically identified the Farpoint point material as "opaline silicate" chert from the Monterey Formation. In addition, Mike Rondeau, California archaeologist and expert on fluted points in California, also identified the point as Monterey Formation chert. This factor essentially obviates the owner/developer's claim that the point could have been purchased off the internet and "seeded" at the site [note that any such purchases off the internet would have been traceable], since California Clovis points are extremely rare in comparison to the rest of the nation, particularly the southeast U.S. Given how rare California Clovis points are, it is highly unlikely that one has ever been for sale on the internet, especially one made from California coastal material. Therefore, since a recent purchase scenario can be reasonably ruled out, that leaves the question of whether an ancient person (perhaps of Archaic age circa 9000 years ago) would have found and then transported the point.

4)Thus that ancient person would have to, again for some unknown motivational reason transport the point from the hypothetical donor site to the Farpoint Site.
5)Once at the Farpoint Site, that person would not only have to discard the point, that he had taken the trouble to transport to the site, but then intentionally bury the point some 40 cm(15 3/4 inches) below the 9000 year-old level he presumably would be standing on.

Again what would be the motivation for discarding by burial of an alien culture's point into the ground? The latter would be the case because the Clovis Point, recovered from the Farpoint Site, was found about 40 cm below the level at which we obtained the 9000 year- old radiocarbon date.

Therefore, scenario (1) involves 1) a person of a later time and of an alien culture (from Clovis, possibly of the Archaic period), who 2) would have to find an ancient Clovis Site (one much older than his own culture's), locate a Clovis point there, then 3) collect it for some reason, 4) then to choose not to incorporate it into his own culture (e.g. modify the point to be useful at his time period), 5) instead treating the point in a special manner (e.g. as an heirloom?; or at least an object worthy of transport),

6)then to transport the point to the Farpoint Site (again for what motivation?), and then finally,
7)intentionally bury the point at Farpoint relatively deeply (-40 cm) at the site.

Thus scenario (1) involves two 2 different time periods (Clovis and the time of the transporter person), two 2 different cultures (of Clovis and that of the transporter person), two 2 different sites (the Clovis point donor site, and the Farpoint Site), and the two sites would have to be within the California coastal zone (due to the fact that the Farpoint point is made of Monterey Formation chert from coastal California). Furthermore, scenario (1) involves complex motivations to explain why a person of one established culture would go to an ancient alien culture's site in the first place, and then remove from it an alien culture's spearpoint, and then transport it to another site (the Farpoint Site) and then the motivation for why that person would want to discard the found point by intentionally burying it,


relatively deeply, or 40 cm below his/her surface level at that time. Such motivations, therefore, would not be of a simple techno-economic basis, but rather would involve a more complex basis involving psychological and ideological factors. Therefore the relative complexity of scenario (1) is manifest with at least 7 steps or factors noted above.

Scenario (2), the Clovis made-in-situ at Farpoint concept, is not so complex. This scenario involves:

1)A Clovis person at
2)the Clovis time period, at
3)the Farpoint Site, who
4)for a simple techno-economic reason created a point for use in hunting (that is, he fabricated a point on site) and who
5)discarded the point for some reason (possibly by chance lost it) at the site.

This scenario is far less complex than Scenario (1) as we don't have to come up with two sites (Farpoint and the donor site), do not have to deal with two cultures (alien to each other in time and cultural customs), do not have to deal with complex motivations for finding, collecting, transporting and discarding behaviors. And if one wanted to bring up a "ceremonial" (ideological) reason for such behaviors, there is no contextual evidence to support a "ceremonial" interpretation. For example, there was no red ochre or anything else that could be construed to be of a ceremonial nature found on or associated with the Clovis point. Therefore, due to the Principle of Occam's razor, the two competing scenarios can be discriminated and the scenario that the Farpoint point was simply made and discarded at the site is more probable than the cumbersome scenario of an imported point.

The interpretation warrants some further discussion here. Although we have not absolutely proven it so far, James Flaherty (who did all the lithic analysis for the project to date) and I maintain that there are, within the relatively large debitage component of our data, other waste flakes of the same material that the Clovis point was made out of (hence adding credence to the point manufactured on-site concept). It should be pointed out here that the majority of the Clovis experts who have examined the Farpoint point to date, have interpreted it to be a late stage preform (i.e. not a finished point). Indeed, Mike Rondeau, a fluted point expert in California, stated that the Farpoint point "Is, literally, the first Clovis preform ever found in California. This is the only artifact from California that actually meets the technological requirements of that artifact class" (Rondeau 2006). One might expect that if the point had been imported to Farpoint from another Clovis site, it would have probably been a finished point from that donor site, not an unfinished one. The interpreted "preform" status of the Farpoint point also indicates that it was in process of being manufactured at the site when that process was interrupted for some reason and the point discarded or lost. In addition, Ms. Lynn Herold, Ph.D. Senior Criminalist at the crime scene investigation laboratory of the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department tested the Farpoint Clovis Point for any blood residue (animal or human) and found no evidence. Her findings are consistent with a preform or at least a not as yet utilized point, which supports the interpretation that the point was "in process" of becoming a utilized Clovis point but had not reached that status yet.

If indeed the point was manufactured on the Farpoint Site, there still remains the question of what kind of site the Clovis person was involved with. That is, there are different kinds of potential sites it could have derived from ranging from a habitation site (e.g. at a village location) to just a point manufacturing site (e.g. a chipping station, with no over-night habitation associated with it). The fact that our 9000 year-old radiocarbon date came from a sample of Mytilus californianus (Californian mussel shell), which was an ecofact (food-related item in this case) and that we have recovered other such ecofacts down to -70 to -80 cm (i.e. approaching one meter in depth and relatively far below the -40 cm level of


the C-14 date) from our excavations in 2000, and there are animal bone fragments (from a variety of species including bony fish) also down to -70 to -80 cm, are all indications that there may well be a habitation site (as represented by shell and bone ecofacts) down to the near-depth of where the Clovis point was found. James Flaherty is currently plotting the data distributions from our recovered data from the site which will be presented later. For now, the indications are that there may well be a habitation site component at Farpoint that can be associated with the Clovis occupation there.

Given the discussion above: In all probability, therefore, the Farpoint Site is most likely a bona fide primary occupied Clovis site of some type, and that type also probabilistically will be found to be a habitation site. Since there are so few Clovis habitation sites known, and none directly on the west coast of the Western Hemisphere to date, if Farpoint is borne out to be a Clovis habitation site, the nature of its occupants' adaptation to the major ecotone of the California coast and the Pacific Ocean, both with good resources at the time, will make Farpoint very important for documenting our knowledge of Clovis adaptations on the continent.

References Cited:
Clarke, David L.
1968Analytical Archaeology. Methuen & Co. Ltd., London.

Rondeau, Michael
2006An e-mail accompanying the first draft "Research Notes" on his study of the Farpoint Clovis point (e-mail date: 7/23/2006).

Stickel, E. Gary and Joseph L. Chartkoff
1973The nature of scientific laws and their relations to law-building in archaeology. In The Explanation of Culture Change: Models in Prehistory. Edited by Colin Renfrew, Duckworth and Co. Ltd., London; pp. 663-671.

Stickel, E. Gary
2000A Phase 3 Excavation and Mitigation Report on Archaeological Site CA-LAN-451, Located in the City of Malibu, California. Report on file with the author and at the City of Malibu.


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