Dr. E. Gary Stickel
Principal Archaeologist for the Farpoint Project

It is always important in archaeology to establish the dating of any archaeological site being investigated. Formal dating helps establish the time of a site’s occupation and the duration of occupation of a site by ancient peoples. If more than one culture is present at a site, as we believe is the case at the Farpoint Site, it is important to establish the starting and ending dates of each cultural occupation at a site. The dating not only helps in the analysis of how a given cultural occupation at a site figured in the overall cultural development of an ancient culture area, but it also helps to establish how the cultural occupation of a site fits in with the overall picture of the sequence of cultural occupations of a major region of the world, in this case the Western Hemisphere. Initially the Farpoint Site was estimated to date to the Early Period of the local California coastal chronology (cf. Stickel 2000). That time estimate was based on the appearance of the surface of the site and by the types of artifacts found distributed on its surface (i.e. millingstones in the forms of manos [ground stone handstones used for grinding on a larger stone grinding slab], metate fragments (fragments of the larger stone grinding slab known as “metates” in local archaeology), and lithic debitage (fragments of chert and other hard stones produced during the process of chipping out sharp stone tools (e.g. for knives, spearheads, scrapers, etc.).

In order to verify our initial interpretations of the dating of the site, our research project, in 2000, submitted a sample of shell fragments (of Mytilus californianus) to the Beta Analytic Radiocarbon Laboratory in Florida. The sample was taken from data recovered from an STP (shovel test probe), from Level 5 (40-50 cm below surface). This 50 x 50 cm STP was located some 59 m from the locus where the Clovis point was later found. Beta Analytic Laboratory obtained an unexpectedly old radiocarbon date of 8400 ± 90 BP (Before Present) (see Radiocarbon Dating Report #1 below) (Hood 2000; Stickel 2000, Appendix 5). That date, however, had to be calibrated with the required radiocarbon date correction curve (needed because it has been established that “radiocarbon years” are not the same as true “calendar years” due to the differential production of radiocarbon on earth over the last 10,000 years). When the correction curve was applied to the Farpoint radiocarbon date, it was corrected, on its older end, to 6945 BC or to 8895 BP, or virtually 9000 years ago. This date was unexpected, for, as noted above, we thought the site, based on surface indications of artifacts, dated to the Early Period, which by the recent most chronology proposed for the area was 6,000-800 BC (or 8000 to 2800 BP)(King 1995). Thus our first Farpoint Site radiocarbon date indicated that the site was older than the existing chronology. That was the first indication that the Farpoint was extraordinary for we had obtained the oldest date yet recorded for the 27 mile-long coastal city limits of Malibu.

After a hiatus of archaeological work at the site, we resumed work at Farpoint in 2005. On September 26 of that year the project’s Native American Monitor, Edgar Perez, found a large projectile point (in this case a spearhead) at a depth ranging from approximately -80 to -103 cm below surface and at a depth about 30 cm to over 50 cm below the level from which the initial radiocarbon date was derived.. The writer here, Gary Stickel, later initially identified that specimen as a Clovis Projectile Point (stone spearhead) which was later verified by a number of prominent Clovis Culture expert archaeologists from around the nation (see “Letters Regarding the Authenticity and Significance of the Farpoint Site”). Some artifact types (in terms of their precise style, form, shape, materials and methods of manufacture) have been called “Type artifacts.” These type artifacts have often been used to both identify a culture at a site or culture area and the time period of that culture’s use of those artifacts. In the case of “Clovis Points” (with which the Farpoint point has been identified), the distinctive fluted based points have been used to identify the Clovis Culture at sites stretching across North America. Clovis points have been found, when their sites could be dated by radiocarbon, to date back to 11,500 to 11,000 years ago (Haynes 2006). It was due to this type artifact/time period correlation concept, that Dr. Dennis Stanford, Director of the Paleoindian/ Paleoecology Program at the Smithsonian Institution, in 2006, stated that “There is no question that the artifact (the Farpoint spearhead) was made using Clovis technology and thereby indicates that the site was occupied by Clovis people over 11,000 years ago” (Stanford 2006). Therefore, using the type artifact concept, it appeared that the Farpoint Clovis Culture occupation was as old as 11,000 or more years ago. However, it is preferable, in archaeological science, to obtain objective radiometric dates to support such an interpretation, to not just rely on the type artifact dating of a site alone. Therefore the Farpoint Research Project wished to obtain such radiometric dates by submitting additional samples from the site for age-dating.

That age-dating endeavor had two associated problems: 1) our archaeological team no longer had permission to excavate at the site as the owner has denied all such access to the important site and 2) the Research Project had no more research funds to pay for such dating analysis. James Flaherty, who had selected the successful 2000 radiocarbon sample and the writer, decided, since we no longer had access to the site, to select samples from other data we had excavated in 2000 as the only option open to us at this point. In order to solve the second problem, the writer contacted the Accelerated Mass Spectrometer laboratory (“AMS Facility”) at the Physics Department at the University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, and spoke with Dr. Timothy Jull, Director and Dr. Greg Hodgins, Assistant Research Scientist/Assistant Professor of Physics. They kindly agreed to analyze four more radiocarbon samples that we would submit to them from the Farpoint Site and not charge for their analysis. That generous gesture is very much appreciated by all concerned. Four samples were submitted and the results are presented below in Radiocarbon Dating Report #2 (Hodgins 2008).

In terms of the preliminary dating of the site, the 2000 radiocarbon date of virtually 9000 BP, indicated that the site dated beyond the local chronology of 8000 BP, into an era that, in general terms across the Nation, is referred to as the “Archaic Culture.” With the discovery of the Clovis point, however, it would appear that the Farpoint Site has a Clovis Culture component and that the component should date to circa 11,000 BP or older. The additional radiocarbon samples sent to the Arizona AMS Laboratory were analyzed in the hope of possibly dating that Clovis occupation at the site as well as the recent most occupation (which we expected to be Early Period in age).

As can be seen in Radiocarbon Dating Report #2 below, three of the radiocarbon samples dated in the 8000+ range (list both radiocarbon and calibrated ages). One of the samples unexpectedly dated to 40,600 ± 1,300 years (radiocarbon age) before present. In our collective opinions (the writer, James Flaherty, the UA AMS Lab, and Geologist Donald Johnson of the Univ. of Illinois) this date is anomalous in the cultural deposit and therefore cannot be associated with any human cultural occupation at the site. We believe that this anomalous date can be explained by other factors (see below in the listing of the date).

Regarding the three other dates mentioned above in the 8000+ range, the following comments are appropriate. In the case of sample# AA78427, it was originally submitted with the expectation that the radiocarbon assay from it would date the recent most occupation at the site (i.e. the surface to near-surface cultural deposit), since the sample was obtained from the first excavated level (0-10 cm) in the unit from which it was obtained. However, the assayed age of that sample (radiocarbon age 8409 ± 53 BP; calibrated age 7014 BC, or ~9014 BP) was unexpectedly older than we originally had anticipated. Our original expectation (when we began excavating the site in 1999) had been that the entire cultural deposit would date to the Early Period (8000 to 2800 BP; King 1995). That initial assessment was based on the character of the midden deposit and the nature of the surface artifacts, including both chipstone debris (debitage) and groundstone artifacts (manos and mano/metate fragments; note: the "Early Period" was formerly called the "Milling Stone Period"). Since sample# AA78427 was found to date to ~9014 BP (calibrated age), and since the other two dates (6824 BP and 7074 BP calibrated ages) also date to the 8000+ range, we have not obtained any dates that fall within the time-span of the Early Period, as originally expected. However, the site does contain groundstone artifacts (manos and metate fragments) which were recovered from a surface to near-surface context at the site; we still expect those artifacts to date to the Early Period, if and when they can be dated. There is a possibility that the Early Period peoples' utilization of the site was superimposed on the Archaic culture's deposit and that — due to their brief and ephemeral occupation — the Early Period people may not have left any datable material (shell and/or other ecofacts). The three dates in the 8000+ range indicate at present that the majority of the deposit we excavated in 1999-2000 may date to the Archaic Period. Importantly, these three new dates not only further corroborate the antiquity of the Farpoint Site, but they may indicate that there was a relatively substantial occupation of the site by Archaic peoples. Our submission consisted of samples AA78426 (70-80cm); AA78427 (0-10cm); AA78428 (60-70cm), and AA78429 (60-70cm). Three of these were selected as the deepest samples from pits we had previously excavated, in the hope that one or more of them might date their respective deposits to the Clovis period. Although sample# 78429 yielded a date of about 9074 years ago (calibrated), making it the oldest cultural date obtained for the City of Malibu at present, it nonetheless does not date back to the calibrated Clovis Culture time-span of about 12,500 to 12,000 years ago.

Unfortunately, in our previous investigations at the site, we did not excavate down to the level at which the Clovis point was later found. The three samples we submitted to possibly date Clovis at the site were all from data found above the estimated depth range of the Clovis point (sample AA78426, averaging ~ +5cm — +28cm above the range; samples AA78428 and AA78429, averaging ~ +10cm — +38cm above the range). Based on our dating results, a future excavation is needed to hopefully obtain organic data from the same depth as the Clovis point in order to obtain a valid date (or dates) for the Clovis occupation. We fully expect at this time that such a future effort will obtain the necessary datable material from the Clovis component at the Farpoint Site.

References Cited in Section:
Hodgins, Greg
2008Letter radiocarbon dating report of “Four shell samples from the Farpoint Site (CA-LAN-451),” letter on file at the NSF-Arizona AMS Facility, University of Arizona.

Hood, Darden
2000Report of Radiocarbon Dating Analysis (from site CA-LAN-451). Report on file at Beta Analytic Inc., Florida.

King, Chester
1990Evolution of Chumash Society: A Comparative Study of Artifacts Used for Social System Maintenance in the Santa Barbara Channel Region before A.D. 1804. Garland Publishing, New York.

Stanford, Dennis
2006Letter “To Whom it May Concern: Importance of the Farpoint Site,” Letter on file at The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

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

Radiocarbon Dating Report #1

Radiocarbon Dating Report #2

(Note: Explanatory text has been added by the writer
to the following table from the UA AMS Lab report)

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