Communal hunting in the Colorado high country: archaeological investigations of three game drive sites near Rollins Pass, Grand County, Colorado

Whittenburg, Aaron M., author
LaBelle, Jason M., advisor
Van Buren, Mary, committee member
Boone, Randall, committee member
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The pioneering efforts of James Benedict and Byron Olson demonstrated the importance of alpine communal game drives in the lives of prehistoric Native American populations living in northern Colorado. Their research resulted in numerous books and journal publications on alpine and sub-alpine sites from Rocky Mountain National Park southward to the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Unfortunately, their meticulous work on the spectacular sites at Rollins Pass remained unpublished. This thesis presents their data and additional data collected by the author, Jason LaBelle, and the Center for Mountain and Plains Archaeology at Colorado State University. This thesis is an archaeological investigation of three alpine game drive sites (5GA35, 5GA36, and 5GA37) and a nearby lithic scatter (5GA4268). As of September 2015, 80 hunting blinds, 1,935 meters of walls, and 15 cairns and two additional cairn lines have been recorded between the three game drives. Diagnostic projectile points demonstrate Late Archaic through Late Prehistoric use. The chipped stone debitage assemblage is representative of late-stage production or maintenance of stone tools and only a limited amount of initial reduction occurred on-site. Raw material types for the artifact assemblage are dominated by Middle Park sources, namely Troublesome Formation chert, indicating groups moved into the alpine zone from the intermountain basins from the west. Spatial analysis of blind morphology and density show that groups were constructing game drives in such a way as to maximize the number of hunters near areas of wall convergence in the kill zone, the most critical location of the game drive. The relationship between features and artifacts suggests that artifacts found within 20 meters of blinds are directly related to the hunt itself while artifacts found outside this range may relate to pre-hunt or post-hunt activities. Protein residue analysis suggests that elk and/or deer may have been a target species at these sites. Spatial analyses of the relationship of artifacts to features indicate a limited amount of post-hunt processing occurred in the kill zone, while blinds served critical roles throughout all phases of the hunt. 5GA4268 is interpreted as a specialized processing site associated with 5GA35. Use wear analysis indicates that scraping hide was the dominant activity at 5GA4268. This thesis illustrates the merit of applying spatial analyses to feature and artifact attributes to gain a more holistic interpretation of human behaviors associated with alpine communal hunting sites.
2017 Fall.
Includes bibliographical references.
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