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Prehistoric America

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« Reply #30 on: August 16, 2007, 02:14:02 am »

Alexandria Archaeologists Discover Ancient Artifact

Updated: 12:16 p.m. CT Aug 10, 2007
ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Archaeologists working at Freedmen's Cemetery in Alexandria have unearthed a stone tool believed to be about 13,000 years old.

The artifact was discovered during a dig last week, officials said.

Although the tip of the spear point is broken, archaeologists from Alexandria and Fairfax have identified it as a reworked Clovis point. Clovis points are recognized by their distinctive shape and serve as one of the diagnostic markers for an era known to archaeologists as the Paleoindian period that lasted from as early as 18,000 to about 12,000 years ago.

Michael Johnson, an archaeologist for Fairfax County, has examined several stone artifacts found at Freedmen's Cemetery and said he believes the location was once a major Native American site. Johnson concluded that the broken point had been reworked or re-sharpened so it could continue to be an effective tool.

Clovis points were manufactured and used by bands of hunters as they roamed the grasslands and open conifer forests that would have been present in Northern Virginia as the glaciers from the last Ice Age began to melt, scientists said.

Until this discovery, the oldest known Alexandria artifact was a 9,000-year-old Kirk point found at Jones Point, officials said. According to Francine Bromberg, Alexandria's preservation archaeologist, the Clovis point provides the first concrete evidence that Native Americans were present in Alexandria during the Paleoindian period.

Alexandria archaeologists have been working at Freedmen's Cemetery since May, excavating the site where approximately 1,800 African Americans were buried in the late 1860s.

A gas station and office building had been at the site until historians found documentary evidence of the cemetery. Since then, a team of archaeologists has been carefully excavating the property, identifying grave shafts without disturbing any burials or remains.

Officials hope to identify the burial locations so that a memorial park honoring the freedmen can be designed and built without disturbing any graves.

In digging the cemetery site, archaeologists said it's likely that the location was a major prehistoric site, periodically visited and probably occupied by different peoples for thousands of years.

Archaeological work at Freedmen's Cemetery, located at South Washington and Church streets, is expected to continue into October.

For more information, see the Alexandria Archaeology Web site or call 703-838-4399.

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