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The Sheep Mountain juniper bark net, originally thought to be of Paleoindian age, was redated by Sundstrom and Walker (2021) to the Late Prehistoric period. Although the original investigators convincingly argued that the net was intended for use with mountain sheep or deer, Sundstrom and Walker suggest it was used to trap small game such as rabbits or sage grouse. Unfortunately, the authors ignore important information presented by the original investigators and misrepresent the archaeological record of the immediate area. The Sheep Mountain net is still best interpreted as designed for use to trap mountain sheep and deer.
Limited numbers of high-resolution records predate the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) making it difficult to quantify the impacts of environmental changes prior to peak glaciation. We examined sediments from Last Canyon Cave in the Pryor Mountains of Montana and Wyoming to construct a >45 ka environmental record from pollen and stable isotope analysis. Artemisia pollen was hyper-abundant at the beginning of the record. Carbon isotope values of bulk organic matter (>40 ka) showed little variation (-25.3 ± 0.4‰) and were consistent with a arid C3 environment, similar to today. After 40 cal ka BP, Artemisia pollen decreased as herbaceous taxa increased toward the LGM. A significant decrease in δ13C values from 40–30 cal ka BP (~1.0‰) established a new baseline (-26.6 ± 0.2‰), suggesting cooler, seasonally wetter conditions prior to the LGM. These conditions persisted until variation in δ13C values increased significantly with post-glacial warming, marked by two spikes in values at 14.4 (-25.2‰) and 13.5 cal ka BP (-25.4‰) before δ13C values dropped to their lowest values (-26.9 ± 0.2‰) at the onset of the Younger Dryas (12.8 ka). These results provide insights into late Pleistocene conditions and ecological change in arid intermontane basins of the Rocky Mountains.
The Hell Gap National Historic Landmark, located on the northwestern plains of Wyoming, is one of the most important Paleoindian archaeological sites in North America because it contains a stratified sequence of occupations spanning nearly the entirety of the Paleoindian period. Although Hell Gap is central to archaeological knowledge concerning North American Paleoindian chronology, consistently assigning component ages has been problematic due to conflicting radiocarbon determinations from individual strata, stratigraphic age reversals in age-depth relationships, and other issues related to the stratified open campsite. Toward resolving the Hell Gap chronology, we devised a procedure for correcting age-depth relationships for incorporation in chronostratigraphic models and then used the Bayesian age-depth modeling qprocedures in Bchron to estimate the ages of 11 stratified components present at Hell Gap Locality 1. We present these age estimates and discuss their significance to Paleoindian chronology. Notable aspects of our chronology include a revised age estimate for the Goshen complex, the identification of three Folsom components spanning the entirety of the Folsom temporal range, and relatively young age estimates for the Late Paleoindian Frederick/Lusk component(s) at Locality 1. More broadly, our study demonstrates a procedure for creating chronometric models of stratigraphically complicated open stratified sites of any type.