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Twelve Mile Creek Site

Sketch of chipped stone dart from Twelve Mile Creek

In the year 1895 Charles Wood made a major discovery. While walking along Twelve Mile Creek in Logan County he couldn’t help but notice bison teeth appearing in the bank. Intrigued, he contacted Handel T. Martin and T. R. Overton of the University of Kansas to investigate. An excavation soon followed that would prove to be an important discovery for North American archeology.

At first Martin and Overton noticed nothing unusual as they worked to uncover the specimen. As they lifted the bison’s shoulder, they noticed a fluted dart point. The point was directly under the shoulder, and had made an impression on the bone. The archeologists thought it the dart was used to injure the animal.

The species was identified as one that became extinct some 8,000 years ago. A newer study of the site including radiocarbon dates suggests the kill took place about 10,300 years ago. In 1895 archeologist believed that American Indians had inhabited North America less than a thousand years. Shortly after the discovery of this site, the point was stolen. With the absence of the artifact, many archeologists of the day had difficulty accepting this remarkable find.

Bison skull

The positioning of the bison bones suggests the animals were herded off a ravine, falling to their deaths. After several bison had been killed, the native people were able to butcher the animals. The bones at the site revealed numerous butcher marks on most of the skeletons and the heads had been removed, suggesting a religious or ceremonial activity.

In 1928 a similar find was made near Folsom, New Mexico. With that evidence, archeologists could accept the timeline of the American Indian, and the value of the site at Twelve Mile Creek.

The Twelve Mile Creek site is now recognized as one of the most important to North American archeology. It shows that Americans Indians lived in the North American continent much earlier than originally believed and it also showed how these early people lived.

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Entry: Twelve Mile Creek Site

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: December 2004

Date Modified: July 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.