San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area Overview

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Murray Springs is a significant archaeology site that contains an undisturbed stratigraphic record of the past 40,000 years. Excavations were conducted by the University of Arizona from 1966 to 1971 under the direction of Dr. Vance Haynes and funded by the National Geographic Society.

People first arrived in this area 11,000 years ago. They belonged to what we now call the Clovis Culture and were the earliest known people to have inhabited North America. Named after the distinctive and beautifully crafted Clovis spear points they made, they were expert hunters of the large mammals of the Ice Age.

The characteristic Clovis Point was first identified in Clovis, New Mexico, and is found in association with mammoth bones at such sites as the Lehner Ranch Site, Escapule, and Naco, as well as at Murray Springs.

Bones of several extinct animals were found at this site, including Mammoth, North American horse, Camels, Bison, Lion, and Dire wolf.

Besides the 16 Clovis points recovered from Murray Springs, a very unusual bone tool was uncovered in association with mammoth bones. It may have been used as a wrench to straighten wooden or bone spear shafts, and was made of a mammoth leg bone.

One of the aspects that makes the Murray Springs site so extraordinary is the fact that Clovis occupation surfaces were found in place. Bones, tools, and a hearth were discovered exactly where Clovis people left them.

These Clovis activity areas were uncovered directly under the Clanton Clay deposit, or the "black mat," which was laid down relatively rapidly and is primarily organic in composition. The origin of this black mat is a subject of debate, but its occurrence immediately over the Clovis sites has made absolute dates possible.

The Clovis people were big game hunters who were always on the move following such game as the mammoth, mastodon, horse, bison, and tapir during the close of the last ice age. Their dependence on this now extinct mega fauna characterized their culture and was so complete that one theory proposes the people of this culture may have actually contributed to the extinction of the animals by over hunting. In any case, the extinction of the game caused corresponding shifts in the lifestyle and survival strategies of humans, and gave rise to the next cultural episode called the Archaic Period.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 20 Jun 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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