Thunderbird Archaeological District

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Thunderbird Archaeological District
Thunderbird Archeological District.jpg
Part of the neighborhood developed on top of the district
Nearest city Limeton, Virginia
NRHP reference # 77001495
VLR #093-0165
Significant dates
Added to NRHPMay 5, 1977 [1]
Designated NHLDMay 5, 1977 [2]
Designated VLRDecember 16, 1975 [3]

The Thunderbird Archaeological District, near Limeton, Virginia, is archaeological district described as consisting of "three sites—Thunderbird Site, the Fifty Site, and the Fifty Bog—which provide a stratified cultural sequence spanning Paleo-Indian cultures through the end of Early Archaic times with scattered evidence of later occupation." [2]


Thunderbird Site

This archaeological site, located in Warren County Virginia, near modern-day Front Royal in the Shenandoah River Valley is a major site of the Paleoindian Clovis culture in Virginia. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977 because it yielded dense archaeological remains as well as evidence for what is quite possibly the oldest structure in North America. [2] The site is one of three which make up the Thunderbird archaeological complex which consists of 2,500 acres of sites spanning the prehistoric era. The major occupations at Thunderbird site are known to date to the Late Pleistocene-Early Holocene epochs and include Clovis and later projectile points forms, as well as an array of other tools and manufacturing debris. [4] Radiocarbon dates indicate some of the occupations date to 9900 BP (before present). [5]

Warren County, Virginia U.S. county in Virginia

Warren County is a U.S. county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The 2010 census places Warren County within the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area with a population of 37,575. The county seat is Front Royal.

Front Royal, Virginia Town in Virginia, United States

Front Royal is a town in Warren County, Virginia, United States. The population was 14,440 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Warren County.

Shenandoah Valley valley and cultural region of western Virginia and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia in the United States

The Shenandoah Valley is a geographic valley and cultural region of western Virginia and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia in the United States. The valley is bounded to the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the west by the eastern front of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians, to the north by the Potomac River and to the south by the James River. The cultural region covers a larger area that includes all of the valley plus the Virginia highlands to the west, and the Roanoke Valley to the south. It is physiographically located within the Ridge and Valley province and is a portion of the Great Appalachian Valley.


Thunderbird consists of a group of sites located in and around a jasper quarry, Thunderbird is considered a part of the Flint Run Complex. [6] The site's relation to the quarry is important because the Paleoindians used the jasper to create tools, such as the Clovis points. Jasper is a mineral that is usually red and is known to break with a smooth surface: it can also be used for decoration but has also been used for creating bow drills that create fire.

Quarry A place from which a geological material has been excavated from the ground

A quarry is a type of open-pit mine in which dimension stone, rock, construction aggregate, riprap, sand, gravel, or slate is excavated from the ground.

Flint Run Archeological District United States historic place

Flint Run Archeological District, also known as the Flint Run Complex, is a historic archaeological site complex and national historic district located near Front Royal, Warren County, Virginia. The district consists of a group of Clovis sites clustered around a jasper outcrop in the Shenandoah Valley. They relate to a group of between 500 and 1000 people who occupied the site about 8300 BC. Archaeological excavations reveal habitations and stone tool workshops.

Jasper Chalcedony variety colored by iron oxide

Jasper, an aggregate of microgranular quartz and/or chalcedony and other mineral phases, is an opaque, impure variety of silica, usually red, yellow, brown or green in color; and rarely blue. The common red color is due to iron(III) inclusions. The mineral aggregate breaks with a smooth surface and is used for ornamentation or as a gemstone. It can be highly polished and is used for items such as vases, seals, and snuff boxes. The specific gravity of jasper is typically 2.5 to 2.9. A green variety with red spots, known as heliotrope (bloodstone), is one of the traditional birthstones for March. Jaspilite is a banded iron formation rock that often has distinctive bands of jasper.

Thunderbird yielded Clovis points that date between 9500 and 9000 B.C. [4] The inhabitants of the site are presumed to have been hunters since the tool kit found is associated with hunting wild animals. Thunderbird is a stratified site that has evidence structures found just below the plow zone along with tools, points and flakes of points. [7] Because of its stratified deposits, Thunderbird is one of the sites used to develop a sequence of Paleo-Indian and Early Archaic assemblages in Eastern North America. [8] Not only does the site have Clovis points, Thunderbird also has been credited with a point that is rarely found throughout the Middle Atlantic region: the Hardaway Dalton point, a point with shallow side notches and a deep basal concavity. [9] This point averages of 60 mm in length, 35 mm across and has an average thickness of 7 mm. [10] The microblades found at Thunderbird site are rare and linked to a few other sites, which include the Williamson Site in Dinwiddie County. [11] The Thunderbird site was originally located a great distance from the coast in the Late Pleistocene epoch, but it is now much closer to the coast due to rising sea levels and when occupied, seasonality would have been greater than at present. [12]

Millimetre Unit of length 1/1000 of a metre

The millimetre or millimeter is a unit of length in the metric system, equal to one thousandth of a metre, which is the SI base unit of length. Therefore, there are one thousand millimetres in a metre. There are ten millimetres in a centimetre.

Microblade technology

Microblade technology is a period of technological development marked by the creation and use of small stone blades, which are produced by chipping silica-rich stones like chert, quartz, or obsidian. Blades are a specialized type of lithic flake that are at least twice as long as they are wide. An alternate method of defining blades focuses on production features, including parallel lateral edges and dorsal scars, a lack of cortex, a prepared platform with a broad angle, and a proximal bulb of percussion. Microblades are generally less than 50 mm long in their finished state.

Williamson Site United States historic place

The Williamson Site is an early prehistoric archaeological site located near Dinwiddie, Dinwiddie County, Virginia. It is one of the largest Early Man sites in North America and dated to sometime between 15,000 and 11,500 years ago. The site was first identified in 1947, and consists of more than 75 acres of cultivated land. The site consists of over 100 areas where Clovis projectile points have been found.

Significant findings

It is believed that the Thunderbird site had a large population due to the vast number of artifacts discovered. This contradicts earlier views that Paleoindian peoples lived in small groupings except for the occasional large gathering for a few weeks at a time to maintain kinship networks as well as share food source knowledge. [13]

The Thunderbird site is known for Clovis points, a projectile point that has bifacial flaking. Bifacial flaking is the knapping of a point on both sides to create a blade. These points can be found across most of North America.

Hand axe Stone tool

A hand axe is a prehistoric stone tool with two faces that is the longest-used tool in human history. It is usually made from flint or chert. It is characteristic of the lower Acheulean and middle Palaeolithic (Mousterian) periods. Its technical name (biface) comes from the fact that the archetypical model is generally bifacial Lithic flake and almond-shaped (amygdaloidal). Hand axes tend to be symmetrical along their longitudinal axis and formed by pressure or percussion. The most common hand axes have a pointed end and rounded base, which gives them their characteristic shape, and both faces have been knapped to remove the natural cortex, at least partially. Hand axes are a type of the somewhat wider biface group of two-faced tools or weapons.

See also

Related Research Articles

Clovis point characteristically fluted projectile points associated with the Clovis culture, present in dense concentrations across North America and in northern South America, dating to the Early Paleoindian period roughly 13,500 to 12,800 calendar years ago

Clovis points-_- are the characteristically-fluted projectile points associated with the New World Clovis culture. They are present in dense concentrations across much of North America; in South America, they are largely restricted to the north of that continent. Clovis points date to the Early Paleoindian period roughly 13,500 to 12,800 calendar years ago. Clovis fluted points are named after the city of Clovis, New Mexico, where examples were first found in 1929 by Ridgely Whiteman.

Paleo-Indians classification term given to the first peoples who entered the American continents

Paleo-Indians, Paleoindians or Paleoamericans were the first peoples who entered, and subsequently inhabited, the Americas during the final glacial episodes of the late Pleistocene period. The prefix "paleo-" comes from the Greek adjective palaios (παλαιός), meaning "old" or "ancient". The term "Paleo-Indians" applies specifically to the lithic period in the Western Hemisphere and is distinct from the term "Paleolithic".

The Paleo-Arctic Tradition is the name given by archaeologists to the cultural tradition of the earliest well-documented human occupants of the North American Arctic, which date from the period 8000–5000 BC. The tradition covers Alaska and expands far into the east, west, and the Southwest Yukon Territory.

Meadowcroft Rockshelter United States historic place

Meadowcroft Rockshelter is an archaeological site located near Avella in Jefferson Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania, United States. The site is a rock shelter in a bluff overlooking Cross Creek, and contains evidence that the area may have been continually inhabited for more than 19,000 years. If accurately dated, the site would be the earliest known evidence of human presence and the longest sequence of continuous human occupation in the New World.

Stanfield-Worley Bluff Shelter

The Stanfield-Worley Bluff Shelter, located on private property in Colbert County in northwestern Alabama, United States, is one of the most important prehistoric sites excavated in the state due to the archeological evidence deposited by the Paleo-Indians who once occupied the rock shelter. Lying in Sanderson Cove along a tributary of Cane Creek approximately seven miles (11 km) south of the Tennessee Valley, the shelter and the high bluffs of the surrounding valley provided a well-protected environment for the Native American occupants.

David G. Anderson is an archaeologist in the department of anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who specializes in Southeastern archaeology. His professional interests include exploring the development of cultural complexity in Eastern North America, maintaining and improving the nation's CRM program, teaching and writing about archaeology, and developing technical and popular syntheses of archaeological research. He is the project director of the on-line Paleoindian Database of the Americas (PIDBA).

J&J Hunt Site (8JE740) is an inundated prehistoric archaeological site located 6 km off the coast of northwestern Florida. The site which was discovered in 1989 is located in 3.7 to 4.6 m of salt water in the Gulf of Mexico along the PaleoAucilla River. In prehistory the site had at least two different occupations: a Late Paleoindian-Early Archaic and Middle Archaic. The J&J Hunt site was a major focus of the PaleoAucilla Prehistory Project conducted by Dr. Michael K. Faught.

Blackwater Draw Dry stream channel in New Mexico, US

Blackwater Draw is an intermittent stream channel about 140 km (87 mi) long, with headwaters in Roosevelt County, New Mexico, about 18 km (11 mi) southwest of Clovis, New Mexico, and flows southeastward across the Llano Estacado toward the city of Lubbock, Texas, where it joins Yellow House Draw to form Yellow House Canyon at the head of the North Fork Double Mountain Fork Brazos River. It stretches across eastern Roosevelt County, New Mexico, and Bailey, Lamb, Hale, and Lubbock Counties of West Texas and drains an area of 1,560 sq mi (4,040 km2).

Buttermilk Creek Complex Place in Texas, United States

Buttermilk Creek Complex refers to the remains of a paleolithic settlement along the shores of Buttermilk Creek in present-day Salado, Texas dated to approximately 15,500 years old. If confirmed, the site represents evidence of human settlement in the Americas that pre-dates the Clovis culture.

Golondrina point

Golondrina points are lanceolate spear or dart projectile points, of medium size, dated to the transitional Paleo-Indian Period, between 9000–7000 BP. Golondrina points were attached on split-stem hafts and may have served to bring down medium-sized animals such as deer, as well as functioning as butchering knives. Distribution is widespread throughout most of Texas, and points have also been discovered in Arkansas and Mexico. The concentration of Golondrina specimens is highest across the South Texas Plains, where the point is the most prevalent of Paleo-Indian types and defines a distinctive cultural pattern for the region. The Golondrina point is so named for its flared basal corners ("ears"), which resemble a swallow's split tail. Classification of Golondrina can be difficult because of its similarity to other types, particularly the Plainview point, to which it was originally thought to be related.

Barnes' points are lanceolate Paleo-Indian projectile points distributed throughout the lower northeastern United States, from Missouri to the Great Lakes area, extending into Canada. Barnes points are associated with the Early Paleoindian Parkhill complex of the eastern Great Lakes region, with sites being especially common in southwestern Ontario. Barnes points have also been found in northeastern Indiana, which suggests affinities with the Great Lakes region during the early and middle portions of the Paleoindian period. It is a large, fluted spear point with "delicate ears" and a fishtail base. The fluting, or groove in the center of the point, tends to extend nearly the entire length of the point. It was first classified in 1963 by William Roosa. The Barnes site, in Midland County, Michigan, was first located by Mr. Wallace Hill, whose house was then a few hundred feet from the site. The staff of the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology was informed of the site in 1959. William Roosa recognized that the fluting technique on the points, while similar to that of Folsom points, was otherwise unique.

Jack Hranicky archaeologist

Jack Hranicky is a Registered Professional Archaeologist (RPA). During his forty-year career his scholarship has focused on the Paleo-Indian period and, in particular, stone tools and rock art. He has published more than 200 scholarly papers and 32 books, including a two-volume, 800-page survey of the material culture of Virginia. He is the webmaster of, which is a site on American early prehistory.

The Goshen point is a medium-sized, lanceolate-shaped, Paleo-Indian projectile point with a straight or concave base. It exhibits characteristic fine flaking.

Hell Gap Archaeological Site United States historic place

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John Broster American archaeologist

John Bertram Broster is an American archaeologist formerly serving as the Prehistoric Archeological Supervisor at the Tennessee Division of Archaeology, Department of Environment and Conservation. He is best known for his work on the Paleoindian period of the American Southwest and Southeast, and has published some 38 book chapters and journal articles on the subject.

Gault (archaeological site)

The Gault archaeological site is an extensive, multicomponent site located in central Texas, United States, about 40 miles (64 km) north of Austin. It bears evidence of almost continuous human occupation, starting at least 16,000 years ago—making it one of the few archaeological sites in the Americas at which compelling evidence has been found for human occupation dating to before the appearance of the Clovis culture.

The Quad Site is a series of Paleoindian localities in Limestone County near Decatur, Alabama. The site was first reported by Frank Soday in 1954, and later findings were also documented by James Cambron, David Hulse and Joe Wright and Cambron and Hulse. The Quad Locale can seldom be viewed at current lake levels, even during normal winter pool, due to extensive erosion, but is considered one of the most important and well known Paleoindian sites in the Southeastern United States.

The Heaven’s Half Acre complex is a concentration of Paleoindian sites situated on a series of Pleistocene terraces overlooking a sinkhole in northeastern Colbert County, Alabama, near the town of Leighton. Over one hundred and fifty fluted points have been recovered on these sites, making it one of the most dense fluted point localities in North America.

Bear Spirit Mountain

Bear Spirit Mountain is a Pleistocene Era American Indian ceremonial site also known as Great Serpent Mountain, located in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia that was discovered in 2016 by Matthew "Massaw" Howard, amateur archaeologist. The site is referred to as Adonvdo Yona in Cherokee which means Bear Spirit.


  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  2. 1 2 3 "Thunderbird Archaeological District". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-04-23.
  3. "Virginia Landmarks Register". Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  4. 1 2 William M. Gardner (1983). Stop me if you’ve Heard This One Before: The Flint Run Paleo-Indian Complex Revisited. (Archaeology of Eastern North America) 1983. p.49-64.
  5. David J. Meltzer (1988). Late Pleistocene Human Adaptations in Eastern North America. (Journal of World Prehistory) 1988. p.1-52
  6. Audrey J. Horning (2004). Cultural Overview of City Point, Petersburg National Battlefield, Hopewell, Virginia. (Colonial Williamsburg Archaeological Reports) 2004.
  7. David G. Anderson (2012). Paleoindian Archaeology in Eastern North America: Current Approaches and Future Directions. p. 379
  8. "The Earliest Americans Theme Study." (2012).
  9. Dr. Billy Oliver (1999). Typology Lecture. U wharries Lithics Research Conference 1999. Archived 2013-10-14 at the Wayback Machine
  10. Hadaway-Dalton. (2012).
  11. Wm Jack Hranicky (2005). A Microblade Core from the Williamson Site, Dinwiddie County, Virginia. (Archaeology of Eastern North America, Vol. 33). p. 51-56.
  12. David G. Anderson and Kenneth E. Sassaman (2012). Recent Developments in Southeastern Archaeology: From Colonization to Complexity. (Society for American Archaeology. (The SAA Press) 2012. p. 51.
  13. Mary Lucas Powell (1989). Thunderbird Site Threatened. (Southeastern Archaeological Conference Newsletter Vol. 31, No. 2 University of Kentucky, Lexington KY) 1989.

Further reading