THE BELEN POINT -- A PLAINVIEW VARIANT??

In the 1960's when my father and I started finding Belen points, they did not have a name. I, of course, was just learning to recognize point types and had no experience with anything other than what we were finding. At that time, I thought these new points looked most like the Plainview points in the Wormington Book (1957). In contrast, my father did not believe they were Plainview. He and my grandfather had found and collected the Nall Site (Baker et al., 1957) which was largely a Plainview site. Additionally, he had had extensive experience during the dust bowl years with the Plainview point from the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandles. My father thought these new points which we were finding around Belen, New Mexico were different enough from Plainview points that they deserved their own name. So he named them Belen (Baker 1968).

The Belen point has not been dated. The artifacts from the Belen sites found in the 1960's came from modern deflated surfaces or surfaces that had been deflated in the past. On one occasion in 1966, Dr. Vance Haynes and my father collected some charcoal from a hearth for C-14 dating. However, the quantity of the charcoal was extremely small and its association with the artifacts was so tenuous that no analysis was ever made (Haynes 1997: pers. com.)

There is no doubt the Belen point is Paleoindian. In fact, I believe the Belen culture is very close in age to the Folsom culture. The Belen people located their campsites on the landscape in the same places the Folsom people did. Often, we would find campsites of the two cultures next to one another, However, they never were mixed. The Belen people made and used paleo end scrapers, gravers, denticulates, and other tools that were identical to Folsom and other Paleoindian cultures. They ground the lateral and proximal edges of their points. The only discernable differences between the artifacts of the Belen and Folsom peoples were the lithic material and obviously the projectile type. Both cultures selected fine cryptocrystalline material. The Belen folks selected cherts and jaspers that were local or possibly brought in from the southeast of Belen, while Folsom used mostly obsidians and chalcedonies that were from northeast of Belen.

In the previous paragraph is the first time I have used the word "culture" in this WEB page. I generally try to avoid the term. However, I used it here as a lead-in to a very important concept. How different do peoples' artifacts have to be in order to be defined as being different or of different cultures? Just because the Belen and Folsom peoples used different materials around Belen, N. M. and made extremely different points, does this make them different? More than likely the difference in material employed by the two groups in the area was a result of where they had been or where they knew certain lithic quarries existed. I strongly believe that if the Belen people had been present around Amarillo, Tx., they would have been using Alibates similar to the other Paleoindian groups. So, now I ask, does point type alone define culture? Does point type and differences in time by 1000 years define culture?

I was often scolded by my cultural anthropology teacher for the use of terms like "Folsom Culture". At the time I really didn't appreciate what she was trying to convey. Now the concept haunts me every time someone asks; "is the Belen point really just a Plainview?".

The Belen, Goshen, Mesa, Midland, Milnesand, and Plainview points can be described as lanceolate shaped Paleoindian points. There are also others, I am sure. The lateral edges of the base of these points are mostly parallel and the proximal edge is concave. None are fluted and all are ground. Do each of these different points define different cultures, different peoples, or the same folks making different points because of differences in hafting technology, geography or time?

In the last five (5) years, I have had the opportunity to hold and view Goshen, Mesa, Midland and Plainview points. However, I never had any of these in my hands at the same time I had Belen points in my hands. So, from memory, the Belen points are closest to the points from the Jim Pitt site and the Mesa site (Alaska) and furthest from the Midland point. The Jim Pitt points from the site with the same name in western South Dakota are classified as Goshen because of their C-14 dates (greater than 11, 000 B.P.). However, they do not look like the Goshen from the Mill Iron site. The Mill Iron Goshen actually looks more like Midland (Folsom) to me and are very different from Belen. Bruce Bradley (1997: pers. com.) agrees with me that the Belen points do not look similar to the Mill Iron points.

Based on the Belen point measurements provided to Vance Haynes and summarized in this WEB page, Vance believes that the Belen is not Plainview. He says they are too small and the basal concavity is too shallow (1997: per. com.). I personally can't comment, because I am not sure what a real Plainview looks like. I have held many points in my hands at different times and have been told that they were Plainview, but they were all so different that I am confused.

So how do I close this rambling? I will defer to my father for naming purposes and suggest the Belen point is different enough to deserve its own name. However, as a "lumper", I believe the people who made the various point types discussed herein, were all the same and if they were contemporaneous they were more aware of each other than we can ever imagine.


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