Geoarchaeology of the midland (Paleoindian) site, Texas

Vance T. Holliday, David J. Meltzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


In 1953 human remains and a new type of Paleoindian artifact were discovered eroding from a "blowout" in a small dune field along Monahans Draw, near Midland, Texas, on the Southern High Plains. The projectile points became the type "Midland" collection. Stratigraphy, radiometric dating, paleontology, and geochemistry suggested that the artifacts and bones dated to at least 10,000 B.P. and that the human remains were possibly as old as 20,000 B.P. The researchers believed that the human bones were from below a red sand that in turn was below a Folsom occupation. The dating of the human remains has long been problematic, however, and recent attempts to apply U-series dating further confuse the story. Geoarchaeological investigations were carried out at the site from 1989 to 1992 to reevahtate the geochronology, with particular reference to the age of the skeletal material. We reach several conclusions: (1) there are two Red Sands; (2) the human remains are from below the upper Red Sand, but the Folsom material is from above the lower Red Sand and, therefore, the Red Sand stratigraphy is not relevant to the age of the human remains; (3) the human remains were associated with the valley-margin facies of a lacustrine carbonate that is well dated in the region and rarely is > 10,000 B.P.; and (4) all numerical dating methods applied at the site produced unreliable results. We find no compelling evidence that the human remains from the Midland site are older than Folsom age; they may be contemporary with or younger than the Folsom occupation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)755-771
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology
  • Museology


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