July 20, 2011
From: Laura J. Woodard, Director of Media Relations
ULM paleontologist part of team studying oldest human archeological remains discovered in Louisiana
A group of archeologists, led by University of Louisiana at Monroe paleontologist Dr. Gary L. Stringer and State Regional Archeologist Jeffrey S. Girard, have collaborated to publish a paper in the latest volume of Louisiana Archaeology.
"Investigations at the Conly Site, a Middle Archaic Period Settlement in Northwest Louisiana," covers research associated with the Conly Site, located on a tributary of the Red River in Bienville Parish.
Evidence at the site, one of the earliest habitation sites in Louisiana, indicates that Native Americans lived there approximately 7,500 to 8,000 years ago.
Stringer contributed by studying fish otoliths, or ear stones, uncovered at the site.
He was able to determine specific fishes the Native Americans used, along with the length and weight of the fishes, the amount of edible meat, and possible procurement methods.
Most importantly, Stringer was able to determine the season of death (seasonality) and paleotemperatures based on the fish otoliths.
"It was truly exciting to be involved with the research on the Conly Site," said Stringer.
"The otoliths provided unique and important information, and I was delighted that the otolith research made a contribution to the study."
Human burials, the earliest known in Louisiana and among the most ancient in the eastern United States, have also been unearthed at the Conly Site.
Stone and bone tools as well as dart points, scrapers, and gravers were recovered.
The site also contained numerous intact features, abundant well-preserved animal and plant remains, and ample charcoal for radiometric dating.
"The presence of these attributes is extremely rare in the southeastern United States for sites this old," said Stringer, holder of the Mayme and Tom Scott Endowed Professorship in Teaching Excellence and head of the Department of Atmospheric Science, Earth Science, and Physics.
Because of its importance, the site has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to Stringer.