Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Douglas B. Bamforth

Second Advisor

Catherine M. Cameron

Third Advisor

E. James Dixon

Fourth Advisor

Stephen H. Lekson

Fifth Advisor

Arthur A. Joyce


This dissertation addresses the controversy between traditional and alternative views on Paleoindian land use. Traditionally, Paleoindians have been portrayed as organized into individual bands that operated within anomalously large ranges under the rationale that subsistence economy was focused on large-scale hunting of wandering herds of big game animals. More recently, advocates of an alternative view have argued that Paleoindians would have been more like later foragers. If so, land use patterns and social organization would have varied from one environment to the next based on the nature and availability of food and tool stone resources and may have involved aggregation of people to cooperate in communal big game hunting.

The relative validity of the two views was addressed through analysis of an artifact collection from the Jurgens site, as well as review of information available in existing literature. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, an artifact assemblage dating to the Cody period was recovered by the CU Museum during excavation of multiple bison bonebeds at the Jurgens site, located on the plains of Colorado. The collection was examined to evaluate how well data on the kinds of artifacts and tool stones present in the assemblage conform to expectations developed under each theoretical approach. In a similar fashion, data from existing literature on artifact collections from sites in a study area encompassing parts of the Central Plains and Southern Rocky Mountains were compared to the differing expectations of the contrasting views regarding the relative amounts of local and nonlocal stone to be expected.

The results of the study favor the alternative view as a more theoretically robust model of land use and social interaction. The dissertation makes a contribution to the field of American archaeology by doing much to resolve the controversy over Paleoindian land use. More importantly, however, the dissertation provides a means by which tool stone availability and social interaction may be adequately taken into consideration when theorizing land use patterns of prehistoric foraging peoples in all times and all places. Therefore, the dissertation may prove to be of utility to the field of archaeology in general.