Hell Gap at 60: Myth? Reality? What Has It Taught Us?

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 84th Annual Meeting, Albuquerque, NM (2019)

This collection contains the abstracts of the papers presented in the session entitled "Hell Gap at 60: Myth? Reality? What Has It Taught Us?," at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Sixty years ago when the Hell Gap site was first excavated the state of Paleoindian prehistory was far different than today. A few years later when Henry Irwin wrote his dissertation on the site and placed it in Paleoindian context, some 40 sites formed our core understanding of the period. Hell Gap made a permanent impact on Paleoindian studies in two ways. First, it provided the longest sequence of chronologically diagnostic Paleoindian age artifacts. Second, it represented a series of camps, unlike kill sites that accounted for most sites published to that time.

Over the past 20 years, several investigations have occurred at Hell Gap that contribute to our knowledge of Paleoindian lifeways. First, radiocarbon, OSL, and microbial sampling bear on the age of deposits and sedimentation. Second, data for site formation studies gathered around the perimeter of the witness block left intact since the 1960s - a critical area of the most developed stratigraphy at the site - is under study. Third, a slew of new specialized studies such as isotopes, blood residue, microbes and others have been conducted. And fourth, several new artifacts and features have been encountered that promise to have a significant impact on our understanding of Paleoindian lifeways.