I know many of you are familiar with the legendary Fenn Cache. An impeccably preserved and intact collection of 56 Clovis era points in various stages of completion and made from a wide variety of stone. The cache was first unearthed about 1902. No one knows exactly where. Forrest has written about how he obtained the cache and he published a book written by George Frison and Bruce Bradley focusing on the magnificent tools and the materials used to create them. He also wrote a scrapbook about the cache for this blog. You can read that scrapbook HERE.
But Forrest has been instrumental in preserving more than one Clovis Cache. The Crook County Clovis Cache is a collection of nine tools unearthed in 1963 in northern Wyoming. This cache was discovered by Harold Erickson during oil exploration activity.
Clovis points have a distinct flaking pattern that separates them from the flaked points of other cultures. Many are also found with a distinctive composition known as “red ochre” affixed to them. They are some of the oldest evidence we have of humans in North America. Those who try to piece together the colonization of our continent require access to these earliest human artifacts. Sophisticated techniques for dating and analyzing prehistoric artifacts are still evolving. Re-examination often turns up new evidence of the way early peoples hunted, lived, interacted, and more.
Forrest is lionized by many archaeologists, anthropologists and other students of prehistoric North Americans for two important aspects of his cache collections.
First, for keeping the artifacts intact. Many collector/profiteers have separated out the various points from other caches and sold them off individually. But to archaeologists, paleontologists and anthropologists it is extremely valuable to have the entire collection of points intact, to be studied as a whole as well as separately.
Second, for making the cache available for observation and study. Many collections owned by individuals and institutions have been locked away and privileges to study them are more often than not, very difficult to obtain. Forrest, on the other hand, has made his collections accessible. He has even packaged up his collections and shipped them to distant archaeologists so they can examine them in their own labs.
In the years after 1963 Forrest was able to obtain the Crook County Clovis Cache but the exact location of its unearthing faded into obscurity when Harold Erickson died. No one knew, any longer, the precise location of the spot where the nine points had been unearthed by Erickson. Knowing this place and being able to examine it could lead to more knowledge about the prehistoric Clovis peoples.
One of the folks who became interested in this lost location was the respected and renown archeologist Ken Tankersley Although the cache is staggeringly beautiful and an archaeologically important collection to view, it would be even more valuable toward understanding Clovis culture if Ken could examine the spot where it was removed from the earth. But how could that be accomplished? Tankersley had twelve clues that could lead him to the spot. Sound familiar?
He collected data on the likely location for several years. “The more data I collected the more daunting the task seemed.” he said.
In 2002 Tankersley wrote a book about the mystery and adventure of locating the spot where the Crook County Clovis Cache was unburied. He wanted to tell the story of prehistoric North Americans based on found artifacts and the Crook County Cache was a key element in his story. It is an engaging read of both scientific and creative thinking…both novel and thesis…a wonderful read!!
The book launches with a forward by non-other than Forrest’s good friend and prolific writer, adventurer and documentarian, Doug Preston. Doug does a fascinating job of setting out the landscape of ruthless archaeological dictators and professional frauds that much of the available literature about Ice Age North Americans was based upon during the first half of the the 20th century. There were scams, there were mistakes, there were misinterpretations and the facts were hard to find. Where there is potentially large profit there are always unscrupulous profiteers who care little about truthful provenance and more about making a big and fast buck.
Tankersley then picks up on Preston’s theme and writes a humdinger of a detective novel about how he, Forrest and two other scientists went about finding the original location of the Crook County Cache. We meet Forrest, Tankersley, C. Vance Hayes, a geoarcheologist and member of the National Academy of Science and Jack Holland who operates the Holland Lithics Laboratory at the Buffalo Museum. We watch and listen as they assemble information and root out the cache’s home and the home of the mysterious “red ochre” affixed to the points. It is a rich book with illustrations and color photos, that give life to the fascinating story of the Crook County Cache to explain clearly how those artifacts fit into the intimate diorama of prehistoric North Americans.
Here are a couple of comments readers made about Tankersley’s book-
“This is a very entertaining book on one of my favorite subjects, the First Americans. When it comes to books about the First Americans, there are usually two kinds of books; straight research books and archaeological site reports. This book is not like either of these. This book is filled with stories about the players involved in the search and artifacts found of the First Americans. It is easy and entertaining to read. The author holds the readers’ interest by telling the every day stories about a variety of subjects centering around the First Americans. My favorite story was about the fake Clovis Cache that some scoundrels tried to sell to Forest Fenn.”
“In his book, Tankersley addresses the problem that plaques museum and private collections, i.e., fake artifacts. I found it interesting how difficult it is to detect fakes. It reminded me of a trip through the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness area. At nights around the campfire, the guides would chip rocks to make arrowheads. They would then scatter the newly made arrowheads for unsuspecting guests to find. Of course, the guides would “guide” them to their discovery and in turn would get a bigger tip at the end of the trip.”
If you’d like to win a free, hard cover, first edition copy of this book…
Enter the latest contest HERE. The three top winners will each receive a smear of red ochre, collected by Forrest from the place where the Crook County Cache was hidden and the first place winner will also receive a copy of Ken Tankersley’s book, In Search of Ice Age Americans. You can read more about the prizes and how to enter on the contest page.