Spout Run Paleo-Calendar Site, Clarke County,
Virginia By Wm Jack Hranicky
The Spout Run paleosite (44CK151) in Clarke County, Virginia
is the oldest, extent, above-ground site in North American. Due to its location
in some of the harshest ground in northern Virginia, this site has laid open on the
ground just like the Paleoindians left it 12,000 years ago. It served them in a
number of ways, such as a calendar for the annual seasons, a place where they
held social and religious ceremonies, and a place from which they could control
the flintknapping activities at the famous Thunderbird paleosite in Warren County,
Paleoindians were making stone tools out of jasper, a favorite stone. This
stone is found in the upper Shenandoah
River valley. The principal archaeological investigator is Wm Jack
Hranicky RPA, who has been practicing archaeology for over 40 years in
Virginia. He is the Director of the Virginia Rockart Survey. He has found,
recorded, and published five prehistoric solstice sites in the Middle Atlantic
The Spout Run’s landowner, Chris White, of Native American decent, brought the site to Hranicky’s attention who immediately recognized it as a possible solstice site. With a small excavation, they established the site as Paleoindian Period.
The excavation discovered two jasper tools and
fire-cracked rocks, indicating a hearth. No other artifacts have been found on
the site. Only one 5x5 ft square was excavated which left 95% of the site for
the future. Spout Run has direct alignments with both solar
solstices, and the site is aligned physically east-to-west with the equinoxes.
It has 15 above-ground component areas which have been found so far. The main
site is composed of stone concentric rings and solar markers. This area has
stone pointers which directly aim at the summer and winter solstices and the
equinoxes. Another major feature is a stone altar which is aligned with the
summer solstice. By using the morning sun’s position on the horizon of
Blue Ridge Mountain, the Paleoindians could determine the end of the summer
after which they left the area and returned to the coastal plain where winters
were much more comfortable. Additionally, jasper is difficult to flake into
tools when it is below 40 degrees.
One rock pointer was tested for a lunar orientation for the last full moon before the winter solstice. Other lunar markers probably exist, but presently they have not been discovered. A shelter was discovered in the site’s upland area that contains Indian rockart: two hand glyphs and a geometric print. Near the top of the Blue Ridge Mountain, there is a large boulder with two incised hand impressions There are now 16 known rockart sites in Virginia. Two other rockart sites in Virginia contain concentric rings, altar, and hand glyphs. The Spout Run site will make a major contribution to our understanding of the paleotimes along the entire Atlantic coast. The Paleoindians are often equated with Mammoth hunting; they needed and made stone tools to hunt them. The upper Shenandoah River valley’s jasper provided the stone for these hunting tools.
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