Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Mahaffy Cache- A Prehistoric Discovery!





A few years ago I blogged about an interesting event my husband and I attended called the International Archaeology Day that was held in Roxborough, Colorado--click here--to read that post. We have always been fascinated by the past, and the people and civilizations that came before modern times and the remnants of their lives left behind. We found the lectures, exhibits, and demonstrations on this special day very enriching. The last lecture of the day was presented by the University of Colorado Boulder Professor Douglas Bamforth about the "Mahaffy Clovis Cache." When landscapers uncovered a collection of 83 stone tools in the front yard of Patrick Mahaffy's home in Boulder, Colorado, the homeowner called the University of Colorado at Boulder's anthropology department and the next day archaeologist Douglas Bamforth came out to investigate. What they discovered is called the Mahaffy Clovis Cache. It contains elaborate stone knives and blades used to butcher ice-age mammals 13,000 years ago!



Discovered by a landscaping crew digging a fishpond in the yard of a Boulder home in 2008, the 83-piece tool cache was packed in a space about the size of a shoebox under two feet of soil, apparently untouched for millennia. The tools were discovered in the yard of Boulder homeowner Patrick Mahaffy, who is loaning them to the University of Colorado Boulder Museum of Natural History as the centerpiece of the exhibit, “Unearthed: Ancient Life in the Boulder Valley.” 



My husband and I, and members of the Ken Caryl Ranch Historical Society that we are part of, took an excursion last year to visit the exhibit as we were all interested to see these ancient artifacts that are estimated to be 13,000 years old!



To be able to examine the tools up close and see their workmanship, and their almost pristine condition was very exciting. They are made of quartzite and chert materials, some of which are not found in Colorado. Professor Bramsforth feels the stones used may have originated in the Uinta Mountains in northeast Utah, the Green River Basin in northwest Colorado and southwest Wyoming, and Middle Park near Kremmling, Colorado. He concluded the Mahaffy Cache likely originated in the Uintas, was carried up the Yampa River Valley in Colorado, then through the Gore Range and into Middle Park. From there they were probably toted to the Colorado River headwaters and over a pass in or near present-day Rocky Mountain National Park, and up and over to the Front Range.


Because our group had pre-arranged our visit, we were fortunate to have James Hakala, a Senior Educator at the museum, give us a presentation about the exhibit. He explained that the landscape in Colorado 13,000 years ago was home to camels, horses, and now-extinct saber-toothed cats, wooly mammoths, dire wolves, short-faced bears, wooly rhinos, and giant ground sloths. While scientists have speculated these and other ice-age mammals may have disappeared as a result of overhunting or climate change, the reasons remain unresolved.  Prehistoric hunters obviously traveled to the Colorado Front Range to hunt the abundant wild game. They would then use these precision stone tools to skin the animals and remove their meat.  Remnants of camel and horse proteins were actually isolated for the tools in studies made.


The Mahaffy Cache Exhibit had many placards--click on the photo collage to enlarge.


Please click on photo collage to enlarge


The Mahaffy Cache includes elegantly crafted, salad plate-sized bifacial knives, a tool resembling a double-bitted ax and a number of smaller blades. It is one of a handful of artifact collections known as Clovis caches, named after a particular tool style used by one of the oldest known groups of New World Paleo-Indians.


We wondered who buried these prize tools with the intention of returning to retrieve them and what was the reason that they never came back? We will never know the answer but we can appreciate that they unintentionally left a marvelous array of artifacts for us to learn about their way of life. 
For that reason, it is said that Mr. Mahaffy actually re-buried a few smaller pieces of the cache and also a modern knife and fork in the same place they were found, in order that someone 13,000 years from now might make another discovery!

If you'd like to view a short YouTube video about the Mahaffy Cache click here.

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32 comments:

Angie said...

Pat - so hard to imagine something 13,000 years old could be found in Boulder while digging a fish pond! Maybe I should start digging around here! Fascinating. Don't you wonder what future peoples will wonder about the things that we have "thrown out"? What a blessing that you had a museum expert to tell you so much about this discovery. So glad you shared it with everyone at Mosaic Monday!

eileeninmd said...

Hello,

Great post on the tour and the exhibit, it is an fascinating collection of stone tools. Mr Mahaffy was nice to re-bury some of the items back into the spot he found them. Enjoy your day, have a great new week ahead!

A Bit of the Blarney said...

You know those tools are really incredible works of art. Just amazing! Thank you! Wishing you a wonderful week!

Reidland Family said...

My husband and I really enjoy museums and history. Thanks for sharing with all the detail you did.

NCSue said...

Wonderful post, great photos!
Thanks for linking up at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2020/06/bath-time.html

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

fascinating subject - I love archaeology and learning about the past

ellen b. said...

Quite the cache. It really is fascinating to see tools from the past.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

It amazes me as to how much they can figure out when they find relics like this. Great photos and I'll watch the video too! Thanks!

Klara said...

fascinating post and subject.

Powell River Books said...

What an interesting way to display the artifacts. It's a good thing the landscaper didn't damage them accidentally and the owners took the initiative to have them removed and preserved. - Margy

Hootin' Anni said...

How so very interesting and quite educational! This is a fantastic blog post.

By the way I grew up in Colorado...lived north of Boulder in the foothills for over 50 years. My husband was born in Colorado Springs, we have family on the front range & western slope. AND Bud and I followed the Colorado Rockies to Spring Training in Tucson even.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Well that is just pretty cool. Amazing that the cache was disposed of when the were digging the pool.

stevebethere said...

What a good post and interesting too thanks for the tour

Have a fascinating safetastic week 😷😷😷

Lydia C. Lee said...

It's amazing really, don't you think?

Stewart M said...

What a wonderful set of finds! Those big stone blades and axes have always fascinated me.

Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

Jeanie said...

This looks like such a fascinating day and so interesting. Archaeology intrigues me. (Have you read the "Ruth Galloway" mysteries by Ellie Griffiths? Very interesting -- set in England!)

How wonderful to see things pulled from an area so close to your own. And it looks like the exhibits were beautifully done.

Fun60 said...

It is fascinating how much information can be garnered from these ancient tools.

NanaHood said...

What a ton of info! I bet you could spend several days there and not read it all! Very interesting!

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

What a delightful thing to do: wander through a museum. I wonder if any museums are open these days?

Sandi Magle said...

Absolutely Fascinating...I've been in that area and I can't imagine why someone wouldn't come back for such a huge cace, but then huge cache's of tools are seldom found in that number or in that condition. Again, totally fascinating!Sandi

Lowcarb team member said...

A very interesting post … thank you.

All the best Jan

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Wow, that is a fascinating exhibit. How fortunate to be able to view everything with a learned guide.

Jim said...

Great display.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Imagine finding something like this in your front yard! Incredible. Thank goodness Mr Mahaffy recognized this was an amazing bit of prehistory and knew who to call. And allowed it to be shared. Wonderful to have a special tour. Eons of history in your beautiful state. Thanks for sharing some of it with us.

Su-sieee! Mac said...

I love that the professor reburied some tools, along with modern ones for someone to find in the future and wonder how that it is. lol 13,000 years ago isn't so long ago compared to the how old Earth is.

MarilynsTreats said...

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Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn
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Dawn said...

How fascinating.
Dawn aka Spatulas On Parade

Joanne said...

What a neat exhibit!! Thanks so much for sharing with us at Encouraging Hearts and Home. Pinned.

The Invisible Insomniac said...

A nice and interesting post to read, thank you I

aspiritofsimplicity said...

Wow! That is just incredible. It makes one wonder what else is laying around underground that we have not found.

Michelle said...

Interesting finds and I would love to participate in work like this. Thanks for linking up and have a great week!

Rambling Woods said...

I lOVE this kind of stuff and have been reading and watching a lot of nature and documentaries...