Archaeological Discovery
2013. Vol.1, No.1, 1-22
Published Online July 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 1
Archaelogy, Paleoindian Research and Lithic Technology in the
Middle Negro River, Central Uruguay
Hugo G. Nami1,2
1CONICET-IGEBA-Instituto de Geofísica Daniel A. Valencio (INGEODAV), Department of Ciencias
Geológicas, FCEN, UBA, Ciudad Universitaria, Pab. II, (C1428EHA), Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires,
2National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA
Received June 10th, 2013; revised July 10th, 2013; accepted July 17th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Hugo G. Nami. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attri-
bution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
The Negro river is the most important inner fluvial course in Uruguay. Its basin, mainly the middle
portion, has produced an unusual archaeological record characterized by a significant evidence of Pa-
leoindian remains. Systematic archaeological research allowed conducting a number of field and labora-
tory activities. The identification of Paleoindian vestiges and buried sites was a significant focus of this
investigation. The advances on surveys and excavations in Los Molles and Minas de Callorda sites are
reported. Different dating methods yielded the first dates in the area and diverse technological analyses on
lithic artifacts allow recognizing the existence of unreported techniques and reduction strategies.
Functional studies with special attention to Paleo-South American vestiges permitted to identify diverse
micro-wear clues. Finally, the role of river basins in the peopling of the eastern part of the southern cone
and the hypothesis about the origin of the fishtail pattern is discussed.
Keywords: Paleoindian; Lithic Technology; Fishtail Points; South America; Southern Cone; Uruguay
One of the most intriguing topics of the archeology of the New
World is the human colonization and spread through the con-
tinent. This subject has been the focus of interest since very early
in the archaeology of the Americas. In this sense, archaeologists
frequently speak of the “First Americans”, “Early Man”, “Paleo
Americans” and, “Paleoindian” as the earliest stage in the so-
cio-cultural history of the Americas in which the hunter-gath-
erer societies lived during the Late Wisconsin Ice Age.
In the history of the field of the First Americans studies, the
southern cone (Republics of Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and
south of Brazil) of South America has played an important role
since the end and early XIX and XX centuries respectively (e.g.
Ameghino, 1918; Bird, 1938, 1946; among others). One of the
historical landmarks occurred just after the Clovis and Folsom
finds in North America. In fact, in southern Chile, during the
1930s Junius Bird discovered in the Fell and Pali Aike’s caves
“fishtail” or Fell projectile points associated with the remains of
Pleistocene fauna. Furthermore, Paleo-South American sites
with “fishtail” points were dated at ca. 11.000 - 10.000 uncali-
brated radiocarbon years before present (~11 - 10 kya hereafter,
Nami, 2007; Politis et al., 2008, Steele & Politis, 2009).
A number of investigations in South America reported simi-
lar Paleoindian artefacts in different places, mainly in the
southern cone. In the Republic of Uruguay, “fishtail” points
were reported since the end of the XIX century. Recent inves-
tigations on Paleoindian lithic assemblages from this country
show many similarities with other places in Central and South
America (Nami, 2007, 2010a).
In the eastern part of the southern cone, dividing the south
from the north of the country, the Negro River is the most im-
portant inner fluvial course of the Uruguay Republic. Origi-
nated north of Bage city at about 70 km from the boundary of
Uruguay and Brazil, it flows west across its entire width to the
Uruguay River, the natural western border with Argentina. In
Uruguayan territory, its drainage basin size is 70.714 km2 with
a total length of 750 km. In its middle basin, the river is
dammed near Paso de los Toros city, creating the Rincón del
Bonete dam—also called the Gabriel Terra—that, with a
surface of about 1500 km2, is one of the largest reservoirs in
South America (Figure 1).
The archaeology of the Negro River has produced an unusual
record. Particularly, Paleo-South American remains were re-
covered as isolated finds or in archaeological sites. Thus, this
region becomes a very important locale to perform systematic
research. Despite its richness and significance, is little known
archaeologically and there is notable lack of methodical exca-
vations and laboratory research to clarify the peopling, ar-
chaeological process, and chronology of this important area.
Systematic Paleoindian investigations by the author began in
Uruguay at the end of the 1990s; since then various activities
have been conducted and reported on terminal Pleistocene top-
ics (López et al., 2001; Nami, 2001a, 2001b, 2001c, 2008,
2010a; Cavalloto et al., 2002). The identification of Paleoindian
sites with stratigraphic evidence has been a significant focus of
the research goals. Therefore, a long-term project was started in
the basin of the Rio Negro (Nami 2007, 2009, 2010a; Nami &
Figure 1.
(a) Map of the Negro River basin and location of recorded sites (after
Femenías et al., 2011). (b), (c) Schematic section, stratigraphy and
hypothetical development of LM site related with the Negro River level
fluctuation due to the Gabriel Terra dam construction, (b) Site location
in relation with the pre-dam Negro River, (c) Current level of the river
and remaining LM site after partially destroyed by the alluvial erosive
process (except when is clearly expressed all the photographs and
drawings are by the author).
Castro, 2010, 2012; Femenías et al., 2011), which had been the
focus of archaeological interest during previous years (e.g.
Taddei, 1969, 1980; Baeza et al., 2001; Baeza, 2005). The evi-
dence in the Negro River basin is highly important to deepen
our knowledge of several archaeological issues. Research in
this area is vital to understand the Uruguayan socio-cultural
history, and particularly its relationships with other areas of
South America. It also permits discussion of major theoretical
and analytical issues in the human colonization, archaeological
process, chronology and paleoenvironment of this part of the
New World. Hence, this paper reports varied recent investiga-
tions performed in Uruguay, and mainly in the middle Negro
River, focusing diverse archaeological topics with special at-
tention on Paleo-South Americans hunter-gatherers, mostly
from the technological perspective.
Archaeological Field Work
Exploration, Surve y s and Site Record
The Gabriel Terra dam, which was inaugurated in 1945,
raised the river level ~15 - 20 m (Figure 1(a)). As shown in
historical images from the first decades of XX century, the river
was characterized by the existence of riverbanks of varied
thickness, sand dunes and wide beaches along the shores (Fig-
ure 2). Despite the width of the river, during the pre-dam times,
certain places were not deep and used as pasos to cross it (Fig-
ures 2(a) and (b)). Currently, sand dunes are consolidated
mainly by eucalyptus forest, and due to from the formation of
Rincón del Bonete Lake (RBL), the original landscape was
strongly modified; hills became islands and a number of small
like fiords, bays and inlets were formed.
A large amount of modest permanent or intermittent water
courses also characterize the region. An active fluvial erosive
process is currently disturbing the buried sites existing in the
highest river terrace and hills along its old course. Hence, a
number of sites are impacted and destroyed by the water action
and continuously revealing archaeological artefacts (e.g. Figure
1(c)). These finds in old sand dunes and in the post-dam eroded
deposits has caused the proliferation of different kind of col-
lectors. Some of them, who are aware of their scientific value,
carry out surface collections when the water level falls in the
river and lake. When they look for archaeological remains, they
carefully record their finds and allow professional archaeolo-
gists to study them. In this physiographically complex area,
they have been helpful in identifying Paleoindian surfaces and
stratigraphic sites. Also, the lithic artefacts collected by them
are useful for discussing diverse regional typological and tech-
nological topics.
Figure 2.
Historic photographs showing diverse images of the Negro River
before dam construction, (a), (b) natural paso (pass) of the river near
de Paso de los Toros, ca. 1920, (c), (d) Riverbanks and beaches
during the bridge construction on Route 5 in 1927. The arrow points
the location of EP site, (e), (f) ferry crossing the river before the
bridge, (g) construction of the G. Terra dam and the river coast with
sand dunes and plains observed in the landscape, ca. 1935-1940.
Photographs: (a), (b): L. Laurenti, (g) unknown author.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Despite the rich archaeological record, the archaeology of the
Negro River basin was mainly constructed from a traditional
perspective and surface evidence. Hence, it was imperative to
search for sites with stratigraphic deposits that allowed to un-
derstand the regional archaeological process from a contempo-
rary viewpoint. With this goal, surveys and explorations were
carried out. Geographical information system was used to pro-
duce a regional site record along its basin. The documentation
was performed on the basis of our own work, and was aug-
mented by data from field notes by the amateur Uruguayan
archaeologist Antonio Taddei and information provided by
collectors living in the region (Femenías et al., 2011). Most of
the sites show vestiges of Holocene occupations, but indubita-
ble Paleoindian remains were encountered on the surface of
pre-dam sand dunes and eroded deposits along the post-dam
basin (Taddei, 1980; Nami; 2001a, 2007; Nami & Castro, 2010,
2012; Femenías et al., 2011).
Fieldwork was mainly performed in the middle Negro River
area at Tacuarembó and Durazno departments. As seen in the
following sections, detailed studies on lithic artifacts curated at
museums and private collections across the country were also
performed. In the case of latest Pleistocene finds, once the ori-
gin of the artifact was documented the sites were visited and
explored to evaluate their potential to provide stratified material.
Because of the lack of careful archaeological research in the
region, it was crucial to perform in-depth excavations at the
sites that showed buried remains. This activity was imperative
because they are disappearing due to the fluvial erosion and the
surviving sites on the riverbanks are continuously affected by
water level fluctuations. Several localities and sites yielded
diverse kinds of Paleoindian surface finds. They were visited
and after evaluation, Minas de Callorda (MC) and Los Molles
(LM) showed stratigraphic sections with intact deposits despite
alluvial erosion, with potential to discover Paleoindian levels.
Consequently, they are in the process of systematic excavation.
Both are large sites, about 1 km long, located on the current
shoreline of the river. Due to the intensive erosive process,
hundreds of archaeological artifacts from sedimentary deposits
are exposed on the surface during the river’s ebb. The most
notable finds are projectile points, including Paleoindian fishtail,
pisciform, Fell’s cave or just Fell specimens, and other signifi-
cant vestiges that deserve attention. Pleistocene faunal remains
were also collected in several places of the Negro River basin.
They were carefully studied and significant results from the
activities are reported in the following sections.
Geo-Archaeological Considerations
A large uninterrupted grassland extends from southern Brazil,
through Uruguay and Argentina. Despite regional variations,
there are major physiographical features, plants and animals.
Two main recognized sub-regions are respectively located at
northeast and south of La Plata River: the fields of southern
Brazil and Uruguay, and the Argentinean Pampas (Politis, 2002:
33). The Uruguayan territory is a typical peneplain with com-
plex undulations. The bedrock consisting of old rocks of di-
verse origin, is exposed among undulated sediments, and covers
the central and southern part of the country. In this scenario, the
area under study is characterized by hills of Mesozoic basalts of
the Arapey formation ([Figure 2(d)], Bossi, 1966; Bossi &
Navarro, 1998). There, the river develops a meandering system,
and the fluvial valleys are covered by variable thickness of
terminal Pleistocene-Holocene alluvium.
Continental floodplain alluvial depositions in Uruguay were
studied by several authors (e.g. Antón, 1975; Bossi, 1966,
Ubilla, 1996, 1999; Ubilla et al., 2011; Martínez & Ubilla,
2004). They reported extensive sedimentary silty deposits with
different brown and green tonalities called Sopas-Dolores
(Panario & Gutiérrez, 1999), or Dolores Formations (Martínez
& Ubilla, 2004) characterizing the terminal Pleistocene sections
in the country. By comparison with similar deposits in southern
Brazil, Antón (1975) suggested that Sopas might be dated at
~12.8 - 15.0 kya. Radiocarbon dates from bone and wood sam-
ples belonging from Sopas-Dolores yielded dates of ~11.6 - 10
kya in southern and midwestern Uruguay (Ubilla, 1996, 1999;
Martínez & Ubilla, 2004; López Mazz et al., 2003-2004). This
geological unit shows some similarities to the Lujanense, a
useful horizon marker for the Late Pleistocene and Early Holo-
cene of the Buenos Aires province, Argentina (Tonni et al.,
2003; Toledo, 2011). From paleoecological, chronological and
stratigraphical perspectives, the megamamals appearing in
Sopas-Dolores show similarities with southern Brazil and the
Argentinean Pampas, which exhibit great extensions with bi-
omes of open vegetation (Bombín, 1975). Sopas-Dolores is
highly interesting from an archaeological viewpoint because it
contains evidence of Pleistocene fauna and potential about the
earliest settlers. Overlying this formation, there are Holocene
deposits that generally were referred to recent alluvium (Antón,
1975; Bossi, 1966; Bossi & Navarro, 1998). Therefore, this
regional sequence must be characterized in detail from a sedi-
mentary and chronological viewpoint. Hence, data presented
here becomes an initial attempt to build a chrono-stratigraphy
in the area.
Most exposures along the Negro River show both formations.
However, at the railway bridge on the river, a section of about
2-3 m thick shows the described brown clay and a gray sandy
alluvium deposit. However, overlying the lower level, there is a
black clay layer that might be comparable to a “black mat”
(Haynes, 1968). In some localities (e.g. Larraechea, Colares)
this dark deposit overlies the basalt bedrock1. It is worth men-
tioning that eastern Uruguay, between 10 - 6.6 kya, was char-
acterized by the establishment of wetlands that formed black
peats (Iriarte, 2006). Also, in the southern cone this sort of very
dark layer was observed in a number of locations, especially in
the Lujanense-Platense transition dated at ~12 - 10 kya (Tonni
et al., 2003; Toledo, 2005, 2011). The presence of these black
levels with high organic content suggests a climatic change to
humid conditions (Iriarte, 2006; Toledo, 2011). In southern
Brazil and southeastern Uruguay this is suggested by several
lines of evidence including pollen (Behling et al., 2002; Iriarte,
2006), diatoms (Moro et al., 2004) and phytoliths (Iriarte,
Excavations and Chronology
As previously stated, MC and LM are currently being exca-
vated. MC is located on the riverbank at Durazno department
(32˚51.90'S, 56˚25.30'W), 400 m south of the mouth of its ho-
monymous creek. This site is continuously yielding artefacts
from the sedimentary deposits exposed on the surface in the
course of the river’s ebb. More than one hundred projectile
points; among them four Paleoindian specimens were recovered
1A similar situation was recently observed at Lavalleja Department in
southern Uruguay.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 3
(Figures 3(c)-(f)). During the 1990s, Baeza and associates
(2001) carried out an excavation identifying a single Holocene
archaeological component. The newly excavated area is located
on the highest terrace of the river, about 70 m west of it, and
has slightly different stratigraphy. Excavations were carried out
by following the natural strata and using artificial 5 cm levels.
Every artifact was plotted along its horizontal coordinates, and
given a depth measurement below datum. Short profiles were
drawn along each grids line.
At MC the upper archaeological component was found at the
transition between levels I and II, the second component in the
lower portion of level III, and the lower at the top of level IV.
The upper component showed scattered lithic artifacts, mainly
debitage. The middle one is characterized by the presence of
diverse types of end scrapers, among them an unusual bifacially
flaked piece and others made on short blades used as blanks,
along with microblade cores, early stages of biface manufacture,
and stemmed projectile points (Nami, 2007: Figure 3(a)) that
may belong to an archaeological component similar to that
identified by Baeza and associates (2001). Remains from the
lower archaeological level exhibited sharp technological dif-
ferences from those of the upper ones. A remarkable broken
fluted base was found in this level (Nami, 2007: Figure 3(c)). It
is made on a red silicified limestone by pressure flaking that
left parallel flake scars on one face; on the other face there is a
sort of flute obtained from its basal portion. As it will seen
below, in the region there are excellent examples of fluted pro-
jectile points. The majority of the remains from the top of level
IV exhibited strong weathering, differing in this respect from
the artifacts from the lower portion of layer III. This level
probably is a Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene occupation
(Nami, 2007).
LM (32˚48.32'S. Lat. 56˚33.45'W. Long.) is located on the
mouth of Los Molles creek in the Negro River at Tacuarembó
department. Thought the years, hundreds of flaked stone arti-
facts from the eroded deposit were recovered along the shore
and the river that destroyed part of the site and the riverbanks
(Figures 1(b), (c)). Among them, more than one hundred pro-
jectile points including fishtail pieces (n = 2, Figures 3(a), (b))
were found. In the excavated surface, the deposit thickness
varies between a few cm to about 1.5 m. Despite that there are
finds in layer II, archaeological levels with abundant remains
start at ~0.90 - 1.00 m from datum. The more notable one is the
one from located at ~1.15/1.20 m at the base of level III and the
other in the upper part of level IV at ~1.25/1.30 m from datum.
From a technological viewpoint there are notably differences
between them. Actually, lithic remains in level III show unifa-
cial tools (end and lateral scrapers) roughly made on white
chalcedony available in the site and diverse kinds of denticu-
lates. Instead the lower level displays delicate side scrapers and
bifacial reduction strategies manufactured on highly selected
cherts. Hence, it is likely that they represent different pre-ce-
ramic hunter-gatherers.
A similar stratigraphy with four levels has been identified at
both sites: I, the present vegetal humus surface; II, a gray sandy
layer; III, a mottled sandy-loamy to loamy gray mottled deposit;
and IV, a hard brown clay overlying basalt bedrock that may be
comparable to Dolores-Sopas Formation (Figures 1(b), (c )). In
the excavated area of MC, the bedrock lies ~0.60 - 0.70 m be-
low the current soil surface while in LM, the deposit is thicker,
ranging from ~1 to 2 m depth. Level IV also represents the
relict of a fully developed soil that suggests a period of non-
Figure 3.
Fishtail projectile points found in different locales in the middle Negro
River. (a), (b) LM, (c)-(f) MC, (g)-(o) AC, (p) EP, (q)-(r) RBL, (s) Los
Espinillos, (t)-(v) Colares. (q) Photo by U. Meneghin.
deposition and landscape stability (Holliday, 1985). Level II
and III looks like the gray Holocene Platense litho-stratigraphic
unit observed in the Argentinean pampas (Ameghino, 1918;
Tonni et al., 2003; Toledo, 2011).
The age of the LM deposit was determined by varied meth-
ods. Different materials were used to perform radiocarbon dat-
ing. Level II under the present vegetal humus yielded two small
samples of charcoal from H3 and I3 squares. They were sub-
mitted for standard radiocarbon dating at Gliwice Radiocarbon
Laboratory, Institute of Physics (Silesian University of Tech-
nology, Poland). Both samples (Gd-30118 and Gd-3020) indi-
cated that the charcoal was “modern”. The measured radiocar-
bon concentration in percent of modern carbon shows relatively
high value (133.97 ± 0.61 and 136.5 ± 1.2) of the so called
“bomb effect”. Therefore, using the CALIBomb program
(Reimer et al., 2004a, 2004b) both samples may be dated on
1962 A.D. or 1976-1978 A.D. Then, they are useful to know
that in the thinnest part of the sedimentary deposit, level II was
affected by the incorporation of modern material in the upper
archaeological deposit.
Despite the above mentioned samples, a characteristic of MC
and LM is that neither contains old bone nor charcoal for
radiocarbon essays. Instead, a sample of sediment belonging
from the upper part of level IV at 1.10/1.11 m deep was sub-
mitted for AMS dating. Its analysis yielded a 4650 ± 30 B.P.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
(KI-5081) or 3525 - 3355 CAL B.C. (Reimer et al., 2004a,
2004b). It also was calibrated using the CalPal-2007HULU
(Weninger et al., 2010; Weninger & Jöris, 2008) program
available on the web. The following calibrated dates were ob-
tained: 3442 ± 54 CAL B.C., 5392 ± 54 CAL B.P., and 68%
range 5338 - 5446 CAL B.P. Such date was obtained from the
humic acid fraction of the sediment, which tends to provide
more reliable ages for this kind of material (Pessenda et al.,
2001). However, this date yielded the apparent mean residence
time (MRT) of the soil (Scharpenseel, 1971; Scharpenseel &
Schiffmann, 1977) which is the mixing of the young organic
carbon with the oldest from earlier stages of pedogenesis (Stein,
1992). Consequently, the MRT indicates that the deposit was
open to organic material deposition during ~5 kya. This date
may be considered as a minimum age, because MRT is a sig-
nificant factor that must be taken into account when dating soil
organic matter (Schapenseel, 1971; Scharpenseel & Schiffmann,
1977; Stein, 1992; Wang & Amundson, 1996).
Additionally, sediments were also dated with optically
stimulated luminiscence (OSL) method (Feathers, 1997, 2003).
For this purpose, one sample was taken in the transition be-
tween the lower and upper parts of level III and IV respectively.
A 10 cm long and 5 cm diameter cylindrical plastic container
was carefully pushed vertically into the sediment. The sample
was submitted and processed at the Luminiscence Dating Ar-
chaeology (University of Washington). The sample is mixed,
having some younger grains and some older grains. At any rate
the younger and the older grains give ages of 4.9 ± 0.5 kya and
9.1 ± 0.8 kya respectively (Feathers & Nami, 2012). The latter
one confirms that level IV belongs to the terminal Pleisto-
cene/Early Holocene deposit. The age of level III agrees with
the AMS results, meaning that the archaeological component
from that horizon belongs to the Middle Holocene. On the other
side, the archaeological vestiges embedded in the transition of
level III-IV and upper part of IV is an early Holocene occupa-
tion that used stemmed projectile points in the weaponry (Nami,
2007: Figure 3(a)).
Paleomagnetism was also employed to establish a relative
chronology of the stratigraphic sections (Barendrest, 1984).
Two vertical paleomagnetic samplings were performed to study
the geomagnetic field (GMF) directions in MC and LM. To
collect samples, cylindrical containers (2.5 cm long and 2.0 cm
diameter) overlapping each other by about 50 percent were
carefully pushed into the sections (see Nami, 2012a: Figure
2(b)). Their strike and dip were measured using a Brunton com-
pass and inclinometer; they were consolidated with sodium
silicate after removal and numbered from top to bottom. De-
spite that paleomagnetic analysis is in progress, preliminary
observations may be reported. Actually, some samples from
MC and LM show normal and intermediate polarity directions
far from the present dipolar field, suggesting the presence of the
anomalous GMF behaviour observed across the southern cone
during the terminal Pleistocene and early, middle and late
Holocene (Nami, 2012a, 2012b). In other words, anomalous
GMF directions in the sampled sites suggest that they were
recorded during the early and middle Holocene (Nami, 2012a,
2012b). Therefore, they reinforce the ages reported above with
AMS and OSL dating.
Sites of Paleoindian Interest
In addition to LM and MC that yielded fishtail points (Fig-
ures 3(a)-(f)) in the area there are a number of localities (e.g.
Colares, Riachos de Corrrea, El Tala, among others) where
Paleoindian artifacs were found (Figures 3(t)-(v), 4(j)). After
evaluation, the following are those sites considered the most
significant because they recently yielded new data on the topic.
Arroyo Cacique (AC, Tacuarembó Department), is currently
submerged beneath the Rincón del Bonete Lake. When the
water level falls, however, a small island about 200 by 800 m
with archaeological remains emerges. When these episodes
happen, it is visited by collectors and relic hunters. Among
many remains, AC yielded diverse terminal Paleoindian finds
that were partially reported (Nami, 2007: Figure 4; 2009; Nami
& Castro, 2010). This site produced a significant number of
fishtail projectile points. The totality of the studied sample (n =
10) is depicted in Figures 3(g)-(o), 9h and the following sec-
tions. The broken and extremely resharpened points suggest
that they were probably brought to the site on foreshafts, and
that repair of weapons was one of the activities performed there
(Nami, 2009). An interesting find in AC is a stemmed point
with a straight blade and stem borders (Nami, 2012c: Figure
22e) that resembles the El Inga variant observed in Ecuador
(Mayer-Oakes, 1986a, 1986b). Surprisingly, fishtail contexts
from the southern cone also enclose other forms of lithic heads
resembling El Inga points (Nami, 2012d). As seen above, this
site yielded a number of unifacial tools (n = 5) that by virtue of
strong typological and technological features are attributed to
the Paleoindian tool kit (Nami, 2007). Bones remains are rare in
the archaeological sites from the middle Negro River; however,
some dental pieces of a camelid (probably Lama guanicoe)
were found at AC.
El Puente (EP, Durazno Department) is located on the river-
banks of the Negro River at about 100 m east from the Route 5
bridge where there is a small portion of described latest Pleis-
tocene/Holocene deposit. Currently, buried artifacts were ob-
served in a small area, probably the relict of a larger site situ-
ated in the ancient banks of the river that, as illustrated was
different than today (Figures 2(c)-(d)). Like LM, it is affected
by the river’s fluctuations and archaeological remains are con-
tinuously eroded. There, lithic debitage and stone tools were expo-
sed; among them, a clear fishtail projectile point (Figure 3(p)).
No significant archaeological deposit was identified for excava-
Los Espinillos (LE, Tacuarembó department) located on the
riverbank of the Negro River at about 20 km Paso de los Toros
city. This site provided artifacts probably belonging to the
eroded alluvial deposit. Lithic debitage and a few shaped im-
plements were found, among them a highly resharpened fishtail
point and a non-used biface (Figures 3(s) and 4(p)), probably
an early stage of the manufacturing sequence of this sort of
projectile point (Nami, 1997a, 2003, 2010a).
Jorge O. Femenías (JOF, Tacuarembó department) is located
on the riberbanks of the Cañada del Estado creek near San
Gregorio de Polanco village. There, a Paleoindian lithic assem-
blage consisting in three fishtail specimens (Figures 5(a)-(c)),
unifacial tools (n = 3, Figures 5(d)-(f)), and remains of extinct
fauna were found, among them Glyptodon sp., ground sloths
and other Pleistocene animals. As seen in Figure 5(g), remar-
kably is a bone with scratches that preliminary might be compa-
rable with cut marks (Lupo, 1994; Todd et al., 1997; among oth-
ers). As a part of the Paleoindian archaeological research perfor-
med in Uruguay (Nami & Florines, 2012), this is a highly promis-
ing site concerning Paleoindian occupations in stratigraphy, and
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 5
Figure 4.
Fell points and early stages of manufacture from the middle Negro
River and other Uruguayan locales. (a)-(c) Carpintería creek, (d) un-
known origin, (e) Laguna Blanca, (f) Paso Talavera (Photo E. Me-
neghin), (g) Vejigas Creek, (h) Cacique Grande creek, (i) San Gregorio
de Polanco beach, (j) El Tala, (k) Tres Arboles creek, (l) Unknown
origin, (m) Durazno (close-up of the impact fracture in the rectangle,
Photo J. Femenías), (n) Arenera Ferrando (Colonia), (o) Yi river (Photo
U. Meneghin), (p) Los Espinillos.
is currently in the process of field research by archaeologists
Florines, Toscano and the author.
Investigations on Stone Tool Technology
The area under study shows an abundant and remarkable
lithic record of flaked and ground stone remains traditionally
classified in terms of intuitive morphological typologies. De-
spite the important quantity and quality of stone tools existing
in the region is the notable lack of in-depth studies from a con-
temporary viewpoint; hence, this kind of artifacts deserves
analysis from new methodological perspectives developed dur-
ing the last decades. These tools were left by the different
hunter-gatherers living in the area during the last 11 kya. An
important number of artifacts may be used to discuss some
issues of archeological relevance from the technological and
functional viewpoints. Consequently, in order to deepen our
Figure 5.
Paleoindian lithic remains and extinct fauna bones from JOF site. (a)-(b)
Fishtail points, (c) possible fisthail preform, (d)-(f) unifacial tools, (g)
extinct fauna bone showing the detail of the probably cut mark in the
understanding of these topics, detailed observations on re-
markable terminal Pleistocene and Holocene artifacts per-
formed are given as follows.
Paleoindian Remains
1) Fishtail points. In Central and South America, the most
conspicuous Paleoindian find is the “fishtail points (Bird, 1969;
Bird & Cooke, 1979; Mayer-Oakes, 1963, 1986a, 1986b;
Ranere & Cooke, 1995; Nami, 2010a, 2012c, 2012d). Tradi-
tionally the “stereotype” (sensu Mayer-Oakes, 1986b: Figure 2)
of a fishtail point is a shouldered stem piece with broad train-
gular or lanceolate blade of convex edges; the stem usually
shows concave edges and base (e.g. Figures 3(d)-(e), (i)-(j),
(q), 4(k)-(l)). However, the advancement of research reveals
that, as showed in Figures 3-5, they were accompanied by a
significant dimensional and morphological variability, involv-
ing both “classic” specimens and other forms (Nami, 2012c,
Terminal Pleistocene archaeological remains are abundant in
Uruguay, among them unequivocal Fell points that are
wide-spread in comparison to other parts of South America.
They were encountered since the end of the XIX century (Fi-
gueira, 1892) and currently, more than 120 specimens were
recorded and photographed by Jorge Femenías. Additionally,
new specimens were found and identified by the author in the
last years (e.g. Figures 3(b), (d), (g)-(h), (m)-(p), (r)-(s), 4(a),
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
(d), (h), (i), (k), (n), 9(i)-(j)). In the Southern Cone of South
America, they were systematically dated at ca. 11 - 10 kya
(Nami, 2007; Steele & Politis, 2009). This diagnostic artefact
has been recovered on surface sites all across Uruguay, but the
main concentration is in its central part, especially in the Negro
River basin. Their study has allowed advancing in the knowl-
edge of its morphological variability, technology and function
(Nami, 2009, 2010a, 2011a; Nami & Castro, 2010, 2012). Pa-
leoindian specimens have been found by collectors along the
deposits eroded by the river and RBL, but in many cases their
precise location was not registered so their interpretation must
be used with caution. Despite of recovery by non-professionals,
this sort of data may be used to gather valuable technological
information from several viewpoints (Femenías et al., 2011).
These kinds of finds are useful to discuss technological and
functional topics; some of them allow knowing the original Fell
point form. Actually, entire pieces with little or no resharpening
allow knowing their range of variation and original morphology
which is very rare in Central and South America (Nami, 2010a:
Lam. I-II; 2012c: Figures 19, 20). Actually, most fishthail
points across South America are resharpened pieces (Nami,
1998; 2000; 2012d). In this sense, a remarkable piece (Figure
4(k)) was found in an unknown place at the Tres Arboles creek
basin and sold in early 2007 to its current possessor, Mr. S.
Bálsamo. Due to its exceptional condition it was carefully
studied from a technological perspective. In this way, it was
observed that before the final pressure shaping that left short
retouches was made, it was nicely thinned by soft percussion
flaking until an advance stage preform with a non-patterned
flake removal sequence (Callahan, 2010). In South America
these sorts of pieces with broad blade were found at El Inga
(Bell, 1965: Figures 10(d)-(e), 11(l)-(m); Nami, 2012d: Figures
16(b)), 17(b)), La Crucesita (Schobinger, 1971), Fell’s cave
(Bird & Cooke, 1979: Figure 12H; Emperaire et al., 1963: Fig-
ure 21, 3-4, Pl. VI: 1, 3), among others. The fishtail original
morphology is also visible in other specimens found in the RBL
area. One of them is a remarkable specimen made on a very
fine reddish chert (Figure 3(q)). It shows details of the final
shaping by short pressure retouches after a careful bifacial
flaking by soft percussion. Morphologically, they are similar to
several specimens found in Uruguayan locales, such as Boicuá
creek (Cordero, 1960: Figure 45), middle Negro River (Bosch
et al., 1980: #1; Nami, 2010a: Lam. II: g, l). Another piece from
the same area that apparently does not show resharpening is
illustrated in Figure 3(r). Made on a very fine red chert, it is a
broken lanceolate blade lacking the stem and shows that it was
bifacially thinned by soft percussion flaking previous to the
final shaping by pressure. A number of pieces with lanceolate
narrow blades came from EP, AC, Carpintería creek, Durazno
department, Arenera Ferrando in Colonia and JOF (Figures
3(m), (p), 4(b), (m)-(n), 5(c)). They display a remarkably simi-
larity with those found at Fell’s cave, Cueva del Medio and
Tagua Tagua, Chile (Bird, 1969: Figure 5(d), (o)-(p); Nami,
1985-1986: Figure 6; 1987: Figure 16(a); Nuñez et al., 1994:
Figure 5(b)); Estancia La Suiza 1, San Luis (Laguens et al.,
2007); Los Cobres, Salta (Patané Aráoz & Nami, 2012) in Ar-
gentina; Montenegro, south Brazil (da Silva Lopes & Nami,
2011); Pikimachay cave (Mac Neish et al., 1980: Figures 2, 3
upper row right), PV23-130 site (Briceño Rosario, 1999: Figure
17, 21-22), Je996L9 site (Maggard and Dillehay, 2011: Figure
4.5 left) in Perú; Ilaló region, Ecuador (Bell, 1965: Figures
10(a)-(c); Nami, 2012d: Figure 19b), among others. Finally,
during the last few years it was possible to confirm that aside
from convex forms, variation in Fell blade borders also enclose
straight forms (Figures 3(k), 9(h); Nami, 2012c: Figure 24(i)).
In this sense, remarkably is a small exemplar from AC with a
well-made fishtailed stem, but with straight borders blade (Fig-
ure 9(h)).
Research advances on pisciforms from Uruguay allowed
identifying exceptional pieces. Until recently, the largest known
complete points with no or little resharpening barely exceeded
6 - 8 cm long (Nami, 2011a). Recent explorations at Arroyo
Vejigas, a tributary of the Santa Lucía River in south Uruguay,
allowed finding an exceptional broken fishtail point suggesting
the original length may have been 13 - 15 cm (Figure 4(g)).
Another specimen that it is also among the largest Fell points
known from South America is complete without indications of
resharpening is illustrated in Figure 4(l). Both pieces have
rounded shoulders, a morphological variant among fishtail
specimens. They exhibit symmetrical and longitudinal biconvex
cross-sections and bifacial flake scars produced by soft percus-
sion flaking up to a very advanced perform stage to thin the
blank, a strategy often used in the production of large fishtails
(Nami, 2010a: Figures 3(q), 4(g), (j)-(l), 5(a)). The process was
finished using short retouch no deeper than 1 cm from the
edges that regularized the preform. This manner of obtaining
the final form by using short retouches on thin flakes or biface
performs might be considered a Fell stylistic feature (Bird &
Cooke, 1979; Nami, 1997a, 2003, 2010a). Both edges of the
stem show strong abrasion, a common attribute of pisciform
heads. Another outstanding piece is the fishtail miniature re-
cently recovered south of San Gregorio de Polanco beach (Fig-
ure 4(i)), which was studied before it was sold to a collector. It
is made on a very thin flake with very small retouch (~1 - 2 mm)
that regularize the form. Similar exemplars that match with
mini Fells were recently identified and found in the AC area.
One of them was found in the AC site (Figure 3(g)) while an-
other one belongs to Cacique Grande creek site located at about
2 km from AC site (Figure 4(h)). Both are also tiny points
made with short pressure retouch on very thin flakes, probably
the waste of bifacial flaking. Miniatures were probably used as
toys (Dawe, 1997; Politis, 1998) and, like other ones from
South America, several of them show abrasion around their
perimeter, likely to avoid injuries in the children (Nami, 2007).
Then, based on specimens previously described, Figures 4(i),
(g) and (l) depict one of the smallest and largest Fell specimens
known in the continent. Worth mentioning are other small sized
fishtail points that may have other functions than children toys
are exhibited in Figures 9(h), (i).
As expected, the original form observed in Figures 3(q)-(r)
and 4(k)-(l) varies very much due to resharpening (Goodyear,
1974; Callahan, 1981: Figures 17, 18; Bradley & Stanford,
1987). As previously reported, it was a recurrent behavior
among early foragers (Nami, 1998, 2000, 2009, 2012c, 2012d).
Like many fishtails from Central and South America, pieces
found in the region shows diverse degree of this behavior al-
lowing to know their “life story” from the unused finished
product to its rejection (e.g. LM, AC, Los Espinillos, Figure
3(b), (f), (o)). Resharpening is detectable when the blade form
and symmetry is highly modified (Figures 4(c) and (e), (f));
retouch does not follow the remaining original pattern that fin-
ished the product and/or the borders are strongly rounded or do
not have enough mass to continue the task (3(b), (f), (o)). Here,
according to the lack of mass in the blade that allows continu-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 7
ing the resharpening may be catalogued as: 1) low or minimum,
when the blade was a little modified in its symmetry (Figure
4(j)); 2) medium, when despite the blade modification there is
some mass to continue the tool’s useful life (Figures 3(c), (i),
(j), 4(e), (f)); finally, 3) intense, maximum or saturated, when
the blade does not have enough mass to bear continued re-
sharpening, this being the reason many pieces were discarded
(Figures 3(b), (f), (o), 4(c)); Nami, 2012d). Like in other sites
of South America, beyond the Negro River, resharpened pieces
are widespread in Uruguay, such as those near Balneario La
Tuna (Canelones department) and Paso Talavera on the Negro
River (Figures 4(e), (f)). Similar resharpening behavior is visi-
ble in other Fell specimens in Central and South America, such
as Belize (Lohse et al., 2006: Figure 4(b)), Panama (Bird &
Cooke, 1978: Figures 4(a), (b)), Ecuador (Nami, 2012d: Fig-
ure 24), Argentina (Nami, 2007: Figure 1(b), (c)), and Chile
(Bird & Cooke, 1979: Figure 12(e); Nuñez et al., 1994; Figure
5(a)). As suggested in the previous paragraph, resharpening was
an important phenomenon in fishtail point curation. However,
its dimensional and morphological variations (mainly the lan-
ceolate variety) are not only a result of this practice such has
been suggested by some authors (e.g. Suárez, 2003, 2009).
Morphological variability in Fell points may be due to different
uses in social and subsistence strategies employed by the fora-
gers who produced them. It is also worth mentioning that fish-
tailed lithic points are just parts or “tecno-units” (as defined by
Oswalt, 1976: 38) of a more complex hafted system. Curation
of this kind of implements (e.g. projectile tips, knives and other
tools) is a generalized behavior in traditional technologies,
particularly among Homo sapiens hunter-gatherer societies
where lithic tools are parts of a highly valuable hafted imple-
ment (Keeley, 1982). Hence, resharpening is not only caused by
the risk and uncertainty of not finding raw materials in unex-
plored and unknown territories (e. g. Franco, 2002; Castiñeira
et al., 2011). This strategy may be caused by multiple social
and cultural variables that involve saving time and energy in
obtaining raw materials, investing work in manufacture and
preservation of valuable goods, among others.
The majority of pisciform finds in the region were discarded
by diverse causes. In addition to extremely resharpened pieces,
many displays fractures occurred by use, mainly by impact.
Despite the fact that from the functional perspective fishtail
points are versatile artifacts that might have been employed in
different ways, this fact indicates that several of them were
used as projectile tips. Actually, the impact fractures are noto-
rious (Raup, 1976; Newcomer, 1980; Bergman & Newcomer,
1983; Frison, 1989; Dockall, 1997; Dumbar, 2012; among oth-
ers). By this manner, some exhibit deep flake scars originated
in the tip, such as visible specimens depicted in Figure 4(m);
sometimes, they have fractures in coup de burin in the blade
and the edges, respectively originated in the tip and base;
caused by the action of bipolar forces during the collision (New-
comer, 1980; Witthoftt, 1968; Lavallée et al., 1985: Pl. 13-14).
These sorts of fractures are observable in the specimens found
at MC and AC (Figures 3(e), (m)). As experimentally observed
in fishtailed pieces and, displayed in Figures 3(a), (k), (n), and
(p), transversal fractures in different blade and stems locations
are also provoked by impact (Dumbar, 2012: Figure 8.7).
Considerable efforts have been made to understand the fish-
tail manufacturing process from archaeological and experimen-
tal perspectives (Nami, 1997a, 2001a, 2003, 2010a, 2010b,
2011b). Like many other South American Fell points, a number
of analyzed specimens were manufactured on thin flakes used
as blanks (i.e. Figures 3(p), 4(b), (d)). Some specimens seem
to be flaked entirely by pressure flaking (e.g. Figures 4(b), (d),
(h)); others, were mostly flaked on one face by percussion and
with short pressure retouches on the other one (Bosch et al.,
1980: #17); while, others were partially thinned by careful bifa-
cial soft percussion flaking (Figures 3(q)-(r), 4(k)) or, such as
the larger ones, using bifacial reduction stages of manufacture
before the final shaping (Figures 3(q), (r), 4(g), l, 5(a)). These
observations are supported by early stages of biface manufac-
ture finds in Paleoindian contexts in Uruguay (Nami, 2001a).
Bifaces that show the fishtail point reduction sequence are rare
in South America (Briceño Rosario, 1999; Nami, 1998, 2001a,
2012d). However, in Uruguay there is important data allowing
to understand different steps of this process. South of the coun-
try, in Maldonado department, Cerro los Burros locality pro-
vided clues on early stages of biface reduction, preforms and
fishtail points (Meneghin, 1977; Nami, 2001b). Also, Paso del
Puerto site in the Negro River basin (Taddei, 1980) have
yielded data on this topic (Nami, 2001a). Despite that in the
area under study there are very many early stage bifaces show-
ing bifacial reduction strategies employed during the Holocene,
some biface finds along with fisthtail points might probably be
early stages of their manufacture. This is the case of a non-used
stage 4 (in the sense of Callahan, 1979) biface found at Los
Espinillos site (Figure 4(p); Nami & Castro, 2012). Nearby the
Negro River, recent finds on the Yi River, allowed to recognize
a fluted perform that fit in the Fell reduction sequence as iden-
tified by archaeological and experimental data (Nami, 1997a,
2001b, 2003, 2010a, 2011a, 2012d; among others). As depicted
in Figure 4(o), it was made on a very fine red chert that exhib-
its a bevelled platform prepared for fluting after being bifacially
thinned by soft percussion flaking. Further, preforms showing
variation of platform preparation for fluting were found at Paso
del Puerto and Cerro los Burros (Nami, 2001a: Figures 1(c)-(e),
2001b: Figure 6(a)). In this case, it was performed by bevelling
the basal edge, or by isolating a nipple in the middle of the
bevel (Nami, 2001a: Figure 1(c)). Remarkably, fluting prepara-
tion has a strong similarity with other fisthail preforms from
South America, mainly from Ecuador (Nami, 2003, 2012d:
Figures 12-15), and also, with other Paleoindian fluted points
from North America (Callahan, 1979; Frison & Bradley, 1980;
Nami et al., 1996; Nami, 1999).
A few finished products display excellent examples of true
fluting. Actually, a number of Uruguayan specimens show
flutes nicely obtained on both faces of the stem (Figure 3(q)).
The above mentioned piece from RBL has two long flutes
reaching almost the middle of the artifact. Another piece fluted
on both faces is the highly resharpened specimen found by
Taddei on the Negro River at Paso Talavera (Figure 4(f);
Bosch et al., 1980: #17). In this case the longest flute was in-
vaded by the retouch resulting from reshaperning. Despite that
is a rare phenomenon, there is a fluted point that does not fit
within fishtail morphology. It is an exceptional stemmed
shouldered point with straight stem and blade edges belonging
from RBL (Figure 9(g)). It might probably be considered as a
medium resharpened Fell point and/or one of its variations, a
fact that was also observed in other South American regions
(Nami 2012c, 2012d). Out of Uruguay, among other examples
of fluting in fishtail points were observed in Belize (Lohse et al.,
2006: Figures 3(a), (d); Pearson & Bostrom, 1998; Nami,
2010a: Lam. I a); Ecuador, at El Inga (Bell, 1965: Figures
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 9
10(d)-(e), (h), 11(b), (e)-(h), j; Mayer-Oakes, 1986a: Figures 37,
38, 41, 43; Nami, 2010a: Lam. I h-i; 2012d: Figures 16, 18, 25);
Perú, PV-23-130 site (Briceño Rosario, 1999: Figure 17, lower
row right); central Brazil (Nami, 2010a: Lam. I k; 2011: Figure
1(c)); Argentina, at Cerro El Sombrero (Flegenheimer & Zarate,
1990; Nami, 2010a: Lam. II ll); Colipilli (Nami, 1992a, 1997a:
Figure 6(C)); Piedra Museo rockshelter (Nami, 1997: Figure
6(A)); and Chile, at Fell’s cave (Emperaire et al., 1963: Figure
21: 1-2, Pl. VI: 2, 4) and Quebrada Santa Julia (Jackson et al.,
2007: Figure 5).
Finally, Paleoindians used diverse rocks for manufacturing
Fell points, mainly sandstone, quartzite, rhyolite, quartz, and
flint-like materials. Particularly, colorful cherts, especially red-
dish stones, suggest that they were highly selective with colours
for making their lithic assemblage (Flegenheimer & Bayón,
1999). In fact, a high number (n = 23, 54.76%) of the fishtail
sample (n = 42) reported here are made with rocks of reddish
tones (Figures 3(a)-(c), (g)-(l), (n), (p)-(q), 4(a), (b), (e),
(k)-(m), 5(a), (b)). A similar fact that occurred with the unifa-
cial tools depicted in Table 2 and Figures 5(d)-(e) and 6(a)-(d).
Despite its varied degrees of workability, Paleo-South Ameri-
cans also used crystal quartz for making Fell points (Figures
3(o), (t)). Beyond flaking qualities, early hunter-gatherers were
probably visually attracted by the tones and translucently of
certain stones of their landscape. Table 1 depicts salient infor-
mation concerning origin, raw materials, condition and signifi-
cant technological and dimensional data of the fishtail points
reported in this paper.
2) Unifacial stone tools. In the Southern Cone, lithic assem-
blages accompanying fishtail points were produced using bifa-
cial, unifacial, bipolar, and prepared-core techniques, a fact
probably related with raw-material availability and technologi-
cal organization (Andrefsky, 1994). While the assemblages
from sites located far from high-quality sources are character-
ized by bipolar flaking and small stone tools, those from sites in
areas where raw materials were available such as those from
Patagonia have large unifacial tools (Nami, 2007). This fact
occurred at Piedra Museo, Cueva del Medio and Fell’s cave
(Figures 6(k)-(l); Bird, 1946, 1988; Nami, 1987a, 1994, 2012a;
Miotti & Cattáneo, 1997). By virtue of striking technological
and typological similarities, several pieces found at fishtail sites
in the Negro River might also be considered part of the Pa-
leoindian lithic assemblage. Remarkable unifacial implements
(knives and side-scrapers) have been found at AC, JOF and
Vejigas-Pilatos creeks in the Canelones department (Figures
6(g)-(j) Meneghin & Sánchez, 2009, pers. obs., 2009). Like
many fishtail points, they are also manufactured on highly se-
lected red chert, a stone commonly used by early hunter-ather-
ers in this part of the continent. Flake-blanks of these tools
show careful platform preparation with diffuse bulbs and lips
(e.g. Figure 5(d), 6(a)-(d), (f)-(l)), suggesting the use of some
kind of strategy for preparing cores and detaching flakes using
a variation of soft percussion flaking (Nami, 2006). Depictions
of some of these tools are illustrated in Figure 6. Also Table 2
describes relevant attributes concerning origin, raw materials
and dimension of each artifact showed in this paper.
3) Discoidal stones. This is another diagnostic Paleo-South
American artifact. They were firstly found at Pali Aike, Fell
and Los Toldos caves in southern Patagonia (Bird, 1938: Figure
27, 28; 1946, 1970). Specifically in Uruguay, the area under
research contributes with additional data regarding the artefac-
tual similarities shared by Late Pleistocene foragers living in
the southern cone of South America. During the last decades,
discoidal stones were found in a number of sites in Argentina
and Chile. Artifacts clearly matching these kinds of remains are
found in the RBL area and other localities of Uruguay. They
have strong morphological and technical similarities with those
specimens reported from Pali Aike, Fell and Los Toldos caves
Table 1.
Salient morphological and technological attributes of the Fell points reported in this paper. Note: All the measurements are given in mm, *: Not given,
/: Separates the maximum thickness present in a minor portion of the piece and the minimum that prevail in the totality of the artifact, S/L:
Site/Locality, L: Lengh, W: Width, T: Thickness, (): indicates fractured piece, †: Not observable, ††: Not measurable. The blank was only reported
when was clearly observed. Measurements of pieces 18, 28 and 29 were taken from Bosch et al. (1980).
Count S/L Origin Condition Raw Material L W T Stem
width Resharpening Blank Figure
1 LM Known Fractured Red Chert 40.9 27.7 9.6 22.0 16.8 Flake 3a
2 “ “ Entire “ 24.5 18.6 7.6 16.8 18.7Maximum † 3b
3 MC “ “ “ 39.9 27.3 7.2 16.0 19.9Medium † 3c
4 “ “ “ Altered chert 43.3 21.8 7.6 18.7 13.3 † 3d
5 “ “ Fractured Gray chert (36.2) 20.0 7.7 (18.0) † 3e
6 “ “ Entire Yellow chert 26.7 19.3 4.8 15.0 14.3Maximum † 3f
7 AC “ “ Pale red chert 23.4 11.9 2.6 7.6 7.1 Flake 3g
8 “ “ “ “ 40.1 23.8 6.0/7.515.2 (15.7) Flake 3h
9 “ “ “ Red chert 50.3 28.0 6.7 19.4 19.2Medium? † 3i
10 “ “ “ “ 43.9 26.8 6.6 19.8 19.9Medium Biface3j
11 “ “ Fractured “ (43.8) 23.8 7.2 19.2 (17.4) † 3k
12 “ “ Entire “ 56.2 28.4 5.7/6.520.2 20.2Low Flake 3l
13 “ “ Fractured
sandstone (42.1) (19.0)8.6 †† †† † 3m
14 “ “ “ Red Chert (17.0) 21.9 6.2 †† 21.9 † 3n
15 “ “ Entire Cristal quartz 27.5 18.8 7.8 14.2 13.9Maximum † 3o
16 “ “ Fractured Brown chert (42.3) 17.4 6.2 13.8 11.0 † 9h
17 El Puente “ “ Chert (35.8) 19.9 5.6 14.9 16.9 † 3p
18 RBL Unknown Entire Pale red chert 62 31 6 * * None Biface3q
19 “ “ Fractured Red Chert (57.3) 31.3 5.4 †† †† Biface3r
20 Los
Espinillos Known Entire Pale brown
chert 30.5 20.9 7.2 20.3 19.8 Maximum † 3s
21 Colares “ Fractured Crystal quartz(22.1) (19.1)6.6 19.2 17.2 † 3t
22 “ “ Entire Gray chert 44.4 28.7 5.1 16.1 18.6None
flake 3u
23 “ “ “ White chert 51.0 29.8 7.2/8.115.3 16.5Low Biface3v
24 Arroyo
Carpintería Unknown “ Pink chert 58.1 24.4 8.7 16.2 16.7 † 4a
25 “ “ “ Red Chert 47.5 21.6 6.1 17.6 16.0None
flake 4b
26 “ “ “
Traslucent white
chalcedony 30.1 26.4 6.5 21.6 21.2 Maximum † 4c
27 Unknown “ Fractured
Reddish brown
chert (45.6) 26.4 5.2 †† †† None Thin
flake 4d
28 Laguna
Blanca * Entire Reddish chert 40 28 4.5 * * Medium † 4e
29 Paso
Talavera * “
Pale brown
chert 32 22 5 * * Maximum † 4f
30 Arroyo
Vejigas Known Fractured Brown chert (76.1) 66.3 9.6/10.626.4 30.4 † 4g
31 AC2 “ Entire Red chert 26.8 17.6 4.5 11.4 14.0 Thin
flake 4h
San Gregorio
de Polanco
Unknown “ Reddish chert 19.8 13.2 4.5 6.8 8.5 Thin
flake 4i
33 Boca del
Tala Known Fractured Chert 59.0 29.4 8.3/9.515.8 15.2Low Biface4j
34 Tres Arboles Unknown Entire Red and black
chert 65.3 36.3 8.2 21.0 20.6 Biface
on flake4k
35 Negro
River? “ “ Red chert 138 58 8 25 21 Biface4l
36 Durazno “ “ Reddish chert 60 23 6 20r 16 † 4m
37 Arenera
Ferrando Known “ Pale red chert 55 23 5.5 13.5 14.0None † 4n
38 JOF “ “ Reddish chert 57.6 37.3 6.6/7.222.6 20.4Medium? Biface5a
39 “ “ Fractured Red chert (43.1) 27.1 8.2 20.0 † 5b
40 “ “ “ Gray chert (104.9)39.3 8.7/9.2 Biface5c
41 Palmar de
Porrúa Unknown Entire Yellow chert 33.7 18.1 7.4 15.0 11.9 † 9i
42 “ “ “ “ 39.6 20.6 6.4 13.6 14.0 † 9j
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 11
Figure 7.
Discoidal stones from Uruguay. (a)-(b) RBL, (c) unknown origin, (d)
La Palomita, (f) Lopeteguy I, (g) Lopeteguy II, (h) Los Ciervos, (a)-(c):
Same scale. (c), (e)-(h) photo U. Meneghin.
perimeter and both faces. Near the study area, a number of
Paleoindian vestiges were found in the La Palomita site in Yi
River basin: one of them is another discoidal stone (Figure
7(d)) which was found along with a Fell point. Remarkably,
this piece was made with alveolar basalt, the rock employed to
produce the discoidal stones from Dos Amigos site and Fell’s
cave (Bird, 1970; Miotti et al., 2010; pers. obs., 1997, 2009).
By courtesy of avocacional archaeologist U. Meneghin, Fig-
ure 7(c) exhibits another specimen found in an unknown place
in Uruguay. Interestingly enough, in early 1970s, a similar
specimen made of sandstone (~80 by 25 mm wide and thick-
ness) was found by Mr. Tabaré Flangini on the shores of La
Plata River at Playa Verde beach, located at the foot of Cerro
los Burros and close to Urupez Paleoindian site (Flangini, 1972;
Meneghin pers. com., 2008, 2012).
Figure 6.
Samples of unifacial tools found in sites with fishtail projectile points in
the southern cone. (a)-(f) AC site in the Negro River basin, (g)-(j) Ar-
royo Vejigas in the Santa Lucia River basin (slightly modified after
Meneghin and Sánchez 2009: Plates VII and IX, k-l) Fell’s cave
as well as the Dos Amigos open air site in Patagonia and Cerro
El Sombrero in the Argentinean Pampas (Bird, 1970; Flegen-
heimer & Zárate, 1990; Miotti, 2010; Miotti et al., 2010). Noto-
rious pieces were found across Uruguay (Meneghin, 2011)
which are illustrated in Figures 7(d)-(g). They were found at
Cerro Los Burros archaeological locality (Meneghin, 2000: Fig.
VI-VII: 2011: Lams. III-IV), Lopeteguy I and II (Tacuarembó
River), Talavera Island (Negro River), La Palomita (Yi River)
and Los Ciervos (Santa Lucía River). The latter one was found
embedded in a stratigraphic level dated at 10.140 ± 50 year BP
(Beta-301006, López Romanelli 2012: 7). The finds from the
Negro River are depicted in Figure 7 and Table 2. They belong
to RBL and one of them exhibits pecking around its perimeter
and some flake-scars that originated from the edge of one face
(Figure 7(a)); they were probably caused by the pecking proc-
ess during manufacture. Similar attributes are observed in the
discoidal from Cerro El Sombrero that shows a small concavity
of ~19 mm wide in the center of the flat surfaces (Flengeheimer
& Zárate, 1990: Figure 1). The discoidal from Los Ciervos also
shows some pecking in the center of the flat surfaces.
Flake-scars are also present on some pieces across the southern
cone, such is the case in the Lopeteguy I specimen and the one
from Los Toldos. It is worth mentioning that the flakes ob-
served in the latter were detached after the final shaping (Bird,
1970: Figure 1(a)). A second specimen from the Negro River
basin, illustrated in Figure 7(b), was carefully pecked in its
From the manufacturing perspective, based on available evi-
dence, personal observations and information provided by
other scholars on different reduction sequences of pecked,
ground and polished artefacts (e.g. Olausson, 1982-1983), it is
possible to hypothesize that this sort of discoidal stones might
have been made with previous stages of percussion flaking.
Furthermore, the flaked surfaces were pecked and finally,
grinding was performed on some pieces. Its function is un-
known and subject to speculation (Jackson & Méndez, 2007). It
is worth noting that these kinds of artifacts are very rare in hu-
mankind history. However, in the southeast of the United States;
there were discoidal stones of diverse morphology from ar-
chaeological and ethno-historical contexts, specifically the
biscuit and barrel style that resemble the Paleoindian finds were
used as a game artifact “chungke” or “chunkey” (DeBoer, 1993;
Anonymous, 2006).
Post-Paleoindian Technology
1) Prepared Flake Cores. In South America, artefacts show-
ing evidence of Levallois-like core preparation and its varia-
tions have been reported in several localities across the south-
ern cone (Nami, 1992b, 1997b; Morelo, 2005; among others),
very near Uruguay, in Misiones province, NE Argentina (Nami,
1995). Interestly, in the middle Ngro River there are also these e
Table 2.
Salient morphological and technological attributes of the Holocene lithic artifacts from the middle Negro river area reported in this paper. Note: All
ments are given in mm, L: Length, W: Width, T: Thickness, (): indicates fractured piece.
the measure
Paleoindian artifacts
Origin Artifact L W T Figre Raw Material u
JOF Un103 39.9.ifacial tool Red chert 8.3 2 5d
AC “
Red chert
6a 14.
Weathed chert 7.
RBL Discoidal Stone Sandstone 74.2 71.0 35.7 7a
R “
Holo cts
Colares Co 101 91.1 58.4 8a
Unifacl tool
nretoucd flake B
Silic 12.1
nretoucd blade
Rt 1012.
B 1210.
Riachos deorrea Wert
Cerro Co
Balt 62.10a
Ma 62.10
R “
enticular Stone Graite
RBL “ Basalt 74.2 73.2 46.7 10i
AC “ “ (53.2) 25.8 8.9 6b
AC “ “ (46.3) 39.5 8.2 6c
AC “ “ 83.1 39.7 1 6d
AC “ 73.3 40.5 11.1 6e
MC “ re88.2 45.1 9/6.7 6f
BLBasalt 65.5 66.9 42.0 7b
cenifae art
reYellow chert 1.
irulegui “ Gray chert 87.2 85.9 42.5 8b
RBL “ /gray ch60.7 46.4 58.4 8c
RBL “ Gray chert 3.6 83.9 47.1 8d
Red chert
rown chert
C3 Unifacial tool brown ch71.8 29.9 9.6 8g
a“ Brown chert 68.5 56.0 11.4 8h
AC “ ified sandstone72.3 35.6 8i
rroymírezo Ra“ Gray chert 84.6 32.3 7.3 8j
LM UheRed chert 45.4 24.5 7.0 9k
AC “
nife edish cher
lack chert
MC “ quartizite121.2 56.5 12.3 9c
C“ athered che105.4 67.8 10.0 9d
Arenal Taján d point Petrified wood 69.1 33.2 7.7 9e
Arenal Taján “ Red chert 54.2 28.8 8.0 9f
RB site ed poin“ 50.5 25.3 7.7 9g
ardozBeveled point “ 62.4 26.5 7.1 9k
Mercedes area
ola Stone
BLBasalt 58.5 56.7 54.8 10c
Boca del Tala ng “ 72.9 70.2 58.7 10d
nal Ta“ “ 65.7 57.7 55.7 10e
Tambores area“ “ 98.8 (93.1) 30.3 10f
Hernandorena “ “ 57.0 56.7 49.5 10g
RBL Ln74.1 73.8 34.9 10h
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
kinds of prepared cororphologicalar be-
ing plano-al and transversal sections with
trikingrms in the periter. Partial or totaial and
ighly developed lithic technology.
the same locale which are illustrated in Figures 9(b)-(d); one of
es. They are mlly simi
convex in longitudin
platfosmel unifac
bifacial flake removal is also a common feature. As depicted in
Figure 8 and Table 2, prepared core variability encloses those
resembling a classic Levallois-like and centripetal, bifacial and
unifacial discoidal forms (e. g. van Peer, 1992; Dibble & Bar-
Yosef, 1995). Most of them were rejected by diverse causes.
Figure 8(a) illustrates a turtle back core in early preparation
stage that shows raw material flaws (change of texture and
alveolus) making further flake detachment impossible. This fact
is also visible in the specimen illustrated in Figure 8(b), show-
ing very many impurities consisting in inclusions of soft mate-
rial in the chert. Another rejected core exhibits fissures across
its volume (Figure 8(d)). The specimen illustrated in Figure
8(c) shows the scar of a detached flake after preparation. A
clear product obtained from these cores shows the flake scars
resulting from the preparation of a plane striking platform
which is displayed in Figure 8(f). The ventral face exhibits a
pronounced bulb and a large eraillure flake, suggesting the use
of hard percussion flaking (Figure 8(f)). Tools made with these
blanks are diverse kinds of side-scrapers and knives (Figures
8(e)-(i)). They show uniform thickness and were very nicely
made by a careful flaking that regularized the useful edge.
2) Blade technology. At MC tools made on blade-like blanks
and cores resulting from their detachment were identified in the
middle archaeological level (Nami, 2007). Similar arti
ere also found in other sites of the area and places in Uruguay
(Figures 8(j)-(m); Meneghin, 1977). In fact, at the Vejigas-
Pilatos creek in the Santa Lucía river basin there are patches
with surface archaeological finds alternating Paleoindian con-
texts with fishtail points and large unifacial tools as well
stemmed Holocene projectile points and blade-tools (Figures
8(l)-(m)); Meneghin & Sánchez, 2009: Figure VIII). Prelimi-
nary, and from a technical viewpoint by comparison with other
blade and micro-blade assemblages from other parts of the
southern cone, these artifacts may be obtained using direct per-
cussion flaking (Nami & Bellelli, 1994; Nami, 1996a). Blades
were employed as blanks for manufacturing diverse unifacial
tools (Figures 8(j), (l)-(m)).
3) Bifacial knives. Along with the described cores and unifa-
cial tools, hunter-gatherers living in the study area during early
and middle Holocene had a h
fact, besides the prepared core techniques, they used careful
bifacial thinning strategies for manufacturing stone implements.
In the region there are delicate finished products-projectile
points, knives and other tools-reduced by excellent bifacial
flaking. Notably there are large bifacial knives that, after being
thinned by soft percussion flaking, were finished by short pres-
sure retouch. Depictions of this kind of tool are given in Figure
9 and Table 2. A remarkable piece belongs to the eroded de-
posits of LM site, probably bearing from the archaeological
component found in the transition between levels III and IV. It
was made on a flake-blank of reddish chert with yellow tones.
Close-ups in Figure 9(a) show that it was made employing a
non-patterned flake removal sequence (Callahan, 2010: Table 1)
with flake-scars that reach the centre of both faces. Bifacial
thinning flakes recovered in the lower level at LM site show
that Early Holocene knappers performed a careful bifacial
flaking by isolating platforms and using soft percussors. A
similar technique of manufacture is visible in other pieces from
Figure 8.
Examples of core and blade strategies used in some places of Uruguay
during the Holocene. (a)-(d) Prepared cores, (e)-(i) flakes and unifacial
stone tools made on flake-blanks detached from this sort of cores,
(j)-(m) Blades found on different lithic assemblages from Uruguay.
(j)-(k) middle Negro River, (l)-(m) Santa Lucía River basin. (e)-(m):
Same scale.
observed on Holocene stemmed projectile points
hose morphological variability must be investigated in detail
them displays a double beveled cross section (Figure 9(b)),
probably a sub-product of resharpening (Sollberger, 1971;
Creel, 1991: 44). Another hypothesis is that in the bifacial
knives, bevelling may be intended to obtain an asymmetrical
edge with lower values and sharper penetrating angles. Beveled
edges were
(Figures 9(e)-(f), (k)). Despite that beveled points were identi-
fied outside Uruguay in Península Mitre (Tierra del Fuego) and
Piedra del Aguila (Neuquén) in Argentina (Nami, 1986, 1987b),
this kind of edge treatment is a rare feature in South America.
Finally, similar bifacial knives belong to other neighbor locali-
ties, for example, southern Brazil (Miller, 1987: Figure 11(c);
Schmitz, 1987: Figures 16(c), (d)). Interestingly, the beveled
knife depicted in Figure 9(b) shows that it was bifacially
thinned by using edge-to-edge and/or overshot thinning strategy
previously identified in Solutrean and Clovis assemblages by
Stanford and Bradley (2012).
4) Ground implements. The eastern and southern part of the
Southern Cone is characterized by the use of a very distinctive
hunting weapon called boleadora or bola stone. In certain
places, it was still in use when the Europeans arrived, and fur-
thermore by the gauchos during historical times. The boleadora
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 13
Figure 9.
Bifacial Holocene artifacts from the study area. (a)-(d) Knives, (e)-(j)
Remarkable projectile points. (e)-(f) and (k) Beveled, (g)-(h) Stemmed
with bodies of straight borders, (i) (j) Small Fell. (a)-(d) and (e)-(i):
Same scale.
is a thrown weapon consisting in one to three cords tied t
extremes; although there are a number
the early Holocene to historical times. Bolas stones
re widespread through the Uruguayan territory, crossing the
ina and
rounded stones in their
of shape variations (Métraux, 1949; González, 1953).
Archaeological evidence shows that this artifact was broadly
used from southern Brazil and NE Argentina to Tierra del
Fuego since
northern frontier in south Brazil. In the middle Negro River,
lithic assemblages with boleadoras were not dated. However,
by comparison with dated contexts from NE Argent
uthern Brazil (Rodríguez, 1998; Rodríguez & Cerutti, 1999;
Schmitz, 1987, 1990) they were likely used during the mid-
dle/late Holocene, when occurred the intensification of pecking
and ground techniques2. Their presence is a significant techno-
logical addition, reflecting changes of hunting strategies in the
region. Some specimens are illustrated in Figures 10(a)-(c)
showing delicacy in manufacture by pecking and grinding ap-
plied on soft to hard stones, such as sandstone, basalts and
granite (Figures 10(a)-(c)) and sometimes on marble (Figure
10(b)), a stone with quarries present in this country, mainly in
the south at Maldonado department. Further, if this rock came
from Europe, it implies that bolas belong to the post European
conquest, probably during the XVII to XIX centuries. Among
the bolas stones there is a special variation mostly consisting of
round objects with a varied number of protrusions in their pe-
rimeter, and for this reason they were commonly called rompe-
cabezas (Cordero, 1960) or bolas erizadas (bristling balls,
[Baeza et al., 1980]). Like the round bolas many also display a
channel called “waist” around their perimeter which was used
to bind the bola in the cord (Figures 10(a)-(c), (e)). Some of
them show the striae left by the abrasive process used in this
procedure (Figure 10(d)) while others exhibit polishing (Fig-
ure 10(f)). This sort of artifact is widespread from Salto Grande,
in the Uruguay River to the west (Cordero, 1960: Figure 30), to
the Atlantic coast in the east (Baeza et al., 1980). Crossing the
northern border there are bristling pieces in the state of Rio
Grande do Sul in southern Brazil (Schmitz et al., 1971) reach-
ing the Maldonado department in southern Uruguay (Cordero,
1960: Figure 34). An interesting functional topic arises from
these artifacts concerning their use just as a hunting weapon or
some kind of prestigious object that played some social role
among their owners. Likely, by the invested work in the manu-
facture and their rarity in the archaeological record, their func-
tion was related with the second alternative.
Lenticular stones are another remarkable ground implement
which are widespread in the area (Figures 10(h)-(i)). These
Figure 10.
Examples of pecking and ground Holocene artifacts. (a)-(c) Bola stones,
(d)-(g) Bristling stones, (h)-(i) Lenticular stones. (a)-(c) and (h)-(i):
Same scale.
2The Urupez archaeological site, located in Maldonado, yielded an archa-
eological component with bolas stones recently dated at 2.9 kya (Meneghin,
pers. comm. 2013).
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
artifacts of unknown function, have circular forms with bicon-
vex cross sections. In general, their sizes are about 60 - 70 mm
and 20 - 40 mm width and thickness respectively. In their early
manufacture stages, percussion flaking was used, such as at
Hernandorena archaeological locality. Percussion marks around
the perimeter and surfaces suggest that some of them were
probably recycled or occasionally used as hammer-stones
(Figure 10(h)). These kinds of pieces were recorded all across
Uruguay and the Entre Ríos province in northeastern Argentina
(Serrano, 1932).
5) Raw material sources. Regionally, there are diverse raw
material sources which are available as primary and secondary
sources (Luedtke, 1979). About 2 km to the north of MC,
around Rincón del Bonete dam two quarry sites were identified.
They were named Rincon del Bonete 1 (RB1) and 2 (RB2)
respectively (Nami, 2007). RB1 shows extensive secondary
deposits of pebbles of diverse petrography and colors, ranging
from 5 to 20 cm in diameter, among them ordinary-to-very-
high-quality cherts. RB2 is a primary source characterized by
exposures of tabular nodules of silicified limestone. Similar
stones are found through Uruguay and also in Entre Ríos prov-
ince in Argentina. Diverse experiments (Nami, 2010a, 2013)
using this kind of rock showed that they have good to-very-
good flaking qualities, ranking 3.5 on Callahan’s (1979) lithic
grade scale (see also Luedtke, 1994: 86-87) and their flaking
quality also improves with heat treatment (Nami, 2010a). Iso-
lated exposures of small crystal quartz were observed in some
places, such as Colares and Cacique creek area (Nami, 2009)
Primary sources of small nodules of about 5 - 10 cm of white
are embedded in the basalt bedrock located in the
tain pieces are reported. In this
A microwear study on fishtail points is in progress (Nami &
ry results indicate that some of them,
ization through time. Actually,
Paleoindian and early Holocene artefacts seem to be curated
formal flake and core technologies. There are differences be-
sites of the region, particularly in MC and LM. This shows bad
to regular flaking qualities due to the change of texture, fissures
and cleavage planes running through the nodules (Nami, 2013).
Microwear Analysis
In order to determine the precise nature of some artefacts and
to deepen our understanding of the stone tool function at the
Negro River, systematic microwear analysis using microscopes
is being performed on the lithic assemblages (Nami & Castro,
2010, 2012). A significant number of artefacts are being ana-
lyzed using this methodology. However, in this paper some
preliminary observations on cer
endeavor, a careful examination with the naked eye to identify
the morphology of the macro-technological attributes produced
by manufacture was firstly performed; furthermore, the mor-
phological damage on the edges was identified using a 80x
triocular stereoscopic magnifying glass with a zoom lens. Fi-
nally, use-wear analysis was done using the “high power” ap-
proach following the methodology developed by Keeley (1980).
Polishing intensity and striations were analyzed with a UNION
metallographic microscope with magnification between 100×
and 300×. Paleoindian unifacial tools from AC (Figures 6(b),
(c)) show that in spite that these artifacts came from an under-
water site, their edges and ridges do not show water alterations
such as rounding by water abrasion, salt deposit, or an opaque
patina (Nami & Castro, 2010). The generalized luster, however,
suggests some wind polishing with sand. The tool exhibited in
Figure 6(b) shows non-intensive generalized luster on the en-
tire surface and small striations with perpendicular orientation
to the functional edges, indicate that it was used to scrape an
unidentified hard substance (Nami & Castro, 2010: Figure 1(f)).
Both edges of the implement observed in Figure 6(c) have
polishing striations and a few semi-lunar flakes that suggest the
tool was used with a longitudinal action for cutting a hard sub-
stance, probably bone (Nami & Castro, 2010: Figures 1(g)-(h)).
Castro, 2012). Prelimina
in parts of the shoulder and the stem, show microscopic
leather-like polishing that might be attributed to leather or a
similar substance, probably the cord or sinew used to bind the
points into the foreshaft. Their position suggests that the bind-
ing was made where the polishing is observed, in other words,
up to blade-stem junction and shoulder. This fact, reinforces
previous assessments based on macroscopic observations that
edge abrasion on the stems edges imply that hafting was made
to the blade-stem intersection (Nami, 1985-1987). The surface
of the stem shows a coarse micro-topography and has patches
of black residues. The coarse micro-topography suggests the
use of an adhesive substance covering the whole stem, while
the black patches are probably the residue used to glue the
points in the foreshafts. Another likely Paleoindian artifact
analyzed is a biface found near a fishtail point at Los Espinillos
(Figures 3(s), 4( p)) that exhibits natural edges and only rem-
nants of platform preparation by abrasion; hence, it was not
used. By it size, this piece perfectly fits within an early stage 4
of manufacture of fishtail projectile points, such as has been
observed archaeologically and experimentally proposed (Nami,
2001b, 2003, 2010a, 2012d).
In summary, investigations in Uruguay are yielding new data
on several topics related with the regional and continental ar-
chaeological process occurred during the last 11 ky. In this way,
excavations at LM and MC are providing evidence to under-
stand the chronology and archaeology in the middle Negro
River, and the morphological and functional differences be-
tween the Early and Middle Holocene lithic assemblages. Addi-
nally, studies on private collections allow to discover previ-
ously unidentified fishtail pieces and flaking strategies, besides
also going into depth in diverse aspects of the regional lithic
technology since the terminal Pleistocene. In this sense, high-
lights of lithic strategies and techniques involve prepared
flake-core and blade technology, refined bifacial thinning and
well-made flaked and ground implements. Bolas stones, mainly
the bristly pieces, biconvex discoids and projectile points are a
technological link with other surrounding areas, mainly with
southern Brazil and Northeastern Argentina.
A remarkable feature is that most sites are located near the
mouths of small creeks, such as the AC, MC and LM, a fact
that agrees with previous observations of similar assemblages
from the region (Schmitz, 1987; Rodriguez, 1998, 2001). MC
and LM might be considered as long term base camps. Both
shows high densities lithic tools and debitage, and are situated
on landforms allowing views of surrounding landscape, pro-
viding access to water, fuel, good quality flaking materials as
well animal and vegetal and other significant resources for
survival (Dillehay et al., 2011: 36).
The observed transformations between Late Pleistocene,
Early and Middle Holocene tools kits and artifacts may reflect
change in technological organ
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 15
tween Middle and Late blages; the latter show
expedient and informal
me region were collected in
litis et al., 2011; Politis & Bonomo, 2011). Towards
the south, at the Quequén River basin, evidence of fishtail oc-
cupations was found at rtínez, 2001). South of
the Argentin
Holocene assem
tools made on nodules of chalcedony
available in the sites’ vicinity, suggesting a more expedient
technology with different mobility (Binford, 1979). The inten-
sification of ground stone implements also suggests a techno-
logical change.
On the other hand, research in the area is crucial to produce
new data on the earliest hunter-gatherers, and hence, to discuss
the regional colonization process. Despite that finds of Paleo-
South American remains are abundant all across Uruguay; the
Negro River provides the highest amount. By its size, this water
course probably resulted attractive for the early hunter-gather-
ers that colonized the southern cone. In this sense, the Uru-
guayan archaeological record must not be viewed as a local
phenomenon. The evidence is increasingly showing that certain
periods of the Uruguayan archaeological process is bound with
other areas of South America, mainly with southern Brazil and
Argentina. Conspicuous fishtail finds in southern Brazil and
Uruguay is fitting with the regional Late Pleistocene archaeo-
logical record that emerges from intense investigations per-
formed in the last decades in the Southern Cone (Politis et al.,
2008; Salemme & Miotti, 2008; Miotti et al., 2012; Nami,
2012c). During the terminal Pleistocene, the current Uruguayan
territory was part of the continental dispersion of the foragers
that used fishtail points in their weaponry across South America.
Despite that most Paleo-South Americans data belongs to sur-
face finds, the available evidence shows that during the last
millennia of the Pleistocene, Fell foragers occupied the current
Uruguayan territory. Undoubtedly, certain technological simi-
larities are shared with contemporaneous groups in other areas
of the continent; such as “fishtail” projectile points, discoid
stones, and unifacial stone tools.
Except Urupez site, located in southern Uruguay which
yielded two clear fishtail pieces from a context dated at ~11.6
and 10.6 kya (Meneghin, 2004, 2006; pers. comm., 2012; Nami,
2007, 2008), there is no other stratified site with this kind of
evidence. However, in the west of the country on the Uruguay
River, El Tigre and Isla de Arriba sites produced uncalibrated
14C ages spanning the timeframe of Fell occupations. The for-
mer yielded a date of 10,420 ± 90 years BP (Kn 2531, Hilbert,
1985, 1991: 15), while the latter one was dated in 11,200 ± 500
(Guidón, 1989) years BP. No diagnostic projectile points were
found at either site; however, they might be considered contexts
without projectile points of the same system, reflecting Pa-
leoindian inter-site variation (Nami, 1996b, 2007).
Across the Uruguayan northwestern border in southern Bra-
zil, at RS-I-69 (Laranjito) site a level with six dates ranging
between 10.2 and 10.8 kya yielded five stemmed points, one of
them matches the fishtail morphology (Miller, 1987: Figures
13(a), (e); Nami, 2012c: Figure 27(a)). Coincidently, RS-I-69 is
located in a flood plain deposit from the banks of the Uruguay
River, the natural border between Brazil, Argentina and Uru-
guay. It is worth mentioning that open air sites are disturbed by
a number of geological processes (Butzer, 2008). The integrity
of the archaeological record in sites located in the flood plain
deposits of significant watercourses, such as the Uruguay river
and its tributaries in northwestern Uruguay, might be affected
by the disturbing effects of alluvial processes existing in that
kind of high energy rivers (Ferring, 2000: 95). It is known that
in certain places of this area, extinct fauna, archaeological re-
mains and metal objects may be found at the same strati-
graphic level (F. López, pers. com. 2003; J. Femenías, pers.
com. 2006; A. Sánchez, pers. com. 2009). Interestly, in the area
a fishtail point was found near Salto along with ceramic re-
mains in a surface site in Salto Grande (Bosch et al., 1980: #29).
Additional Fell points from the sa
lto Grande and Arapey area (Hilbert, 1991: Figures 23, 3),
the mouth of Boicuá creek (Cordero, 1960: Figure 45), Los
Pinos (Suárez & López Mazz, 2003: Figure 4(b), (c) and 6),
Pay Paso locality (Suárez 2009: Figure 6.2) and Isla Itacumbú
(Suárez, 2011: Figure 3(a)). Just in front of the Uruguayan bor-
der, also along the Uruguay River, fishtail points were found at
the surface of Santa Lucía site (Serrano, 1932: Lam. XV: 11)
and near Monte Caseros in Argentina (Nami, 2007: Figures
1(b), (c)).
The Negro River basin was a significant fluvial course for
human settlement in terms of both its basin size and quantity of
archaeological remains. River basins in eastern South America
are providing stratified and surface sites dating to the time span
of Fell points. Also, the Santa Lucía River basin in southern
Uruguay shows a terminal Pleistocene paleoecological envi-
ronment with data of Fell hunter-gatherers (López et al., 2001;
Meneghin & Sánchez, 2009; Nami, 2011a). The area nearby the
current mouth of La Plata River, which during that time period
had a narrow course, likely similar to the present Uruguay
River (Cavalloto et al., 2002; Nami, 2012c: Figure 5). In its
basin, Urupez and Cerro Los Burros yielded data to understand
the earliest human occupation observed in the region. Urupez
produced evidence of a fishtail campsite (Meneghin, 2004;
2006; Nami, 2008) and Cerro los Burros, is a rhyolite quarry-
workshop that reveals early stages of manufacture and fishtail
points (Meneghin, 1977; Nami, 2001a). Finally, in the South-
west, in addition to the exemplar found at Real San Carlos
(Bosch et al., 1980: #31) there is a new Fell point find in the
Colonia department (FIG. 4n) witnessing the presence of these
early hunter-gatherers near the shores of La Plata River, cur-
rently a major bio-geographical barrier.
Crossing this estuary, other important water courses yielded
Paleoindian records in Argentina. Actually, during the terminal
Pleistocene a chain of lagoons existed in the current Luján
River basin, northeastern Buenos Aires province (Toledo,
2011). There, evidence of a Fell point was found in Luján (Ze-
ballos & Reid, 1876; Lehman-Nietsche, 1907; Nami, 2012c:
Figure 15(b)). Also, the Arroyo Frías site provided one of the
few human skeletal remains in the southern cone dated at about
10 kya (Po
Paso Otero 5 (Ma
e Pampas, in the Patagonian region of the Deseado
iver basin in eastern Santa Cruz province showed a number of
sites date to the time frame of the Fell hunters: at Los Toldos
and El Ceibo caves (Cardich, 1987), Piedra Museo rockshelter
(Salemme & Miotti, 2008), Casa del Minero, and Cerro Tres
Tetas caves (Paunero, 2000; Paunero et al., 2007). On the
southern tip, the Chico River basin in the Pali Aike volcanic
field, Paleoindian occupations were found at Fell and Pali Aike
caves (Bird, 1946, 1988).
At the same time, a similar pattern of river basin utilization
has been observed in Eastern USA (Dunbar, 2012) and by
Snarskis (1979) in Central America. Therefore, based on the
locales mentioned above, it is evident that watercourses were
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
important places for the earliest human occupants in eastern
North and South America. As such, the Negro River basin
might be one of the dispersal “routes” for the colonizers’ bands
while foraging the landscape. Also, is possible that at that time,
the current continental shelf was used for the colonizers
diaspora from north to south and from east to west (Nami,
2001c). This kind of environment facilitated movements during
the colonization of northeast South America (Anderson & Gil-
lan, 2000). In fact, the presence of numerous Paleoindian re-
mains in the eastern part of the southern Cone, leads to reflect
rers who used the Fell pattern. In fact, there are
issues related with the human migration across eastern South
America. Actually, first it was thought that the Pacific coast and
the Andean Cordillera in western South America were the
dispersal “route” of earliest settlers (Sauer, 1944; Mayer-Oakes,
1963; Schobinger, 1987); however, there are fishtails finds in
El Cayude, Los Planes de Giosne and Margarita island in
Venezuela (Jaimes, 1999; Nami, 2010a: Lam. If; 2012c: Figure
19(f); Szabadics Roka, 2010), Cuyuní River in British Guyana
(Evans & Meggers, 1960: Pl. 8d; Nami, 2012c: Figure 19(g)),
and east-central and southern Brazil (Schobinger, 1974; Politis,
1991; da Silva Lopes & Nami, 2011). As reported above, fish-
tail are conspicuous finds in Uruguay, Buenos Aires and,
eastern part of Santa Cruz provinces in Argentina. In con-
sequence, they reveal and suggest that the eastern part of South
America and the Atlantic slope was an additional “route”
during the colonization diaspora. Possibly the sources of water,
especially lakes and rivers were the favorite places for these
early foragers.
Finally, as mentioned above, many fishtail points from Cen-
tral and South America display true flutes. This distinctive
technical feature allows to discuss issues about their relation
with fluted points from North and Central America (Willey,
1966; Bryan, 1991; Politis, 1991; Nami, 1997, 2005, 2010a;
Morrow & Morrow, 1999; Faught, 2006; among others). Actu-
ally, the flinknapping techniques employed to manufacture
fluted points are highly specific and are generally thought to
imply “genetic” relationships between the hunter-gatherers that
produced these artefacts. These affiliations may be true relative
to the North American fluted points, but the stratigraphic rela-
tionships between the unfluted/fluted points of South America
and the coincident temporal occurrence of fluting between the
two hemispheres creates a highly interesting archaeological and
anthropological problem. Thus, to elucidate this question, an
in-depth comparative and experimental study considering clas-
sic western Clovis and Folsom from the Great Plains, and Fell
reduction sequences was conducted. Results from this investi-
gation conclude that except the fluting, there are many technical
and morphological differences among those patterns (Nami,
1997, 2003, 2005, 2010b, 2011b). However, beyond fluting
there are other technological features suggesting that hunter-
gatherers who made the “fishtail” points might not only be
related with North American Paleoindian but to the Upper Pa-
leolithic hunter-gatherers as well. In fact, the generic technical
attributes and shapes in stone and bone technology3 might im-
ply a historical or social relationship among the first foragers
that participated in the peopling of the Americas. In this regard,
the South American Paleoindians that used Fell projectile
points represent another member of a global family sharing
Upper Paleolithic technological knowledge used in their previ-
ous homeland (Nami, 2005, 2010b, 2010c). In this sense, cur-
rently there are more clues that allow thinking about the origins
of hunter-gathe
htail pieces in North America that despite certain technical
and morphological differences, fit with similar ones in Central
and South America. Several locales along the eastern coast of
North America yielded fishtail lanceolate points finished by
short pressure retouches on blanks partially or totally thinned
by bifacial percussion flaking. Referred to by different names
according the presence/absence of fluting, retouch morphology
and locality of finds (Faught, 2006; Dunbar, 2012), they are
found in Maryland (Lowery et al., 2011), Alabama (Futato,
1996: Figure 15.2), Georgia (Anderson et al., 1990: Figures 21,
22), Florida (Purdy, 1981; 2008: Figure 21(c)) and Texas (Red-
der, 1985: Figure 2(G)). In general, their morphology matches
the lanceolate variant of fishtail point found in Mexico
(Lorenzo, 1953; Santa María & García Bárcena, 1989: Figure
40), Belize (Hester et al., 1983), Guatemala (Coe, 1960), Costa
Rica (Swauger & Mayer-Oakes, 1952; Snarskis, 1979: Figures
2, 3; Sheets, 1994), Panamá (Bird & Cooke, 1979: Figures 6(a),
(b); Nami, 2012c Figure 19(c), (d)), Venezuela (Jaimes, 1999;
Pearson & Ream, 2005; Szabadics Roka, 2010), Ecuador (Bell,
1965: Figure 10(b)-(c); Nami, 2012c: Figure 21(c)), and other
South American localities (Nami, 2012c: Figure 21). A fish-
tailed “Clovis” and a fishtail point were found in the same
stratigraphic layer at Los Grifos cave in Mexico (Santa María &
García Bárcena, 1989: Figure 41), a fact that also occurred in
Turrialba site in Costa Rica (Snarskis, 1979: Figures 2, 3),
Madden Lake in Panama (Bird & Cooke, 1979: Figures 4 and 6)
and Los Planes de Giosne and El Cayude in Venezuela (Jaimes,
1999; Szabadics Roka, 2010). Interestingly, the areas of major
distribution of fluted points in North America are located in the
eastern part (Anderson & Faught, 1998). Consequently, a plau-
sible hypothesis is that the origin of the Fell pattern might be
related to Paleoindian fishtailed pieces located along the eastern
coast of North America, mainly in the southern states sur-
rounding the Gulf of Mexico and entered to South America via
Mexico and Caribbean continental shelve. The mutation or
transformation towards the Fell pattern and its varieties might
be in relation with some sort of environmental or social causes.
Of course, problems of chronology, reliable stratigraphic re-
cords and dispersion timing (Faught, 2006) must be solved in
order to arrive at consistent conclusions.
I am indebted to the Museo Nacional de Antropología de
Uruguay for having sponsored my archaeological research in
Uruguay; to A.Toscano, director of the museum, for his con-
stant support and help; to A. Florines for his constant support,
help, and counsel in different aspects of this research; to S.
Bálsamo, J. Bálsamo and V. Carbalho for their invaluable help
and support during the fieldwork at LM; to W. and Y. Aizpún,
N. and R. Barreto, D. Cramet, M. de las M. Cuadrado, and H.
Sansone for their help during the excavations at MC; to U.
Meneghin, Fundación de Arqueología Uruguaya, for facilitating
the study of diverse aspects of the artifacts depicted here; to A.
De Grossi and M. Albano for allowing us to work on their land;
to H. Erlenkeuser (Leibniz-Labor für Altersbestimmung und
Isotopenforschung, Universität Kiel Leibniz-Laboratory for
Radiometric Dating and Stable Isotope Research, Kiel Univer-
3Among the bone artifacts made by the hunter-gatherers that used fishtail
oints, there are beveled base bone points of excellent manufacture. They
were found in the lower levels of Fell´s cave (Nami, 2010c: Figure 4; pers.
obs., 1994; 1997).
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 17
sity) for his help during the processing of the radiocarbon data;
to J. Feathers at the Luminiscence Dating Archaeology (Uni-
versity of Washington) kindly provided the OSL date; the Uni-
versity of Buenos Aires and CONICET (PIP-114-200801-
00344) for their continuous support; to S. Bálsamo, W. Aizpún,
V. Carbalho, S. Garrido and M. Albano for their help in the
study their collections; and especially to S. Bálsamo for his
continuous data input, kindness and generosity. This paper was
partially written during my stay at Dumbarton Oaks (Harvard
University) and the National Museum of Natural History,
Smithsonian Institution (Wa. D.C.).
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