Folsom, The Birth of Paleo Archeology in North America

On August 27,1908, 13″ of rain fell on Johnson Mesa in Union County, New Mexico. On the Crowfoot Ranch, 8 miles from Folsom, New Mexico, a small tributary of the Cimmaron River (Dead Horse or Wild Horse Arroyo) carried much of this water, and eroded deeply. George McJunkin, a black cowboy and foreman for the Crowfoot Ranch found extinct Bison bones and unusual projectile points associated with them in this arroyo at a depth of 13′.

George was a very intelligent and practical man, and believed that the bones and associated artifacts indicated that man had been in North America for far longer than science at the time believed was possible. For the next 14 years, George tried in vain to solicit interest in his find; however it wasn’t until the spring of 1926 (3 1/2 years after his death) that Figgins and Cook from The Colorado Museum of Natural History verified the find in Dead Horse Arroyo, and agreed that this was indeed a very early site. Figgins also tried in vain to solicit interest in the site, but was also rebuffed by the “powers that be” (namely A. Hrdlika from the Smithsonian)

Figgins and Clark returned the following two season, and found a number of points in direct association with prehistoric Bison Bones. The evidence was viewed in situ by a number of prominent archaeologists including Barnum Brown (The American Museum of Natural History), Frank Roberts (The Smithsonian Institution), and A.V. Kidder (Phillips Academy). The inevitable conclusion was that man had been in North Ameria far longer than had been previously believed.

In the three season that Figgins and Cook worked in Dead Horse Arroyo, 19 distinctive projectile points were found. As was customary at the time, projectile points were named after the “station” where they were found, so the points were named Folsom after Folsom, New Mexico. The original Folsom points found by George McJunkin were destroyed in a fire when his cabin was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.

Folsom points were the first points found and recognized as being associated with Pleistocene fauna. They are not the earliest; however they are among the rarest, most beautiful, and most desirable to collectors. There is more mystique and intrigue surrounding Folsom points and their culture than any other type.

Jeb Taylor of Buffalo, Wyoming, has been respected as an authority on Western and High Plains artifacts. He began collecting Indian Artifacts at the age of six. He has served as a bridge between avocationals and professionals, and has brought several significant sites to the attention of professionals.