Thunderbird Archaeological District
Thunderbird Archaeological District
|Nearest city||Limeton, Virginia|
|NRHP Reference #||77001495|
|Added to NRHP||May 5, 1977|
|Designated NHLD||May 5, 1977|
|Designated VLR||December 16, 1975|
The Thunderbird Archaeological District is described as "The district consists of three sites--Thunderbird Site, the Fifty Site, and the Fifty Bog--which provide a stratified cultural sequence spanning Paleo-Indian cultures through the end of Early Archaic times with scattered evidence of later occupation."
This archaeological site, located in Warren County Virginia, near modern day Winchester in the Shenandoah River Valley is a major site of the Paleoindian Clovis culture in Virginia. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977 because it yielded dense archaeological remains as well as evidence for what is quite possibly the oldest structure in North America.  The site is one of three which make up the Thunderbird archaeological complex which consists of 2,500 acres of sites spanning the prehistoric era. The major occupations at Thunderbird site are known to date to the Late Pleistocene-Early Holocene epochs and include Clovis and later projectile points forms, as well as an array of other tools and manufacturing debris. Radiocarbon dates indicate some of the occupations date to 9900 BP (before present).
Thunderbird consists of a group of sites located in and around a jasper quarry, Thunderbird is considered a part of the Flint Run Complex. The site’s relation to the quarry is important because the Paleoindians used the jasper to create tools, such as the Clovis points. Jasper is a mineral that is usually red and is known to break with a smooth surface: it can also be used for decoration but has also been used for creating bow drills that create fire.
Thunderbird yielded Clovis points that date between 9500 and 9000 B.C. The inhabitants of the site are presumed to have been hunters since the tool kit found is associated with hunting wild animals. Thunderbird is a stratified site that has evidence structures found just below the plow zone along with tools, points and flakes of points. Because of its stratified deposits, Thunderbird is one of the sites used to develop a sequence of Paleo-Indian and Early Archaic assemblages in Eastern North America. Not only does the site have Clovis points, Thunderbird also has been credited with a point that is rarely found throughout the Middle Atlantic region: the Hardaway Dalton point, a point with shallow side notches and a deep basal concavity. This point averages of 60 mm in length, 35 mm across and has an average thickness of 7 mm. The microblades found at Thunderbird site are rare and linked to a few other sites, which include the Williamson Site found in Southern Virginia. The Thunderbird site was originally located a great distance from the coast in the Late Pleistocene epoch, but it is now much closer to the coast due to rising sea levels and when occupied, seasonality would have been greater than at present.
In the late 1980s, Dr. William M. Gardner concluded agreements with more than thirty private land owners to preserve Thunderbird. This action was documented in an issue of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference’s newsletter in October 1989, where the archaeological community was asked for monetary donations to be sent to the Archaeological Society of Virginia (ASV) in effort to purchase and preserve the site. Threats like these continue to plague archaeology sites today, but thanks to those who worked the Thunderbird site and the findings’ importance, it is now a National Historic Landmark and is protected for future excavations.
Key Excavations and Findings
It is believed that the Thunderbird site had a large population due to the vast number of artifacts discovered. This contradicts earlier views that Paleoindian peoples lived in small groupings except for the occasional large gathering for a few weeks at a time to maintain kinship networks as well as share food source knowledge.
The Thunderbird site is known for Clovis points, a projectile point that has bifacial flaking. Bifacial flaking is the knapping of a point on both sides to create a blade. These points can be found across most of North America.
- "Virginia Landmarks Register". Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
- "Thunderbird Archaeological District". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-04-23.
- Note: A National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination document (perhaps redacted to remove location information) should be available upon request from the National Park Service for this site, but it appears not to be available on-line from the NPS Focus search site.
- 1. William M. Gardner (1983). Stop me if you’ve Heard This One Before: The Flint Run Paleo-Indian Complex Revisited. (Archaeology of Eastern North America) 1983. p.49-64.
- 2. David J. Meltzer (1988). Late Pleistocene Human Adaptations in Eastern North America. (Journal of World Prehistory) 1988. p.1-52
- 3. Audrey J. Horning (2004). Cultural Overview of City Point, Petersburg National Battlefield, Hopewell, Virginia. (Colonial Williamsburg Archaeological Reports) 2004.
- 4. David G. Anderson (2012). Paleoindian Archaeology in Eastern North America: Current Approaches and Future Directions. p. 379
- 5. 5. "The Earliest Americans Theme Study." (2012).
- 6. Dr. Billy Oliver (1999). Typology Lecture. U wharries Lithics Research Conference 1999.
- 7. Hadaway-Dalton. (2012).
- 8. Wm Jack Hranicky (2005). A Microblade Core from the Williamson Site, Dinwiddie County, Virginia. (Archaeology of Eastern North America, Vol. 33). p. 51-56.
- 9. David G. Anderson and Kenneth E. Sassaman (2012). Recent Developments in Southeastern Archaeology: From Colonization to Complexity. (Society for American Archaeology. (The SAA Press) 2012. p. 51.
- 10. Mary Lucas Powell (1989). Thunderbird Site Threatened. (Southeastern Archaeological Conference Newsletter Vol. 31, No. 2 University of Kentucky, Lexington KY) 1989.
- Noel D. Justice (1987). Stone Age Spear and Arrow Points of the Midcontinental and Eastern United States. Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-2532-0985-4
- David G. Anderson and Kenneth E. Sassaman (1996). The Paleoindian and Early Archaic Southeast. Alabama: University Alabama Press. ISBN 0-8173-0835-0
- C. Britt Bousman and Bradley Jay Vierra (2012). From the Pleistocene to the Holocene: Human Organization and Cultural Transformations in Prehistoric North America. Texas: Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 1-6034-4760-1
- William M. Gardner (1974). The Flint Run Paleoindian Complex: Pattern and Process During the Paleoindian to Early Archaic. In The Flint Run Paleoindian Complex: A Preliminary Report 1971-1973 Seasons. Archaeology Laboratory, Catholic University of America. ASIN: B-0027-4Y6Z-C
- William M. Gardner (1983). Stop me if you’ve Heard This One Before: The Flint Run Paleo-Indian Complex Revisited. (Archaeology of Eastern North America) 1983. p. 49-64
- David J. Meltzer (1988). Late Pleistocene Human Adaptations in Eastern North America. (Journal of World Prehistory) 1988. p. 1-52
- David G. Anderson and Kenneth E. Sassaman (2012). Recent Developments in Southeastern Archaeology: From Colonization to Complexity. (Society for American Archaeology. (The SAA Press) 2012.
- Mary Lucas Powell (1989). Thunderbird Site Threatened. (Southeastern Archaeological Conference Newsletter Vol. 31, No. 2 University of Kentucky, Lexington KY) 1989.
- Howard A. MacCord, Jr. (1975). Archaeology in Virginia: Data-Gathering is Still Fundamental and Necessary (Archaeology of Eastern North America, Vol. 3) pp. 24–30.
- Wm Jack Hranicky (2005). A Microblade Core from the Williamson Site, Dinwiddie County, Virginia. (Archaeology of Eastern North America, Vol. 33). pp. 51–56.
- Flint Run Archaeological District
- Warren County, Virginia
- Hardaway-Dalton Points
- Late-Stage Clovis Preform
- Clarke Daily News: Clarke County Virginia
- Honoring William M. Gardner
- Paleo-Indians in Virginia
- The Earliest Americans Theme Study
- Williamson Archaeological Site