09 Apr 2007

Farpoint: A Possible California Clovis Point Site

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Malibu Times reports a vexing case featuring unseemly conflict between the rights of the owner of a piece of astronomically expensive California private property and science.

The discovery of a Clovis spearhead, believed to be thousands of years old, at a local home construction site has the homeowner and an archeologist at odds on what should be done with the site. The property owner wants to finish her home and move in, the archeologist wants to preserve the site, called Farpoint, and be allowed to conduct further research.

In September of 2005, Gary Stickel was the archeologist of record at the Farpoint site, then being developed by the private homeowner, and hired to oversee excavation at what was known as an “architecturally sensitive site.”

“Other objects, scrapers and micro-tools, had been found on the property,” Stickel said. “So we knew it was a culturally sensitive site. Then we found the spear point.”

The approximately 8-inch long, stone spear point is a tool produced by the Clovis people, believed to be the first human inhabitants of the Americas.

Not only does that date the piece to more than 11,000 years ago, the site of its location is the farthest point west in North America that the Clovis tribes can be traced, thus the designation “Farpoint.”

Dennis Stanford, director of the Paleoindian/Paleoecology Program at the Smithsonian Institute, in a written affidavit that authenticated the spearhead, said “… until the discovery of the Clovis occupation level at the Farpoint site, no “in situ” Clovis age sites are known along the West Coast of the Americas.”

The property owner, who is not identified to protect her privacy and the integrity of the archeologically sensitive site, has been cooperative through the last few years of research, but is ready to occupy her new house. And, Stickel said, she has shut down any further excavation.

Read the whole thing.

Wikipedia: Clovis point article.

If that Clovis Point is a legitimate artifact, and was not simply planted by an enterprising neighbor who prefered the site undeveloped, then there is a significant public interest in investigating, possibly in preserving, the site. But satisfying that public interest is indubitably a taking, and if the public wants to dig in that land, or to own that land, it ought to pay for it, not simply pass some regulations.

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