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By Tom Westfall


Figure 1. Folsom and Midland points from the Shifting Sands site.

There is a bias among some professional archaeologists which suggests that avocational collectors do considerable harm to the archaeological record through focusing only upon projectile points, failing to keep tools and utilized flakes from a specific site segregated, inadequately recording the material recovered, and failing to work cooperatively with professional archaeologists on sites of value and importance. Viewed by some professionals as “thieves of time”, many avocational collectors further the professional bias by failing miserably in the aforementioned categories. There are, of course, notable exceptions, and one of the most significant of these is the Shifting Sands Folsom/Midland site in western Texas.

For the past twenty-five years, Richard Rose of Midland, Texas has visited the Shifting Sands site on at least a monthly basis. Additionally, he has made the trek to the site following significant wind erosion. He has surface collected 164 projectile points and point fragments, 34 point preforms, 112 channel flakes, 155 complete or nearly complete scrapers, 98 utilized or informal flake tools, 66 gravers, 5 ultrathin biface knives (one of which is complete), 8 perforators, 1 awl, 9 bifaces, 2 large quartzite choppers/ anvils, 6 hammerstones, 1 red ochre stone, 6 bend-break tools, 10 radial-break tools, 3 hinge flake tools, burins, 8 spokeshaves, 2 knives, 100 tool fragments, over 8000 chert flakes, and 1 bone bead.


Richard Rose (left) and Dick Eckles sharing
a laugh at the Stone Age Fair, Loveland,
Colorado, September 2006.

The Shifting Sands site is located on the Pecos Plain along the southern portion of the Llano Estacado, in Winkle County, Texas. The site itself is a series of 5 to 8 meter-deep blowouts in a large dune field. The site has yielded the above listed stone tools, along with many weathered bone fragments. During the past 25 years, a large portion of the site has been exposed to the erosive effects of strafing winds, and the blowouts have “moved” over time, covering some portions of the site, while uncovering other areas.


Figure 3. 16 pieces resulting from the failed 

manufacture of one Folsom point from the  Shifting Sands site.

The Shifting Sands site is extremely important for a variety of reasons. First, it has been meticulously collected, and each flake that became exposed through erosion has been catalogued and kept for further study. Secondly, no other Folsom/Midland site has provided the type of large scale spatial patterning in site structure that is evident at Shifting Sands. Third, in terms of sheer numbers, the Shifting Sands site artifact assemblage is one of the three or four largest ever found at a temporally discrete site. And finally, Rose sought out the assistance of professional archaeologists including Dr. Dan Amick and Dr. Jack Hofman to assist him in gathering the material in the best possible manner. For example, datums have been established within each of the active blowouts and many artifacts have been “piece-plotted” using a compass and tape.


Figure 5. Uniface scrapers and knives from the
Shifting Sands site.

A wide variety of Folsom and Midland projectile points (Fig. 1) have been found at the site, including several “diminutive” points. One of these appears to have been made on a channel flake, and while most of the “normal-sized” points exhibit some degree of use damage, the diminutive points show little use wear or damage and their functional utility remains an intriguing unknown!