I'm a writer and vintage junkie transplant from Baltimore to WV. Interests include Etsy, crafting, melmac dinnerware, and archaeology.
Pleistocene Period: Bear Spirit Mountain
Bear Spirit Mountain comprises part of a mountain range in West Virginia. The site features rock art, pictographs, glyphs and effigies dating to the Pleistocene period. The site was discovered in 2016 when its descendants purchased it to build a home on. He found numerous rock piles, carvings and structures, which would prompt him to invite archaeologists and geologists on site. He soon found that he got more than he bargained for: a ceremonial site which he soon put into conservation.
The site contains proof of Paleo Indians, but may also prove to be one of the older existing sites than previously documented. So what does this mean for mankind? Perhaps more than just a pile of rocks in one man's yard.
Ancient Sites Present All Over West Virginia
Although it is not uncommon for indigenous sites to be present up and down the Eastern Panhandle, the Bear Spirit site is unique in that it contains summer and winter solstice sites and has been dated anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000 years old. This may help curtail debates going on with Paleo theories, which I will explain later.
Indigenous people are first mankind inhabitants of the land, also called native peoples, aboriginal people, etc. Many refer to the early Indians as "Clovis."
Solstice sites revolve around the sun and, as far as archaeology goes, have some form of "pointers" that direct the sunrise during the summer and winter solstice times of December 21 and June 21. Solstice is the time marking the summer and winter seasons and has been used in history for hundreds of years—from Celtic people to Indigenous people to Pagans and Wiccans.
Some sites would be that of ancient region (worshiping the sun). Bear Spirit Mountain site proves they used the solstice events for festivals, migration and harvest periods. It also indicates intelligence and intellect and culture of the people who carved the stones. During the Pleistocene period, most evidence is shown as stone markers.
So now let's talk about the period.
The Quaternary Period in Which We Live: Why You Should Care
Quaternary refers to the period in which we live, but up to 2.588 ± 0.005 million years ago. This is a pretty large period from when the Earth was formed, and fast forwarding through five known ice ages until now.
That's a huge amount of time and something we often do not think about. Some of us are sometimes are fascinated by dinosaurs, cavemen or Bible history, yet do not often think back to ancestors during the 30,000 to 10,000 years age mark. But why is there so little on the Pleistocene period?
Are we scared to think about this, of which we know so little about? Does it scare you to think of this long ago time frame, or how these people may indeed be our ancestors? Are we too distracted by what has happened in the past 400–2,000 years, or by war and religion? Are we stuck searching genealogy and have hit a dead end (since books and documents do not go back that far). Perhaps we are in a world where we are stuck on today's Instagram post? So why should we care what was happening to our ancestors from the period of 30,000 to 10,000 years ago?
Somewhere, somehow, we are all the same people and our ancestors paved the way for us to be here. Did you ever think of that?
Archaeologists and anthropologists are learning more and more about the different periods that comprise the Quaternary Period.
Jack Hranicky RPA is currently working 12 Pleistocene sites that range from West Virginia to North Carolina.
Pleistocene Period: It's Debatable
The Pleistocene refers to the geologic time period that most scientists refer to as spanning from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago. This is a huge period and includes several ice ages known.
Some websites, books and reports now state that it spanned 10,000 years ago; others start at 16,000 years. So why so much confusion?
A Mammoth Debate!
The Woolly Mammoth was large and majestic, its fur made to withstand the cold temps of the ice age. Scientists have found them well preserved in regions such as Siberia, even nicknaming and adult female "Buttercup" that is said to be 40,000 years old. Scientists seem to be in agreement they could have lived 250,000 to 10,000 years ago.
New Evidence by a company TedxDeExtinction gave a lecture about most woolly mammoths being extinct as of 10,000 years ago, but even suggests a small population lived on Wrangel Island in the Arctic until 1650 BC. This contradicts so many scientific theories on extinction of the giant beast.
Moreover, recent cloning attempts have brought woolly mammoth cells back to life!
A recent article in Live Science explained that two woolly mammoth corpses were found while digging in Los Angeles, and paintings of Woolly Mammoths have been found at the Bear Spirit Mountain site in West Virginia. This is evidence they were all over the United States, from east coast to west coast, during the Pleistocene period.
Paleo Indians: What, Who, When Were They?
Paleo-Indians are also referred to as Paleoindians or Paleoamericans, which is suggestive of the first hunter-gatherer people in existence.
Most theories suggest their crossing over during the ice ages from other continents over an ice bridge. Most contend that Paleo-Indians migrated out across Western Alaska having crossed from other countries. Many theories dispute that.
The archaeological community is still in debate on timeframes. They range from 16,500–40,000 years ago. (Remember this would still be the Pleistocene period epoch.)
New evidence and sites in the USA crop up, putting theories in debate as to how, when and where they came from. The term "Clovis Culture" refers to them and their stone weapons found, and it has given clues to these theories.
Why There Are So Many Debatable Dates on Indigenous Sites?
Technology as we know it and advances in mankind have evolved so much in the past 200 years. Imagine just one hundred years ago having the first motorized car or how long it took for a color TV.
Only in the past few decades has technology advanced rapidly enough to carbon date remains. Archaeologists now have better tools, better resources, and more computer resources to document and analyze artifacts. New discoveries are cropping up everywhere!
Some archaeologists do not have the time or resources to come to sites and do peer reviews or documentation of such sites that relatively little is known about. Some are overworked or are spending time on other areas of study. Some demand large sums just to look at something so important and crucial to history. It is unsettling to me that little interest seems to be in this period when there is still much debate.
I learned of Rock Art Survey, where Jack Hranicky RPA is currently working dozens of rock art and solstice sites. He is currently in the middle of many Pleistocene sites on the Eastern seaboard, documenting them on his website and classifying and dating them as he goes.
Indigenous people's clues are difficult in the fact that much evidence has been destroyed over time by natural decomposition. If you think about people who would be living 10,000 or 16,000 years ago, they would not have artifacts on them that would last so long without decomposing.
- Their clothing would be made from natural animal hide or skin and would not have survived from that period.
- Their jewelry would perhaps be made of rocks or natural substances, and what little clues exist may have been buried with them.
- Their tools were often made of stone, which provide clues about their societies.
- Their carvings and paintings (eroded over time) provide clues as to how they lived, what they loved and what they believed.
- Stone formations and sculptures (effigies) indicate what was important to them and some of their worshiping beliefs.
Burial Mounds or Cairns: Stop the Desecration
After finding some clues in my own backyard and some explainable events, I found the community in which I lived was full of Indigenous history property.
I also found a burial mound (previously disturbed in the 1940s) but thankfully restored and maintained now by my community only a few streets over.
I am not of native origin but have a huge respect for our Indigenous ancestors. The more I searched for information, the more I was sickened to see so many mounds or resting places or cairns being disturbed in an effort to obtain artifacts or desecrate or grave rob.
I have not seen anyone ever going to bulldoze any other form of cemetery. You don't hear of someone searching a "Jewish cemetery" for clues or bulldozing a "military cemetery" for clues, do you? Just because the ancestors were mound builders doesn't give you the right to desecrate them. These are grave sites and should be left undisturbed. If you know of anyone doing this, please report them to the authorities!
Bear Spirit Mountain Has Geologists Studying Rock Mounds
We know the Adena culture Indians were mound builders, but what of rock piles from 12,000–16,000 years ago? When found by the rows and hundreds, Bear Spirit Mountain's owner decided to have geologist testing, which included electric resistivity testing. This could prove the rock mounds were actual burial sites.
A Prayer and Apology to Indigenous People
I ask of the Indigenous people to come together as a whole and document history with the archaeologists who are doing so today, so that it is done so in a respectful manner and these important discoveries are found.
It is important for all cultures, civilizations and mankind as a whole. In my research, I noticed that many times the tribes are still today segregated—not necessarily due to core beliefs, but sometimes due to a history of fighting among the different tribes.
On a greater note, many tribes are still in turmoil and hurt over what has happened to them, potentially by some of my own ancestors. I can't say I blame them.
When my Italian grandfather was building homes in the 1950s, his best friend was a Native American named Chief. They built a number of the homes in an area called Rosedale in Baltimore County and even a place on East Grand Lake in Maine called "The Big Mamu."
I heard stories growing up of how horrible Chief was treated, racist slurs and remarks. My grandfather (in younger days) was always getting in brawls to defend him. I met Chief a few times as a child, and he was one of the nicest men I knew. How odd it was (most said) at the time, for an Italian and an Indian to be best friends. To me, that was just normal. To some, it was unheard of. My mother was accepted by Passamaquoddy friends in Maine, and they gave her the name of Little Squaw. How beautiful for everyone to get along
For all of that bad history, I would like to say, I'm sorry for what my ancestors may have done to you in the past. I pray for you, that your hurt heals and new technology and new found respect will help us now honor the miraculous history of Indigenous people.
I would like to apologize.,
for all of those who won't say they are sorry,
I am deeply sorry.
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Bear Spirit Mountain is a pilgrimage site that was used by some of the first early North Americans as a place for Ceremony and worship of the Creator. This site dates back many thousands of years. There are hundreds of rock structures including petro
Bear Spirit Mountain Ancestral Book
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Cindy Fahnestock-Schafer
I Welcome Your Comments
Cindy Fahnestock-Schafer from Hedgesville, WV on April 02, 2019:
Francine Labelle from Gatineau, Quebec, Canada on April 01, 2019:
I am a big history buff, any type of history except after the 1900's. This post was particularly rich in information and as a Canadian, I am also very interested in our very own First Nations. Every indigeous people whether from North or South America or Africa and Austalia and around the world have suffered at the hands of explorers and European armies alike. Congratulations on a very well researched, written and documented article.
Kathi Mirto from Fennville on March 25, 2019:
Great information, had no clue that Florida and the coast was rich in Pleistocene artifacts and fossils. Was particularly amazed at the cave sites and evidence of trees now underwater!
jane silverman on March 24, 2019:
i am glad to see someone cares about the past
Cindy Fahnestock-Schafer from Hedgesville, WV on March 24, 2019:
Cindy Fahnestock-Schafer (author) from Hedgesville, WV on March 19, 2019:
JP Carlson on March 19, 2019:
What an interesting article! It is shameful how little respect we continue to show toward the people who inhabited North America before our European ancestors. Very thought provoking.