Scientific Publications from the Virginia Museum of Natural History
by Jerry N. McDonald
published 30 November 2000
Saltville Valley is an important source of information about the environmental history of the Middle Appalachian region, especially for the past 15,000 years. The Saltville River coursed the valley until about 13,500-13,000 yrs BP, at which time it was diverted by headstream piracy and replaced, in Saltville Valley, by Lake Totten. At site SV-2 (=44SM37), three horizons dating from 14,510 + 80 yr BP to about 13,500_13,000 yr BP document the presence of pre_Clovis people in Saltville Valley and provide insight into their lifeways. At 14,510 yr BP, pre-Clovis people appear to have butchered and processed hide, meat, bones, and tusks of a mastodon (Mammut americanum) and to have utilized parts of the skeleton of a musk ox (Bootherium bombifrons). Five hundred years later, at 13,950 + 70 yr BP, human presence is suggested by unlikely arrangements, associations, and modifications of lithics, including flakes of chert that resemble biface reduction flakes. A midden dating from about 13,500 to 13,000 yr BP constitutes the youngest of the three pre-Clovis horizons recognized to date at SV-2.
SV-2 is one of the few and most complex pre-Clovis archeological sites in North America, and because it is a wet site, it contains a relatively extensive amount of organic information. Evidence suggests that the pre-Clovis people who visited Saltville Valley in 14,510 yr BP had a diversified ivory, bone, and lithic technology — possibly including a biface technology. These people appear to have been mobile hunters and gatherers who regularly visited and exploited the riparian and littoral zones in Saltville Valley where they utilized diverse faunal resources ranging from large mammals to small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and mussels.