New tests allow scientists to identify ancient animals

November 23, 1990

New chemical tests devised in Canada are allowing scientists for the first time to identify the kinds of animals that were killed by Indians in Maryland many centuries ago.

Tests on 10 ancient arrowheads recovered last month at an archaeological dig near Laurel -- the site of a 1,000- to 5,000-year-old Indian camp -- have revealed the presence of blood from rabbit, turkey and several other species, said R. Christopher Goodwin, a Frederick archaeologist.

Such tests, which employ blood antigens to detect the presence of tiny amounts of blood proteins, have been used for several years. Only within the past year, however, have University of Calgary scientists refined the tests sufficiently to reveal the species of the animal.

In addition to rabbit and turkey, the tests on the stone points found near Laurel showed blood from squirrel, porcupine, cat -- which Goodwin interprets as bobcat or mountain lion -- and chicken, which is probably wood grouse.

Similar tests are planned for older projectile points found at the Early Archaic tool-making site now being excavated in northern Anne Arundel County.

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