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C. Vance Haynes Jr.

Caleb Vance Haynes Jr. is an archaeologist, geologist and author who specializes in the archaeology of the American Southwest. His research revolutionized the field of geoarchaeology. He is known for unearthing and studying artifacts of Paleo-Indians including ones from Sandia Cave in the 1960s and so on when he served as a semi-rebellious young officer in the U.S. Air Force, playtime which eventually proposed the timeline of human introduction into the American continent. Haynes coined the term “black mat” for a layer of 12,000-year-old “swamp soil” described first by Ernst Antevs, but correlated it across space as seen in many North American archaeological studies. These days, his research is prominently discussed in the realm of the proposed late Pleistocene comet impact, which he does not support or deny. In his words, “Something happened that we don’t understand.”

After attending the Colorado School of Mines, and attracted by the school’s program in geochronology, Haynes entered the University of Arizona for graduate study. He was drawn by the Paleoindian research being performed by Emil Haury. Working with Emil, Haynes and George Agogino began in the 1960s to gather charcoal samples from Paleoindian sites across the Great Plains, returning to the university’s eventual NSF radiocarbon dating equipment to process the samples to establish as narrow a time range as possible. From this work, Haynes established the first reliable dates for Folsom and Clovis projectile points.

Haynes has primarily been interested in investigating when the American continent was populated by humans. Of course, his interests include studies of the Quaternary extinction “event,” but also other things such as battlefield archaeology and pretty much anything that needs further research.

Haynes was elected in 1990 to the National Academy of Sciences. From 1996 to 2004, he worked to keep the Kennewick Man discovery available for science. He is presently an emeritus Regents’ professor at the University of Arizona. 

About the Video

In this video Vance Haynes describes 16 mm footage taken in 1967-68 during excavation of the Murray Springs Clovis Site. Dr. Jesse Ballenger is conducting the interview. Murray Springs, located in Cochise County near the San Pedro River, once served as a Clovis hunting camp approximately 13,000 years ago. The site is unique in many ways. The site is in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The “black mat” is a term coined by Haynes and now widely accepted referring to layers of organic-rich sediment and soils that form in wet environments associated with spring discharge and elevated water tables. The presence of a distinctive black mat that formed directly atop the extinct fauna and Clovis tools at Murray Springs indicate that environmental conditions were notably wetter than today.