Blood Residue Found on Flamingo Bay, South Carolina Artifacts

Flamingo Bay is an ancient Carolina Bay located on the Savannah River Site in Aiken County, South Carolina.  Over one thousand Carolina Bays pockmark the southeastern coastal plain of North America.  Most were formed during cold arid stages of Ice Ages between 40,000 BP-7,000 BP, but Flamingo Bay is an older example of a Carolina Bay.  Flamingo Bay originated about 108,000 years ago and was “rejuvenated” about 40,000 years ago.  The formation of Carolina Bays is an interesting complex process.  During Ice Ages dry climates prevailed in the south as much of earth’s water became locked in glacial ice.  This caused peat swamps to dry and become susceptible to lightning-induced fire.  The peat burned away creating depressions in the ground, and wind erosion enlarged these depressions.  Southwesterly winds, much stronger than those of today, were a regular part of the weather pattern then.  The southwesterly winds gave Carolina Bays their directional orientation which is northwest-southeast–perpendicular to the wind.  Wetter climate phases turned Carolina Bays into shallow lakes, and ponded water pushed by wind eroded these bays into their characteristic oval shape. Carolina Bays were formed at the same time eolian sand dunes rolled across the landscape and the 2 geological wonders are often associated together.  Carolina Bays have sandy lips.    About 7,000 years ago, the water table rose to its present level and Carolina Bays became filled with water and stopped forming.  Flamingo Bay is usually flooded year round but the depth is shallow, less than 3 feet, and during severe draughts it occasionally becomes dry.

Aerial photograph of a Carolina Bay.  Carolina Bays are of varying ages, debunking the claim that they resulted from a single extra-terrestrial impact.

Ground level photo of Flamingo Bay.  Flamingo Bay is 1 of many protected natural areas within the Savannah River Site.  A beech-hardwood forest, an environment not normally found on the coastal plain, is another interesting protected natural area here.

Late during the Pleistocene (about 13,000 BP), wind blew sand over a couple Clovis artifacts left next to Flamingo Bay.  Archaic Indians left even more artifacts next to the bay about 10,200 calender years BP and again about 9,000 calender years BP, and wind blown sand from the bay covered these as well.  Archaeologists from the Savannah River Archaeological Program excavated these artifacts a few years ago.  They include points, blades, and scrapers; most made from Allendale chert (a type of stone) but 2 were made of victric tuff and 1 from quartz.  Archaeologists, using microscopic examination, determined the tools were used for wood whittling, boring, and hide scraping.  The tools were associated with burned hickory nuts and grape seeds, and gizzards stones (gastroliths) from birds they butchered.  Apparently, the paleo-Indians of the late Pleistocene and the archaic Indians of the early Holocene both processed hickory nuts in pits next to the bay.  Hickory nuts were an important item of their diet, providing much needed fat.  Archaeologists used the burned hickory nuts for radio-carbon dating.  (I translated these radio-carbon dates to calender years for this essay.)  Paleo and archaic Indians heavily utilized the resources found near Flamingo Bay.  The bay was likely surrounded by a rich hardwood forest that attracted game and waterfowl.  Artifacts from later Woodland and Mississippian cultures have been found in this vicinity too but to a much lesser degree, so the site was not as important for them as it was for the more ancient Indians.

Some of the artifacts found here had blood residue on them.  Scientists are able to pair tiny amounts of blood residue with the type of animal it originated from but usually not to the species level. (I believe there’s not enough for DNA testing.)  The residue is placed in a solution with a toxin, and the anti-bodies from the residue attack the antigen (the technical term for the toxin that binds with the antibodies).  Scientists can then identify the class of antibodies and match it with the animal.  The blood residue from the artifacts tested positive for bovine, deer, turkey, and another type of gallinaceous bird–either grouse or quail.  The bovine blood likely came from a Bison antiquus, an extinct ancestor of the modern bison.  The bovine blood residue was found on the Clovis artifact.  Bison antiquus was the  species of bison that lived in North America 13,000 years ago.  It’s not completely certain this artifact is of Clovis age.  If this is the case, the blood residue originated from a modern bison (Bison bison).  It’s also possible, but not likely, that the blood was from a woodland musk-ox (Symbos cavifrons).  Woodland musk-oxen did range as far south as Louisiana and Mississippi, but no fossils of this species have been found in South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida.  I suspect woodland musk-oxen migrated up and down the Mississippi River Valley and did not range this far east.


Moore, Chistopher; and Mark Brooks, Larry Kimball, Margaret Newman, and Brian Kooyman

Use Wear  and Protein Residue Analysis of an in situ Clovis Assemblage from a Carolina Bay on the Coastal Plain of South Carolina

Poster Session 5A 2013 Paleo-American Odyssey

New Radio-carbon date on the Long-horned bison specimen found at Clark Quarry

My photo of the long-horned bison skull found at Clarks Quarry near Brunswick Georgia and housed at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia.  The photo doesn’t really do the size justice.  A man could hang a hammock between the points of the horns and rest comfortably inside.  The first radio-carbon date on this specimen was 14,000 radiocarbon years.  It has since been redated to 21,000 radiocarbon years.

A specimen of a long-horned bison (Bison latifrons) found at Clark Quarry near Brunswick, Georgia was radio-carbon dated to 14,000 years BP.  Paleontologists think Bison antiquus evolved from Bison latifrons about ~24,000 years ago. Based on this find, I speculated that Bison latifrons co-existed with Bison antiquus in the southeast much later than scientists thought.  However, I recently learned this specimen was radio-carbon dated a second time, and the result was more in line with scientist’s assumptions.  The new date for the specimen in the photo is about 24,000 calender years BP.  Both Bison antiquus and Bison latifrons were at least 25% larger than modern bison.  Bison latifrons had the longest horns of the 3 species, while modern bison have the shortest.  The extinct species of bison were likely much fiercer than their modern descendents and were built for fighting off lions and saber-tooths.


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7 Responses to “Blood Residue Found on Flamingo Bay, South Carolina Artifacts”

  1. James Smith Says:

    Best explanation for Carolina bays that I’ve ever read.

    My son and I saw a particularly enormous bull bison in Yellowstone in 2010. It had to be at the upper limits of how big they get these days. Andy had the window rolled down to get a photo as it was walking past us. Apparently the sight of my son in the window did not please the critter and as he drew parallel to us (we were, of course, sitting still in a bison jam), he opened his mouth and ROARED at my son, who ended up cowering against me. I’ll never forget that giant blue-ish tongue sticking out at us as he bellowed.

    25% larger than that guy! I’d loved to have seen one!

    • markgelbart Says:

      Bison latifrons may have been even more than 25% larger, but I’m too lazy to look it up right now. I posted an article about this somewhere in my archives, but I can’t remember the exact figure. I know Bison antiquus was 25% larger.

  2. garden2day Says:

    The Carolina Bays are quite interesting–very fascinating to me. I never knew about them until a few years ago though I grew up several miles from one – Mobley Pond on the Burke/Screven County border of Georgia. Each has its own characteristics. This is quite interesting about the blood and of course the bison. Thanks for sharing. – Amy 🙂

    • markgelbart Says:

      There’s another Carolina Bay in that vicinity I might visit–Big Duke’s Pond in Jenkins County.

      It’s open to the public. However, I looked at a satellite image of this bay and it appears access goes through the middle of a farmer’s field. I don’t really feel comfortable leaving my disabled wife in a car in the middle of a field while I hike the last quarter mile to the pond.

      • garden2day Says:

        I didn’t know about that one. It appears to be publicly accessible according to the DNR website if that helps. (

        “Getting there
        Take Ga. 17 west out of Millen, then turn right onto Old Louisville Road (County Road 79). Continue north about 8 miles and turn left just after Big Buckhead Church Road at the entrance sign. The access road turns immediately left and follows along the edge of the neighbor’s cultivated field, then winds through a pine plantation to the parking area. This accesses the property from the northeast. There is a parking lot and a kiosk with maps of the area. Basic information about Big Dukes and Carolina bays is available there.”

        I might see if I can get down there this winter when the snakes are hopefully in hibernation 🙂 .

  3. markgelbart Says:

    I always see a lot of birds when I drive through Jenkins County…more than any place else.

    Last summer, I saw endangered wood storks and a swallow tailed kite.

    Big Duke’s pond is a wood stork rookery.

  4. McCullough Millpond, Burke County, Georgia | GeorgiaBeforePeople Says:

    […] and water erosion.  Carolina Bay formation wsa especially prevalent during the last Ice Age (See😉  As a consolation, I visited McCullough Mill Pond in Burke County where I’d spotted a few […]

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