|The Jim Bower Folsom
by W. Breckinridge
By the early 1980's Jim Bower was an accomplished surface hunter who had found many
hundreds of arrowheads. Point hunting was one of Jim's favorite pastimes. The area he
hunted near the Missouri - Arkansas border was rich in relics from the ancient past. Rich in
lots of things, in fact. Water gushed from subterranean rivers into huge springs discharging
millions of gallons of pure cold water. The hills provided shelter from the prairie winds
which swept down from the north and west. The water and shelter encouraged the growth of
trees, which provided wood for tools and lodges as well as fuel for cooking and heating. The
water, shelter, and trees attracted game as well. The entire area was an oasis. I'm sure it was
a sight for sore eyes. Especially for people migrating in from the arid west.
But nothing in Jim's long experience as an artifact hunter had prepared him for what would
happen that sunny day in 1983. Jim and a friend had gone to a favorite area to look for
artifacts. A long hunt during low water can produce a lot of points, but not that day. As the
afternoon wore on without much excitement, Jim took a notion to stroll over to an area
I'm sure when Jim's friend turned around he thought Jim was having a heart attack. Jim
had fallen to his knees and planted his stick in the ground. The adrenaline, shock, and
amazement at a find like his will knock a strong man down; I've personally seen it happen.
There in full sight on the ground lay a perfect 2-3/8" point. Fluted to near the tip with tiny
edgework and sharp pointed ears, it could only be a Folsom!
In all his years of hunting he had found nothing like this. But he had found a lot of
arrowheads in the area, and could tell this wasn't a prank. Made of Burlington Chert, the
point was like thousands of others, except for it's type and the incredible skill of the person
who knapped it. Fully fluted to near the tip on both faces, in perfect condition with no
accidental damage, it is a work of art. The regularity of the tiny edgework is poetry, still
waiting after 10,700 years to take flight at the will of its maker.
But are Folsom points found in Missouri? Greg Perino thought so. In "Selected Points and
Preforms of the North American Indians Vol. 1," he says of the Folsom point: " ...at least 40
are known from West Central Illinois and several from Missouri. The Illinois specimens are
similar to a variety found at the Hanson site in Wyoming." I have casts of several Hanson
site Folsoms, and was also struck by their similarity to Jim's point. And, in researching Mr.
Bower's find I was made aware of an excavated Folsom site located in
the vicinity of his discovery. It was dug as part of a Federal project in the 1950's. There are
Folsom points from Missouri, but their rarity makes Jim's point even more incredible.
Too incredible for the authenticators he sent the point to, it seems. Although none would
tell him they thought it was modern, no authenticator would paper his point. I'm sure he
was quite surprised and dismayed. The combination of perfect condition, unusual location,
minority material, and valuable type proved insurmountable distractions for them. But
thanks to Mr. Bower's tenacity in holding to the truth and his point, archeology still has a
chance to benefit from his work preserving the past. New technology has significantly
strengthened Mr. Bower's story. And I am glad to say I have been part of it.
Having met Jim and hearing his story, I was quite impressed with the man. I have worked
in real estate as well as the relic market, and I have been lied to so much I have a well
developed falsehood" alarm. I also have a few friends who would rather die in their boots
than betray their principals. Jim Bower struck me as more the latter than the former. He
supplied me with what I considered excellent character references as well, not being known
to me personally at the time. He made an appointment to bring the point to my house south
of Tulsa, Oklahoma for a full diagnostic investigation, including microscopic, ultra violet,
and Infra-Red Raman spectrographic analysis.
The IR Raman Spectrographic age verification system is a state of the art technology
developed by inventor and collector David Walley. The system uses laser energy and a
Raman spectrograph to reveal the true age of a point. The effects measured by this
technique are very pronounced at Paleo-Indian time depths. I was fortunate to have Mr.
Walley as a guest, and Jim Bower was lucky to have the inventor of this revolutionary
technique do a thorough scan of the Folsom. Mr. Walley, though skeptical of the piece in
the beginning, was quickly convinced of its authenticity. Burlington Chert is a material very
amenable to IR laser age verification. The spectrograph scan of the point resembled
previous scans of Dalton points from the Olive Branch site. It did not resemble the graphs
characteristic of modern points made of the same materials. Put simply, this is excellent
scientifically based evidence of the point's authenticity.
After the laser scan, I thoroughly examined the point under my trusty microscope. Living
near the Ozark foothills I see a lot of Mississippian Formation materials. I was quite satisfied
by my microscopic inspection, and proceeded on to an examination under ultra violet light. I
use a combination of long and short wave, at a high intensity, and from many angles. I saw
no red flags or suspicious things, only the grunginess inevitable on such a long journey
though time. By the conclusion of my investigations I was thoroughly convinced of the
The Jim Bower Folsom is an awesome relic of the ancient past. As an artwork it has few
peers. It has a powerful presence and sculpted beauty that must be seen to be appreciated.
After all, it is from Missouri!