Archive for June 12th, 2009

History and the 23rd Century

by Toby Swaford, K-12 Education Coordinator

Learning about local and state history has become a full time job and something of a passion for me over the last few years. While it’s always rewarding to use the knowledge that one acquires, it’s usually the most fun when applied in a surprising or unexpected way. Having recently purchased the first season of the original Star Trek series on Blu-ray (power to the geek, my brothers) I identified two instances of Colorado history in two consecutive episodes, guaranteeing my status as King Nerd of the Sofa for at least one more evening.

The first episode in question is the Spock-centric “Galileo Seven.” That’s the one in which Spock, Scotty, Dr. McCoy, and a few characters we’ve never seen before, crash-land their shuttlecraft on a mysterious fog-shrouded planet. Following standard Starfleet regulations, the main cast stays behind to repair the ship, while the guys in the red shirts wander off to show the audience exactly how the monster works. You know who I’m talking about, they usually get lines like, “Captain, over here, I’ve found some…aarrrrrgghh!”

In this particular case, what the red-shirts discover are 12-foot tall, humanoid creatures that end up terrorizing (and occasionally killing) members of the crew by lobbing spears the size of telephone poles from somewhere just off camera. While everyone else is busy panicking (and occasionally dying), Spock calmly analyzes the lethal projectiles noting that the stone tips are similar to Folsom points. This is the point (no pun intended) at which I really got my geek on.

You see, Folsom points are an important part of our local history here in Fort Collins. Named in 1926 in Folsom, New Mexico, this type of stone point was first found by amateur archaeologists in 1924 at the Lindenmeier dig site, located just north of Fort Collins. These points and other stone tools belonging to what is collectively known as the Folsom culture help establish human occupation in North America dating back to the last Ice Age, some 10,000 to 15,000 years ago.

Incidentally, the Fort Collins Museum features one of the most extensive collections of Folsom technology in the world, including items such as points, drills, and gravers.

The function of some of these tools has been determined: points were hafted onto spears or other projectiles for hunting, drills were used for placing holes into bone and other material. What gravers were used for remains a mystery, although several theories exist — including that the fine, sharp point on a graver could be used to decorate skins. Precisely whose skin has yet to be determined — both the application of pigments to animal hide and the scarification of human flesh have been suggested.  

By the time I finished my explanation of Folsom culture, the shuttlecraft had safely returned to its docking bay aboard the Enterprise, and it was time for the next episode, “The Squire of Gothos.” The Squire in question is an almost omnipotent being named Trelane, who pulls members of the starship crew down to his planet to provide him with companionship and entertainment. Though he views humans as a primitive, predatory species, Trelane is none the less well versed in human history — especially the darker chapters involving warfare.

His knowledge also seemingly extends to ancient legal systems, and Trelane dons a judge’s wig as he holds trial against an uncooperative Captain Kirk. It is during this scene that Trelane sentences Kirk “to hang by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead!” This is the same sentence handed down by Judge M.B. Gerry to the notorious Colorado cannibal known as Alferd Packer.

Of course, it was soon after I pointed out this latest tidbit of information that I found myself abandoned on the sofa. Alas, King Nerd rules a lonely domain.

June 2009

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