Clovis point

Clovis points are the characteristically-fluted projectile points associated with the New World Clovis culture. They are present in dense concentrations across much of North America; in South America, they are largely restricted to the north of that continent. Clovis points date to the Early Paleoindian period roughly 13,500 to 12,800 calendar years ago. Clovis fluted points are named after the city of Clovis, New Mexico, where examples were first found in 1929 by Ridgely Whiteman.[1]

A typical Clovis point is a medium to large lanceolate point. Sides are parallel to convex, and exhibit careful pressure flaking along the blade edge. The broadest area is near the midsection or toward the base. The base is distinctly concave with a characteristic flute or channel flake removed from one or, more commonly, both surfaces of the blade. The lower edges of the blade and base are ground to dull edges for hafting. Clovis points also tend to be thicker than the typically thin later-stage Folsom points. with length ranging from 4 to 20 centimetres (1.6 to 7.9 in) and width from 2.5 to 5 centimetres (0.98 to 1.97 in). Whether the points were knife blades or spear points is an open question.

Clovis Point
A Clovis projectile point created using bifacial percussion flaking (that is, each face is flaked on both edges alternatively with a percussor)
Image courtesy of the Virginia Dept. of Historic Resources.


Clovis Rummells Maske
Clovis points from the Rummells-Maske Cache Site, Iowa

Clovis points are thin, fluted projectile points created using bifacial percussion flaking (that is, each face is flaked on both edges alternatively with a percussor).[2] To finish shaping and sharpening the points, they are sometimes pressure flaked along the outer edges.

Clovis points are characterized by concave longitudinal shallow grooves called "flutes" on both faces one third or more up from the base to the pointed tip. The grooves may have permitted the points to be fastened (hafted) to wooden spears, dart shafts or foreshafts (of wood, bone, etc.) that would have been socketed onto the tip end of a spear or dart. Clovis points could also have been hafted as knives whose handles also served as removable foreshafts of a spear or dart. (This hypothesis is partly based on analogy with aboriginal harpoons that had tethered foreshafts Cotter 1937). There are numerous examples of post-Clovis era points that were hafted to foreshafts, but there is no direct evidence that Clovis people used this type of technological system.

Specimens are known to have been made of flint, chert, jasper, chalcedony and other stone of conchoidal fracture. Ivory and bone atlatl hooks of Clovis age have been archaeologically recovered. Known bone and ivory tools associated with Clovis archaeological deposits are not considered effective foreshafts for projectile weapons. The idea of Clovis foreshafts is commonly repeated in the technical literature despite the paucity of archaeological evidence. The assembled multiple piece spear or dart could have been thrown by hand or with the aid of an atlatl (spear thrower).

Age and cultural affiliations

Whether Clovis toolmaking technology was native to the Americas or originated through influences from elsewhere is a contentious issue among archaeologists. Lithic antecedents of Clovis points have not been found in northeast Asia, from where the first human inhabitants of the Americas are believed by the majority of archaeologists to have originated. Strong similarities with points produced by the Solutrean culture in the Iberian peninsula of Europe have been noted, leading to the controversial Solutrean hypothesis, that the technology was introduced by hunters traversing the Atlantic ice-shelf, meaning some of the first American humans were European.

Around 10,000 radio carbon years before present, a new type of fluted projectile point called Folsom appeared in archaeological deposits, and Clovis-style points disappeared from the continental United States. Most Folsom points are shorter in length than Clovis points and exhibit different fluting and pressure flaking patterns. This is particularly easy to see when comparing the unfinished preforms of Clovis and Folsom points.

Besides its function as a tool, Clovis technology may well have been the lithic symbol of a highly mobile culture that exploited a wide range of faunal resources during the Late Pleistocene and early Holocene. As Clovis technology expanded, its very use may have affected resource availability, being a possible contributor to the extinction of the megafauna.

There are different opinions about the emergence of Clovis points. One is that pre-Clovis people in the New World developed the Clovis tradition independently. Another opinion is that Upper Paleolithic peoples who, after migrating into North America from northeast Asia, reverted to inherited Clovis-style flaked-stone technology that had been in use prior to their entry into the Americas.


Clovis points were first discovered near the city of Clovis, New Mexico, and have since been found over most of North America[3] and as far south as Venezuela. Significant Clovis finds include the Anzick site in Montana; the Blackwater Draw type site in New Mexico; the Colby site in Wyoming; the Gault site in Texas; the Simon site in Idaho; the East Wenatchee Clovis Site in Washington; and the Fenn cache, which came to light in private hands in 1989 and whose place of discovery is unknown. Clovis points have been found northwest of Dallas, Texas.[4]

In May 2008, a major Clovis cache, now called the Mahaffey Cache, was found in Boulder, Colorado, with 83 Clovis stone tools. The tools were found to have traces of horse and cameloid protein. They were dated to 13,000 to 13,500 YBP, a date confirmed by sediment layers in which the tools were found and the types of protein residues found on the artifacts.[5]

A fluted obsidian point from a site near Rancho San Joaquin, Baja California Sur was found in a private collection in 1993.[6] The point was surface-collected several years earlier from an alluvial terrace approximately 14 km. to the south of San Ignacio.

See also


  1. ^ "A Clovis Spear Point". Archaeological Research Center. South Dakota State Historical Society. 2004-02-13. Archived from the original on 2009-05-18.
  2. ^ Justice, Noel D. (1995), Stone age spear and arrow points of the midcontinental and eastern United States: a modern survey and reference (reprint ed.), Indiana University Press, p. 17, ISBN 978-0-253-20985-6
  3. ^ Elias, Scott A. "Paleoindian and Archaic Peoples". People of the Colorado Plateau. Northern Arizona University. Archived from the original on 2012-12-21.
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ "13,000-Year-Old Stone Tool Cache in Colorado Shows Evidence of Camel, Horse Butchering". University of Colorado at Boulder. February 25, 2009. Archived from the original on 16 October 2011. Retrieved 22 September 2010.
  6. ^ Hyland, )Justin R, University of California, Berkeley; Gutierrez, Maria De La Luz, Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, La Paz, BCS Mexico (1995). "An Obsidian Fluted Point from Central Baja California". Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, UC Merced Library, UC Merced. Retrieved 12 October 2011.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)

External links

Ahapchingas, California

Ahapchingas is a former Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American settlement in Los Angeles County, California. It was located between Los Angeles and San Juan Capistrano; its precise location is unknown.

Anzick Clovis burial

The Anzick Site (24PA506) in Park County, Montana, United States, is the only known Clovis burial site in the New World.

Brewster Site

The Brewster Site is an archaeological site associated with a village of the Mill Creek culture near Cherokee, Iowa, United States. Among the items found here are ceremonial or decorative items manufactured from birds. Pottery that has been tempered with crushed granite, sand, and pulverized clamshell has also been found. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Burnet Cave

Burnet Cave (also known as Rocky Arroyo Cave of Wetmore) is an important archaeological and paleontological site located in Eddy County, New Mexico, United States within the Guadalupe Mountains.

Clovis culture

The Clovis culture is a prehistoric Paleo-Indian culture, named for distinct stone tools found in close association with Pleistocene fauna at Blackwater Locality No. 1 near Clovis, New Mexico, in the 1920s and 1930s. It appears around 11,500–11,000 uncalibrated radiocarbon years before present at the end of the last glacial period, and is characterized by the manufacture of "Clovis points" and distinctive bone and ivory tools. Archaeologists' most precise determinations at present suggest this radiocarbon age is equal to roughly 13,200 to 12,900 calendar years ago. Clovis people are considered to be the ancestors of most of the indigenous cultures of the Americas.The only human burial that has been directly associated with tools from the Clovis culture included the remains of an infant boy researchers named Anzick-1. Paleogenetic analyses of Anzick-1's ancient nuclear, mitochondrial, and Y-chromosome DNA reveal that Anzick-1 is closely related to modern Native American populations, which lends support to the Beringia hypothesis for the settlement of the Americas.The Clovis culture was replaced by several more localized regional societies from the Younger Dryas cold-climate period onward. Post-Clovis cultures include the Folsom tradition, Gainey, Suwannee-Simpson, Plainview-Goshen, Cumberland, and Redstone. Each of these is thought to derive directly from Clovis, in some cases apparently differing only in the length of the fluting on their projectile points. Although this is generally held to be the result of normal cultural change through time, numerous other reasons have been suggested as driving forces to explain changes in the archaeological record, such as the Younger Dryas postglacial climate change which exhibited numerous faunal extinctions.

After the discovery of several Clovis sites in eastern North America in the 1930s, the Clovis people came to be regarded as the first human inhabitants who created a widespread culture in the New World. However, this theory has been challenged, in the opinion of many archaeologists, by several archaeological discoveries, including sites such as Cactus Hill in Virginia, Paisley Caves in the Summer Lake Basin of Oregon, the Topper site in Allendale County, South Carolina, Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Pennsylvania, the Friedkin site in Texas, Cueva Fell in Chile, and especially, Monte Verde, also in Chile. The oldest claimed human archaeological site in the Americas is the Pedra Furada hearths, a site in Brazil that precedes the Clovis culture and the other sites already mentioned by 19,000 to 30,000 years. This claim has become an issue of contention between North American archaeologists and their South American and European counterparts, who disagree on whether it is conclusively proven to be an older human site.

Cucamonga (former settlement), California

Cucamonga (also, Coco Mongo, Cucamungabit, and Cucomogna) is a former Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American settlement in Los Angeles County, California.Its precise location is unknown but was probably within the San Bernardino Valley, within the bounds of what became the Rancho Cucamonga.

Folsom point

Folsom points are a distinct form of knapped stone projectile points associated with the Folsom tradition of North America. The style of tool-making was named after the Folsom Site located in Folsom, New Mexico, where the first sample was found by George McJunkin within the bone structure of a bison in 1908. The Folsom point was identified as a unique style of projectile point in 1926.

Harasgna, California

Harasgna is a former Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American settlement in Los Angeles County, California.Its precise location is unknown.

Honmoyausha, California

Honmoyausha is a former Chumashan settlement in Los Angeles County, California.It was located at El Barranco near San Pedro Bay - modern-day San Pedro.

La Brea Woman

La Brea Woman is the name for the only human whose remains have ever been found in the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. The remains, first discovered in the pits in 1914, were the partial skeleton of a woman At around 18-25 years of age at death, she has been dated at 10,220–10,250 cal yr BP.

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka ( ) ("Water of the Spirits" in Nakoda) is a glacial lake located in the eastern area of Banff National Park in Canada, about five kilometres (3.1 miles) northeast of the Banff townsite. The lake is 21 km (13 mi) long and 142 m (466 ft) deep, making it the 2nd longest lake in the mountain parks of the Canadian Rockies (the result of a power dam at the west end).The lake is fed by the Cascade River, flowing east of Cascade Mountain, and runs south through Stewart Canyon as it empties into the western end of the lake. Numerous streams flowing down from Mount Inglismaldie, Mount Girouard and Mount Peechee on the south side of the lake also feed the lake.

Aboriginal people long inhabited areas around Lake Minnewanka, as early as 10,000 years ago, according to stone tools and a Clovis point spearhead discovered by archaeologists. The area is rich in animal life (e.g. elk, mule deer, mountain sheep, bears) and the easy availability of rock in the mountainous terrain was key to fashioning weapons for hunting.The western end of the lake can be reached by following Lake Minnewanka road from the Trans-Canada Highway. Boat tours are available near the parking lot. A hiking and mountain biking trail runs along the northern shore of the lake, passing Stewart Canyon and six backcountry campsites. Mount Aylmer which at 3,162 m (10,374 ft) is the highest mountain in this area of the park, is located a few kilometres north of the lake.

Dams were built in 1912 and 1941 to supply the town with hydro-electric power. The most recent dam (1941) raised the lake 30 m (98 ft) and submerged the resort village of Minnewanka Landing that had been present there since 1888. Because of the presence of the submerged village, submerged bridge pilings, and submerged dam (the one from 1912) the lake is popular among recreational scuba divers.

The construction of the dam resulted in involuntary resettlement of inhabitants from the reservoir area.

Las Palmas Complex

The Las Palmas Complex is an archaeological pattern recognized primarily on the basis of mortuary customs in the Cape region of Baja California Sur, Mexico.

The complex is focused on the occurrence in caves or rockshelters of secondary human burials containing bones painted with red ochre. The skulls in such burials tend to be extremely long-headed (hyperdolichocephalic), leading to suggestions that makers of the Las Palmas complex (identified with the historically known Pericú) might represent either a genetically isolated remnant of a very early wave of immigrants into the Americas or later trans-Pacific migrants. Other elements in the material inventory of the Las Palmas Complex include stone grinding basins, atlatls, lark's-head netting, coiled basketry, and sewn palm-bark containers.

The distinctive burial pattern was recognized in the late nineteenth century by Herman ten Kate and Léon Diguet. Archaeologist William C. Massey investigated and described the Las Palmas Complex in detail.

Maugna, California

Maugna is a former Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American settlement, or ranchería, in Los Angeles County, California.It was located at Rancho Los Feliz (Rancho Felis), present day Hollywood.

Nacaugna, California

Nacaugna is a former Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American settlement in Los Angeles County, California. It was located at Rancho Santa Gertrudes - Carpenter's Ranch, the Lemuel Carpenter ranch in present-day Downey, California.

Naco Mammoth Kill Site

The Naco Mammoth Kill Site is an archaeological site in southeast Arizona, near Naco, Arizona. The site was reported to the Arizona State Museum in September 1951 by Marc Navarrete, a local resident, after his father found two Clovis points in Greenbush Draw, while digging out the fossil bones of a mammoth. Emil Haury excavated the Naco mammoth site in April 1952. In only five days, Haury recovered the remains of a Columbian Mammoth that had been killed by the use of at least 8 Clovis points about 10,000 years ago. The Naco site was the first Clovis mammoth kill association to be identified.

Quapa, California

Quapa is a former Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American settlement in Los Angeles County, California.Its precise location is unknown.

Rucker's Bottom Site

Rucker's Bottom Site (9EB91) is an archaeological site in located on the Upper Savannah River in Elbert County, Georgia.

Sisitcanogna, California

Sisitcanogna is a former Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American settlement in Los Angeles County, California.It was located at 'Pear Orchard' in the San Gabriel Valley, possibly in the northeast Pasadena area.

Suwannee point

The Suwannee point is a large unfluted lanceolate Paleo-Indians projectile point that features a recurvate profile with a slightly narrowed waist and a convex base. The point is one of the earliest forms of lanceolate types and is dated between 10500–9500 Before Present. It represents a typical example of the Middle Paleoindian subperiod. Experts are divided over whether the type predates or postdates the Clovis point but have noted that the two share similarities in their construction. Suwanee specimens are generally unfluted, which distinguishes them from the generally fluted Clovis. However, a few rare examples of fluted Suwanee have also been discovered. The largest concentration of Suwanee points appear in Florida, where the classification was first named in 1968 by Ripley P. Bullen for Suwannee County.


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