Clovis point

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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 Point.jpg
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 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]

Clovis culture Prehistoric culture in the Americas

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.

Clovis, New Mexico City in New Mexico, United States

Clovis is the county seat of Curry County, New Mexico, United States, with a population of 37,775 as of the 2010 census, and a 2014 estimated population of 39,860. Clovis is located in the New Mexico portion of the Llano Estacado, in the eastern part of the state.


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 4–20 centimetres (1.6–7.9 in) and width from 2.5–5 centimetres (0.98–1.97 in). Whether the points were knife blades or spear points is an open question.

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.


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

Lithic reduction

In archaeology, in particular of the Stone Age, lithic reduction is the process of fashioning stones or rocks from their natural state into tools or weapons by removing some parts. It has been intensely studied and many archaeological industries are identified almost entirely by the lithic analysis of the precise style of their tools and the chaîne opératoire of the reduction techniques they used.

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.

Hafting is a process by which an artifact, often bone, metal, or stone is attached to a haft. This makes the artifact more useful by allowing it to be shot (arrow), thrown (spear), or used with more effective leverage. When constructed properly, hafting can tremendously improve a weapon's damage and range. It is estimated that hafted weapons were most common during the Upper Paleolithic and Middle Paleolithic. Hafting was a significant milestone in the history of technology. It was one of the first tools where hominins took separate elements and united them into a single tool increasing the efficiency and use of it. The development of hafting was considered a significant milestone of humans by archaeologists. It was not only a significant improvement in the technology at the time but archaeologists also believe that hafting shows the progression and development of the human mind and shows the path toward a world of complex tool making of the past. The idea of assembling two different kinds of materials into one object that improves the functioning of the tool overall shows the mental capacity of the people of that time and gives archaeologist a better understanding of the progression of human life.

A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head. The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with fire hardened spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as flint, obsidian, iron, steel or bronze. The most common design for hunting or combat spears since ancient times has incorporated a metal spearhead shaped like a triangle, lozenge, or leaf. The heads of fishing spears usually feature barbs or serrated edges.

Dart (missile) missile weapon

Darts are missile weapons, designed to fly such that a sharp, often weighted point will strike first. They can be distinguished from javelins by fletching and a shaft that is shorter and/or more flexible, and from arrows by the fact that they are not of the right length to use with a normal bow.

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).

Flint Cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz

Flint is a hard, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as a variety of chert. It occurs chiefly as nodules and masses in sedimentary rocks, such as chalks and limestones. Inside the nodule, flint is usually dark grey, black, green, white or brown in colour, and often has a glassy or waxy appearance. A thin layer on the outside of the nodules is usually different in colour, typically white and rough in texture. From a petrological point of view, "flint" refers specifically to the form of chert which occurs in chalk or marly limestone. Similarly, "common chert" occurs in limestone.

Chert A hard, fine-grained sedimentary rock composed of crystals of quartz (silica) that are very small

Chert is a hard, fine-grained sedimentary rock composed of crystals of quartz (silica) that are very small (microcrystalline or cryptocrystalline). Quartz (silica) is the mineral form of silicon dioxide (SiO2). Chert is often of biological origin (organic) but may also occur inorganically as a chemical precipitate or a diagenetic replacement (e.g., petrified wood). Geologists use chert as a generic name for any type of microcrystalline or cryptocrystalline quartz.

Jasper Chalcedony variety colored by iron oxide

Jasper, an aggregate of microgranular quartz and/or chalcedony and other mineral phases, is an opaque, impure variety of silica, usually red, yellow, brown or green in color; and rarely blue. The common red color is due to iron(III) inclusions. The mineral aggregate breaks with a smooth surface and is used for ornamentation or as a gemstone. It can be highly polished and is used for items such as vases, seals, and snuff boxes. The specific gravity of jasper is typically 2.5 to 2.9. A green variety with red spots, known as heliotrope (bloodstone), is one of the traditional birthstones for March. Jaspilite is a banded iron formation rock that often has distinctive bands of jasper.

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.

A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of stone. Although stone tool-dependent societies and cultures still exist today, most stone tools are associated with prehistoric cultures that have become extinct. Archaeologists often study such prehistoric societies, and refer to the study of stone tools as lithic analysis. Ethnoarchaeology has been a valuable research field in order to further the understanding and cultural implications of stone tool use and manufacture.

Asia Earths largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern and Northern Hemispheres

Asia is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern and Northern Hemispheres. It shares the continental landmass of Eurasia with the continent of Europe and the continental landmass of Afro-Eurasia with both Europe and Africa. Asia covers an area of 44,579,000 square kilometres (17,212,000 sq mi), about 30% of Earth's total land area and 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area. The continent, which has long been home to the majority of the human population, was the site of many of the first civilizations. Asia is notable for not only its overall large size and population, but also dense and large settlements, as well as vast barely populated regions. Its 4.5 billion people constitute roughly 60% of the world's population.

Solutrean archaeological culture

The Solutrean industry is a relatively advanced flint tool-making style of the Upper Palaeolithic of the Final Gravettian, from around 22,000 to 17,000 BP. Solutrean sites have been found in modern-day France, Spain and Portugal.

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

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A microlith is a small stone tool usually made of flint or chert and typically a centimetre or so in length and half a centimetre wide. They were made by humans from around 35,000 to 3,000 years ago, across Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. The microliths were used in spear points and arrowheads.

Projectile point object that was hafted to a projectile

In archaeological terms, a projectile point is an object that was hafted to weapon that was capable of being thrown or projected, such as a spear, dart, or arrow, or perhaps used as a knife. They are thus different from weapons presumed to have been kept in the hand, such as axes and maces, and the stone mace or axe-heads often attached to them.

Spear-thrower tool

A spear-thrower or atlatl is a tool that uses leverage to achieve greater velocity in dart-throwing, and includes a bearing surface which allows the user to store energy during the throw.

Arrowhead military payload of an arrow

An arrowhead is a tip, usually sharpened, added to an arrow to make it more deadly or to fulfill some special purpose. The earliest arrowheads were made of stone and of organic materials; as human civilization progressed other materials were used. Arrowheads are important archaeological artifacts; they are a subclass of projectile points. Modern enthusiasts still "produce over one million brand-new spear and arrow points per year". One who manufactures metal arrowheads is an arrowsmith.

Lithic stage North American prehistoric period before 10,000 years ago

In the sequence of cultural stages first proposed for the archaeology of the Americas by Gordon Willey and Philip Phillips in 1958, the Lithic stage was the earliest period of human occupation in the Americas, as post-glacial hunters and collectors spread through the Americas. The stage derived its name from the first appearance of Lithic flaked stone tools. The term Paleo-Indian is an alternative, generally indicating much the same period.

Cactus Hill is an archaeological site in southeastern Virginia, United States, located on sand dunes above the Nottoway River about 45 miles south of Richmond. The site receives its name from the prickly pear cacti that can be found growing abundantly on-site in the sandy soil. Cactus Hill may be one of the oldest archaeological sites in the Americas. If proven to have been inhabited 16,000 to 20,000 years ago, it would provide supporting evidence for pre-Clovis occupation of the Americas. The site has yielded multiple levels of prehistoric inhabitance with two discrete levels of early Paleoindian activity.

George Carr Frison is an American archaeologist. He has been given the Society for American Archaeology's Lifetime Achievement Award, the Paleoarchaeologist of the Century Award, and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He was Wyoming’s first State Archaeologist, and was a founder of the University of Wyoming Anthropology Department.

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Buttermilk Creek Complex refers to the remains of a paleolithic settlement along the shores of Buttermilk Creek in present-day Salado, Texas dated to approximately 15,500 years old. If confirmed, the site represents evidence of human settlement in the Americas that pre-dates the Clovis culture.

Golondrina point

Golondrina points are lanceolate spear or dart projectile points, of medium size, dated to the transitional Paleo-Indian Period, between 9000–7000 BP. Golondrina points were attached on split-stem hafts and may have served to bring down medium-sized animals such as deer, as well as functioning as butchering knives. Distribution is widespread throughout most of Texas, and points have also been discovered in Arkansas and Mexico. The concentration of Golondrina specimens is highest across the South Texas Plains, where the point is the most prevalent of Paleo-Indian types and defines a distinctive cultural pattern for the region. The Golondrina point is so named for its flared basal corners ("ears"), which resemble a swallow's split tail. Classification of Golondrina can be difficult because of its similarity to other types, particularly the Plainview point, to which it was originally thought to be related.

The Paleoindian Database of the Americas (PIDBA), is a website dedicated to the compilation of projectile point and other relevant data pertaining to Paleoindian site assemblages across the Americas. As of April 2011, the PIDBA database contains information pertaining to locational data (n=29,393), attribute data (n=15,254), and image data on Paleoindian projectile points and other tools in North America and also includes bibliographic references, radiocarbon dates, and maps created making use of database and GIS data. The PIDBA site provides a database that is useful in studying stylistic and morphological variability, lithic raw material usage and procurement strategies, geographic distributions of technology, and land use strategies during the Paleoindian period, which took place prior to ca. 11,450 cal year BP. The PIDBA database also serves a function as an intermediary between academic and advocational archaeologists in the collection and integration of primary projectile point data. Overall, the PIDBA project aims to compile data from multiple sources into a comprehensive database, while simultaneously seeking out and including new data. The PIDBA website contains a large amount of primary data collected and donated by researchers and advocational archaeologists from all over the Americas ranging from metric measurements to the type of chert any particular piece is made from. It is the voluntary contributions of primary data from these researchers that makes PIDBA possible. While it is understandable that researchers would like to fully examine and publish on their data, the site’s philosophy is that it is important to disseminate information freely, so that other researchers can work with it. This allows researchers to make new discoveries that they perhaps would not be possible otherwise.

Barnes' points are lanceolate Paleo-Indian projectile points distributed throughout the lower northeastern United States, from Missouri to the Great Lakes area, extending into Canada. Barnes points are associated with the Early Paleoindian Parkhill complex of the eastern Great Lakes region, with sites being especially common in southwestern Ontario. Barnes points have also been found in northeastern Indiana, which suggests affinities with the Great Lakes region during the early and middle portions of the Paleoindian period. It is a large, fluted spear point with "delicate ears" and a fishtail base. The fluting, or groove in the center of the point, tends to extend nearly the entire length of the point. It was first classified in 1963 by William Roosa. The Barnes site, in Midland County, Michigan, was first located by Mr. Wallace Hill, whose house was then a few hundred feet from the site. The staff of the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology was informed of the site in 1959. William Roosa recognized that the fluting technique on the points, while similar to that of Folsom points, was otherwise unique.

Outline of Colorado prehistory

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the prehistoric people of Colorado, which covers the period of when Native Americans lived in Colorado prior to contact with the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition in 1776. People's lifestyles included nomadic hunter-gatherering, semi-permanent village dwelling, and residing in pueblos.

Dent Site

Dent Site is a Clovis culture site located in Weld County, Colorado, near Milliken, Colorado. It provided evidence that man and mammoth co-existed in the Americas.

Gault (archaeological site)

The Gault archaeological site is an extensive, multicomponent site located in central Texas, United States, about 40 miles north of Austin. It bears evidence of almost continuous human occupation, starting at least 16,000 years ago—making it one of the few archaeological sites in the Americas at which compelling evidence has been found for human occupation dating to before the appearance of the Clovis culture.


  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. "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.
  5. 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)