Clovis point, 11500-9000 BC, Sevier County, Utah, chert - Natural History Museum of Utah - DSC07376

Clovis points are the characteristically fluted projectile points associated with the New World Clovis culture, a prehistoric Paleo-American culture. They are present in dense concentrations across much of North America and they are largely restricted to the north of South America. There are slight differences in points found in the Eastern United States bringing them to sometimes be called "Clovis-like".[1] Clovis points date to the Early Paleoindian period, with all known points dating from roughly 13,400–12,700 years ago (11,500 to 10,800 C14 years BP). As an example, Clovis remains at the Murry Springs Site date to around 12,900 calendar years ago (10,900 ± 50 C14 years BP).[2] Clovis fluted points are named after the city of Clovis, New Mexico, where examples were first found in 1929 by Ridgely Whiteman.[3]

A typical Clovis point is a medium to large lanceolate point with sharp edges, a third of an inch thick, one to two inches wide, and about four inches (10 cm) long.[4] Sides are parallel to convex, and exhibit careful pressure flaking along the blade edge. The broadest area is towards the base which is distinctly concave with concave grooves called "flutes" 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.[5]

Folsom point for comparison

Around 10,000 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 longer flutes and different pressure flaking patterns. This is particularly easy to see when comparing the unfinished preforms of Clovis and Folsom points.[6]

Type Description

Clovis points from the Rummells-Maske Cache Site, Iowa

Only a few recovered Clovis points are in their original condition. Most points were "reworked" to resharpen them or repair damage.[7] This can make it difficult to identify which lithic tradition they come from.[8]

Clovis type description:[9]

Specimens are known to have been made of flint, chert, jasper, chalcedony and other stone of conchoidal fracture.[10]


Clovis spearpoints collected in 1807 - Cleveland Museum of Natural History - 2014-12-26 (20426140553)

Clovis points have been found over most of North America and, less commonly, as far south as Venezuela.[11] The widespread South American Fishtail or Fell projectile point style has been suggested to have derived from Clovis.[12] Of the around 6000 points currently classified as Clovis found in the United States the majority were east of the Mississippi and especially in the Southeast.[13] Some researchers suggest that many of the eastern points are misclassified and most real Clovis Points are found in the west.[9] Significant Clovis find sites include:[14]

Flint-knapping Demonstration (27349458154)

Fraudulent Clovis points have also emerged on the open market, some with false documentation.[15]


Clovis points, along with other stone and bone/ivory tools, have been identified in over two dozen artifact caches.[16] These caches range from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and Northwest United States. While the Anzick cache is associated with a child burial, the majority of caches appear to represent anticipatory material storage at strategic locations on the Pleistocene landscape.[17] In May 2008, a major Clovis cache, now called the Mahaffey Cache, was found in Boulder, Colorado, with 83 Clovis stone tools though no actual Clovis Points. 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.[18] The Fenn cache is an important collection of 56 items of uncertain provenance but that was probably discovered in 1902 "near the area where Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho meet" (that is, approximately the YellowstoneGrand Teton area) and was acquired by Forrest Fenn in 1988.[19]

There is current debate on whether "assemblages", production debris typically found in Clovis sites (blade cores, large bifacial overface flakes, etc.) but without actual projectile points, actually date to the Clovis period or to later periods.[20][21]


Main articles: Clovis culture and Solutrean hypothesis

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.

Whether Clovis toolmaking technology was developed in the Americas in response to megafauna hunting or originated through influences from elsewhere is an open question among archaeologists. Lithic antecedents of Clovis points have not been found in northeast Asia, from where the first human inhabitants of the Americas originated in the current consensus of archaeology. Some archaeologists[22] have argued that similarities between points produced by the Solutrean culture in the Iberian peninsula of Europe suggest that the technology was introduced by hunters traversing the Atlantic ice-shelf and suggests that some of the first American humans were European (the Solutrean hypothesis). However, this hypothesis is not well-accepted as other archaeologists have pointed out that Solutrean and Clovis lithic technologies are technologically distinct (e.g. a lack of distinctive flutes in Solutrean technology),[23] there is no genetic evidence for European ancestry in Indigenous North Americans,[24] and the proposed Solutrean migration route was likely unsuitable.[25]

See also


  1. ^ C. J. Ellis and J. C. Lothrop, "Early Fluted-biface Variation in Glaciated Northeastern North America", PaleoAmerica 5, no. 2 (2019): 121–131, 2019
  2. ^ Haynes, C. Vance, et al., "The Murray Springs Clovis Site, Pleistocene Extinction, and the Question of Extraterrestrial Impact", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 107, no. 9, pp. 4010–15, 2010
  3. ^ "The Initial Research at Clovis, New Mexico: 1932-1937", Plains Anthropologist, vol. 35, no. 130, pp. 1–20, 1990
  4. ^ Mann, Charles C. (November 2013). "The Clovis Point and the Discovery of America's First Culture". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2022-11-09.
  5. ^ Slade, Alan Michael, "To haft and to hold: Evidence for the hafting of Clovis fluted points", Journal of Lithic Studies 8.3, pp. 133-151, 2021
  6. ^ Sellers, Paul V. “Fluted Points.” Central States Archaeological Journal, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 113–20, 1956
  7. ^ Peck, Rodney M., "Re-Worked Clovis Projectile Points", Central States Archaeological Journal, vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 26–28, 2010
  8. ^ Roosa, William B., "Some Great Lakes Fluted Point Types", Michigan Archaeologist 11(3,4), pp. 89-102, 1965
  9. ^ a b Howard, Calvin D., "The Clovis Point: Characteristics and Type Description", Plains Anthropologist, vol. 35, no. 129, pp. 255–62, 1990
  10. ^ WILKE, PHILIP J., et al., "Clovis Technology at the Anzick Site, Montana", Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 242–72, 1991
  11. ^ Dillehay, Tom D., and Jeremy A. Sabloff, "Probing Deeper into First American Studies", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 106, no. 4, 2009, pp. 971–78, 2009
  12. ^ Fiedel, Stuart J. (July 20, 2017). "The Anzick genome proves Clovis is first, after all". Quaternary International. 444: 4–9. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2017.06.022.
  13. ^ Toner, Mike. “Impossibly Old America?” Archaeology, vol. 59, no. 3, pp. 40–45, 2006
  14. ^ Waters, Michael R., and Thomas W. Stafford, "Redefining the Age of Clovis: Implications for the Peopling of the Americas", Science, vol. 315, no. 5815, pp. 1122–26, 2007
  15. ^ "A Variety of Replica Fluted Clovis Points.", Central States Archaeological Journal, vol. 54, no. 2, pp. 102–03, 2007
  16. ^ J. David Kilby (May 10, 2019). "A North American perspective on the Volgu Biface Cache from Upper Paleolithic France and its relationship to the "Solutrean Hypothesis" for Clovis origins". Quaternary International. ScienceDirect. 515: 197–207. Bibcode:2019QuInt.515..197K. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2018.06.019.
  17. ^ David Kilby; B.B. Huckell (January 2014). "Clovis Caches: Current perspectives and future directions".
  18. ^ "13,000-Year-Old Stone Tool Cache in Colorado Shows Evidence of Camel, Horse Butchering". University of Colorado at Boulder. February 25, 2009. Retrieved 2010-09-22.
  19. ^ Banks, Alan (2000). "Review of The Fenn Cache, Clovis Weapons and Tools". Central States Archaeological Journal. 47 (2): 93–93. ISSN 0008-9559.
  20. ^ (Eren et al., "Is Clovis Technology Unique to Clovis?", PaleoAmerica 4, pp.202–228, 2018
  21. ^ [1] Eren, Metin I., David J. Meltzer, and Brian N. Andrews, "Clovis technology is not unique to Clovis", PaleoAmerica 7.3 (2021): 226–241, 2021
  22. ^ Bradley, Bruce; Stanford, Dennis (December 2004). "The North Atlantic ice-edge corridor: A possible Palaeolithic route to the New World". World Archaeology. 36 (4): 459–478. doi:10.1080/0043824042000303656. eISSN 1470-1375. ISSN 0043-8243.
  23. ^ Straus, Lawrence Guy; Meltzer, David J.; Goebel, Ted (December 2005). "Ice Age Atlantis? Exploring the Solutrean-Clovis 'connection'". World Archaeology. 37 (4): 507–532. doi:10.1080/00438240500395797. eISSN 1470-1375. ISSN 0043-8243.
  24. ^ Raff, Jennifer A.; Bolnick, Deborah A. (October 2015). "Does Mitochondrial Haplogroup X Indicate Ancient Trans-Atlantic Migration to the Americas? A Critical Re-Evaluation". PaleoAmerica. 1 (4): 297–304. doi:10.1179/2055556315Z.00000000040. eISSN 2055-5571. ISSN 2055-5563.
  25. ^ Westley, Kieran; Dix, Justin (July 2008). "The Solutrean Atlantic Hypothesis: A View from the Ocean". Journal of the North Atlantic. 1: 85–98. doi:10.3721/J080527. eISSN 1935-1933. ISSN 1935-1933.

Further reading