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.
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, 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. Clovis points date to the Early Paleoindian period, with all known points dating from roughly 13,500 to 12,800 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 with sharp edges. 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 a 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.

In the early 20th century, the history of the people in Americas was a constant argument. The only evidence left behind by the prehistoric people appeared to be the Clovis point. The Clovis Point seems to be an American invention, perhaps the first American invention. However, data was presented that displayed pre-Clovis migrations to America.

The Solutrean Hypothesis proposes that Clovis Points are found throughout North America since humans migrated from Europe to North America across an Atlantic ice bridge, contrary to the mainstream belief that humans crossed from Siberia to Alaska via an ice bridge. The Solutrean Hypothesis is not generally accepted by mainstream archaeologists and anthropologists, who cite a lack of evidence for the theory and the strong evidence for a Siberian origin, but has been advocated by some archaeologists and anthropologists, most notably by Dennis Stanford of the Smithstonian Institute and Bruce Bradley of the University of Exeter. However, data was presented that displayed pre-Clovis migrations to America.


Clovis points from the Rummells-Maske Cache Site, Iowa
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. Some archaeologists[3] 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),[4] there is no genetic evidence for European ancestry in Indigenous North Americans,[5] and the proposed Solutrean migration route was likely unsuitable.[6]

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[7] 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.[8]

Clovis points, along with other stone and bone/ivory tools, have been identified in over two dozen artifact caches.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

A fluted obsidian point from a site near Rancho San Joaquin, Baja California Sur was found in a private collection in 1993.[12] 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. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Elias, Scott A. "Paleoindian and Archaic Peoples". People of the Colorado Plateau. Northern Arizona University. Archived from the original on 2012-12-21.
  8. ^ Alex D. Krieger (1962). "The Earliest Cultures in the Western United States". American Antiquity. Cambridge University Press. 28 (2): 138–143. doi:10.2307/278370. JSTOR 278370.
  9. ^ J. David Kilby (10 May 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.
  10. ^ David Kilby; B.B. Huckell (January 2014). "Clovis Caches: Current perspectives and future directions".
  11. ^ "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.
  12. ^ Hyland, Justin R; Gutierrez, Maria De La Luz (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.