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". 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). Clovis fluted points are named after the city of Clovis, New Mexico, where examples were first found in 1929 by Ridgely Whiteman.
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. 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.
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.
Only a few recovered Clovis points are in their original condition. Most points were "reworked" to resharpen them or repair damage. This can make it difficult to identify which lithic tradition they come from.
Clovis type description:
Specimens are known to have been made of flint, chert, jasper, chalcedony and other stone of conchoidal fracture.
Clovis points have been found over most of North America and, less commonly, as far south as Venezuela. The widespread South American Fishtail or Fell projectile point style has been suggested to have derived from Clovis. 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. Some researchers suggest that many of the eastern points are misclassified and most real Clovis Points are found in the west. Significant Clovis find sites include:
Fraudulent Clovis points have also emerged on the open market, some with false documentation.
Clovis points, along with other stone and bone/ivory tools, have been identified in over two dozen artifact caches. 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. 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. The Fenn cache, which came to light in private hands in 1989 and whose place of discovery is unknown.
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.
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 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), there is no genetic evidence for European ancestry in Indigenous North Americans, and the proposed Solutrean migration route was likely unsuitable.