Friday, November 14, 2008

Fluting Technology

It is a curious thing that some of the oldest cultural point styles in North America are also the most technically complex dating back 12,000 years.

The Clovis point was a lanceolate blade about 4 to 5-inches long, with flutes on both sides running half way up the point, and presumably used on a thrusting spear because of its size. It was given this name because of the find made at Clovis, NM, in 1932. These points have been found from Alaska to Mexico, California to Nova Scotia. Bob Patten, in his book: "Old Tools, New Eyes", remarked that..."Clovis projectiles paradoxically are too advanced to be the earliest technology in the Americas, but they have no apparent predecessors."

Around 10,000 years ago the American plains gave rise to the Folsom culture. Named so because of their point style found among the bones of an extinct giant bison that roamed the plains 8,000 to 10,000 years ago, found near Folsom, NM, in 1925. Folsom points were thin, around 2-inches long, with flutes running up both sides nearly the the entire length of the point. It is logical to presume that Folsom fluting technology evolved from the Clovis fluting technic. Some speculate that these points were used on a new hunting weapon that was emerging-the dart and atlatl. It is interesting that after reaching, what some consider an apex of flintknapping, this fluting technology disappeared.

What makes these points so curious is the parallel fluting. Most likely it facilitated hafting to the foreshaft. Modern knappers replicating these points have devised various methods to drive these flutes from direct percussion to various types of jigs. It is a challenging process and breakage rates can be high. In any case it is still a mystery how these complex points emerged so long ago in comparison to the following styles.
(Casts by Peter A. Bostrom/Lithic Casting Lab. Check his site out at: )

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