Friday, June 3, 2011

Clovis Point

Clovis Point made from Novaculite
I've been working on a Clovis complex Palaeoindian spear reproduction this week. Its been a great change of pace from all the jewellery that I've been working on lately. Its also something that is a little outside of my usual comfort zone, so its an opportunity to learn something new. There are a few Palaeoindian sites in southern Labrador, but for the most part the region of North America that I live and work in is much better known for its Palaeoeskimo sites, than its Palaeoindian sites.

It will be hafted and ochre stained
Earlier this year, after the flintknapping workshop in Calgary, one of the archaeologists in attendance ordered a reproduction Clovis spear. I'd brought out some of my red ochre stained Maritime Archaic foreshaft reproductions and we used these as the starting points for the Clovis reproduction. The finished reproduction will be a complete Clovis spear, with a detachable foreshaft and red ochre stain.

Looking up from the base
Clovis points are one of the most distinctive and wide spread of the Palaeoindian fluted projectile points. They are also one of the earliest artifacts found in North America, used for a few hundred years around 11,000 BP, although every year the case for pre-Clovis artifacts and cultures grows stronger. I doubt there is a stone tool anywhere in the world that has received the attention from archaeologists, both professional and avocational, and flintknappers that Clovis points have. They're a pretty cool artifact and kind of tricky to reproduce. There is very little room for error in driving those big channel flakes up from the base of the spear points.

The mostly complete channel flake in place
Working around the base of a projectile point requires a lot of care, as its very easy to snap a point across the middle from end shock. The flutes on a Clovis point are one of the last steps in making the tool, so by the time you get to the all-or-nothing stage of striking off the channel flakes you already have a lot of time invested in making the spear point. There are many different techniques used by modern knappers to detach the channel flutes, but they all require a carefully prepared nipple platform at the base of the spear point - first on one face and then the other. I used direct percussion with an antler billet to detach the channel flakes on the point shown here.

The 1st flute did not completely separate
This particular point is made from Novaculite and measures 4 1/2" long. The first channel flake was 1 1/2" inches long (right), although another 1/2" was fractured, but remained hanging on the spear point as a step fracture. The second channel flake was 2" long. Usually the second flute terminates at the same point as the first flute because it stops when it encounters the greater mass of the point above the channel. I think the reason that the second flute could be longer in this case was because the 1/2" of the fluting flake that didn't detach on the first face did not affect the mass of the point.

Great design for hafting
The flutes create a distinctive flat cross-section that thins the point a lot. Its a really nice design for hafting. Fitting a fluted point onto a shaft feels completely different from fitting any other type of stone tool. Most stone tools have a lens-shaped cross-section, but the flat, even channels on a fluted point fit into a slotted spear shaft like a machined part. Its strange - I haft stone tools all the time, but hafting a Clovis point feels like a completely different process. The slight ridges on either side of the channel flakes also help lock the point in place and prevent side to side rocking. It really was a nicely designed tool. I'll have some photos of the finished spear to share next week.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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