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Paleo-Indian Flaked Stone Technology in the North American High Plains

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Abstract

In the past two decades, a major change has occurred in the way Paleo-Indian researchers view flaked stone artifacts. No longer are “finished tools” simply classified and compared. Gone are the days of simple functional typologies. It is now generally accepted that flaked stone artifacts became part of the archaeological record as the result of manufacture, use, reuse, discard, and natural site formation processes. Flaked stone assemblages from the High Plains have been increasingly analyzed within the concept of these dynamic systems. Indeed, it is the systems themselves that are being used to characterize cultural norms.
... When compared to the spread of other Pleistocene technologies, the rapid expansion and geographic reach of Clovis fluted points across North America is unprecedented (Bradley et al., 2010;Meltzer, 2009;Prasciunas & Surovell, 2015;Smallwood & Jennings, 2015;Waters & Stafford, 2007). The Clovis point not only spread quickly and extensively, but specimens in different places are broadly similar in terms of production technology (Eren et al., 2015a;Sholts et al., 2012;Smallwood, 2012; see also Bradley, 1993;Bradley et al., 2010;Collins, 1999;Morrow, 1995;Tankersley, 2004) and studies of stone raw materials suggest that Clovis people possessed broad social networks and territorial permeability Buchanan et al., 2016;Ellis, 2008Ellis, , 2011Holen, 2010;Meltzer, 2009;Seeman, 1994;Speth et al., 2013). Even though Clovis population density was low, they maintained social connections with other groups to exchange information, resources, and mates for survival (Meltzer, 2002(Meltzer, , 2003(Meltzer, , 2004. ...
... Clovis points are bifacially-flaked specimens that have parallel to slightly convex sides, a concave base, and flake-removal scarstermed "flutes"on one or both faces that extend on average from the base to about a third of the way to the tip ; see also Bradley, 1993;Bradley et al., 2010;Frison & Bradley, 1999;Haynes, 1964;Meltzer, 2009;Waters et al., 2011b). Point flutes are visually distinctive, and archaeological and experimental studies suggest that they are costly to knap, often resulting in the breakage of the point (Meltzer, 1993b;Morrow & Morrow, 1999). ...
... Additionally, these large overface flakes could themselves be turned into small points or other tools (Deller & Ellis, 2010;Ellis, 2008;Eren, 2013;Prasciunas, 2007;Surovell, 2009;Wernick, 2015;Wilmsen, 1970). Finishing a Clovis point entailed a prehistoric knapper carefully removing the basal flutes as well as using pressure flaking to trim, straighten, and sharpen the edges (Bradley, 1993). Several observational and quantitative studies of Clovis point production strategies suggest that these specimens were made with similar production techniques across North America irrespective of geographic locality (Eren et al., 2011a(Eren et al., , 2015aEren & Desjardine, 2015;Sholts et al., 2012;Smallwood, 2012; see also Bradley, 1993;Bradley et al., 2010;Collins, 1999;Morrow, 1995;Tankersley, 2004). ...
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In Late Pleistocene North America colonizing hunter-gatherers knapped and used Clovis fluted projectile points. During their expansion the size and shape of Clovis points changed significantly. Archaeologists know that cultural drift contributed to this variation, but is it possible that this single source could alone generate so much variation so quickly? We present the first of several experimental studies exploring whether Clovis size and shape variation results in performance differences, focusing here on how deeply different Clovis point forms penetrate a target. Our ballistics experiment demonstrates that seven different Clovis point forms penetrated the same target with different effectiveness. Even after tip cross-sectional perimeter is accounted for, there are significant differences in penetration depths between two of the point types. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that Clovis people in different times and places may have chosen specific attributes to provide them with a selective functional advantage.
... The Clovis techno-complex is marked by a number of distinctive tool types, including bone and ivory rods [36], large prismatic stone blades [26], and bifacially chipped and fluted stone weapon tips, referred to as "Clovis points" [26,[37][38][39][40]. Because of significant regional variation in the toolkit, Eren and Buchanan [41], (p. 1) make the excellent point that what archaeologists refer to as "Clovis technology" is better thought of as a shorthand reference to "a fuzzy set of human-tool interactions found across North and Central America during the terminal Pleistocene". ...
... The Clovis techno-complex is marked by a number of distinctive tool types, including bone and ivory rods [36], large prismatic stone blades [26], and bifacially chipped and fluted stone weapon tips, referred to as "Clovis points" [26,[37][38][39][40]. Because of significant regional variation in the toolkit, Eren and Buchanan [41], (p. 1) make the excellent point that what archaeologists refer to as "Clovis technology" is better thought of as a shorthand reference to "a fuzzy set of human-tool interactions found across North and Central America during the terminal Pleistocene." ...
... To simplify a rather complex chronology, we can assign a range of 13,400-12,800 years ago for Clovis in the western half of the continent, after which Clovis points were replaced by Folsom points. Although similar to Clovis points, Folsom points are smaller, have longer and deeper flutes, and were made using only biface reduction instead of both biface and flake reduction [37,40,76,77] (Figure 2). Folsom points date to ca. 12,800-11,900 years ago and have little chronological overlap with Clovis. ...
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The timing of human entrance into North America has been a topic of debate that dates back to the late 19th century. Central to the modern discussion is not whether late Pleistocene-age populations were present on the continent, but the timing of their arrival. Key to the debate is the age of tools—bone rods, large prismatic stone blades, and bifacially chipped and fluted stone weapon tips—often found associated with the remains of late Pleistocene fauna. For decades, it was assumed that this techno-complex—termed “Clovis”—was left by the first humans in North America, who, by 11,000–12,000 years ago, made their way eastward across the Bering Land Bridge, or Beringia, and then turned south through a corridor that ran between the Cordilleran and Laurentide ice sheets, which blanketed the northern half of the continent. That scenario has been challenged by more-recent archaeological and archaeogenetic data that suggest populations entered North America as much as 15,300–14,300 years ago and moved south along the Pacific Coast and/or through the ice-free corridor, which apparently was open several thousand years earlier than initially thought. Evidence indicates that Clovis might date as early as 13,400 years ago, which means that it was not the first technology in North America. Given the lack of fluted projectile points in the Old World, it appears certain that the Clovis techno-complex, or at least major components of it, emerged in the New World.
... The presence of distinctive "luting" on Clovis projectile point/knives at the Belle Mina site has allowed relatively easy recognition of the Clovis component. As technological studies have progressed, including experimental replication of Clovis biface technology (e.g., Bradley 1993;Bradley et al. 2010), additional aspects of biface technology have been illuminated and used in the identiication of Clovis components. Among these are the consistent occurrences of overshot (plunging or reverse hinge) laking and also basal or end-thinning in Clovis biface manufacture enabled by careful platform isolation, including preparatory platform grinding/abrasion. ...
... While bladelakes or biface core lakes do not technically qualify as "true-blades," they nevertheless are indicative of a systematic method of bladelake detachment from a prepared core. In fact, blade-lake production at the Belle Mina site is related to prepared bifacial core reduction, a common Clovis lake production technique employed across the North American continent (Bradley 1993;Bradley et al. 2010;Sanders 1990). Blade-lakes, both retouched and unretouched, were instrumental in contributing to the distinctive "blade-like" appearance of the Clovis laked stone assemblage. ...
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... Transformation is of equal importance to a reduction sequence approach (e.g. Andrefsky, 2005;Bradley, 1993;Callahan, 1979;Whittaker, 1994). It proceeds along general reduction stages that cut up a continuous reduction process into distinct units oriented towards the loss of materials and the acquisition of better symmetry, regularity and so on. ...
... This context is framed in normative culture-historical terms. Bradley (1993) produced various reduction templates for Great Plains Paleoindian cultures thanks to the well-preserved depositional contexts that he could work with. Later archaeologists can then fit preforms into these stages, according to the chronocultural horizon they are working in. ...
Article
Lithic dispersions are spreads of various shapes (e.g. tools, preforms, cores, flakes, blades) that have been discarded by stone knappers at similar or various steps of their development. They extend beyond archaeologists’ chronological and spatial boundaries. They hold information on past techniques and practices. To explore that information, archaeologists need to work through the various processes that shaped lithic dispersions. I argue that skill is a process that can help reframe stone knapping to better take into account the dispersion that stone knappers generate. I show how width, thickness and width-by-thickness (W/T) ratios can be used to understand how knappers enacted various levels of skill while working their various bifacial preforms at the dense plowed site of La Martre (Quebec, Canada). This points at ways that archaeologists can work outside of culture-historical, cognitive or mechanistic frameworks to explore past social practices where spatial and chronological control is lacking.
... During the initial peopling of Americas, different diagnostic projectile points were produced in North and South America (Bradley 1993;Núñez, Grosjean, and Cartejena 2002;Pruffer et al. 2019;Suárez 2011;Waters 2019). South America was the last continent explored by anatomically modern humans, and cultural diversity in its human population started to emerge early in prehistory. ...
... Other researchers suggest that the flute should be proportionally more than one quarter of the total length of the point and at least a third the width of the base (Warren and Phagan 1988). The flute is the channel that is generated from the base by one or more intentional flake scars (channel) that extend towards the distal area of the point (Bradley 1993;Bradley, Collins, and Hemmings 2010). Some researchers argue that "technological fluting was only one within a set of basal thinning techniques that also included pressure end thinning, sometimes before and/or after the actual flutes were created" (Rondeau 2009, 265) and that fluting technology is "a proxy for investigating transmission of technology and material culture among the first Americans" (Smith and Goebel 2018, 4116). ...
Article
Triangular non-stemmed points (TNSPs) have been recovered for several decades from early archaeological sites in different regions of South America. We report a synthesis and review of 63 early Holocene radiocarbon dates (∼12,650–8050 cal yr BP) of the main sites where TNSPs have been recovered and records of this point design with fluting technology. The oldest ages of dated sites with TNSPs are synchronous with ages obtained for Fishtail point sites. The extra-regional evidence allows discussion of aspects related to the use of open environments, chronology, size, context, fluting technology and distribution of these points, leading to the generation of new ways to continue increasing our understanding of cultural complexity in early settlement in South America. The results open new perspectives and implications for the debate on social interaction and technological transmission by Paleoamericans during the peopling of South America.
... Four technical difficulty levels were created using data found in the experimental and ethnoarchaeological bifacial stone knapping literature (Apel, 2008;Bradley, 1993;Bril et al., 2005;Callahan, 1979;Chauchat & Pelegrin, 2005;Stout, 2002;Waldorf, 1993;. Tasks are usually described according to W/T ratio, cross-section, Since edges are used as platforms, they are highly variable during knapping as they pass through regular and irregular stages all the way down to finishing stages. ...
... Platform collapse, due to inadequate preparation or robustness, result in C-shaped bifaces (ibid., 87). Although there is still a dispute whether overshots are mistakes or controlled master blows (Aubry et al., 2003, Bradley, 1993, Bradley & Stanford, 2004see, however, Eren et al., 2013), I have considered them as mistakes because they are part of the state the biface was discarded at, and would have become invisible, had they been part of a controlled general knapping strategy. Break types were borrowed from the literature (e.g. ...
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Skill has allowed lithic analyses to expand their scope beyond the limits set by a representational understanding of practices and sociocultural dynamics. It remains excluded from coarse archaeological contexts in favour of higher resolution ones however. Such coarse contexts are ubiquitous and must be included to broaden description, interpretation and theorization into broader and more heterogeneous narrative landscapes. This paper argues that skill is key to including lithic practices from coarser archaeological palimpsests, provided it is reframed as a process immanent to any cultural practice that conjoins with other processes to shape contexts of various scales. Second, skill must be anchored with a set of core concepts—technical difficulty, accidents and execution quality—that each knapping event and every lithic assemblage actualizes, regardless of scale. Third, methodologies must be built using this set of core concepts and adapted to a site’s specifics. Using such a methodology, I describe learning patterns, skilled reduction sequences and spatial patterning in the plowed fields of La Martre (Quebec, Canada), where millennia of continuous occupation and hundreds of thousands of lithic remains have been mixed up in a dense and homogeneous layer. I show that understanding skill as a trans-scalar process can help free lithic analyses from prior, bounded and familiar units of analysis. It can and should be used first to draw broader patterns that connect contextually specific lithic expressions. It affords for scalable analyses that can help expand the scope of the depositional contexts archaeologists routinely work with.
... A protocol for the technological analysis of stemmed and unstemmed lithic points was elaborated considering thirty metric, morphological and technological features of points, as well as raw material identification, and the diachrony of the negatives (the reading of the order of the artifact negatives). This method considered the importance of lithic points as potential cultural markers in several archaeological contexts (see : Binford, 1963;Cambron and Hulse, 1975;Mentz Ribeiro and Hentschke, 1976;Bradley, 1993;Collard, 2007, 2010;Cardillo, 2009Cardillo, , 2010Castiñera et al., 2007;Franco et al., 2009;Lycett, 2007;Bradley et al., 2010;Lycett et al., 2010;Collins et al., 2013;Okumura and Araujo, 2013, 2016Suárez, 2015; for examples). These authors demonstrate that the study of lithic points is important as a first step into the characterization and definition of archaeological industries (and cultures). ...
Article
The lack of a standard protocol for analyzing and comparing multiple assemblages of lithic artifacts has hindered the advance of a better understanding of the cultural diversity associated to prehistoric hunter-gatherer groups. This was the case of Brazilian archaeologists that for many decades associated lithic stemmed point assemblages to a cultural entity known as “Umbu Tradition”. However, most associations of assemblages to this “tradition” have been made regardless of the type of lithic points, as well as ignoring other elements related to the lithic industry, settlement patterns, among others. As a result, since the 1980s, several studies have been questioning the validity of such Tradition. Recent research has proposed new definitions for the previously associated Umbu Tradition lithic industries based on the stemmed points typology. However, no raw data on the technological analysis of such points have ever been presented. This article proposes a protocol for the technological study of lithic points that allows the application of descriptive statistics and multivariate analysis to verify if these types present or not significant differences. We present new data on the technological analysis of 501 lithic points from sites located in the supposed Umbu Tradition coverage area and period, as well two new Early Holocene C14 dates for one of the studied sites (Caetetuba site). Our results corroborate previous propositions of discarding Umbu Tradition as a valid cultural entity, as well as new typologies for the points. We also show that our protocol is suitable to unravel potential cultural patterns regarding many attributes in lithic points as well as to explore if there are significant differences among previously defined types.
... The Lamb Spring projectile points vary in shape, flaking pattern, and cross-section, but comfortably fit the range of variability typically associated with the Cody complex (e.g. Bradley 1993;Bradley and Frison 1987;Fogle-Hatch 2015). The square stem-bearing specimens (SI-437215, K117-3 and K117-5) have bases that range from flat to slightly concave, ground margins, a biconvex cross-section with a weakly developed median ridge, and shoulders that are irregularly shaped rather than ground to square. ...
Article
The Late Paleoindian Cody complex component at the Lamb Spring site in Douglas County, Colorado, was reanalyzed to better document it and facilitate comparisons to other Cody kill sites. Cody hunters killed at least 27 bison near an active spring vent between the late fall/early winter and the middle of spring. Besides the nearly 2,000 recovered bison bones are seven heavily resharpened Eden points and fragments, a Cody knife fragment, and two small flakes. The absence of end scrapers, retouched flakes and paucity of flakes suggest on-site carcass processing was a minor activity. The composition of the assemblage is similar to other northern Great Plains Cody complex bison kill sites, but aspects of the projectile point technology are somewhat atypical of other sites. This heretofore little known cultural component has been overshadowed by the now possibly disproven Clovis or pre-Clovis component, leaving the Cody component as the primary cultural manifestation at Lamb Spring.
Chapter
Being able to identify individual populations has long been of interest in archaeology, but within the last several decades it has become a specific focus as researchers have linked evolution-based theoretical models of cultural transmission with innovative analytical methods to better understand how groups of agents use culturally acquired information to navigate across fitness landscapes. Other animals learn, but humans have the unique ability to accumulate learned information rapidly and to pass it on to future generations. Nowhere is this interest in applying models of cultural transmission more evident than in the archaeology of the late Pleistocene colonization of North America, where researchers are beginning to identify distinct populations and to trace their movements across complex physical and cultural landscapes.
Article
The Clovis techno-complex has figured prominently in American archaeology since the 1930s, when fluted stone weapon tips and other tools were found alongside the remains of late Pleistocene fauna in eastern New Mexico. Given the lack of fluted projectile points in the Old World, it appears certain that the Clovis techno-complex emerged in the New World, south of the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets. The successful marriage of learning models grounded in evolutionary theory and modern analytical methods has yielded significant results in terms of what we know about the rapid spread of Clovis across North America. As more researchers become involved in applying learning models, however, there needs to be both consistency in how concepts and terms – selection and drift, for example – are used and clarity over how the results of small-scale processes, when taken in the aggregate, can create the population-level patterns seen in the archaeological record.
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Describes the findings at the Hanson Site
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The Callahan Divide in West Texas was a major source area of high-quality Edwards chert for Paleoindian and later human populations in the Southern Plains. Relict and modem hydrologic and biotic patterns across the divide suggest the existence of tenninal Pleistocene interconnected ponds and marshes, probably having abundant plant and animal resources. Recent stock pond construction in the divide has resulted in exposure of a small Clovis quarry-workshop site near the headwaters of an arroyo system. A machinery-damaged workshop feature containing an association of cores, large blade-flakes, a bifacial point prefonn, and a hammerstone has yielded significant infonnation about early production stages of Clovis stone tools.