Clovis Technology

Abstract

Colonising hunter‐gatherer populations in North and Central America at the end of the Pleistocene utilised Clovis technology. Clovis technology is known for ‘fluted’ flaked stone points that were used to hunt prey and served as knives, but it also included the production, use and discard of a diversity of other implements made from stone, bone and other materials. Clovis technology lasted for several centuries, perhaps as long as a millennium and a half. Clovis technology shares some similarities with Siberian Paleolithic technology, which is consistent with current genetic evidence, indicating that ancestors of the people using Clovis technology originated in Asia. Clovis technology, as archaeologists generally recognise it, likely emerged piecemeal as people dispersed into the New World – some aspects of it can be tied to ancestry in Siberia, while other aspects are likely indigenous to North and Central America. Several studies have shown that Clovis technology was subjected to both micro‐ and macroevolutionary forces.

Key Concepts

  • ‘Clovis technology’ is just an archaeologist's shorthand to refer to what is in actuality an inferred, fuzzy set of human–tool interactions found across North and Central America during the terminal Pleistocene.
  • There is a diversity of Clovis tools made from stone, bone and other materials.
  • Evidence for Clovis technology can be found across the lower 48 states of the United States, throughout southern Canada, and Central America.
  • The ancestors of people who used Clovis technology came from Asia.
  • What archaeologists generally recognise, and refer to, as Clovis technology likely emerged piecemeal as people from Asia dispersed into the New World.
  • Clovis technology evolved at both the micro‐ and macroevolutionary scales.

Keywords: behaviour; colonisation; cultural evolution; Homo sapiens; lithic reduction; microwear analysis; morphometrics; peopling of the New World; pleistocene; technology

Figure 1. Examples of Clovis flintknapping strategies. A person knapping Clovis technology would start off with a nodule of chert (centre top, Wyandotte variety, image by M. Eren). By knapping two sides of the nodule, referred to as bifacial knapping, they would produce a biface (left middle, DeGraffenreid cache, Texas, image permission courtesy of D. Kilby) as well as a number of flakes (centre middle, image by M. Eren). The biface could be used as is, or bifacially knapped into a different bifacial tool, such as a fluted point (left bottom, Paleo Crossing, Ohio, image by M. Eren). The flakes could be used as is, or knapped bifacially or unifacially (centre bottom, Welling, Ohio, image by M. Eren) into tools. A second Clovis strategy would be for a person to knap flakes more opportunistically from a stone nodule. A third strategy would be for a person to knap stone prismatically. This produces long, thin pieces called blades (right middle, image by M. Eren), as well as a prismatic blade core (right top, Debra Friedkin, Texas, image permission courtesy of M. Waters). These blades could be used as is, or be unifacially knapped into other tools. People making Clovis technology also utilised bipolar percussion (right bottom, Paleo Crossing, Ohio, image by M. Eren), which involved smashing artefacts on an anvil resulting in crushed, angular bits and small sharp pieces. Specimens shown here are not necessarily to scale.
Figure 2. Examples of some Clovis tool classes: fluted points from Blackwater Draw, New Mexico, and Vail, Maine (a,b, images by M. Eren); endscrapers from Paleo Crossing, Ohio (c,d, images by M. Eren); spurs from Paleo Crossing, Ohio (e,f, images by M. Eren); bone rod from East Wenatchee, Washington (g, image permission courtesy of P. Bostrom); bone point from Sheriden Cave, Ohio (h, image permission courtesy of B. Redmond); bone wrench from Murray Springs, Arizona (i, image permission courtesy of P. Bostrom). Arrows in (a) and (b) indicate flute scars. Arrows in (d) are pointing to an accessory spur (top) and to lateral notches (bottom). Arrows in (e) and (f) are pointing to prominent spurs. Specimens shown here are not necessarily to scale.
Figure 3. Excavation of the East Wenatchee Clovis cache in Washington state, USA. R. Michael Gramly examines stone and bone tools, November 1990 (a). Betty Knop excavates large bifaces, October 1990 (b). Images permission courtesy of R. Michael Gramly.
Figure 4. Prominent select Clovis sites across North America. 1 = Charlie Lake Cave; 2 = East Wenatchee; 3 = Dietz; 4 = El Fin del Mundo; 5 = Escapule, Lehner, Murray Springs, Naco; 6 = Anzick; 7 = Colby; 8 = Dent; 9 = Blackwater Draw (Clovis type site); 10 = Lange‐Ferguson; 11 = Jake Bluff; 12 = Eckles; 13 = Domebo; 14 = Debra L. Friedkin; 15 = Aubrey; 16 = Rummells‐Maske; 17 = Kimmswick, Ready/Lincoln Hills; 18 = Carson‐Conn‐Short; 19 = Butler, Gainey, Leavitt; 20 = Sheriden Cave; 21 = Nobles Pond, Paleo Crossing; 22 = Sloth Hole; 23 = Udora; 24 = Hiscock; 25 = Topper; 26 = Thunderbird; 27 = Shawnee‐Minisink; 28 = Williamson; 29 = Vail; 30 = Bull Brook and 31 = Debert.
Figure 5. Clovis points across North America evolved into several distinct regional post‐Clovis styles. (a) Dent, Colorado (image by M. Eren); (b) Kimmswick, Missouri (image by M. Eren); (c) Carson‐Conn‐Short, Tennessee (image permission courtesy of A. Smallwood); (d) Welling, Ohio (image by M. Eren); (e) Bull Brook, Massachusetts (image by B. Buchanan); (f) Hell Gap, Wyoming (image by B. Buchanan); (g) Sloan, Arkansas (image permission courtesy of D. Morse, photo credit Jane Kellett, Arkansas Archaeological Survey); (h) 40HR370, Tennessee (image permission courtesy of J. Tune); (i) Thedford II, Ontario (image permission courtesy of C. Ellis); (j) Michaud, Maine (image by B. Buchanan). Specimens shown here are not necessarily to scale.
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Further Reading

Ellis CJ (2008) The fluted point tradition and the arctic small tool tradition: what's the connection? Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 273: 298–314.

Eren MI, Patten RJ, O'Brien MJ and Meltzer DJ (2014) More on the rumor of “intentional overshot flaking” and the purported Ice‐Age Atlantic crossing. Lithic Technology 39: 55–63.

Holliday VT and Miller DS (2013) The Clovis landscape. In: Graf KE, Ketron CV and Waters MR (eds) Paleoamerican Odyssey, pp. 221–245. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.

Meltzer DJ (2004) Modeling the initial colonization of the Americas: issues of scale, demography, and landscape learning. In: Barton CM, Clark GA, Yesner DR and Pearson GA (eds) The Settlement of the American Continents, pp. 123–137. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.

Meltzer DJ (2009) First Peoples in a New World. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Miller DS, Holliday VT and Bright J (2013) Clovis across the continent. In: Graf KE, Ketron CV and Waters MR (eds) Paleoamerican Odyssey, pp. 207–220. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.

Patten RJ (2005) Peoples of the Flute: A Study of Anthropolithic Forensics. Lakewood: Stone Dagger Publications.

Prasciunas MM (2007) Bifacial cores and flake production efficiency: an experimental test of technological assumptions. American Antiquity 72: 334–348.

Smallwood AM and Jennings TA (eds) (2015) Clovis: On the Edge of a New Understanding. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.

Waters MR, Pevny CD and Carlson DK (2011) Clovis Lithic Technology. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.

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Eren, Metin I, and Buchanan, Briggs(May 2016) Clovis Technology. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0026512]