Shock-absorbing spear points kept early North Americans on the hunt


Clovis points
CLOVIS LINEUP Researchers studied how stone replicas of spear points (two at right) used by ancient Clovis people absorbed pressure. Results suggest Clovis points fluted at the base absorbed shock, preventing tip breakage while hunting. Three casts of actual fluted Clovis points are on the left.

Ancient North Americans hunted with spear points crafted to absorb shock.

Clovis people, who crossed a land bridge from Asia to North America around 13,500 years ago, fashioned stone weapons that slightly crumpled at the base rather than breaking at the tip when thrust into prey, say civil engineer Kaitlyn Thomas of Southern Methodist University in Dallas and colleagues. The Clovis crumple rested on a toolmaking technique called fluting, in which a thin groove was chipped off both sides of a stone point’s base, the researchers report in the May Journal of Archaeological Science.

Computer models and pressure testing of replicas of fluted and unfluted Clovis points support the idea that fluted bases worked like shock absorbers, preventing tip breakage, the scientists conclude. Slight compression and folding of stone at the base of fluted points after an impact did not cause enough damage to prevent the points from being reused, they say.

“Fluted Clovis points have a shock-absorbing property that increases their durability, which fit a population that needed reliable weapons on a new, unknown continent,” says archaeologist and study coauthor Metin Eren of Kent State University in Ohio. While Clovis people weren’t the first New World settlers (SN: 6/11/16, p. 8), they roamed throughout much of North America. Individuals traveled great distances to find food and move among seasonal camps, Eren says.

spear point
A Clovis stone point replica, chiseled by Kent State archaeologist Metin Eren, contains a fluted section at…
Sasha Harriet

Sasha Harriet

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