Fluted Point – Dan Stueber

Today I am showing some pictures of a replica fluted point, a type of stone spear (or other projectile) point that existed in the Americas for a very brief period during what archaeologists call the Clovis and Folsom time periods. This one copies a Clovis point rather than a Folsom point. Clovis existed between about 13,500 and 13,000 years ago and was followed more recently by Folsom.  Fluted points are characterised by the “flutes” which are made in the base by removing flakes from the base on both faces that are oriented parallel to the long edges of the point. The flute is emphasized in the foreground of the photo above, and see detail below. Archaeologists don’t call these “arrow heads” because it is difficult to say with certainty whether stone points are from arrows or not. However, the bow and arrow were not introduced to the Americas for about 12,000 years after this style was made, so it is certain fluted points were not attached to arrows.

I thought it would be fun to take some macro shots of this point which is quite a difficult subject because it is glassy and partially transparent and has a lot of fascinating surface detail. Lighting it well would probably be pretty complicated. I just put it down on a black cloth on the table near the window, and held a piece of paper to reflect light onto the shadowed side, though not in all these pictures (4th picture is best example of in-filling with this method). The point was made by Dan Stueber of Portland, Oregon. Dan is both a professional flintknapper and professional drummer – surely the only such person on earth. I have met him a couple of times but this point was given to me by a mutual friend. I think Dan made it more than a decade ago. Check out Dan’s website – he has some absolutely fabulous examples of flintknapping illustrated there, such amazing skill is rare in any walk of life. I hear he is every bit as good a drummer as he is a flintknapper as well.

Like all responsible flint knappers, Dan signs his pieces so that they will not be confused for genuine ancient artifacts or circulate in the relics market creating greater demand for originals, which leads to vandalism of archaeological sites. The picture above shows his tiny signature, and if you look closely you can see it below as well.

This point is made from obsidian which is a volcanic glass. It comes from only a few places and archaeologists can tell through geochemical analysis which source the obsidian comes from, important information when trying to figure out ancient trade routes and interactions between different groups. In these pictures there are traces of orangey-red banding in the obsidian; this combined with the fact that Dan is based in Oregon would suggest that the most likely source for this rock was Glass Buttes in Oregon.

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In the archaeological world the Clovis period is generating some very strong emotions amongst otherwise staid academics (well, staid is the stereotypical outside view anyway, if you’ve ever partied with academics you might not believe it).  For a very long time Clovis people have been considered to be the first in the Americas. This idea is being undermined by recent discoveries and the Clovis First advocates are clinging for dear life to a theory that many of them have made a career studying or teaching. If you are interested in this fascinating example of a classic Khunian “paradigm shift” in progress, then the Northwest Coast Archaeology blog is as good a place as any to start reading – the author has written a number of times about this topic, and even had one of the main proponents of Clovis First ‘debate’ him in the comments of this post. The comments on many of these posts are fascinating, kind of like the creaking and rending of an enormous and ancient ship as it wrenches itself onto a new and unexpected course, popping a few welds here and there, cracking the rudder post, tilting dangerously off keel.

Photos taken with SMC Takumar 100mm/f4 macro mounted on Canon EOS 5Dii. Top two taken at f-16, others at f-11, ISO 200, exposures 1.0, 1.3, 2.0 and 3.2 seconds (but not in that order).

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9 thoughts on “Fluted Point – Dan Stueber

  1. Pingback: Sharp Line | burnt embers

  2. I love great macro studies, and you have really delivered a stunning one here my friend!! Great series, a great set of shots… and the accompanying blog post is both rich in details of the history and the technical aspects to the captures. Love it!

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    • Toad – I know you like a good story with your pictures, so am very pleased you enjoyed what I had to say as well as this beautiful object. Dan Stueber emailed me today about this post and tells me that yes indeed the obsidian is from Glass Buttes in Oregon, though he cannot remember which of the six nine chemically distinct flows (its a volcanic rock) this particular piece of stone came from. I am especially pleased with the bottom two photos and the detail of the flute, but it is such a beautiful thing that they are all very satisfying.

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    • Katie – I am glad you like my words as well as the images. I don’t normally think about the words as much as the photos, in fact I try to keep the words to a minimum most of the time (except in my long-winded comment replies which seem to get away from me from time to time). It is nice to look closely at an object like this because they are not usual to our existence and if we see a point, we mostly respond on a higher level – “oh what a lovely point, and not even broken” rather than having a really close and slow look. I like that about photography, it can slow us down to look much more closely than normal.
      See what I mean about long=winded?

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  3. Good morning ken – it is indeed a very fine piece. It is a very generous and unexpected gift from a friend that had cherished the point for many years. I am hoping he sees these photographs and notices something in the close ups that he never saw during its time with him. I like to think that this point could survive for 10,000 years and be of tremendous interest to some museum or archaeologist in the future.

    I am glad you clicked on Dan’s website – it seems quite often that there are no clicks leaving my blog, or if they are, they are often on the gravatar of a liker or commenter. I suspect that WP does a poor job of recording outgoing clicks. I have spoken with someone that linked to my blog, and it turned out that WP was recording less than 10% of the clicks leaving his blog compared to those I could see coming in from his post, which is weird as they are both WP blogs. Anyway, I am glad you liked these images, especially as someone that photographs these kinds of objects from time to time.

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    • Hi Nandini – thank you very much. I had fun with those crops in the last two images. Especially the last one which captures some yellow colours from somewhere – I think the exterior wall of my house through the window and possibly part of a chair. This was not intended, but is a very pleasing effect, and a lesson also for considering how to take photos of these objects – if you do want them or need them to be faithful to the original then these reflections are going to pick things up from every possible direction in the surroundings.

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  4. I went to Dan’s site and looked over his gallery. he has an amazing talent and you’re lucky to have one of his pieces. This is a particularly beautiful sample and the shot are really very well done. The Museum where I work has quite a collection of American Indian pieces similar to this and i had the pleasure of photographing some of them. I always look forward to those days.

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