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.
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).