The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in a Museum

Clovis Weapons & Tools

Penn Museum - Joy of Museums - Clovis

These “Clovis Weapons & Tools” are ancient tools which are over 10,000 years old created by the Clovis culture originally based around current day near Clovis, New Mexico, US. The Clovis culture is a prehistoric Paleo-Indian culture, named for the distinct stone tools discovered in the 1920s and 1930s.

The Clovis culture appeared around 11,500–11,000 years ago, at the end of the last glacial period. This Paleoindian culture is characterized by the manufacture of “Clovis points” and distinctive bone and ivory tools. Clovis people are considered to be the ancestors of most of the indigenous cultures of the Americas.

The historical objects above have been named and dated as follow:

  1. Folsom Projectile Point – ca 9,000 – 8,000 BC
  2. Clovis Side Scraper-on-Blade – ca 11,050 – 10,800 BC
  3. Clovis Projectile Point – ca 11,050 – 10,800 BC
  4. Clovis Projectile Point – ca 11,050 – 10,800 BC
  5. Clovis Spear Foreshaft  – ca 11,050 – 10,800 BC

These objects were recovered in close proximity to several complete mammoth skeletons and species of extinct bison. These  objects confirm that people inhabited North America as long as 12,000 years ago.

Clovis points are the characteristically-fluted projectile points. A Clovis projectile point is created by using bifacial percussion flaking, which means that each face is flaked on both edges. Clovis points are thicker than the typically thin later-stage Folsom points. Whether the points were knife blades or spear points is not known.

Folsom points are a latter development and have a distinct form of chipped stone projectile points. The points have edges that are finely worked with a symmetrical, leaf-like shape with a concave base and wide, shallow grooves running almost the entire length of the point.

The discovery of the Clovis artifacts began when a cowboy found an ancient bison skeleton in 1908 after a flash flood. The site was then first excavated in 1926, near Folsom, New Mexico, where they found the first in situ Folsom point. This confirmation of an early human presence in the Americas inspired the interest to look for further evidence of early humans. In 1929, the Clovis site was discovered near the Blackwater Draw in eastern New Mexico. The best documented evidence of the Clovis complex was collected and excavated between 1932 and 1937.

 Essential Facts:

  • Title:                    Clovis Weapons & Tools
  • Provenience:     New Mexico, Blackwater Draw, Mammoth Pit, Clovis
  • Culture Area:     Greater Southwest
  • Period:                Paleoindian
  • Date Made:        9000 BC
  • Technique:        Chipped
  • Dimensions:      L: 11.1cm; W: 2.7cm
  • Museum:            Penn Museum

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“The only wealth which you will keep forever is the wealth you have given away.”      Marcus Aurelius

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Photo Credit: By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons