Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Books: A Matter of Superior Spearpoints Volume 52 Number 4, July/August 1999
by Kenneth B. Tankersley

For most of the twentieth century Clovis has been heralded as the oldest prehistoric culture in North America. Living during the final gasp of the last Ice Age, a period of extremely rapid and profound environmental change, Clovis people witnessed the extinction of more than 30 species of large mammals, from mammoths to giant ground sloths, many of which they hunted 13,000 to 12,500 years ago. More mobile than any modern hunter-gatherers, they moved frequently throughout the year. The low density of artifacts at their sites suggests that their population was sparse. Contact between groups--necessary to exchange information, raw materials, and marriage partners--is attested by finds of their distinctive artifacts made from exotic rocks and minerals whose sources might be hundreds of miles away. They buried caches of precious materials--red ocher, crystalline quartz, and exquisite, high-quality stone for tool-making--at strategic locations, like hidden treasures. Three recently published books examine the Clovis culture: a traditional monograph on Blackwater Draw, the type site of the culture; a volume on an artifact type; and an innovative presentation of a key cache.

Kenneth B. Tankersley is an assistant professor of anthropology at Kent State University.


Bouldurian, A. and J.L. Cotter, Clovis Revisited: New Perspectives on Paleoindian Adaptations from Blackwater Draw, New Mexico (Philadelphia: The University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, 1999)

Collins, M. and M. Kay, Clovis Blade Technology: A Comparative Study of the Kevin Davis Cache, Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1999)

Frison, G. and B. Bradley, The Fenn Cache: Clovis Weapons and Tools (Santa Fe: One Horse Land and Cattle Company, 1999)

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