points such as this one -- bifacial and flaked on both sides
-- help explain why the Clovis people were so effective in
hunting big game like mammoths, horses and bison.
1929 the Smithsonian Institution sent an expedition to Clovis, New
Mexico. Along with ancient mammoth remains, archeologists uncovered
a new kind of stone point they called Clovis. Clovis points were
subsequently found at many sites, always with nothing deeper. So
archeologists came to believe that the makers of the points--Clovis
people--were the first on the land.
the Smithsonian's Dennis Stanford shows Alan how to make a Clovis
point and explains why it was effective in hunting big game like
mammoths, horses and bison. Flaked on both sides, Clovis points
have a characteristic flake used to thin the base, allowing the
point to be hafted onto a wooden spear shaft. After striking an
animal, the shaft could be detached, leaving the point embedded.
Hunters would then reload with another point for their next shot.
It was a lethal system, effective against large animals like mammoths,
horses and bison.
archeologist Michael Collins for an up-to-date view of the Clovis
people. Collins has exhaustively excavated a site called Gault near
700,000 bits and pieces collected at the site provide a comprehensive
picture of Clovis life there. It's clear that the people who lived
at Gault 13,000 years ago were far from fast-moving big game hunters.
Rather, as Mike Collins explains to Alan, they were hunter-gatherers
who exploited all the resources around them-from a valley floor
filled with nuts, berries and small game, even turtles in the creek,
to the nearby plateau with its cactus fruit, mesquite beans and
turkeys. Collins' group has identified specialized tools-for cutting
and scraping meat, bone and wood, punching holes in hides and slicing
many things, including grass.
sites appeared across North America within the space of a few hundred
years, but how could people have learned about so many different
environments as intimately as they understood Gault, in such a short
time? Perhaps, Collins suggests, it was Clovis ideas spreading among
people who were already there.