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Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: Clovis Technological Organization, Understanding Technological Strategies through Cached Assemblages

With support from the National Science Foundation, Bruce Huckell and David Kilby will investigate caches of artifacts made by Clovis hunter-gatherers. The Clovis culture, best known for its large fluted projectile points found in association with extinct mammals such as mammoth and giant bison, occurs extensively in North America, perhaps over the entire continent. Reliable dates from Clovis sites cluster tightly between 13,500 and 13,000 calendar years B.P. Clovis lithic tool assemblages commonly include fluted projectile (spear) points, large stone bifaces and bifacial cores, blades and blade cores, and a limited variety of smaller tools made on flakes and blades. Bone and mammoth ivory tools are less common, but equally geographically widespread components of Clovis assemblages. Clovis caches have been found throughout many areas of the United States Plains and Rocky Mountains, as well as the Great Lakes area and currently reside in museums and private collections around the United States.<br/><br/>The goal of this research is to provide a comprehensive view of the organization of Clovis lithic technology. Most of what is known about Clovis technology is derived from artifacts at the end of their useful lives that have been discarded or abandoned at kill or camp sites. Current models of Clovis toolkits are largely reconstructed from these discarded portions of tools and waste material. Caches of Clovis artifacts, however, provide a unique window into Clovis technology that is not found in other Clovis assemblages, because artifacts from caches appear to have entered the archaeological record at some point before their usefulness was depleted. Thus, they may more directly represent the components and form of the working toolkit carried by Clovis people. By systemically linking artifacts from caches to those from kill and camp sites, we can address traditional issues of primary artifact production, artifact use, and discard, as well as issues concerning maintenance and storage strategies in between. <br/><br/>Over 20 Clovis caches have been identified and reported; however, this designation obscures considerable variability. It is unlikely that all caches served the same purpose. Their functions may have included, among other things, artifact and raw material storage, and ritual abandonment. Deducing the general function of individual caches is a necessary step in relating them to abandoned artifacts from non-cache sites. Thus, in addition to understanding technology, this research will investigate caching as a behavior, and evaluate possible roles that it played in Clovis technological organization and land use. <br/><br/>Caches are discrete assemblages that provide a snapshot of artifact form at some point along a continuum of stone tool reduction subsequent to raw material acquisition and previous to discard. Approaching cached assemblages from this perspective can potentially fill a critical gap in the available data concerning Clovis lithic technology. In the process we will gather and make available data that are not easily accessed due to inadequate publication, dispersed locations, and, in many cases, private ownership. <br/><br/>Despite roughly six decades of intensive investigation, there remains significant uncertainty concerning even the most general aspects of Clovis adaptations. The results of this research will provide insight into the technology, subsistence, mobility, and ideology of these people who were arguably the first inhabitants of the New World. More specifically, this research stands to define and evaluate the role of material caching in the adaptations of Clovis people, the results of which may be applicable to a better understanding of all hunter-gatherer groups.

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