PAST - The Piedmont Archaeological Studies Trust is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation dedicated to illuminating our prehistoric and historic understanding of the Piedmont and Blue Ridge of the Carolinas. Its primary goals are to further archaeological research, education, and outreach.

Chapter 1: Paleo-Indian Points



Lanceolate Paleo-Indian Points

When we think of the Paleo-Indian peoples that inhabited North America it is, perhaps, the lanceolate and fluted Clovis point that most frequently comes to mind as an icon of that culture (fig. 1) Although the Clovis point is generally accepted as the oldest identifiable form of the Native American stone bifaces, there are a number of other lanceolate forms that are also considered to be Paleo-Indian. Because these have not been excavated in any context to determine their proper antiquity the chronological placement of the Clovis point within this assemblage has not been unequivocally established. It is possible these other lanceolate biface forms are chronologically contemporary with Clovis, somewhat younger, or even older. As a group, their technical attributes are poorly defined; they may be heavily patinated, have ground basal and lateral edges in the haft area, have small basal flakes removed (as described by Wormington) as opposed to more pronounced flutes; they may have any or all of these characteristics. These non-conforming lanceolate forms may simply be examples of inferior knapping skills or expedient tools. Inability to accurately identify all of these lanceolate forms has dictated that in the South Carolina Paleo-Indian Point Data Base, some have been placed in an “unidentified” Paleo-Indian category (fig. 2).

Clovis Point

As described by Wormington (1957)

“Fluted lanceolate points with parallel or slightly convex sides and concave bases. They range in length from one and a half to five inches, but are usually some three inches or more in length and fairly heavy. The flutes sometimes extend almost the full length of the point but usually they extend no more than halfway from the base to the tip. Normally, one face will have a longer flute than the other. The fluting was generally produced by the removal of multiple flakes. In most instances, the edges of the basal portion show evidence of smoothing by grinding.”

As described by Bell (1958)

“The Clovis point is often confused with the Folsom point because of the fluting on the face of the blade. In general, the Clovis point is larger, less skillfully made and the flutes are shorter. The base and the sides of the base have been ground as in the Folsom point, but the concave base is more shallow and the point tapered rather than rounded.”

Age and Cultural Affiliation

The Clovis type is known to be older than Folsom because of work done by the Texas Memorial Museum near Clovis, New Mexico (Sellards, 1952) Suhm and Krieger (1954) suggest an age “Somewhat greater than that of Folsom point, probably at least 10,000 B.C. and perhaps as early as 15,000 B. C. at beginning.” The Clovis type is one of the early Paleo-Indian hunting points. It has been assigned to the Llano complex by Sellards (1952)

Distribution and Association

The Clovis point has a wide distribution throughout North America. Suhm and Krieger (1954) note the type from the borax Lake site in northern California and Naco site in southern Arizona across the United States to the Atlantic seaboard; a few specimens are from Alaska, Durango Mexico and Costa Rica.

The Clovis point has been found in association with the extinct mammoth at several localities: Angus Nebraska; Dent Colorado; the Miami and McLean sites in Texas; Clovis New Mexico, and the Naco and Lehner sites in Arizona (Wormington 1957) The vast majority of Clovis points, however, have been found on the surface, unassociated with cultural or faunal remains.

Figure 1. Some South Carolina fluted points made of various lithic materials: A, unidentified chert; B, unidentified chert or jasper; C & J, coastal plain chert, stained black by river; D, ridge and valley-like chert; E & G, coastal plain chert; F, rhyolite; H, flow-banded rhyolite; I, unidentified chert; K, milky quartz; L, Orthoquartzite; M, crystal quartz; N, white quartz.


Examples of Clovis Point Dimensions 

Measurements from 59 examples from 44 sites in the Tennessee River Valley (Soday and Cambron, n.d).
Length:      35 – 154 mm        average – 66 mm
Width:                                  average – 27 mm
Thickness:                            average – 07 mm

From 14 examples of “fine Clovis” from 13 sites:
Length:                                29 mm – 109 mm

Texas examples (Suhm, Krieger and Jelks, 1954):
Length:                                69 mm – 140 mm
Width:                                 20 mm –  40 mm

The range of 66 examples from New York State (Ritchie, 1961):
Length:                                 25mm – 127 mm
Thickness:                             3 mm – 10 mm

Unfluted Clovis? 

About Unfluted Clovis: Suhm, Krieger and Jelks (1954)

Suhm, Krieger and Jelks suggest the possibility that some Clovis points have no flutes, and that it would be difficult to distinguish these examples from Plainview points. Concerning the fluting on some of the Clovis points at the Naco, Arizona Site, Wormington (1957) says; “In some instances the grooves had been formed by the removal of several smaller flakes.” At least one illustrated example appears to be only basally thinned. The Naco find dates between 10,000 and 11,000 years ago. It is suggested that this type may be contemporaneous with Clovis or may have appeared later.

(Unfluted lanceolate points believed to be Paleo-Indian are found throughout South Carolina. Their size, form and the lithic materials from which they are made are highly variable. The lateral and basal edges usually exhibit, but not always, evidence of smoothing. Most have small thinning flakes removed from the base, but lack well defined fluting and, or, forms that distinguishes them as a specific point type [fig. 2]).

Figure 2. Various unfluted lanceolate points and the lithic materials from which they are made: A, B, D, G, J, coastal plain chert; E, quartzite; F, L, N, white quartz; M, translucent quartz; H, I, K, rhyolite; C, unidentified metavolcanic.




As described by Mahan (1975)


“A medium to large, triangular, fluted point with an incurvate base.”


“The cross section is fluted. The blade is straight with an acute distal end. Grinding along the basal edge for about one-third of the length of the point designates the hafting area. The auriculated base is parallel-rounded, incurvate, and may show multiple flutes on one or both faces. The basal edge is thinned on each side of the flute and ground.”


“The flakes removed in order to shape the blade and hafting area are narrow, shallow and random. The edges were finished by the removal of alternate flakes along the blade and hafting area edges, leaving a fine, irregular pattern. The short flute was removed first from a flattened face, the longer flute from a median ridged face that shows multiple flute scars (Cambron and Hulse, 1961).”

Length:               67 mm – 117 mm   average – 89 mm
Width:                                             average – 37 mm
Thickness:                                       average– 97 mm


“The type was named after Redstone Arsenal in Madison County, Alabama.”

 (Redstone points exhibit the uniformly finest craftsmanship of any of the South Carolina Paleo-Indian points [fig. 3]. Numerically they are fewer than the typical Clovis by an estimated ratio of about 1 to 3. Their accurate placement within the Paleo-Indian point chronology has not been firmly established).

Figure 3. Redstone points: A, B, E, F, G, H, I, J, coastal plain chert; C, vitric tuff; D, differentially crystallized tuff.

Simpson-Like Points

As described by Bullen (1975)


“A wide bladed, relatively narrow waisted, fairly thin, concave based, medium to large sized point with grinding on bottom and waisted edges. Basal ears are present but are not as developed as in the Suwannee point. Basal thinning is present but, also, is not well developed. Workmanship is good to fair.”

 Length:                                                       64 – 135 mm
Width                                                         25 –   37 mm
Thickness                                                   06 –  0 9 mm


“Points of this shape, if well fluted, could be called Cumberland. Simpson points are known from as far south as Charlotte Harbor [west coast of Florida]. They should date to about 9000 B.C. Simpson points differ from Suwannee points because of their extreme waisted appearance and lack of developed ears.”

(Simpson-like points are occasionally found in South Carolina. They are usually found on the southwestern coastal plain and made of coastal plain chert. However, several outstanding specimens have been found that were made of high quality metavolcanic stone [fig. 4; C], perhaps indicating a more northern distribution for the type than has been previously thought, or, the similarity could be fortuitous).

Figure 4. Waisted base lanceolate points similar to the Simpson point. A, B, D and E, are made of coastal plain chert; C, is made of fine-grained rhyolite.

Suwannee and Quad-Like Points

Suwannee: As described by Bullen (1975)


“A usually large and fairly heavy, lanceolate shaped, slightly waisted point with concave base, basal ears, and basal grinding of bottom and waisted parts of sides. Basal thinning and suggestions of fluting are but rarely present. Workmanship varies from good to poor. This definition is more specific than previous concepts.”

Length:                                  75 – 120 mm
Width:                                    27 –  35 mm
Thickness:                             07 –  10 mm


“Suwannee points have been found as far south as Charlotte Harbor and Vero Beach (Florida) but the heaviest concentration is in the Ichetucknee and Santa Fe Rivers. Closely similar points are included in Paleo-Indian collections from other states. Suwannee’s are larger than, but similar to, some Quad Points. Suwannee’s undoubtedly belong to the close of the Paleo-Indian period or, in Florida, around 9000 B.C.”

Quad: As described by Soday and Cambron (Cambron and Waters, 1959a)


“The Quad point is a commonly recognized point found in the Tennessee River Valley region (Lewis, 1960, p. 54). The name is derived from the Quad site in Northern Alabama (Soday, 1954, pp. 1-20)”


“The Quad point is a medium sized lanceolate-shaped dart point characterized by its distinctive base. In general, the Quad point resembles the Cumberland point except that the Quad type is shorter, wider and thinner in cross-section. The blade edges are recurved and terminate in an “eared” base, which forms the widest part of the point. The base itself is concave, often considerably so, and frequently shows attempts at short fluting or thinning. The edges of the base and the lateral adjacent portion of the blade are ground smooth, usually for about 1/3 the length of the point.”


“The length ranges from 1.5 inches to 3 inches with the larger sized specimens being more typical. The workmanship is good, and the cross-section is fairly flat and thin for so broad a point.”

Age and Cultural Affiliation:

“The exact chronological position of the Quad point is not known although it is commonly found in association with Clovis, Cumberland and other early projectile point types. It is probably either to be considered as late Paleo-Indian or Early Archaic. A suggested date for the Quad point would be some portion of the period from 8000 B.C. to 4000 B.C.”


“The similarities of the Quad point to the Cumberland type suggests that the two are related. Lewis (1960, p. 54) suggests that the Quad point may have been derived from the Cumberland point; hence, it would be somewhat later in time. The Quad point also resembles closely the Candy Creek point with the latter being smaller and not so well made.”

(The prehistoric stone tool collections of South Carolina have produced few bifaces that could be construed as classic Suwannee or Quad types, but bifaces having some similarity to the these types are occasionally found [fig. 5; A, B, C, E, H]. Most of the Suwannee-like points have been found on the southwestern coastal plain and are made of coastal plain cherts. Point “E” is an exception, being made of a very inferior grade of unidentified metavolcanic stone; it was found on the western Piedmont. Point “H” has experienced considerable resharpening; otherwise it might appear more similar to the Suwannee point than the photograph indicates. Point “G” is made of blue-gray chert, probably Ft. Payne chert from Tennessee. It more closely resembles a typical Quad point than any other that was recorded during the Collectors Survey; it was found in the mountains of Oconee County where a variety of bifaces made of various Tennessee cherts are not uncommon. It could be argued that points “D” and “F” more closely resembles Dalton points. However, they do not exhibit the typical Dalton technology or resharpening pattern and have been included here).

Figure 5. Expanded base lanceolate points with an absent of fluting. They have some resemblances to the Suwannee and Quad points, but their cultural affiliation has not been confirmed; they are generally believed to be late Paleo-Indian or transitional Paleo/Early Archaic. A, B, C, D, F and H are made of coastal plain chert; E, is an unidentified metavolcanic stone, and G, is Ft. Payne-like chert.


Unidentified Lanceolate points 

(Numerous lanceolate forms remain in chronological limbo because they have not been excavated in any context that has firmly established their cultural affiliation. Absent the classic identifiers of fluting or thinning of the haft area, and or, smoothing of blade edges in the haft area, the tendency is to assume these lanceolate forms are late Paleo-Indian, or transitional between Paleo-Indian and the Early Archaic. Decisions to place them in this transitional category are usually based on long held beliefs that the Clovis point is the earliest identifiable biface type and those lanceolate forms lacking the diagnostic Clovis traits must represent something later. Rarely do we consider that some lanceolate biface forms lacking the classic Clovis identifiers, may be contemporary with, or even predate, Clovis. Although based on minimal supporting data, even such well recognized point types as Suwannee, Simpson, Beaver Lake and Quad are commonly referred to, and accepted, as being late Paleo-Indian or transitional from Paleo-Indian to Early Archaic).

Filed Under: Uncategorized

32 Responses to Chapter 1: Paleo-Indian Points

  1. i have just started collecting.i stay in coastal south carolina and i would like to send some photos of what i think is either paleo or early archaic.the first one i found looks identical to the beaver lake projectile point, my second a hardaway dalton and bases that are clovis or daltons

  2. i have found four auriculate points,one fluted all of them under two inches in length along with one approximately three inches in length, and what i know is a hardaway dalton,a perfect bifurcate fluted crescent shaped end scraper and many other points in an area no larger than an acre maybe smaller.the auriculate lancelot points in the exact spot together like someone put them there.i think theyre paleo or early archaic, but theyre small clovis- like but what ive read has only confused me someone please help.thanks

  3. I’d love to see your points, I’ve collected about 20 years and have assembled quite a library on SE Indians. Email would be great. I’m in the Hilton Head area.
    richard smith
    treasurer, HHI chapter

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