Type:  Folsom Point

Location: Idaho



MoST ID: 2846

Pedestal Link: https://une.pedestal3d.com/r/eJgXZW_6ux

Model Author:  Emma Watt

This chert Folsom point is from Idaho.  The artefact appears to have been broken during manufacture.  Folsom points date between about 11,700-12,800 BP.

The broken point in this model shows full-face fluting on one face, and a narrower flute on the opposite face, oriented in the opposite direction. The narrow flute may have been done to salvage a failed flute as it is oriented from the biface’s tip rather than the base. The biface was apparently broken during this second fluting attempt.

Folsom is one of the Paleoindian cultures which emerged from the preceding Clovis culture, and Folsom points are most commonly found in the Great Plains and surrounding areas.  Folsom people continued the big-game hunting tradition established by Clovis people, but Folsom hunters shifted their emphasis towards bison and abandoned mammoth hunting (mammoths went extinct during this time period).  Like the earlier Clovis points, Folsom points were thinned by removing flakes lengthwise up both faces of the biface, a process called ‘fluting’.  Folsom points are smaller and thinner than Clovis points, and Folsom flutes often remove substantial proportions of both faces of the point.  The flutes frequently extend to the tip of the point, although flutes on some un-resharpened Folsom points stop short of the point’s tip.  Following fluting, the edges on Folsom points were retouched by pressure flaking, using an ‘up-flick’ technique to prevent the pressure flake scars from intruding into the flute scar.  Not all points made during this period were fluted:  Midland points and Goshen points are not fluted, but date to about the same period as Folsom.

The technique used to flute Folsom points was exceptionally sophisticated, and Folsom point manufacture is one of the pinnacles of flintknapping skill world-wide.  Analysis of manufacturing rejects recovered from the Lindenmeier Site in Colorado indicates that the bifaces for Folsom points were made by percussion and pressure thinning of flake blanks.  Unlike in Clovis manufacture, one face of the biface was completed and fluted prior to preparation and fluting of the opposite face.  To prepare for fluting, the face was expertly pressure flaked to create well-contoured mass down the centre of the biface.  Next the rounded distal (tip) end of the biface was bevelled to one face and abraded.  The bevel was made towards the face to be fluted, to create a ‘convexity’ there for the flute (channel flake) to feather into.  A platform was next isolated at the proximal end to precisely align the channel flake removal with the mass down the centre of the biface.  The biface was placed vertical on an anvil, force was applied to the platform, and if done correctly, a wide channel flake was removed that extended right to the tip of the biface.  The process was then repeated on the opposite side of the point.

A long-standing debate among modern flintknappers is how the force was applied to the platform to remove the flutes.  Some flintknappers successfully replicate Folsom points by using an indirect percussion technique, often with help from a second person holding the biface in place on the anvil.  A more popular technique is to secure the biface in a vise and gradually apply pressure to the platform with a lever, until the flute detaches.  The lever-pressure technique for fluting Folsom points was initially explored by the flintknapper J. B. Sollberger of Dallas, Texas, and his device—popular today among modern hobbyist flintknappers who make Clovis and Folsom points—is called a ‘Sollberger jig’.  Sollberger claimed that lever pressure is the only method available that can accurately achieve the thickness of the point between the fluted faces.  Indeed, Folsom points are usually less than 4 mm thick between the fluted faces, and while modern flintknappers have achieved accurate Folsom point replications on occasion, consistent replication has proven elusive, and failure rates are high.