Type:  Modern Art, Marvin McCormick

Location: Pritchett, Colorado



MoST ID: 2628

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

Model Author:  Emma Watt

This Alibates chert Folsom point was made by the flintknapper Marvin McCormick in the 1950s.

Marvin McCormick was an early modern flintknapper based in Pritchett, Colorado.  His date of birth and death are not recorded, but he actively knapped from 1929 to the 1970s.  He is said to have been taught to flintknap when he was 8 years old by his great-uncle who was a teamster who drove ox-drawn freight wagons on the Sante Fe Trail in the 1800s.  Some have speculated that his great-uncle may have learned flintknapping from Native Americans.

Flintknapper Marvin McCormick, ca. 1967. Photo from Tony Baker.

This model is of a Folsom point made by Marvin McCormick from Alibates chert.  The point was skilfully made but the shape does not closely match ancient Folsoms, and the point is too thick between the fluted faces to match the originals.  For comparison, refer to the model of an ancient Folsom point available here.  This point was sold by a collector in Texas to another collector in 1960; the first collector claimed that the point was found by Mexican sheepherders.

McCormick originally worked as a cowboy in Colorado and sold collectors authentic points that he and his wife found on archaeological sites.  He told the archaeologist Tony Baker in the 1970s that he was unemployed during the Dust Bowl years and supported his family by making and selling the points he made.  This was at a time when archaeologists thought that fluted Folsom points—his specialty—could not be made by modern flintknappers.  Because of this, claims that the points were ancient artefacts were readily accepted by museums and collectors, and he is suspected to have made and sold many thousands of Folsom points during the time that he was actively flintknapping.  McCormick is said to have made 14 points a day, 5 days a week, and one person has speculated that he may have made more Folsom points than any person who has ever lived.  A surviving letter shows that in 1962 he sold 26 Folsom points and 2 ‘bird points’ to a collector for $98.  He mostly made his points from colourful Alibates chert from Texas.

McCormick was perhaps the first modern flintknapper to use heat-treatment, a process of cooking stone to make it easier to flake.  He may have learned about heat-treatment from his great-uncle.  He made bifacial blanks by percussion using a soft iron bolt.  He is reported to have used a pressure flaking technique that flicked flakes upwards, towards the knapper’s face, hence he wore a perspex face shield for protection from flying flakes.  He was skilled at transverse-parallel and collateral pressure flaking.  His pressure flaking tool was a soft iron nail set into a half-inch wood dowel handle.  For fluting, the preform was set on a soft lead padding within a slot in a log, and the flute was detached by indirect percussion using a copper or bronze punch.  The punch was struck with a medium-sided hammerstone.  He is also said to have used a lever device to remove flutes by pressure because his failure rate with percussion was relatively high.

Marvin McCormick fluting a Folsom point using indirect percussion and a metal punch, ca. 1967. Photo from Tony Baker.


Marvin McCormick’s fluted Folsom point, ca. 1967. Photo from Tony Baker.