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Clovis and Folsom Peoples
The Clovis and Folsom hunters are well known as the Paleo-Indian hunters
who chased down the massive big game and dwarf mammals of the Ice Age.
Lions then were twice their size now, the mammoths lumbered across the
icy ground, and the ancestors of today's horses were miniature relatives
that, like the lion and mammoth, became extinct in North America by
the end of the Ice Age.
The Clovis and Folsom sites found across North America are identified
by the type of spear points they left behind. But the name Clovis and
Folsom, while used to describe people all over the continent, are actually
named after two specific sites first found in New Mexico in the Rio
Grande Valley. In the Camp's geology section, we study how the Colorado
Plateau was lifted up a mile in the sky due to the clashing of the continental
plates out in California. When this lifting occurred, a large rift opened
up and the Rio Grande river flowed down this rift towards the gulf of
Mexico. Along this rift, a valley formed, and in this valley, the camps
of the Clovis and Folsom peoples have been discovered in New Mexico.
Clovis hunters manufactured a long, distinct stone spear head with
an indented channel (called a flute) that enabled them to securely attach
the spear point to a strong, long wooden spear shaft. These spear heads
date from 9500-9000 BC.
Folsom hunters manufactures a shorter spear tip that had a 'flute'
nearly the entire length of the spear head. These date 9000-8000 BC.
Materials used for the spear heads were chalcedonies, jaspers, petrified
wood, and some obsidians. The colors of the spear points range across
the rainbow of stone colors, and over all, their points were of a softer
materials than those to follow, and were generally not reusable once
they had hit animal bone.
What Paleontologists and Archaeologist Find
Often the first evidence of a Clovis or Folsom Paleo-Indian site is
a prehistoric animal bone protruding out of the soil after a rainstorm
- the skull and tusk of a mammoth, the bones of a horse, the horn of
a bison, or the remains of a tapir are an example. Upon closer examination,
the paleontologists who study the animal bones, then discover that there
are many of these ancient mammals all together in one place. Then they
find human-made stone
spear tips, scraping tools, bone sewing tools, and firepits. And upon
further excavation, they may even find the holes from the tent poles
that provided a shelter for these prehistoric hunters of the late Ice
The Clovis and Folsom hunters did not live in permanent villages. They
roamed vast areas of North America, following the game, setting up temporary
camps as they went. Sometimes they stored materials at these camps to
come back to later. In their time there were no state boundaries, North
America was one vast open wilderness.
But not all Paleo-Indians spent all of their time tracking big game.
In Southern Arizona, south of where the great ice sheets ever reached,
archeologists have discovered the Ventana cave site that contains plant
grinding stones and Clovis spear points. This suggests that in the south,
where it was warmer, even in the Ice Age, people gathered plants for
food as well as hunting game.