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Journal of Archaeological Science
Volume 27, Issue 9, September 2000, Pages 799–820
Why Flute? Folsom Point Design and Adaptation
Stanley A. Ahlera, Phil R. Geibb
a PaleoCultural Research Group, P.O. Box EE, Flagstaff, AZ, 86002, U.S.A.
b Navajo Nation Archaeology Department, Box 6013, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, 86011, U.S.A.
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The fluting of Folsom points is an elegant technological solution to several problems faced by highly mobile hunters focused on bison procurement. The symmetrical, bifluted form allowed a split, facial-contact haft to extend nearly to the tip, thereby controlling both location and extent of fracture and allowing many cycles of point reworking. Extreme thinness achieved by fluting facilitated leading edge sharpness for enhanced penetration. The near-constant cross- section from tip to base meant no loss of leading edge acuteness upon resharpening and inter-changeability of broken segments. The high-friction, forwardly adjustable haft assured firm mounting even with shortened, reused point segments. This efficient design was critical for groups who spent weeks and maybe months away from raw material sources in pursuit of game. Short, exhausted Folsom points or “slugs” are what archaeologists most commonly find and study. In contrast, a quite long, fully fluted point made from a yet longer preform was the intended product of the Folsom knapper. The model presented here can be tested through study of preform length, finished point proportions, fracture patterns, haft element features, and use-wear analysis in archaeological specimens, as well as actualistic hunting experiments. The engine driving persistent use of snap blade, full fluted projectile technology was focused commitment to a single, highly mobile game species (bison). This specific technofunctional element in Folsom culture reveals a weapon system designed to mitigate against extreme risk regarding access to raw material. Continuing research should demonstrate that the appearance, geographic distribution, persistence, and disappearance of the Folsom fluted point relate closely to juxtapositions of climatic change, biotic change, and human population movements that occurred near the end of the Pleistocene.