Fluted Point Discovery in Northeast

Richard C. Jenkins 
California Department of Forestry

While inspecting a timber harvesting plan near the Siskiyou County CA community of Bartle a fluted point base fashioned from obsidian was recently discovered. The point was found within a large lithic scatter discovered by consulting foresters during plan preparation and is situated on a low terrace along the McCloud River. After reviewing a paper by Dillon (1994) regarding the geographic distribution of fluted points in California this appears to be the first documented discovery of such an artifact in Siskiyou County. The subject fluted point base is morphologically identical to those referred to in the literature as Clovis. It has a broad concave base, straight parallel margins that exhibit edge-grinding, and pronounced flutes that thinned both its dorsal and ventral surfaces. Metric attributes include a maximum length (ML) of 2.636cm (from a margin of the base to the break), a axial length (AL)of 1.918cm (from the center of the concave base to the break), a maximum width (MW) of 3.284cm, a maximum thickness (MTH) of 0.712cm, and basal width (BW) of 3.096cm. Both point margins exhibit edge grinding and the basal notch, after fluting, was retouched with fine pressure flaking. A bending break suggests that the point was broken in the haft during use.

Obsidian source characterization and hydration dating studies of the artifact were performed by the Northwest Research Obsidian Studies Laboratory (Skinner, Thatcher, and Davis 1997). The glass was sourced to Modoc County's Buck Mountain located some 85 miles distant in the northeast corner of the state. Hydration rim values were somewhat smaller than anticipated and measure some 5.7 microns.

Important is a photomicrograph image of the point base that shows a consistent hydration rim depth across both the fluted surface and the artifact break. This single signature suggests artifact breakage shortly after manufacture and/or use rather than by later cultures which sometimes scavenged and recycled early artifacts. It is speculated that the point was broken during use then returned to camp where it was removed from the haft and discarded.

A limited review of the literature has resulted in the determination that similar artifacts have been found at the Dietz site (Fagan 1988) in south-central Oregon some 160 miles to the northeast. Six Clovis basal fragments similar to the subject specimen were recovered from that site. Later analytical work performed on the artifacts (Fagan 1996) resulted in the determination that the bulk of the Clovis specimens submitted for trace element analysis were attributed to the same Buck Mountain source as the subject point. Hydration rim values for the 30 studied artifacts ranged from 5.8 to 9.0 microns.

A more complete version of this paper, with references, was presented at the 1998 State of Jefferson Meetings held in Mt. Shasta CA and is available from the author upon request. Research regarding this discovery is ongoing and input is welcome. E-mail correspondence can be sent to the author at Rich_Jenkins@fire.ca.gov.