World History

Back to North America: Clovis Culture


The Clovis Culture

How Early Cultures Fit Together

Back to North America: Clovis Culture

After the Pre-Clovis culture disappeared from North America, the Clovis people showed up. They, too, are thought to have originated in Siberia. (What was it about Siberia? And where did Siberian people come from?)

Instead of wandering through Europe, the Clovis people traveled through Mongolia to Alaska, possibly over a land bridge between Alaska and Asia.

Their presence is noted in fifteen hundred locations across the United States (except Florida) and also down into Central, then South America. They, too, disappeared.

Like the Soluteans, the Clovis people are known for a unique weapon “point.” They flint knapped and pressure flaked their points.

But Clovis points, made from flint, jasper, chert, and obsidian, have a concave base with a groove on each side extending one-third of its length. This is called “fluting,” and it allowed the point to be fastened onto the arrow or spear shaft rather than just being tied onto it.

Because these points have not been found in Siberia or Mongolia, it is thought the points were developed in North America. Maybe they found Pre-Clovis points and they inspired the Clovis people?

Clovis tools also included end scrapers (tools with the scraper on the end) for processing hides, gravers and burins for engraving, spokeshaves for woodworking, and “wrenches” for straightening shafts.

The disappearance of the Clovis people coincided with a return of cold weather that destroyed the plant food of both animals and people.

During this time, a number of animals became extinct: giant bison, mastodon, gomphotheres (elephant-like mammals with four enormous tusks: two upper and two lower), giant sloths, tapir, camelops (a camel seven feet tall at the shoulder), horses, and some smaller animals.

Their disappearance was probably a combination of climate change and overhunting.

One grave containing two teenagers was found with grave goods. Powdered red ochre was found on the remains.

So, what happened to the Clovis people? Did they starve?

How Early Cultures Fit Together

Traditional DatingCulture

40,000 BCarcheological site lowest level at Kostenski, Central Russia

23,000 BCSolutrean culture established in Europe

19,000 BCZarzian culture appears in the Caucasus and Zagros regions

18,000 BCSolutreans arrive in North America? Pre-Clovis culture

14,500 BCSolutreans disappear

13,000 BCEnd of the last Ice Age

11,300 BCClovis culture appears in North America

11,000 BCSwiderian culture appears in Central Europe

10,500Swiderian culture enters eastern Anatolia?

10,500Zarzian culture vanishes

I’ll bet you have guessed which culture we will look at next time!

Suggested Reading:

Collins, Andrew. Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods, Bear & Co., Rocherster, Vermont, 2014, p.372-375, “Appendix: Useful Dates” from which the table above is drawn.

Photo credit: Brian_Brockman at