Using 3D Models to Understand the Changing Role of Fluting in Paleoindian Point Technology from Clovis to Dalton

Ashley M. Smallwood, Thomas A. Jennings, Heather L. Smith, Charlotte D. Pevny, Michael R. Waters, Thomas J. Loebel, John Lambert, Jacob Ray, Devin Stephens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fluting is a technological and morphological hallmark of some of the most iconic North American Paleoindian stone points. Through decades of detailed artifact analyses and replication experiments, archaeologists have spent considerable effort reconstructing how flute removals were achieved, and they have explored possible explanations of why fluting was such an important aspect of early point technologies. However, the end of fluting has been less thoroughly researched. In southern North America, fluting is recognized as a diagnostic characteristic of Clovis points dating to approximately 13,000 cal yr BP, the earliest widespread use of fluting. One thousand years later, fluting occurs more variably in Dalton and is no longer useful as a diagnostic indicator. How did fluting change, and why did point makers eventually abandon fluting? In this article, we use traditional 2D measurements, geometric morphometric (GM) analysis of 3D models, and 2D GM of flute cross sections to compare Clovis and Dalton point flute and basal morphologies. The significant differences observed show that fluting in Clovis was highly standardized, suggesting that fluting may have functioned to improve projectile durability. Because Dalton points were used increasingly as knives and other types of tools, maximizing projectile functionality became less important. We propose that fluting in Dalton is a vestigial technological trait retained beyond its original functional usefulness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)544-566
Number of pages23
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 24 2022


  • Paleoindian
  • cultural evolution
  • geometric morphometrics
  • lithic technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology
  • Museology


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