Why Flute?

fluting artifacts

Paleo-Indian cultures produced fluted stone artifacts, a tradition that later Archaic and Woodland peoples never again manufactured on such a large scale. Archaeologists have spent decades pondering the reasons why ancient stone toolmakers used this manufacturing technique.

At first glance, it appears that weapon points were channeled to produce a tight fit when the artifact was hafted to a spear shaft or knife handle. This is probably because of many if not most fluted points are grooved at the base where the artifact attaches to its wood or bone handle.  Certainly, this was a good reason for fluting, but was it the only reason, or even the most important one?

After many years of observing and examining fluted points, we believe there are four basic reasons for fluting artifacts. In addition to hafting purposes, flutes were carved into stone tools such as knives, to serve as finger and thumb grips to allow precision cutting and scraping. Further, some weapon points have what appear to be a “blood channel”, separate from the hafting flute, that would “bleed out” the prey after it was wounded. This ingenious idea sped up the demise of the hunted animal and prevented hours or days of tracking in case it escaped the “kill zone”.

Perhaps the most important reason for fluting was to produce more artifacts. Oftentimes, flutes that appear as hafting points on an artifact show the appearance and shape of other artifacts known to be from Paleo-Indian times. This group of photos demonstrates this concept.

Photo one and two are of a Clovis triangular fluted point spearhead, front and dorsal sides. Notice the oval fluting on the right side of the artifact. Because of its location and shape, it is obvious that it is not a hafting flute. What was its purpose? In the last photo, we have placed our Genesee Clovis Point (made of different material), over the oval fluting to demonstrate that the Clovis point and the fluting are almost identical in size and shape. Possibly the flute on this triangular point is really the flaking scar of a Clovis point made from this stone material.

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