FOLSOM POINT MANUFACTURE

by Tony Baker

revised 8/14/98

This document discusses and displays the process of Folsom point manufacture. This is a rewrite of a document that was first conceived and written in March, 1996. The same artifacts used in the first edition have been retained here, but their images have been greatly improved. Additionally, this rewrite contains considerably more text than the original. (Click here to go directly to the images.)


The manufacturing process of a Folsom point is in reality the sum of a number of smaller processes termed "stages". In the book FOLSOM TOOLS AND TECHNOLOGY at the Hanson Site, Wyoming by George C. Frison and Bruce A. Bradley, eleven different stages of manufacture were identified. Some of these stages are well represented in the archaeological record while others are absent. Based on the stages that are represented it is possible to infer the other stages and understand how the point was made. These eleven stages are:

  1. Blank.
  2. Initial shaping & thinning.
  3. Pressure shaping & thinning.
  4. Specialized pressure shaping & thinning of one face (Face A).
  5. Channel platform preparation (Face A).
  6. Channel flake removal (Face A).
  7. Pressure shaping & thinning of second face (Face B).
  8. Channel platform preparation (Face B).
  9. Channel flake removal (Face B).
  10. Post fluting retouch.
  11. Margin polishing

These stages do not represent equal amounts of effort or time. For example, Stage 6 and Stage 9 are one flake removals while Stages 4 & 7 require the removal of many flakes. As a result, a failure during a many-flake-removal stage can occur at the beginning, middle or end of the stage. However, failure can only occur during the removal of the channel flake in Stages 6 or 9. A failure means the artifact was abandoned and left for the archaeologist to find.

Although Stages 6 and 9 have a duration of only an instance in time, these are the two Stages that are the most common in the archaeological record. Apparently mistakes in the other stages could be worked around and a successful outcome was still possible. A mistake in Stage 6 or 9 was generally fatal.

Another factor affecting the number of the artifacts from the various stages in the archaeological record is the ability of the archaeologist to recognize an artifact from a given stage. To emphasize this point, I do not have any artifacts that I can say, with certainty, represent any of the first five (5) stages. Remnants of failures from these stages could have been utilized in other tools or they may look so similar to other artifacts and I can't recognize them.

I use the nomenclature of "Face A" and "Face B" to denote a particular face. Face A is the face from which the first channel flake is removed. Face B is the face from which the second is removed. All images in this document have been created in chronological order. The artifact face on the right, next to the scale, is always the most recent face to have been worked by the knapper. In the images of channel flakes the ventral face is on the right, next to the scale.

The quality of the images varies from artifact to artifact. This is primarily a function of the material. When it is difficult to see the chipping pattern on the real artifact, it is even more difficult to photograph the pattern. In creating the images in this document, I often sacrificed the color of the material, by using two different color light sources, to display the chipping pattern.

Finally, all artifacts were found in camp sites (manufacturing sites), in contrast to hunting sites. All images are of authentic artifacts and there are no plastic casts depicted. The number of images in the following stages somewhat parallels the number of artifacts in the various stages in the archaeological record. As stated above, I do not have any artifacts from the first five (5) stages. Click on the following stages to go to the images.


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The Folsom Point drawing at the top was furnished by Bob Patten.

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