Stage 6 artifacts represent failures during the removal of the first channel flake. Most of the time this failure was the result of the channel flake plunging (diving) into the preform before it had traveled an acceptable length. This plunging breaks the preform into two or more pieces. A plunging flake is also termed a "reverse hinge flake" or an "outrepassé flake". Based on the work of Dr. Andrew Pelcin1, I believe this type of failure was the result of the channel flake having too much energy and was forced to plunge into the preform to expend the additional energy. Occasionally, a channel flake did not have enough energy to traverse the preform much less plunge into it. The result was a flute that was too short and/or narrow. This low energy failure is rare in the archaeological record because the preform was probably reworked and a second attempt at fluting Face A was made.
Another characteristic of Stage 6 is the lack of work on Face B. In the archaeological record Face B was only crudely prepared or not worked at all at the time Face A was fluted. Stage 6 was very difficult and had a high risk of failure. This difficulty is evident in the archaeological record by the fact Stage 6 artifacts are the second most abundant2 . I have watched many modern replicators (knappers) and Stages 6 and 9 are where their failures occur. As a result of Stage 6 being a high failure event, the Folsom knapper spent the minimum effort getting to Stage 6. This lack of preparation of Face B prior to fluting Face A is one of the concepts misunderstood by most of the modern replicators. Most replicators prepare both faces for fluting prior to fluting Face A.
In summary, Stage 6 failures are characterized by evidence of a fluting attempt on Face A and minimal work on Face B. There are two other minor characteristics which will be developed below.
This artifact, a proximal fragment of a preform, is a classic Stage 6 failure. The channel flake has plunged into the body of the preform and broke it too short to be utilized (right image). Also, note how the flute has cut into the smaller collateral flake scars which are a product of Stage 4 (Specialized pressure shaping & thinning)3. Collateral flakes scars cut perpendicular by the flute is a classical appearance of a Folsom preform.
Face B's workmanship (left image) was minimal biface thinning. Note how irregular it is. Another characteristic of Stage 6, apparent on this artifact but not mentioned in the above general discussion, is the platform preparation (Stage 5). Note, the proximal edge in the left image is shiny. This is caused by the light reflecting off of the beveled edge that is part of the platform preparation for the removal of Face A's channel flake. In the Stage 8 failures, the bevel was reversed but the channel flake has not yet been removed from Face B.
This artifact is the distal fragment (tip) of a preform. Note, the termination of the channel flake scar on the bottom of the right image. If the reader's viewer is good, one can also see the collateral flake scars from Stage 4 on this same face. In the left image there are no collateral flakes scars indicating that Stage 7 has not been performed. Therefore, this distal fragment was created during Stage 6. It is possible that the missing proximal portion of the preform was long enough that the knapper was able to continue to make the point. Whether this occurred or not, this distal fragment was discarded during Stage 6.
My father use to refer to these distal fragments as "snapped tips". He believed the knapper purposely snapped them off the preform after it had been fluted on both sides. After watching numerous modern replicators, attempting to make Folsom points, I am convinced these usually came off naturally during the fluting stages. If they did not, I believe the knapper just worked them away during the post fluting retouch (Stage 10).
This artifact is made from obsidian 4 . It is two pieces that fit together and represents a split proximal fragment. Face A (right image) is extremely informative because it demonstrates how the channel flake plunged into the preform and broke it into several pieces. In this example, the preform was not only terminated too soon, it was split during the fluting process 5. The collateral flake scars are also very evident on the right side of the right image.
Face B (left image) is virtually flat. It is the remnant of a large biface thinning flake. This is an extreme example of the minimal work on Face B before fluting Face A.
Yes, I know the artifact is upside-down in this image6. Ignoring this, many would argue that this obsidian artifact is not a proximal fragment of a Folsom preform. However, I believe it is. It has all the characteristics: 1) Face A's channel flake did plunge into the preform although it looks like it died near the edge (right image), 2) there is collateral flaking on Face A, 3) there is minimal work on Face B (left edge), and 4) the proximal edge (top edge) of Face B is beveled in order to create a platform to remove the channel flake. Any artifact that can exhibit these four characteristics is most certainly a Folsom preform that was destroyed during Stage 6.
1 Pelcin, Andrew
2 Stage 9 are the most abundant, representing about 50% of the failures in the archaeological record. Stage 6 failures account for about 45%.
3 Stages 4 and 7 (Specialized pressure shaping & thinning of the face) had the purpose of creating a ridge down the longitudinal axis of the preform's face. As all knappers know, "flakes follow ridges" and these two stages created the ridges for the channel flakes to follow.
4 A number of years ago, it was believed that the Folsom people did not make points from obsidian. I don't know where this concept came from, but it was totally wrong. In New Mexico, where obsidian is abundant, the Folsom people often used it.
5 Split preforms are a common failure mode in the archaeological record. They occur during the fluting stages and obviously result in a failure.
6 I left this image upside-down on purpose. During my formative years of holding and viewing artifacts, I learned to view projectiles with the tip (distal end) down. To this day, I still am most comfortable with the tip down. I know this is against convention, so I must concentrate when I make pictures of points. Occasionally, I will inadvertently make a mistake as I have done here and have to redo the image. I chose not to correct this one so I could write what I am writing here. I am sure someone else, out there, is plagued with the same upside-down syndrome and I wanted to let them know they are not alone.