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Flint Artifact Collections

THREE SUPERB ST. LOUIS STYLE CLOVIS POINTS
IN THE WILLIAM M. WHELESS III COLLECTION

By Leslie S. Pfeiffer

On the facing page are three of the finest St. Louis style Clovis points known. The Logan County Clovis on the left was found in 1962 by a farmer walking his freshly plowed field in Logan County, Illinois, about 1/2 mile from Sugar Creek (which flows into the Sangamon River) between New Holland and Lincoln. I visited the site when I acquired this point. The Shelbyville Moraine, marking the southern-most advance of the glaciers in this area, is about one mile to the north. The farm has been in one family since the 1890s and they have found no other Clovis-related material. This point is 515/6" long, 13/a" wide, and very thin. It is made of Dongola nodular chert, also known as Cobden chert. This material is very similar to Hornstone chert found on both sides of the Ohio River in southern Indiana and northern Kentucky. Dongola/Cobden chert outcrops in southern and central Illinois. This Clovis was pictured in the Central States Archaeological Journal, with an accompanying article I wrote in Volume 47, No. 4 (October, 2000) on pages 202-203, and in The Amateur Archaeologist (American Society for Amateur Archaeology) on pages 9-10.

The Robinson Clovis in the center was found by Mr. Frank Robinson on his family's farm around 1917. The farm is north of Fulton in Hickman County, Kentucky. It remained in the family's collection until March of 1999 when his daughter, who had moved to Temple, Texas, let Dwain Rogers add it to his collection. This point is 71/2" long and 2" wide and is made of heavily patinated Dover chert. Dover chert outcrops in northwestern Tennessee and southwestern Kentucky. It was widely used in all the prehistoric time periods. This Clovis has been cast by Pete Bostrom (Lithic Casting Lab), who stated, "This point is one of the finest examples of an eastern style fluted point ever found. Very few fluted points over seven inches have been discovered east of the Mississippi River. Those that have been recorded are usually broken." It was pictured in the Central States Archaeological Journal Volume 47, No. 3 (July, 2000) on pages 114-115 with an accompanying article by Dwain Rogers, and in Masterpieces of Prehistoric Art, Volume 1 (Onken and Pafford) on page 127. I consider the Robinson Clovis one of the very best fluted points I have ever seen.

The point on the right, the Shelby County Clovis, was found in the 1890s by Dr. Leon Richmond in Bartlett, Tennessee. This is now a suburb of Memphis on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River in Shelby County, Tennessee. Jack Roberts saw this point on display at the Chucalissa Indian Village Museum and acquired it from Dr. Richmond's grandson. It was in Jack's collection for many years before I acquired it, and it was one of his favorite artifacts. It is 53/8" long and 13/4" wide. It is made of an unknown high grade dark blue-grey material. A number of archaeologists examined this point at the Clovis and Beyond conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico and no one could identify the material. It has been pictured many times, including in the Spring, 1958 Tennesee Archaeologist and in Masterpieces of Prehistoric Art on page 130. Many people consider the Shelby County Clovis the finest fluted point ever found in Tennessee.

The St. Louis style Clovis type was named by Greg Perino in Selected Preforms, Points and Knives of the North American Indian, Volume 1 (1985) for examples in the William Smail collection that were found near St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Smail's points are now in the Gilcrease Museum collection in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Greg described this type as a "large, thin fluted point with convex sides contracting towards the base, a deep U-shaped or V-shaped concave basal edge, and wide, flat flutes usually running more than one-third the length of the point. Basal edges are ground." However, I have rarely seen grinding on the stem edges, with the example from Logan County, Illinois being an exception. Due to their thinness these were undoubtedly used as knives. This is interesting because the Clovis people made extensive use of core blades, uniface knives, and utilized flakes off their large preforms for very effective, easily-made knives. Why would they take the extra time to make these large, finished knives when they could make and use the other knife forms so quickly and easily? I know of only four St. Louis style Clovis points that were found along the Missouri River west of St. Louis. Two of these were made of Knife River flint, which is found in North Dakota. There seems to be a small concentration of these in the St. Louis area, and they have also been found in small numbers in southern Indiana, southern Ohio, in larger numbers in Kentucky and Tennessee, and a few in northern Alabama, northern Mississippi, northern Arkansas, northeast Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. Greg Perino reported having seen one from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Including the Gilcrease Museum collection, I have seen around 40 St. Louis style Clovis points, with these three examples being among the finest.