Artifact of the week 11/9/2011

Folsom ultrathin biface from the Clovis site North Bank.

Ultrathin bifaces are a recently recognized element distinctive to the Folsom toolkit.  Ultrathin bifaces are found at many Folsom sites including those in North Dakota, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.  Ultrathin bifacial manufacturing technology appears consistent between numerous sites recognized by distinctive, opposed diving bifacial thinning flakes (Root et al. 1994).

Morphologically, the Folsom ultrathin biface is broad in width, has finely retouched excurvate margins, and is extremely thin (Boldurian 1999:111).  Functionally, its use is generally interpreted as a non-hafted knife or cutting implement used for butchering and processing game.  Pegi Jodry (1998) has suggested that ultrathin bifaces were used and maintained by women for specialized butchering required for drying strips of meat.

Comments welcome.

Boldurian, Anthony T.  1999  Clovis Revisited:New Perspectives on Paleoindian Adaptations from Blackwater Draw, New Mexico.  University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia.

Jodry, Margaret A.  1998  The Possible Design of Folsom Ultrathin Bifaces as Fillet Knives for Jerky Production.  Current Research in the Pleistocene 15:75-77.

Root, Matthew J., J. D. William, Marvin Kay, and L. K. Shifrin  1999  Folsom Ultrathin Biface and Radial Break Tools in the Knife River Flint Quarry Area.  In Folsom Lithic Technology: Explorations in Structure and Variation, edited by D. S. Amick, International Monographs in Prehistory, Archaeological Series, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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4 Responses to Artifact of the week 11/9/2011

  1. Ben Swadley says:

    I would be interested in knowing whether or not those tools exhibit similar sharpening to the later Harahey “knife” (and others) used on the Great Plains. Specifically, I was wondering if they appear to be re-sharpened bifacially or just on one bevel. I would agree that the women were capable and adept at sharpening their own tools.

    The link I posted for “website” is to some replica of Pawnee knives and other tools I made for a museum in Nebraska. These knives exhibit beveled edges, effectively creating four cutting edges when resharpened.

    • paleotool says:

      Sorry I’m slow to respond but I have been on the road. The answer is “no” they aren’t resharpened like a Harahey knife. In fact, not much resharpening at all after the fact. These are a bit of a mystery but show some amazing skill and control of the material. I have some illustrated Harahey knives I excavated years ago when I worked in Iowa. If I can find them I’ll try to post them up here.

  2. Grayson Westfall says:

    classic example. Nice website.

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