Who Were the Clovis People?


This past weekend I attempted to recreate a Clovis point (the image associated with this blog article). For the average person this may seem lackluster or give off a “so what?” attitude at first glance. I wanted to share with the average person why these points matter in regards to their historical and cultural significance, and attempt to emphasize the skill/risk that is required to make such a point. I, like many others are often fascinated with the intricate designs and careful craftsmanship showed in the creation of Clovis tools. Often this leads many of us down various rabbit holes with some of us learning to make the points ourselves.

From a flintknapper’s perspective, we often admire the work of the Clovis people and those who are inspired to recreate their work(s) as the points are not easy to make. The reason behind this is due to one of the final steps in the creation of the point, the fluting. For those who do not know, fluting is a term used to describe the reduction or removal of material/mass from the base of a point. The issue with this technique is that in many cases the points are fluted on both sides and the flake removal scars from said fluting attempts reach halfway up the piece (requiring good material and a strong hit). With the amount of energy/force transferred to the piece from the bottom it is important to note that in some cases this can cause the tip of the piece to break and fly off from the shockwave.

To do a flute on one face is impressive, but two is over the top. There is most likely a good reason or two as to why the need for fluting the piece was beneficial despite the risk of breaking the point. The Clovis people are known for these unique fluted style lanceolate points averaging about 4 inches (10 cm) in length. It is important to note that though there are other designs similar to it, they are not the same. The Clovis people/culture have a rich history and it is interesting researching their history/legacy and sharing some of the love/appreciation that many have for this style of arrowhead and the creation of them. In the following paragraphs I intend to describe the history surrounding the people/culture (or what archeologist think they know currently), write about their lifestyle, who the descendants of the Clovis people are, what foods the relied on, and what happened to them.

1. History

First, I wanted to start off by describing the history of the Clovis people, or what we think we know about them as of 2024. The Clovis people were first considered to be “the first people/tribe” that crossed from Asia using the Bering land bridge (a giant sheet of ice which connected parts of Asia to what is now Alaska). This belief was based on the discovery of the first Clovis points in 1929 in Clovis, New Mexico.

Clovis styled points have been found all across North America from the East Coast to the West and all the way down to the Northern portion of South America. Archeologist estimate that Clovis styled points were only made for about 300 years from 13,050-12,750 years ago (approximately).  What is really known about the culture is based on the tools they left behind at various sites. Since rocks don’t decompose like other materials used in day to day life such as clothes, shoes, and wooden tools, it is hard to really get a full grasp of what their lifestyles are like.

What scientists can tell based on the information that is found is that the Clovis people were nomadic and that they relied on the killing/harvesting of large megafauna across the continent and the wild foods that were available to them. All of this information seems to make sense given the spread of the tools across what is now the United States and the evidence that is found at various caches, campsites, kill sites, as well as isolated discoveries.  

Here is a video from one of my favorite flintknappers making a beautiful Clovis point

2. Lifestyle

Like I previously mentioned, the Clovis people were hunter gatherer people based on the scattered findings of their tools given the time period. Agricultural communities were not yet established within North America (that we know of) as it was only within the last 4-5 thousand years or so that we begin to see things like the domestication of corn and other plants. Given that information it best assumed that people were moving with a variety of game species like the mammoth, although it is important to specify that they did not rely on big game for their sustenance.

As is common in human nature, adaptation to one’s situation/environment is crucial to survival meaning that if food, water, or resources were scarce you would simply just move to the next spot or discover a new pool of resources that could help sustain you and your people. Since we have very limited amounts of artifacts from this group of people it is hard to truly speculate what their day to day life was exactly like, though I would argue it wouldn’t be as different as we would imagine. The days were probably centered on chores such as food gathering/preparing, making clothes, collecting water, gathering resources for making things, tool creation/maintenance, and some recreation. Sure, all of those things looked a bit different than what we do today, but I am sure that in a few hundred years or so our legacy will seem to be a bit strange or interesting to the next generations.

3. Foods They Relied on

Although Clovis people lived hunter gatherer lifestyles, (like many other Native American tribes did here in the United States until the point of colonialism) it is hard to list everything that they could have eaten. There is some evidence that they did kill mammoths and used their tools to help butcher and process the meat, though it is noted that these observed kill sites are rare it is assumed that the Clovis people utilized a variety of small-medium sized game as well as this would most likely be easier for them to hunt or trap regularly. It is almost certain that they caught fish as well ate bugs and a variety of other plants/organisms though this is my own personal speculation based on what we as humans already do in modern times around the world.

4. Where Did They Go?

Since there is a lot of mystery surrounding the lifestyle and culture of the Clovis people, you may be wondering, “What happened to them if their culture does not exist anymore?” and the answer isn’t as simple as you may guess. For decades the disappearance of the Clovis people was a mystery. It was agreed upon that they did eventually make their way South over time leading to some believing that the Clovis people actually ran into other groups of people and kind of disbanded and were adopted into the various groups/cultures, leading to the end of production for Clovis styled points.

Personally, it seems like a similar situation that happened when the Neanderthals “vanished”. They didn’t really vanish; they just interbred with other humans/cultures and eventually assimilated to the new dominant culture. That being said, it is now noted that a vast majority of modern Native Americans do show genetic relation to the Clovis people. This opens up a whole new set of ideas/questions, but that is the purpose of archeology.

What is Their Legacy?

The legacy of the Clovis peoples is one that is surrounded in great mystery. Their legacy has changed so much within the last couple of decades. They went from being considered “the first Americans” to being known as one of the first groups of people making their way into the continent. They relied on their high level of craftsmanship and hunting skill to help them survive a dangerous and diverse landscape prior to the end of the ice age and the extinction of various charismatic megafauna due to a mixture of climate change and overhunting.

The discussion on the overkill hypothesis is a debate that could go on for pages and pages, but despite their lack of metal tools, combustion engines, and gun powder, these people were able to thrive in a tough world and explore a good amount of North America. All that is really left to show of their lifestyle is the tools that they utilized.


Even though the Clovis people were not the first people to make their way into the continent, to say that they had no impact on the landscape or didn’t accomplish much would be a lie. These people showed up about 13,000 years ago and relied on a diversity of game animals, plants, and other organisms to survive the harsh landscape. They traveled East, West, North, and South which allowed them to find great areas of flint/chert/obsidian quarry which allowed them to make their intricate spearheads.

As I mentioned earlier, the Clovis style of points were only made within a 300 year period indicating the possibility that there could be other groups that split off and migrated to different areas over time, though it seems the information surrounding this group is frequently changing and/or debated among academics. It is a hard subject to study because of the widespread conflicting information surrounding the subject. Regardless, I believe it is safe to say that the Clovis people are an interesting group of people that were able to work with little and still accomplish so much.

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