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Clovis points from Marion County

Marion County Paleoindian Points

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Kentucky Archaeological Survey
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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Paleoindian groups were among the first people in Kentucky.  Archaeologists think these groups made their way to Marion County by traveling along river valleys.  These groups may have been attracted to the Ohio Valley initially by the high-quality cherts available near the Falls of the Ohio.

Once there, groups may have traveled along the Salt River until they reached the Beech Fork and Rolling Fork river valleys.  Upon arriving in the upper reaches of both valleys, they stopped and began to collect plants and hunt animals within the tributary valleys and across the upland ridgetops that border both rivers.  

Available data suggest that these earliest Paleoindian immigrants​ very rapidly colonized all environmental zones within Marion County.  However, it is also possible that earlier peoples - pre-Clovis groups - were already there when the fluted point tradition people​​ made their way into central Kentucky.​

Clovis spear points.


​Archaeologists divide Paleoindian-era spear points from central Kentucky sites into two broad categories: fluted and unfluted. 

Fluted points are generally long, lanceolate-shaped, and unnotched. They have distinctive flutes on both faces. Archaeologists assign these points to one of three types: Clovis, Gainey, and Cumberland.  Clovis points tend to predate Gainey and Cumberland points.

Unfluted points post-date fluted points and are generally smaller. Archaeologists classify them into one of four types:  Quad, Beaver Lake, Dalton, and Hardaway.

Fluted Paleoindian spear points: from left to right - two Gainey and two Cumberland examples.

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​Raw Material Use

By looking at the raw materials used to make chipped stone tools, archaeologists can often learn about how groups moved across the landscape.  Some archaeologists define "locally available" raw material sources as those that are within 4 miles of a site. Sources located from 4 to 40 miles away are considered "nonlocal," and resources located more than 40 miles away are considered "exotics."  

When archaeologists looked at the distribution of Paleoindian points from sites in Marion County, they found that most of the early Paleoindian points were made from high-quality nonlocal or exotic cherts from areas such as the Falls of the Ohio River.  But when they looked at the unfluted points, they found that most were made from locally available cherts.  

This change in chert use may reflect an increase in the area's population and evidence for ​Native groups moving within smaller territories.  Perhaps by the end of the Paleoindian period, some groups had taken up permanent residence in the upper reaches of the Rolling Fork and Beech Fork drainages.

Unfluted Paleoindian spear points: from left to right - Beaver Lake,  Quad, Hardaway, and Dalton examples.

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