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Authentic Clovis points in private & museum collections.

by Col. John F. Berner, Roswell, Georgia

     It has been estimated by professional archaeologists in United States that the average flint knapper can produce about 500 to 2500 flint reproductions per year. With more than 500 active knappers throughout the 48 states, that equates to about 25,000 to 125,000 new reproductions every year. Unfortunately with 167 “authenticators” at present, about 10,000 to 20,000 COA’s are also produced to accompany this spurious inventory.

     It is fact that authentic Clovis points identified and registered throughout our 48 states is limited to12,790 specimens. And they average approximately 2 1/2” to 3” in length.   

68 percent of which have been discovered east of the Mississippi River; including over 

1000 in Northern Alabama along the drainage of the Tennessee River. The balance of Clovis points known have been documented in the Western states including Minnesota. Erosion and human expansion continue to uncover remnants of the past, but numbers of discovery continue to decline.

     The significance? Desire to own a piece of our ancient past continues to drive the authentic collector market with increasing values. And the reproduction market for attractive colorful and significantly large Clovis type projectiles continues to escalate.

     Regarding the availability of colorful Clovis type projectiles, it can be proven that ancient Paleo makers did not heat treat their tool stone. Heat treating is a physical method that produces strong vibrant colors in flint projectiles. Paleo people sought the highest qualities of raw materials to fashion their weapons, choosing flint and chert that is mundane in color. For example, in the midwest quality white burlington flint chosen for ancient Clovis is always the highest grade, as is the popular gray hornstone from Illinois and Indiana and Kentucky.

     One of the foremost identifiers of authentic Clovis specimens was the late Gregory Perino who published 3 volumes identifying varieties of flint types, each specimen carefully documented and hand illustrated. Large and fine collector specimens exhibited in publications and elsewhere with exotic coloration and workmanship were nowhere to be found. Why ?

     A particular “authenticator/dealer” currently on the web always features a dozen and a half large Clovis types of colorful material; available at bargain prices; most are seriously suspect!

     Another prominent authenticator COA’d an unusual huge fluted point of a size never before seen; proclaiming it exhibited three layers of patina. Would not each successive layer have covered the previous layer?

     An authenticator from the west now authenticates any form of stone world wide; as well as Florida types, midwestern types,etc. Would it be a good idea for him to visit a few regional collectors and study some of their field specimens?  

Just in case the idea of 4”, 5” and 6” plus Clovis points are not a serious concern; think how many appeared in the Payne collection of the 1930’s. That included 8 railroad box cars of artifacts, still some of which is being sold today!

     In case we forgot, the majority of marketable large and pretty Clovis types are generally without blemish; obviously they were lost before usage? And no nicks or damage!

     If we were to hypothesize, just what percentage of large, fine colorful Clovis in the market are authentic, real and ancient? It’s mere speculation but we would like to think less than 10%! Then perhaps we would like to ask you, just how many authentic ones do you think are in your collection or your local museum display?