Central States Archaeological Societies
Central States Archaeological Societies

A CUMBERLAND PREFORM: FLUTING 101

 Leroy Irons

   

Gallatin, Tennessee

     It was about 1991, and Wayne Kaiser of Dickson, Tennessee, was working as a landscaper. He was delivering topsoil to two different yards in the area. At the first yard, he dumped his load and found the broken tip of a Cumberland point. He found the base of the point while raking out the second load of topsoil at his second delivery. (I am wondering if the flute might have been there as well).

    The two pieces together are 6 1/4 inches long. The base of this Cumberland is 4 inches in length. The tip is 3 1/4 inches long. What makes this broken Cumberland so interesting is that there is 1-inch overlap where the flute hinged off and destroyed the point during the knapping process. I can only imagine what this Paleo American might have said when he cast the two now-worthless pieces of flint to the ground. He had chosen his material well, using Fort Payne chert as a lithic resource. The point today is heavily patinated. One side of the point is relatively flat with percussion flaking over its entire length. The other (fluted side) was collaterally flaked from the base to the tip with a distinct median ridge. The tip of the blade was left at 5/16 of an inch wide to provide extra strength when he stood the point on the tip to make the final fluting strike.

    While this Cumberland in its broken state does not have the esthetic beauty of some of the finished pieces I have seen, it still has something to offer the observer. It is undoubtedly one of the finest examples illustrating the method used to manufacture a fluted point.

    Now for a little education. The Cumberland point as a style was first documented by Lewis in 1954. It was described as having a fishtailed base with delicate ears unlike more generalized fluted types. The basic shape of a Cumberland is trianguloid with excurvate blade, recurved edges at the haft which are typically heavily ground, and a concave base. The maximum blade width is above the hafting area. Cumberland points are narrow relative to length, but are generally thicker in cross section to facilitate the fluting which often ran the entire length of the blade on one or both sides of the blade. The fluting technique more closely resembles that of the Folsom point rather than the earlier Clovis. The Cumberland is clearly a Paleo period artifact and dates to about 10000 BC. The distribution of this point type encompasses most of the Eastern United States and extends all the way up to the Great Lakes region, with the highest numbers still occurring in the Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama area along the Tennessee and Cumberland River drainages. REFERENCES Justice, Noel 1987, Stone Age Spear and Arrow Points of the Midcontinental and Eastern United States. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana. Perino, Gregory 1985, Selected Preforms, Points and Knives of the North American Indians. Volume 1. Idabel, Oklahoma

 

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