Central States Archaeological Societies
Central States Archaeological Societies

A Knife River Flint Clovis Point from St. Charles County, Missouri

Matthew G. Hall and Larry Van Gorden, Department of Anthropology

Central States Archaeological Societies 2005 April Journal

Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa


The presence of several Clovis artifacts manufactured from Knife River Flint near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers represents a subtle yet interesting pattern in the Early Paleoindian record of the Mid-continent (Tankersley 1991). We strengthen this pattern by reporting that another Knife River Flint Clovis projectile point from the area has come to light recently (Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1. Map showing the location of the St. Charles County, Missouri in relation to the Knife River flint quarries in North Dakota.


History of Discovery and Provenance

The point was acquired in 2001 by the junior author at an auction in Winterset, Iowa. Unfortunately, little is known about its history of discovery, and our efforts to track down the previous owner(s) have dead ended. We hope this note eventually reaches somebody who recognizes it and is able to provide us with additional details on its discovery, provenance, and previous ownership. Currently, the only clue about where the point was found is written on a hole-punch reinforcement label stuck to its surface (Figure 2). In very faded blue ink, it reads, 'St. Chas. Co.,' which we interpret as referring to St. Charles County, Missouri, the only county with that name in the United States. The presence of several other Knife River Flint artifacts in the St. Louis area (Tankersley 1991) would seem to substantiate our claim that this is reliable documentation of the specimen's provenance.


Based on its overall morphology and discrete technological attributes, the specimen is comfortably classified as a Clovis point (Howard 1990). It is lanceolate in outline and lenticular in cross-section. Each face displays irregular (random) percussion thinning, pressure edge trimming, and a single, well-defined flute. Lateral and basal grinding is also present. The maximum length is 86 mm. The maximum width is 30 mm, which occurs 48 mm from the base. The maximum thickness is 7 mm at 67 mm from the base. The specimen weighs 22.6 grams. High ridges on both faces are clearly rounded or dulled, perhaps suggestive of transport (bag wear); however, this modification could also be due to how the specimen was handled or stored by its previous owner(s).

As noted above, the specimen is made from Knife River Flint. While nodules of this raw material occur secondarily in the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and in regional glacial gravels, these 'pieces seldom exceed 5 cm in maximum dimension' (Morrow 1994:128), thus making the possibility of local manufacture unlikely. More probable is that either the finished point or the point preform was made at the Knife River Flint quarries in west-central North Dakota where substantial toolstone is abundant (Clayton et al. 1980), a straight-line distance of 1500 kilometers northwest from St. Charles County, Missouri.

Figure 2. Knife River flint Clovis found in St. Charles County, Missouri. Line drawings by Erik Otarola-Castillo.



This specimen is the third Knife River Flint Clovis reported from the St. Louis area, the other two being those reported by Tankersley (1991) from St. Louis (Figure1). Of particular interest is that all three specimens are in near pristine condition. Although well beyond the scope of this note, we suggest that a productive avenue for further research would be an assessment of the role of watercraft in long distance movement of chipped stone artifacts, specifically Paleoindian adaptations to the Mid-continent generally (sensu Engelbrecht and Seyfert 1994).

We thank the various specialists who examined and commented on the specimen at the 60th (2002) Plains Anthropological Conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, as well as the individuals we contacted in trying to piece together its history. Jeremy Sherman and Erik Otarola-Castillo prepared the line illustrations.

References Cited
Clayton, Lee, W.B.Bickley, Jr., and W.J. Stone
1980 Knife River Flint. Plains Anthropologist 15:282-290.Engelbrecht, William E., and Carl K. Seyfert
1994 Paleoindian Watercraft: Evidence and Implications. North American Archaeologist

Howard, Calvin D.
1990 The Clovis Point: Characteristics and Type Description. Plains Anthropologist 35:255-262.

Morrow, Toby A.
1994 A Key to the Identification of Chipped-Stone Raw Materials Found on Archaeological Sites in Iowa. Journal of the Iowa Archaeological Society. 41:108-129.

Tankersley, Kenneth B.
1991 A Geoarchaeological Investigation of the Distribution and Exchange in the Raw Material Economies of Clovis Groups in Eastern North America. In Raw Material Economies among Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherers, edited by Anta Monet-White and Steven R. Holen, pp 285-303 University of Kansas, Publications in Anthropology 19. Lawrence.

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