Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 9, Issue 8, pp 1799–1823 | Cite as

The northern fluted point complex: technological and morphological evidence of adaptation and risk in the late Pleistocene-early Holocene Arctic

  • Heather L. SmithEmail author
  • Thomas J. DeWitt
Original Paper


Analyses of fluted point technology and Paleoindian technological risk have contributed to our understanding of human adaptation across North America in the late Pleistocene and early Holocene. However, poor chronological control has dissuaded similar studies of fluted points found in Alaska and northern Yukon and our understanding of their adaptive role in early arctic adaptations remains unclear. Two new archeological sites have provided reliable radiocarbon data and for the first time, a comprehensive analysis of northern fluted points is possible. Here, technological and morphological analyses of northern fluted points are presented, including variables statistically evaluated and compared to a collection of fluted Folsom artifacts serving as a reference. Variation in tool shape was measured using geometric morphometrics, and a new approach to landmark placement designed to characterize basal morphology and allow the analysis to include tool fragments is presented. Results confirm that northern fluted points represent a cohesive technological strategy and are used to formulate hypotheses suggesting its service as a risk-management system promoting ease-of-replacement-after-failure to offset transport costs and reduce risk during long-distance travel.


Fluted projectile points Late Paleoindian Geometric morphometrics Arctic archeology Technological risk 



This research was funded by a National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant (Goebel and Smith, grant number 204085, Arctic Social Sciences program) and a Texas A&M University Liberal Arts Dissertation Fellowship. Access to archeological collections was graciously provided by Jeff Rasic, Sam Coffman, Scott Shirar, and Jim Whitney at the Museum of the North, University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Mike Kunz and Bill Hedman at the Bureau of Land Management, Fairbanks, Alaska; Bob Gal, Jeanne Schaaf, and Jane Lakeman at the National Park Service, Anchorage, Alaska; Dennis Stanford, Pegi Jodry, and Joe Gingerich at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C.; Marcel Kornfeld, Todd Surovell, George Frison, and Nicole Waguespack at the Frison Institute of Archeology and Anthropology and University of Wyoming Anthropology, Laramie, Wyoming; Stacey Girling-Christy and Terrence Clark at the Canadian Museum of History (Civilization), Gatineau, Quebec; and Ted Goebel, Michael Waters, Kelly Graf, and Christel Cooper at the Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University Anthropology, College Station, Texas. Sincere thanks to Bob Gal, Jeanette Koelsch, Fred Tocktoo, and Mike Holt at the National Park Service, Alaska, for their assistance in facilitating excavations at Serpentine Hot Springs, as well as Jeff Rasic, Michael Kunz, Bob Gal, Eugene Gryba, Richard Reanier, Bill Hedman, Dennis Stanford, Michael Bever, Danny Welch, John Blong, Angela Younie, and Chris Klingenberg for advice and discussion on researching fluted point technology. We are most appreciative of Ted Goebel, Kelly Graf, Michael Waters, and David Carlson for providing extensive comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. We are very grateful to Michael O’Brien and an anonymous reviewer for their suggestions, which immeasurably improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the Study of the First Americans, Department of AnthropologyTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  2. 2.Department of Wildlife and Fisheries SciencesTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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