Who Were the Clovis People?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The Clovis people were early settlers in the Americas who lived somewhere between 12,000 BCE and 9,000 BCE, with estimates varying depending on the region. Clovis culture is estimated to have lasted around 1,000 years, and the presence of many artifacts across the Americas suggests that these Paleoindian people were once very widely distributed, indicating that their culture was very successful.

The Clovis people hunted, killed, and ate mammoths.
The Clovis people hunted, killed, and ate mammoths.

Also called the Llano culture, the term “Clovis” comes from the site where artifacts from these people were first discovered, in the state of New Mexico. While artifacts had been found around Clovis for generations, serious work began in the 1950s, when the people acquired their name and various techniques were used to try and date their culture.

For some time, it was believed that the Clovis people were the first Americans. Substantial evidence has surfaced to belie this claim, however, including finds which are much older and obviously not related to this culture. It is more likely that they were simply one among many native people, and that they managed to develop an enduring culture and technology that spread before vanishing abruptly, for reasons unknown.

The defining characteristic of the culture is a specialized spearhead known as a Clovis point. Clovis points have a unique fluted design, and they are sharpened on both sides. At sites where these spearheads have been discovered, archaeologists have also found evidence of the meals that these people ate. They ate a wide variety of animals and plants, from mammoths to grasses, and the evidence suggests that they were accomplished big game hunters.

The Clovis people were probably intelligent, enterprising, and very culturally advanced, according to all of the finds that have been made so far. They were obviously skilled hunters, and they appear to have bred plants for specific needs. They also developed unique technology that allowed them to create specialized cutting tools, including their famous spearheads.

The disappearance of these people is almost interesting as their appearance, in the eyes of some archaeologists, because no one knows why they vanished. Some historians theorize that they experienced a miniature ice age, which caused climate change dramatic enough to alter their lifestyles. It is also possible that disease and other social pressures arose as the Clovis people multiplied, and the animals they hunted may have experienced pressures of their own, which led to a drastic decrease in population.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


The oldest piece of construction in North America is in Texas. 13,000 years ago, the Clovis people built a floor of stone in a muddy rock shelter to try and make a comfortable living space. Some archaeologists found it buried under layers of dirt in Kincaid Rockshelter.


I think the emergence and study of the clovis people is very important to the true understanding of all cultures, we all depend on our ancestors for our physicality of our body forms and genetic inheritances. the more we know of the Clovis people the more we can learn of ourselves. this was an excellent article but I hope to learn even more.

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