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CUMBERLAND POINTS
PALEO-INDIAN
EASTERN UNITED STATES
EST. 10,500 TO 13,000 YEARS AGO
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COPYRIGHT OCTOBER 31, 2007 PETER A. BOSTROM
15 Cumberland points, eastern United States.
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CUMBERLAND POINTS
ALABAMA, ILLINOIS, KENTUCKY, TENNESSEE
PRIVATE COLLECTIONS

   This picture shows 15 Cumberland points from several different states. They illustrate the variation in size for this rare fluted point type. The smallest point at top is from Kentucky and may represent a miniature point used on a child's spear. The largest point is from Tennessee and illustrates the high end for size, although larger examples have been reported. Eight of these points are from the Trinity cache that was discovered in a cultivated field in Lewis County, Kentucky. The point with the missing base, upper left side, is from the Phil Stratton site in Kentucky. The second largest point at the top is from Logan County Illinois and represents a rare example from this state. Other examples on the bottom row are---fourth example from left is from Tennessee, the sixth one from left is from Colbert County, Alabama and the seventh one from the left was found near Florence, Alabama. The smallest point measures 1 1/2 inches (3.8 cm) long and the largest point measures approximately 7 1/8 inches (18.1 cm) long.

    Cumberland points are described as medium to large lanceolate points that are thick with recurved blade edges and expanding bases. They have concave bases with basal corners that are "eared" and stem edges that are ground. The flutes often extend the full length of one side of the point. Some rare examples are not fluted at all. Cumberland points are considered to be spear points that were probably propelled through the air with an atlatl.


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CUMBERLAND POINT MADE ON BLADE
SOUTHEASTERN UNITED STATES
PRIVATE COLLECTION

     This point is remarkable for the fact that it was made on a core blade. The edge view clearly shows the flat surface on one side. This side actually has a small flute or thinning flake that measures 3/8 inch (9 mm) long. It's a rare occurrence when a Cumberland point does not show a flute. The other side has a simple narrow flute measuring 1 1/4 inches (3.2 cm) long. There is no provenience for this point. This Cumberland point is made of Saint Genevieve chert and it measures 4 5/16 inches (11 cm) long and 5/16 inch (7 mm) thick.

    Cumberland points are exceptionally thick. In fact, they stand out from all other fluted points as the thickest. These lanceolate shaped points are sometimes compared to Folsom points because of their long flutes. But in size and thickness it's remarkable how different they are even though both were used to hunt very large animals.

Cumberland point from Tennessee.
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CUMBERLAND POINT
BEAR SPRINGS, TENNESSEE
FLOYD RITTER COLLECTION

     This Cumberland point is remarkable to its fine edge work. Most Cumberland points have courser pressure flaked edges, although usually well done, than the really fine work this point received. This point was found sometime before 1958 when it was published in a Central States Archaeological Journal. It is reported to have been found along the banks of the Cumberland River near the town of Bear Springs, Tennessee. This point measures approximately 7 1/8 inches (18.1 cm) long.

    Cumberland points are most impressive and famous for their long flutes. A good number of them are fluted more than half the length of the point. Many of them are fluted the full length of the point. Of all the different types of fluted points found in North, South and Central America, Cumberland points have, on the average, much longer flutes than any other type. Perino writes that, "In order to strike off the long, narrow, fluting flakes, the point was made thick, narrow and diamond-shaped in cross-section. This created a median ridge necessary to carry the lengthy flute to completion."

Small Cumberland point from Logan County, Illinois.
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CUMBERLAND POINT
LOGAN COUNTY, ILLINOIS
PRIVATE COLLECTION

     This Cumberland point was found several years ago by Loren Cotton in a cultivated field near the town of Atlanta in Logan County, Illinois. Cumberland points have not been reported from Illinois. This point was found a good distance from the main area of distribution, which is in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and southern Ohio.
    This Cumberland point has seen a lot of use. It was resharpened one or more times and the damaged base has been repaired, a process which may have removed the ears. Both sides are fluted approximately two-thirds the length of the point. This Cumberland point is made of a good quality chert that has not been identified. It measures 2 inches (5.7 cm) long.
 

   Modern flintknappers have used all kinds of techniques to flute Cumberland points. "Swoose's" technique is one of the more interesting. He squeezes the point in between a forked limb, putting pressure against the point and a platform on the base. He then taps the flat surface of the base near the platform until the flute detaches.

Cumberland point, base repair attempt.
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CUMBERLAND POINT
(RE-BASE REPAIR ATTEMPT)
PHIL STRATTON SITE
LOGAN COUNTY, KENTUCKY
PRIVATE COLLECTION

     This damaged Cumberland point was found on the Phil Stratton Cumberland site in Logan Co., Kentucky. An attempt to repair the base is indicated by a small platform that is located on the center of the base but was never developed enough to be of much use. For some reason the attempt to rebase this point was abandoned. This point measures 4 inches long.
    The Phil Stratton site is a closed or single-component encampment of the Cumberland archaeological culture. Completed fluted projectile points, point preforms, a variety of scrapers and utilized flakes, most made on prismatic blades, have been found there. The Phil Stratton site occupies a bluff above a ford across the meandering Red River, here deeply entrenched within limestone, and may have been an ideal place to intercept game. Gravels of the Red River also supplied tool-stone to Cumberland knappers, who left thousands of flakes.

    The best examples of Cumberland points are very impressive for the craftsman's skill and technology that was used to make them. Only a very few modern day flintknappers can made a good Cumberland point. Dan Theus is one example. Cumberland people used core and blade technology to make a wide variety of different types of tools, like scrapers, gravers and perforators. One of the Cumberland points in this article was actually made on a blade, just as a large Clovis point from the Anzick Clovis cache was also made on a blade. Core and blade technology became well established in Europe during the Aurignacian period between 34,000 and 29,000 years ago.

Cumberland point from Colbert County, Alabama.
CUMBERLAND POINT
COLBERT COUNTY, ALABAMA
CHARLEY MOORE COLLECTION

     This Cumberland point was found by Bob Lacks in Colbert County, Alabama in 1963. It's one of the best examples ever found. It was discovered eroding out of a yellow-brown clay bank approximately six feet below ground level. This Cumberland point is made of Fort Payne chert and measures 6 1/16 inches long.

     Some of the mysteries that have surrounded Cumberland points for so long are now only recently beginning to be understood. Their tool kit is seen for the first time from excavations of the Phil Stratton site. Also, what may have been a cultural tradition, a cache of Cumberland points were recently discovered for the first time on the Trinity site. It's obvious that Cumberland people liked to use large points to tip their spears and they used blade technology. A Cumberland knapper would have impressed any of the Old World Aurignacian flintknappers. The ability to demonstrate the manufacture of a long fluted Cumberland point is an illustration of Core and blade technology at it's best.

"REFERENCES"

1958, Love, C. T., Central States Archaeological Journal, "Cumberland Fluted Spearhead, Figure 75," p. 136.
1970
, Bell, Robert E., Guide To The Identification Of Certain American Indian Projectile Points, "Cumberland Points," p. 22.

1985, Perino, Gregory, Selected Preforms, Points And Knives Of The North American Indians, Vol. 1, "Cumberland," p. 94.

1987, Justice, Noel D., Stone Age Spear And Arrow Points of the Midcontinental And Eastern United States, " Cumberland Cluster," p. 25.
1988, Tattersall, Ian, Delson, Eric, Couvering, John Van, Encyclopedia Of Human Evolution And Prehistory, "Aurignacian," p. 63.

1991, Wilke, Philip J., Flenniken, J. Jeffrey, Ozbun, Terry, Journal Of California And Great Basin Anthropology, "Clovis Technology At The Anzick Site, Montana," p. 257.
1992, Deller, D. Brian, Ellis, Christopher J., Thedford II, A Paleo-Indian Site In The Ausable River Watershed Of Southwestern Ontario.
1994, Funk, Robert E., Steadman, David W., Archaeological And Paleoenvironmental Investigations In The Dutchess Quarry Caves, Orange County, New York, "The Dutchess Quarry Cave No. 8, Artifacts," pp. 15 & 101
.
1999, Gramly, Richard Michael, The Amateur Archaeologist, Kentucky, "A Cumberland Point Site Near Trinity, Lewis County, Northern Kentucky," p. 83.
2005, Patten, Bob, "Peoples Of The Flute, A Study In Anthropolithic Forensics, p. 230.

2007
, Personal communications with Mike Gramly.
2007, Personal communications with Dennis Vesper.

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