Experimental use of Clovis weaponry and tools on African elephants

Author(s): George C Frison

Year: 1989


J. Whittaker: Clovis points used on culled elephants, observations on hafting and effectiveness, herd behavior and strategy. Hafted on wooden foreshaft socketed into mainshaft, spear weight 358-432 grams [very heavy for atlat - were they flexible or more like harpoon?], but heavier got better penetration. Penetration ends when larger shaft reaches hole, so long foreshaft better, but longer breaks more easily. A taper to socket fit for foreshaft worked well if tight; shoulder + plug broke, taper + plug ok but hard to make. Sinew and pitch in slotted foreshaft held points well, tight fit reduces breakage. Hafting needs to be thin for entry; Clovis flutes help. Points survived remarkably long use, one of five did not break (12 shots), others damaged and repaired. Tip damage most common. Rhus trilobata atlatl, with groove and integral hook, 62 cm long, rigid, no weight, 225 gm. Claims “3 decades of experimentation with atlatl and dart,” but reports problems with accuracy and trajectory in this experiment. [Wish he would write up his other atlatl experience.]

Atlatl thrown spear proved capable of inflicting mortal wounds on elephants: multiple successful hits, although lots that would not have killed too. Successful penetration of rib cage, 9-12 mm thick hide, into lung cavity at 15-20 m. Thrusting spear also successful. Hunter movement necessary in atlatl use might startle animal; other hunters to distract would help.

Butchering with biface thinning flakes. Main effort is cutting hide, quartzite more durable than chert. Dismembering is easy and may leave no marks on bone.

Elephant family groups are formidable; cooperative stalking of individuals most likely.

Cite this Record

Experimental use of Clovis weaponry and tools on African elephants. George C Frison. American Antiquity. 54 (4): 766-784. 1989 ( tDAR id: 416478)

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Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): EXARC Experimental Archaeology Collection Manager

Record Identifiers

ExArc Id(s): 2734


Rights & Attribution: The information in this record was originally compiled by Dr. Roeland Paardekooper, EXARC Director.