An investigation of Clovis caches: Content, function, and technological organization

by Kilby, J. David, Ph.D., THE UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO, 2008, 266 pages; 3329941

Abstract:

One of the most striking aspects of the Clovis period is the enigmatic caches that occur throughout the western United States. Clovis caches clearly convey an impressive degree of skill and artistry that often seems to set them apart from other Clovis assemblages, despite the fact that they reflect the same general technology. The fundamental characteristic that differentiates cache assemblages from other Clovis assemblages is that the artifacts from caches do not appear to have been abandoned because they were worn out or broken, but instead appear to have been removed from the system at earlier stages in their potential use-lives. For this reason, Clovis caches have more than aesthetic value; they provide a unique window into Clovis economy and lithic technology. Despite decades of research that incorporates cached Clovis material, little has been done toward systematically comparing these assemblages to one another and to other Clovis sites. The fundamental goals of this dissertation are to undertake such comparisons in order to ascertain the function(s) of caches and to develop a more complete understanding of their role in the organization of Clovis technology.

This dissertation investigates 22 assemblages proposed to be Clovis caches. Sixteen assemblages are identified as meeting both the criteria set forth to define a cache and to assign Clovis affiliation. These 16 Clovis caches are analyzed with regard to artifact form, remnant utility, evidence of use, lithic raw materials, cache context, and associated materials for comparison with specific expectations derived for cache functions identified through ethnographic and archaeological research. Comparable data from Clovis kill and camp sites are integrated with those from caches to determine the forms in which raw materials were transported and to estimate the relative economic value of individual Clovis caches.

The results of this dissertation indicate that no single function is sufficient to explain the existence of assemblages identified as Clovis caches. Clovis caches appear to have served a number of functions for those that placed them. The results do argue for a clear distinction between two primary functional classes: ritual and utilitarian caches. The afterlife cache is the single variety of ritual cache identified here. Utilitarian caches compare favorably to insurance, load exchange, and seasonal/passive gear. Geographic patterning in caches and cache functions further suggests that caching was adapted to meet regionally specific conditions, and was not utilized at all in some regions. Regional variation in cache function, along with trends in the movement of lithic raw material, are used to argue that Clovis caches are not associated with the process of colonization, but instead represent solutions to known environmental conditions.

Advisor
SchoolTHE UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsArchaeology; Native American studies
Publication Number3329941

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