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Site Name:
Site No.:
Research focus:
Paleoindian (9500-8800 B.C.)

Broken Clovis point from the Adams site (Sanders 1983:140). 
Broken Clovis point from the
Adams site (Sanders 1983:140).


The Adams site is located in Christian County close to the town of Hopkinsville. This site rests on a low hill along the margin of a large sinkhole not far from the Little River. It covers about 3 acres. Adams and several nearby sites represent Paleoindian stone tool quarry/workshops. The Adams site possesses clear evidence of Paleoindian groups who made Clovis (fluted) projectile points. They came to this area to access the high quality chert they needed to make their stone tools. It is one of the few known exclusively Paleoindian Clovis sites in the eastern United States.

No excavations have ever been carried out at the Adams site - what we know about it comes exclusively from the artifacts collected from the site surface by professional and avocational archaeologists in the late 1970s. An abundance of chert and a well-watered landscape featuring a number of natural ponds and swales in limestone sinkholes made the area attractive to these people. Analysis of the materials recovered from this site has contributed to our understanding of Paleoindian chipped stone tool technologies

Clovis point found in Webster County, Kentucky
Clovis point found in Webster County, Kentucky.

Why Here?

The Adams site was an intensive encampment. People selected it because a major exposure of high quality Saint Genevieve (Ste. Gen) chert was located in this spot. This chert is particularly well-suited to manufacture large spear points. Paleoindian peope used the Adams site as a base camp to make and haft Clovis points (used for hunting), as well as scrapers that were used for a variety of domestic activities.

Although a wide variety of cherts were available in the region, Paleoindian groups in southwestern Kentucky preferred only the best: a black to light grey or white fine-grained chert that occurs as 1to 8 inch spherical nodules (ball shaped rocks) or 2 to 12 inch thick layers or beds in the relatively soft Ste. Gen limestone. Nodules can be pried out of the rock using tools, or collected from the bed of the Little River. Not all the nodules contain good quality chert - flaws may exist in the form of small empty spaces lined with tiny quartz crystals - so a nodule must be “proofed” or cracked open to find out if it is suitable for making Clovis points. Ste. Gen chert is very nearly the best chert available in all of Kentucky - and the very best they could find in this region was right next to the Adams site in the limestone outcrop and in the Little River.

Paleoindians came  to the Adams site to make stone tools out of this special chert. They would have had to walk only a short distance to exploit river gravels or bedrock exposures for nodules. They carried most nodules directly to their workstation without even preparing the nodule to be worked in the riverbed.

Paleoindian Cumberland projectile point from Wayne County, Kentucky. 

Cumberland projectile point from Wayne County, Kentucky.

Stone Tools

The Adams site toolmakers produced a diversity of stone tools. Most were end- or side-scrapers, but they also produced exotic-sounding tools, too: spokeshaves, gravers, beaks, burins, denticulates. They are defined as follows:

Spokeshave: specialized scraping tool, designed for use against a convex surface like a spoke or shaft. So working edge is concave. Can have multiple concavities on a tool.

Graver: an incising tool–a small sharp spur

Beaks: resemble gravers, but a larger, thicker, and more elaborately formed.

Burin: chisel-like cutting edge.

Denticulate: has irregular multiple serrations


Most of the artifacts from Adams are bifaces and prismatic blades. Adams is one of the best sites in eastern North America for documenting the importance of blade manufacturing. When raw chert nodules were shaped for blade removal, a great deal of coarse debris was generated. They did not waste this debris. They adapted these spalls as scrapers and scraping-planes (rabots), or were used to manufacture fluted points and unfluted ovate bifaces used as knives. Also recovered were blade cores. The exhausted cores are often bullet- or cone-shaped.

These cores are evidence of economizing decisions. For instance, decisions were made to make prismatic blades from carefully prepared conical- or bullet-shaped cores. Elsewhere in eastern North America, where chert is in short supply, these types of blades were not produced.

Cores had to be a certain shape in order to make blades that were narrow and long enough for the tools that they needed. Wooden, bone, antler, and ivory handles and sockets in which these tools were mounted likely took as much or more time to make than the stone tools themselves. Then more labor was required to find and make cements and binding materials.

Spokeshave from Ezell from
Spokeshave from nearby Ezell site

Side- and end-scraper (Sanders 1983:178).
A good example of side-
and end-scraper found
at the Adams site (Sanders 1983:178).

A good examples of beaks.
A good example a "beaks" from the Adams site (Sanders 1983:184).

What's Cool? Economics

Adams shows that the true art of the Clovis flintknapper and the true test of economizing behavior lay in making a supply of long implements that would endure much use. Other groups did not have this issue, because raw materials of long size were available. Clovis knappers at Adams use alternative strategies to produce the long tool blanks. They made rational economizing decisions and adapted their lithic reduction strategies to the natural habit of the raw material.

Clovis tool kits everywhere are the same, but ways to produce them were not. Clovis knappers were highly adaptable and creative, able to cope with their local situation. Ste. Gen chert tends to occur as spherical nodes with thick rind or cortex. It was challenging to produce long tool blanks. The solution was to prepare conical cores and make long tool blanks (prismatic blades). An economizing strategy for yielding a maximum number of tool blanks of the kind required in the Clovis tool kit.

As the first to exploit resources at Adams, one might think that Paloindians did not have to economize. But inspection of workshop debris shows how very little good usable stone was discarded, how manufacturing failures were converted to new tools, and that raw material was used judiciously.

Clovis core and blade from the Little River area from
Clovis core and blade
from the Little River area



1983, Sanders, Thomas Nolan, The Manufacture of Chipped Stone Tools at a Paleo-Indian site in Western Ketucky.  Masters Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Kentucky.  Copies on file at W. T. Young Library, and Office of State Archaeology.

1988, Thomas N. Sanders,The Adams Site: A Plaeoindian Manufacturing and Habitation site in Christian County, Kentucky In Paleoindian and Archaic Research in Kentucky, edited by Charles D. Hockensmith, David Pollack, and Thomas N. Sanders, pp. 1-24.  Kentucky Heritage Council, Frankfort.

1988, Sara L. Sanders, A Preliminary Study of the Adams Site Bifaces Using a Descriminant Analytical Approach. In Paleoindian and Archaic Research in Kentucky, edited by Charles D. Hockensmith, David Pollack, and Thomas N. Sanders, pp. 25-42. Kentucky Heritage Council, Frankfort.

Paleoindian Chapter:  The Archaeology of Kentucky: An update - Volume 1



Last Updated 5/7/2013