Paleo-Indian / Clovis Period (15,000 – 3,500 B.C)


Paleo-Indian Period, circa 15,000 to 3,500 B.C. is characterized by people living in small, widely scattered bands,hunting large grazing mammals such as mammoth and caribou in a park-tundra habitat, large browsing mammals such as mastodon, caribou, musk ox, moose, elk, etc. in a boreal habitat, and any small game or plant food that could be gathered. They had a small inventory of chipped stone tools with the fluted spear or javelin point as the principal item. They generally camped along large waterways1.

During this period, sea levels were several hundred feet lower than present and the continental shelf was exposed for a distance of about 100 kilometers. Mammoth and mastodon remains have been recovered by modern fishermen who commonly fish on waters between 20 to 120 meters in depth2. Montauk would have been a much larger piece of real estate at this time, extending well beyond its current bounds on all sides into the Atlantic Ocean.3


Clovis-Point-from-John-Strong-The-Alogonquian-Peoples-from-1700-pp-37 Paleo-Indian / Clovis Period (15,000 - 3,500 B.C) Jeremy Dennis On This Site
Clovis projectile point from the Paleo-Indian Period. Image from John Strong’s The Algonquian Peoples of Long Island from Earliest Times to the 1700s, pp. 37

During this period, the people  utilized full tailored skin clothing from seal skin and other local animals. They were nomadic, internal organs for storage containers, giant beaver, caribou, Inuit lifestyle for the ice conditions, Clovis-point spears used for hunting.

Clovis points are the most ancient type of stone projectile found in North America. The point is fluted around the edges with a central hollowed depression to accept the wooden spear shaft.4

Long Island Evidence

The Paleo-Indian Period marks the earliest evidence of human activity in what is now the town of East Hampton is a fluted spear point left behind near three mile Harbor by one of the Native American hunters. The distinctive flutes were chipped from the base of the point, perhaps to accommodate the haft of the spear. This style is named Clovis for the site near Clovis, New Mexico where fluted points were found among the bones of a mammoth. Such points have become an important time marker because the mammoth were extinct about 10,000 years ago. Unfortunately, we know very little about these people, who were probably traveling through following the game animals. The archaeological data suggests that the Clovis hunters lived in small bands of 25-50 people. With the gradual melting of the glaciers, a number of climatic changes began occurring between 10,000 and 5,000 years ago throughout the Northeast. The warming climate encouraged the northward growth of deciduous trees bearing a bountiful variety of protein-rich black walnuts, butternuts, and chestnuts. A rich supply of fruits, seeds, and nutritious roots expanded the food base. These changes in the environment stimulated cultural changes which mark the transition to the Archaic Period. 5

On Long Island, Paleoindian remains are usually limited to isolated surface finds consisting of fluted points belonging to the Clovis culture. At least fourteen isolated finds were recorded on the island, including the counties of Nassau, Suffolk, and Queens. Known locations include coastal areas as well as inland areas. Inland finds are usually on, or near, streams or large swamps. No Paleoindian sites or isolated finds are recorded from Montauk. The nearest evidence is from the Three Mile Harbor area. An isolated spear point was recorded along the west bank of Tan Bark Creek 6.3


paleo-and-archaic-artifacts-from-william-ritchie-ny-state-educational Paleo-Indian / Clovis Period (15,000 - 3,500 B.C) Jeremy Dennis On This Site
Artifacts Types of the Paleo-Indian Stage (a) and Archaic Stage (b to r). From William Ritchie NY State Educational Leaflet, pp. 9

Paleo-Indian Sites

  1. Ritchie 1980: 1-30; Ritchie and Funk 1973: 6-36, 333-336[]
  2. Saxon in Stone-Levine 1978:252; Edwards and Emery in Truex 1982: 16-18[]
  3. Alfred G. Cammisa, Ten Thousand Years of Land Use at Fort Pond: A Portage Haven Phase III Data Recovery Excavations of the Payne Site Montauk, 2008, pp. 8[][]
  4. David MArtine, Shinnecock History Timeline, pp. 1[]
  5. John Strong, from Transcript of Indians of Eastern Long Island Lecture, 2002[]
  6. Saxon in Stone-Levine 1978:251-262[]