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Folsom Culture

Early Paleoindian Bison Hunters


Folsom Point (no provenience)

Folsom Point (no provenience)

In the public domain

Folsom is the name given to early Paleoindian hunter-gatherers of the North American continent, ca. 9,000-10,500 years ago. Although still not precisely dated, Folsom is considered slightly later than Clovis, the original big game hunters of North America.

The Folsom type site is a bison kill site, in Wild Horse Arroyo near the town of the Folsom, New Mexico. It was famously discovered in 1908 by the African-American cowboy George McJunkins, although stories vary. Folsom was excavated in the 1920s by Jesse Figgins and reinvestigated in the 1990s by Southern Methodist University, led by David Meltzer. The site has evidence that 32 bison were trapped and killed at Folsom; radiocarbon dates on the bones indicated an average of 10,500 RCYBP.

Identified as big-game hunters at sites such as Lubbock Lake (Texas), Blackwater Draw (New Mexico) and Cooper (Oklahoma), Folsom culture is thought to represent highly mobile, specialized bison hunters.

Folsom points are strong but elegant projectile points that have been finished by flaking long thin blades from the centers.


Ahler, Stanley A. and Phil R. Geib 2000 Why flute? Folsom point design and manufacture. Journal of Archaeological Science 27:799-820.

Balakrishnan, Meena, Crayton J. Yapp, David J. Meltzer, and James L. Theler 2005 Paleoenvironment of the Folsom archaeological site, New Mexico, USA, approximately 10,500 14C yr BP as inferred from theh stable isotope composition of fossil land snail shells. Quaternary Research 63:31-44.

Bamforth, Douglas R. 2002 High-tech foragers? Folsom and later Paleoindian technology on the Great Plains. Journal of World Prehistory 16(1):55-98.

Buchanan, Briggs 2006 An analysis of Folsom projectile point resharpening using quantitative comparisons of form and allometry. Journal of Archaeological Science 33(2):185-199.

Holliday, Vance T. and Eileen Johnson 1986 Reevaluation of the first radiocarbon age for the Folsom culture. American Antiquity 51(2):332-338.

McDonald, Douglas H. 1999 Modeling Folsom mobility, mating strategies, and technological organization in the Northern Plains. Plains Anthropologist 44(68):141-161.

Meltzer, David J., Lawrence C. Todd, and Vance T. Holliday 2002 The Folsom (Paleoindian) Type Site: Past investigations. American Antiquity 67(1):5-36.

This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

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