Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

David G. Anderson

Committee Members

Gerald Schroedl, Kandace Hollenbach, Boyce Driskell, Sally Horn


This dissertation provides a detailed analysis of the lithic materials from the presumed pre Clovis deposits at the Topper Site (38AL23), a Paleoindian quarry and stone tool manufacture site in Allendale County South Carolina, U.S.A. Prior research at Topper identified flakes and possible chipped stone tools from Pleistocene-aged sediments that predate Clovis, traditionally considered the earliest culture complex in the region. The goal of this study is to document the nature of the pre Clovis assemblage at Topper, and to explore possible ways it may have formed. Did human or natural processes play a role in the production of a bend break assemblage, and does the occurrence of flakes from the lower deposits reflect a legitimate pre Clovis occupation, or the product of displacement from the overlying sediments? Lithic items from a sample of mapped and screened materials were examined for this study. Technological and experimental analyses were conducted to differentiate between the attributes of human and natural agency.

The Clovis and pre Clovis assemblages are composed of different frequencies of debitage and tool categories and reflect dissimilar reductive technologies. Technological attributes consistent with human agency were identified on bend breaks. This evidence supports the proposition that bend breaks were used as expedient tools and therefore served a functional role for pre Clovis occupants at Topper.

The experimental analyses demonstrate that chert is susceptible to fracture when exposed to prolonged episodes of weathering. Natural processes can result in the formation of detachments that resemble the morphological properties of flakes and bend breaks but lack the technological attributes that are characteristic of human lithic manufacture. A spatial analysis found that postdepositional processes have had minimal influence on the stratigraphic integrity of the pre Clovis deposits and the occurrence of flake tools from these contexts is not the product of downward migration of artifacts from the Clovis deposits. The results of this study present a unique record of the behaviors of Late Pleistocene hunter-gatherers of the American Southeast. Support for the presence of human cultures that predate Clovis in North America should consider the inclusion of a broad range of reductive technologies.

Artifact Attributes.xlsx (1931 kB)
Artifact Attributes

Screen Material Attributes.xlsx (220 kB)
Screen Material Attributes

Topper Alluvial Terrace Artifact Database.xlsx (508 kB)
Terrace Artifact Database

Level Photos 2002-2012 5m x 9m Block (726078 kB)
Level Photos 2002-2012 5m x 9m Block Excavation

Level Photos 2010-2011 4m x 4m Block (1254906 kB)
Level Photos 2010-2011 4m x 4m Block Excavation

Level Photos Pleistocene (1567122 kB)
Level Photos Pleistocene Terrace

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