L.S. inherited a small collection of Native American points and tools, which he understands to be of Southwestern origin.
This is not my area of expertise, so this article is a call out to readers to help L.S. find out what he has. If readers know Native American points and tools, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Archeologists separate the classifications of early points into major historical periods of North America, and I learned with rudimentary research that each of the periods contain points of distinctive shapes, stones and sizes. The sizes, archeologists say, are indicative of the mammals that were hunted — some going back over 10,000 years ago.
There are two methods of dating, including the “B.C.” style. But lately, archeologists have used the “B.P.” period. Here’s the difference: B.P. means “before present,” which begins at 1950.
So I will explain the time periods using the B.P. system.
When we look at stone points in the Native American tradition from 11,500- 10,800 B.P., we’re looking at the Early Paleoindian era. These points are large, and the famous name and form of these is the CLOVIS point, which is designed for a spear, is blade-like and has channels down the center. If you think of mammals that were hunted for protein more than 10,000 years ago, a large and deadly point was needed to pierce the hide.
The middle Paleoindian is 10,500 -10,000 B.P., and the points continue to be large. Now, at around 10,000 B.P., archeologists note a change to smaller points with flared bottoms, designed to be lashed on to something other than a large spear, for smaller game. For the big game, you need the “Dalton” point.
In the early Archaic period, 10,000-8,000 B.P., the point shape changes to the more classic image of an arrowhead. In other words, we see the shape of a triangle supported on a “trunk” or stem, and the stem may be straight or hooked, which makes it perfect for lashing onto a hunter’s wood shaft.
The next period is one of multitudinous cultures. Because L.S. believes his points to be of the Southeastern region, I am assuming this may be the Woodland culture 1,000 B.P. to 1,500 A.D. This era is followed by the Contact period, 1500-1700 AD.
What impresses me greatly is the shear artistry and the longevity of the stone tools themselves, not to mention the durability and diversity.
I looked at reports where archaeologists had found a point that was created as a spear point. When dulled, the point would be sharpened again and made into a saw — then, when blunted, made into a scraper. Nothing created was left to waste.
L.S., who loves his collection, has said that when he holds an ancient point in his hand, such as those he believes are more than 10,000 years old, he can “see” the mammals that the points were aimed upon. He can also see the sheer skill of both the point maker and the hunter. Around 12,000 years ago, these points may have been used to hunt mammoths, mastodons, giant bison, giant ground sloths, Sabre-toothed cats and short-faced bears.
Let us focus on one stone point in L.S.’s collection, which is not a projectile but a stone drill. L.S. also has a fragment of a petrified stone rock that has a bore hole, and the drill fits nestling inside this hole. This may have had an organic (wooden) helper: a turning device that was manipulated by cords, pulled by human hands that rotated the drill rapidly.
Thus this was a fire starter.
Another point in L.S.’s collection may have been a small scraper, used for the animal’s hide.
The rate of change and the shape and innovation in the stone tools, especially in flint forms, show incredible workmanship and diversity of form. Knives (used alone or on a wood handle), scrapers, perforators, drills, adzes, stone axes and stone weights were used to attach to nets and to the end of spear throwers as fulcrums.
L.S. also sent photos of what he has researched as an early Archaic Notched Point, perhaps 10,000 years old, and an Agate point of an even greater age.
I reach out to readers who assuredly know more than I do, to email me so that I may connect you, an expert, to L.S. As regards to the valuation of this material, who am I to set a value of such things?
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart’s “Ask the Gold Digger” column appears Mondays in the News-Press.
Written after her father’s COVID-19 diagnosis, Dr. Stewart’s book “My Darlin’ Quarantine: Intimate Connections Created in Chaos” is a humorous collection of five “what-if” short stories that end in personal triumphs over present-day constrictions. It’s available at Chaucer’s in Santa Barbara.