Monday, November 14, 2011

A new site

It has been a few months since I have found a new place to look for Indian artifacts. I have found a lot of stuff lately by being thorough and patiently searching and re-searching in places where I have found things in the past, but I have been yearning for the thrill of finding something in a new and different place. I am also always hoping to find a place in a different setting where I can find different sorts of artifacts as I continue to study these old stone tools. Lately, I have been looking for new places that might be classified as coastal sites, thinking that maybe here I could find things that I have not come across in the mostly inland places I have had luck in so far.

Last week I put in some time and identified three new places that seemed likely, in an area where I have never looked before. After a little road trip on Saturday morning I could spend some pleasant hours outdoors looking. The first place was all rocks and gravel, stones of all sizes mixed with broken glass and trash. I carefully looked there for a while but the amount of rocks to sort through was just overwhelming. In the second place, I was surprised to see a couple of other people with sticks out there flipping over rocks, also looking for arrowheads. They were there first so I got back in the car and drove somewhere else, some distance away, and the conditions were not so bad, and there was nobody else there, and no indication that anyone else had searched there. I found this after a short while:

It is a mostly intact quartz point, fairly crude. I am not sure what to call this shape, or how old it is. I might speculate that this shape might have been used to spear fish or frogs, but I am just guessing. I spotted this just a few feet away:

 After I wiped the dirt off:

This is the same shape as the other one, a little nicer. It is asymmetrical and probably reworked from something bigger. I was very pleased to spot this:

I don't get to find too many with nice visible flaking like this. I really like this shape and material, I think this is a type of rhyolite. This was a lot of fun to find. I think it is what is called a Lamoka point, perhaps 3500-5500 years old.

Here is what they looked like after I got them home and washed them off.

That night I agonized over the thought that I might have missed something. Looking at a satellite view, I could see some adjacent spots I had not explored, that seemed like good places to look. Sunday was a busy day for me but I realized that if I planned my day just right I could return to this place, but would only have 30 minutes to look. I raced there and ran from spot to spot, everywhere I wanted to search was either simply too choked with thick weeds, or was sticky mud and ooze with no rocks visible. But I did spot this:

This is the same shape as the ones from the day before, but about twice as long. It is missing the tip. I'm very pleased with these finds and look forward to learning more about these lanceolate points. I will return to this place and hope that with time I will make more finds that will help me understand what went on in this place, centuries ago.


pwax said...

Are these all cornfields? Can you tell us something about how you selected these sites?

Chris Pittman said...

Peter, I learned how to find these places mostly from listening to you, back when I first got started after being inspired by your blog to go out and look. I like to look in farm fields but I will also look anywhere where the ground is being stirred up, either by machinery, by erosion from tides or rivers or streams or on trails or roads on slopes, by vehicles tearing up the ground, dirt roads, any kind of farming activity, construction, etc. Here is how I selected the particular spots I searched on Saturday:

I decided I wanted to look in a coastal setting. I found a salt water estuary where there were a lot of little sheltered areas, with tides but with no waves, I imagine these were places that must have been very dense with fish and shellfish, where Indians would have lived to be close to these resources. This was in a general area where many prehistoric sites have been identified over the years. In and around this estuary area I looked for streams or other fresh water sources that flowed into the salt water. And then I looked at satellite images to find places where the ground might be stirred up where artifacts might be exposed on the surface. Then it is a matter of driving to these places and scouting them out. I am looking mostly for places a little higher up than the water, high and dry, and ideally with well-drained, sandy soil. And then it is just a matter of walking slowly, looking very carefully, and of course, a lot of luck.

pwax said...

This style of arrowhead is not familiar to me in Concord. So what is the age estimate for this point shape?

Chris Pittman said...

Point typology is a weak area for me, I must admit. I had hoped that as I found more points at the places where I look, that the artifact assemblage as a whole would help in the identification of each piece. Unfortunately this is not the case, I found Stark points from thousands of years ago in a place where I also found Madison points from a few hundred years ago, in another field where I find very old points I also found a piece of Woodland pottery. This winter when snow keeps me inside I am going to spend some time researching typology and more closely identifying what I have found.

Having said that, I am fairly confident that the stemmed point is a Lamoka from 5500-3500 BP. The lanceolate points are more problematic for me. I would suggest they might be Greene points, these are said to date from 2,000-1,000 years ago in Massachusetts but another source says that these points in New York state were dated between 400 AD and 800 AD. On the other hand, the fact that they are made from quartz has me wondering if they are perhaps Squibnocket Stemmed types which would fit with the age of the Lamoka. I'm not sure.