Sunday, April 21, 2013

Finds in familiar and unfamiliar places

Monday was a depressing day for me at work, my coworkers were really distressed about the explosions at the marathon. For me there is no better way to de-stress after a day in the office than getting outside and looking for arrowheads, it is a relaxing and contemplative pasttime. I went back to the narrow strip of dirt where my friend Dave had found a nice triangular arrowhead about a week before. It had rained quite a bit in the meantime, and lots more rocks were visible. After a short walk I was happy to see this:
That's exciting. You can see that most of one edge and corner are still stuck in the dirt. I was hoping for a whole point, and this time I wasn't disappointed. This quartz triangle is really small but very nicely made, pretty. My first quartz triangle of the year.
Today I had more time to search. The time for finding new spots to look will be winding down now as vegetation springs up everywhere and people are doing more stuff outside, making them less likely to let me wander around on their property. I had zero expectation of finding any arrowheads today- most new places I look are void, and I come home with nothing. Still, it is fun to see new places and get outside and there is always the chance of finding a great new spot. I left the house today with two new places in mind that I wanted to explore for the first time. The first spot was a place that someone had mentioned to me as a place where arrowheads have been found in the past, a solid indicator. The second place seemed less likely but someone who approached me for a chat as I was out looking for stuff one day had mentioned it and it was not far from another place where I have had some luck. Now as I have said before, what I am really looking for when I survey a place for the first time is the telltale chips and flakes from people making and sharpening stone tools. In the first place, the ground was only visible in patches, but I walked for quite a while without finding anything that I could definitively call a flake. Maybe there were arrowheads here at one time, and perhaps there are still some to find, but with no chipping debris, it doesn't seen like many people could have lived in this place, for very long. So, on to new candidate #2. Literally as soon as I stepped out of the car I was finding broken quartz chunks. These are clues that tell me I might be looking in the right place. I got closer to the water and started picking up thin, flat quartz flakes about the size of a thumbnail. Some were made out of very clear quartz and were flat on one side with flaking scars on the other. These are absolutely artifacts and for me are proof that I have found a site. Before I got very far I had picked up a flat piece of quartz with flaking on the edges, on both sides- maybe a preform or crude tool, not worth showing, but the last thing I needed to see to know for sure that I had found another place where arrowheads can be found. A success! It had been quite a while since making any finds in a totally new place. I started walking very slowly, studying the ground. In some places, the debitage was really dense, with broken pieces to study with every step. As is common in most of the areas where I look, almost all of the debris was quartz, with some few pieces of blue-green argillite here and there. I bent down to pick up a little piece of broken quartz protruding from the ground. It turned out to be the base of this:
This is a great find for me. I was so astounded, I almost fell down. I was elated to find it. It is fairly big and I like this shape. There is some wear and the very tip is damaged, the shoulders are asymmetrical, but it is a first find in a new place and I love it. I kept on looking, really carefully. In some areas it was hard to see the ground, but I was being very thorough. Otherwise I would have missed this:
I wasn't certain what to make of it. The tip of a triangle or small stemmed point? Or just a pointy flake? Check this out:
video
I don't know what to call this, really. I don't have another one like it. It's got a long, tapered stem that is unusual. I imagine this was sharpened down from something much bigger.
These look really nice, cleaned up at home.
Happy to have another spot to keep going back to, over and over. I searched most of the area very thoroughly today but not all of it, I will be back soon and hope there might be something else to find.

11 comments :

pwax said...

I think those are called "small stemmed, small"

Norman said...

If I'm not mistaken, Henry David Thoreau once referred to arrowheads as mind prints or thought prints. An interesting comment on these magnificent creations.

Chris Pittman said...

Peter, the book I use most for typology is Boudreau's "A New England Typology of Native American Projectile Points" which is the most recent work of this kind. The book shows points more or less like this described as Wading River, Lamoka, Squibnocket Stemmed, and (with grinding) Merrimack Stemmed. Referring to the lack of a distinct difference in some of these types, Boudreau speculated that small stemmed narrow points may not have been cultural manifestations, but rather technological manifestations that transcended cultural boundaries over a long period of time.

I think about Thoreau's writings on arrowheads all the time. I wish I had his eloquence and skill, any attempt I could make at describing what arrowheads mean to me or how I feel about finding them would be inferior to his efforts.

Chris Pittman said...

"Time will soon destroy the works of famous painters and sculptors, but the Indian arrowhead will balk his efforts and Eternity will have to come to his aid. They are not fossil bones, but, as it were, fossil thoughts, forever reminding me of the mind that shaped them... They are at peace with rust. This arrow-headed character promises to outlast all others. The larger pestles and axes may, perchance, grow scarce and be broken, but the arrowhead shall, perhaps, never cease to wing its way through the ages to eternity. It was originally winged for but a short flight, but it still, to my mind's eye, wings its way through the ages, bearing a message from the hand that shot it. Myriads of arrow-points lie sleeping in the skin of the revolving earth, while meteors revolve in space. The footprint, the mind-print of the oldest men."

Chris Pittman said...

"They are sown, like a grain that is slow to germinate, broadcast over the earth... It is a stone fruit. Each one yields me a thought. I come nearer to the maker of it than if I had found his bones. His bones would not prove any wit that wielded them, such as this work of his bones does. It is humanity inscribed on the face of the earth, patent to my eyes as soon as the snow goes off, not hidden away in some crypt or grave or under a pyramid. No disgusting mummy, but a clean stone, the best symbol or letter that could have been transmitted to me. It is a recommendation that they occur only to the eye and thought that chances to be directed towards them."

pwax said...

Lucky that chances direct our eyes.

Norman said...

Chris,

I believe you took a photo of a wall in Sturbridge with a gateway and a flat stone on top, bridging it. To the right of this, and leaning against the wall, is a pointed manitou stone. Could you tell me where in Sturbridge this is located? Peter could give you my email. The icon photo you use reminded me of this.

Chris Pittman said...

Norman, I didn't take that photo- I wish I did! I found the post about it: http://rockpiles.blogspot.com/2009/10/wall-bridge-sturbridge-ma.html

Anonymous said...

thanks chris. great thoreau reference. Finding an arrowhead is always (and will always) be a thrill! Just got back from AZ. found many chips but no arrowheads,the chips were beautiful colored flint and obsidian. Unlike any we can find here
Keith

Menotomy Maps said...

As I began reading your entry this morning, Thoreau's "fossil thought" passage came to mind. And here it has already been mentioned!

pwax said...

Separately, I want to comment about the degree of polish visible on the stem of the left-hand point in the last photo. This type of wear suggests use as a knife not a projectile.