Monday, November 07, 2011

Artifact finds Saturday

On Saturday I woke up early, bundled up and drove to a favorite spot to look for stone tools. A flock of wild turkeys greeted me when I got out of my car and advanced before me in echelon formation while I slowly scoured the grassy earth. Grass has grown up tall and green in places that only weeks ago were barren and bare. Many times I reached down to pick up a quartz flake only to find that it was ice that melted between my dirty fingertips. I was forced to admit that I was not likely to have any luck in this place, on this occasion. I got back in the car and drove to another place in another town, where I have had some luck this year. That is where the story begins.
I got to the area I wanted to search and was disheartened to find tall grass with almost no exposure. The best spots in this place are natural rises in the landscape, on these slopes I find a lot of chipping debris. I find less stuff in the low spots between these little rises, and although I have searched there carefully, I usually focus on the slopes. Because the ground was choked with grasses and frosty weeds, my only choice was to pick my way along and hope to find some areas with some exposure. In a low spot, where there must have been more shade, there was less vegetation, and here was a place where I could spend some time searching, though I had little hope of finding anything here, having already looked so carefully, more than once.
As I studied the ground I looked for partially buried forms with broken edges just peeking out of the sand. I saw a tiny glint of broken quartz and dug it out, expecting a chip or flake. It was a crude triangular arrowhead, missing the tip:
The workmanship is poor and it is damaged but the material is nice, a very clear quartz, almost transparent. 
I was happy with this find, more than I expected on this frosty morning. I will treasure this little tool. I was tempted to go home, I felt like it might be a waste of time to keep looking. But I did keep looking, in the same area, and I found this:
This is the base of a triangular arrowhead. It is finely flaked and is made out of a beautiful shiny green chert material, that I believe comes from Rhode Island. This is the best material I have ever found, it is exquisite. I love finding any artifact but the vast majority of what I find is quartz, this broken chert point was a real treat. But of course more than half of it is gone. I started to inspect the surrounding area with extreme care, hoping to perhaps find the other half of this lovely point. About 18 inches away, I saw a long broken edge protruding from the soil. It was too long to be what I was looking for but when I am at my most focused, I will examine every broken rock. I pulled it out of the ground and... 
Well, at this point I am elated. This is a great material, I am not sure what it is. Maybe a rhyolite or even chert. It is thin and well made with hard hammer percussion flaking on the edges. It might be a woodworking tool, a scraper, a blade, or a preform; having never found anything remotely so big, I'm not sure what to call it. It is broken and not complete. Here it is compared to the typical-sized arrowheads: 
At this point I am having an extremely lucky and atypical day. People lived here for thousands of years. These artifacts have been here for centuries and centuries near the surface of the ground. Now they lie exposed, at a depth of zero inches. I found this: 
An argillite projectile point, totally exposed. The material is coarse and I am not sure if this is a complete triangular arrowhead or just a broken tip. Also this: 
A big projectile point tip, very old, I think the material is felsite. Here is a shot where you can see the size of these: 
So, good stuff. I am very happy even with broken artifacts. A banner day for me. I keep looking but everywhere I turn, dense weeds. It is quiet. The weeds block my view, I need to find a different spot. I head towards a place where I have looked many times, where the passing of vehicle tires has churned up the soil. I break through the weeds and am astounded. Stretched out in front of me is an area with not a blade of grass. Not a footprint disturbs the smooth sandy ground. It is like glass. Quartz chipping debris gleams in the sun, each piece perfectly defined. I stand there gaping. I start talking to myself... The ground looks like it has been cleaned by a power washer. How could this be? It must have been the previous weekend's heavy rains, the storm. My footprints have been washed away, the ground has flowed like a liquid. The rocks have been washed free of the dirt. I start picking up quartz, I bend down and pick up a chip or flake. With my face close to the ground, out of the corner of my eye I see something broken and colorful, a tiny bit of faceted surface protruding from the ground. I picked it up without thinking, without a second of hesitation, my hand shot out on its own accord and grabbed it and as soon as I saw what came out of the ground I involuntarily dropped it out of shock. This is my favorite artifact I have ever found.

Not much I can say about this point other than that it is a dream come true. A Stark point, rhyolite, perhaps 6-8 thousand years old. Here is what I left with for the day, after I cleaned it all up a little.

Sunday I returned and spent hours searching spots in the same area and I didn't find one thing, not a single broken fragment. That is a normal day for me, to search and not find anything. To find so much stuff in a single day is extremely unusual and a real thrill for me. These could well be my final finds of 2011.


Tim MacSweeney said...

Wow! That's it, just: "Wow!"

pwax said...


Anonymous said...

great finds!