Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A dry stretch

     I haven't been finding many Indian artifacts lately. The summer is tough, it's hot and humid, the sun beats down and burns my skin. There's vegetation everywhere, and loads of bugs. I don't know how the Indians dealt with it. Deer flies are the worst. There may be some rare instances where you can shoo them away but most of the time a deer fly that has locked on to you as a target will not leave before you kill it or it feeds. If you are lucky you might be able to swat it right away but most of the time you find yourself just slapping your head and neck over and over for minutes. The rush of triumph when you finally get the fly can be greater than the thrill of a find, even when the finds are relatively few and far between.
     It's been really dry recently. It rained hard today but last week, not a drop. The lack of rain means nothing new is popping up in my favorite places to look for stuff. I am forced to look instead in less productive places. If I find an arrowhead in a place I know there are more to find and I will return again and again. Sometimes I will spend many hours in a place over a period of months or years and not find anything but you never know when you might make an amazing find in an unexpected place. I have been looking for arrowheads with my friend Dave, especially in large unproductive places it helps to have two people to cover the ground and being able to chat with someone alleviates the boredom of walking miles without finding anything. I keep track of where we find stuff and it helps me to understand where the best spots are, and where there might be big areas that are void. We went to a large place where I haven't found very much, despite spending a lot of time there. I found a small, crude quartz stemmed point. Dave found a larger, better quartz stemmed point missing the tip and also an amazing artifact, half of an atl-atl counterweight. He had no idea what it was when he handed me this strange grooved rock. This is what collectors might call a ball bannerstone. These are really rare and almost always broken, the freeze/thaw cycle breaks them over time. I hope the other half is still out there and that I might find it some day. I'm not sure I will be taking Dave back to this place.

     In a different place I found this neat artifact, perhaps a scraper or some other tool worked down until it could not be worked any further and discarded. I'm not sure what the material is, something exotic. They really prized material like this and you can tell that this thing was heavily resharpened. I found a quartz projectile point tip nearby.

     There is a place I drive by often that was one of the first places I ever searched for artifacts. I spent a lot of time there, whole days, but never found any trace of prehistoric man. As I got better, learned more about what to look for and how to read early history on the surface of the earth, I kept returning to this spot at odd intervals but I never found even a flake or chip of toolmaking stone. Dave would often ask about it and encourage me to go back there. It's on a stream, the ground is really dry and sandy, it looks so perfect for Indians. I have found arrowheads at other places along that same stream, why would they avoid this spot? Earlier this month Dave brought it up again. I figured it would be best for him to see this place for himself to see just how void this place is, so we went to check it out. I had been walking for less than three minutes when I spotted this. I was astounded. The tip is perfect.
      Dave found this nearby. It would be hard to find a better example in this shape and material. Flawless.


     We also each found a larger piece of a material I can't readily identify, showing obvious flaking but not really looking like tools. Perhaps these were just blanks, preforms that might have been stockpiled for future use. We scoured the rest of the area, I did find a grand total of three small quartz flakes. Perhaps these projectile points were lost while hunting, perhaps this was a small camp occupied only for a short time? These two quartz points are to me really typical for southeastern Massachusetts. I will return to this place every year but wouldn't be surprised if I never found anything else there.

      Here is the last of my summer finds so far. The quartz pieces at left and center are from Rhode Island on Saturday, there is the base of a stemmed point and a really crude point that looks like what is called a Rossville- but it's really rough, maybe a reject that was discarded. It was so hot there that the ground was baked into an asphalt-like crust and every chip had to be pried out of the dirt. The felsite tip on the right was all I found in some hours of incredibly uncomfortable searching today in the pouring rain after work. I got bitten by a tick, too. It's really thin and shows nice flaking, it's a fragment of what must have been something really nice. Not worth getting soaked and the tick bite, though. And in the rain you can't feel the deer flies until they bite!


pwax said...

About the two quartz beauties found where you had found nothing before: "gasp!"

Those may be typical of southeastern MA. I have nothing comparable from up here in Concord.

pwax said...

In the picture after the word "flawless", I see charcoal. Could that be a useful clue or is it recent?

Chris Pittman said...

I have developed an idea about this place and I think the charcoal you mentioned might be a useful clue. The terrain in that place is not flat, there are a few spots that are just a little higher than the surrounding area. On one of these very low rises in the terrain, that is closest to the stream, I found that first point. Already I started to suspect that maybe there were people living right in this little spot at one time. And when Dave found the other point on the same little rise, and we found the other two worked pieces nearby, that provided some more clues. On the other hand, the near total lack of debitage there is not what I am used to for a place where people lived, in other places I know not far from there you could pick up pockets full of quartz flakes in a matter of minutes. And in this same place where Dave and I found those points, I also find glass buttons, pieces of metal and crockery and other relics of a more recent man, so the charcoal could be recent, too. So, I'm not sure. Hopefully with time and more seasons of walking there I can find some more clues. The people who own the land there are very friendly and they love seeing what I find.

ZielonaMila said...

Great post, fantastic presentaton:) Greetings

pwax said...

If I saw that quartz arrowhead edge and point, sticking out of the soil - then pulling it out to find it complete would be almost an orgasm.