Sunday, August 11, 2013

Compulsive searching pays off

     My friend Dave's awesome quartz triangle find last month had me wanting to find one in this shape and material, too. I have many of this but have gone some time without finding a decent one. On July 28 I headed to a spot where I have found a few really nice examples. I didn't find anything great but I did find a couple of quartz triangles, so certainly nothing to complain about. This one is rather crude but it is more or less all there, and was easy to spot:
     This one had me really excited, but it was broken.
     Here are all my finds for the day, all quartz which is typical for this site. Besides the two triangles, there is a small stemmed base, a crude and damaged lanceolate point, and the base of a big triangle, maybe a knife.
     Meanwhile, at the same time, Dave was metal detecting in a field and he found this. It's a really cool artifact despite the broken tip. Better than anything I found that day. The material is argillite.
     August so far has been really tough. I've been getting out there and looking but coming home empty-handed. Yesterday was a really nice day but I had no chance to get out and look, my dad was hosting a family barbecue. He lives right on a reservoir and has a boat. At the edge of his property, a stream flows into the reservoir and there is a little marsh there. The reservoir is created by a dam, the streams that feed it once flowed through the area and probably Indians lived along or near these waterways. My dad's property might have been a good place to camp long ago- at the water's edge now, it must have been a little higher up than the area closest to the stream as it was originally. But the ground has been moved around a lot there, fill has been brought in, and gravel for the driveway also. Last year, my dad and I looked at maps of the reservoir and tried to figure out how the streams used to run before they were dammed, we took his boat out there and waded in some sandy areas neatr islands in the reservoir (they must have been small hills originally) and I found some quartz chips but no arrowheads.
     Anyway, it was a fun BBQ and it was winding down and I had to move my car so some relatives could leave. I parked the car in the front yard near a little hill where there is a septic tank. Here is a picture of where I parked, you can see the front of my little Toyota.
     You can also see right in front of my car a little sandy place where rocks are exposed. I will always scan any area like this for arrowheads, it is a compulsion I cannot control. This is right at the edge of the driveway and there is gravel that has been brought in, the little slope there is artificial and probably stuff was moved around by a bulldozer here and fill might have even been trucked in from some other place. It's not the original ground surface and there is zero reasonable expectation of finding an Indian artifact here. But rocks are visible and so I had to have a look. And right away I saw this.
    This is just a broken piece of quartz. But it is also a clue. Quartz pieces that one may find in glacially deposited soil will almost always be rounded and smooth. A piece like this with no smooth edges has (generally speaking) been broken by human action. It could have been crushed by a machine making gravel, or broken by a bulldozer or other vehicle, but just maybe it was broken by an Indian making tools. I have written about broken quartz before, see here. Broken quartz is a signal to look closer. So I did, and I saw something that looked like argillite, another favored local material. I picked it up.
     This is the base of a Stark projectile point made of argillite. It's an archaic type that is generally dated around 6,000-7,000 years old. Looking at reports of known sites in the same area where I found this, I see that one site on the same reservoir yielded a carbon date of around 5,600 years ago, this artifact might be from around that same time. I don't know where this came from, whether it was always there and maybe dug up when that septic tank was put in, or if it was in the fill or gravel brought from somewhere else. How can I be sure that this is in fact an arrowhead base and not just a rock? Well, the shape and material are familiar to me, and argillite is actually black when freshly broken, it patinates to this bluish gray over time, so it was not recently broken into this shape. There is also clear flaking, see here:
     On the edge closest to the camera you can see parallel flake scars, each about the same size, these leave me no doubt that incredibly, I actually found an arrowhead (half of one, anyway) in a totally unexpected place where I parked my car, and that after uncountably many times compulsively looking at rocks everywhere I go, it has paid off finally for the first time. The other side is not as nice.
     It is broken and not really anything special. If I had found this at one of my regular spots I would not have spent so much time writing about it. But I think this find shows that arrowheads can be found almost anywhere and that if you pay attention and look for them you will find them. Thoreau wrote that to him arrowheads were so common that one might think that it had rained arrowheads at one time, they were so widely distributed all over the earth. I've never really gotten that feeling but this find had me thinking about that. There are millions of these things and they are out there and you can find them. Here is this broken artifact with part of a page from the excellent guide "A New England Typology of Native American Projectile Points" by the late Jeff Boudreau, the points on the left and right on the top row are also made of argillite. The book mentions that "they appear in small and large sizes," the ones in the picture are large, the piece I found is small.
     I spent an hour today in a spot by a river where I have found some broken arrowheads in the past, I found a broken quartz Squibnocket Triangle.
     It's missing the tip as you can see but it is very nicely flaked, not crude at all. Would have been very nice. I'm still happy with it.


pwax said...

Thanks for the report. I would be out digging up and seiving your Dad's yard.

pwax said...

...and that first triangle is pretty nice. I wish I found another.