Thursday, September 01, 2016


      The last several weeks have been very hot and very, very dry. Without rain, there has been little reason to brave the heat and go out in search of stone tools. It has been a long time since I have found anything.
      Our current drought has brought water levels way down at local lakes and ponds. In some places, falling water levels must be exposing prehistoric sites that are normally under water. Movement of the water washes the rocks and exposes stone tools. Somewhere out there are places where loads of arrowheads are just waiting to be picked up. If only I could find those places...
      My friend Dave and I went to a lake last night in southeastern Massachusetts. The drought had exposed several feet of sandy rocky beach. I searched diligently but didn't find any chips or flakes to indicate that this might have been a place where people lived long ago. We left there and went to a tiny area of exposed dirt not far away, where Dave found some broken arrowheads in the past. The two of us can search this little dirt patch in about 5 minutes. I had never found anything there but I did have some luck last night. I spotted this:
     It is the midsection of a stemmed point made of felsite. The break at the base is ancient. The break in the blade is not.
     I also found this.
     This is half of a ground slate bannerstone. I found a similar broken bannerstone in 2014. I was very surprised to find this. These are not common objects. A local archaeologist told me that these are virtually always broken when found in this area, even when excavated from undisturbed contexts. Many archaeologists believe these were used as counterweights for atl-atl dart throwers. Many were very carefully made and polished and were artistic in form, leading some to speculate these may have had some ritual or ceremonial significance. In truth, I'm not sure it can really be said that anyone knows for a fact what bannerstones were for. In my years of collecting stone tools I have found two halves of bannerstones as well as two small fragments that I believe were pieces of bannerstones. I am surprised to have found so many. Here is the one from last night, cleaned up.

     Here, at the break in the center, was the hole that was drilled through the stone, presumably for inserting the atl-atl. You can see that this piece was thicker on one side, than the other. It is also clear from looking at the broken cross section, especially here on the left side of this picture, that this piece was not shaped like a regular crescent, it must have had a distinct notch on the bottom edge where the hole was drilled.
      Here it is together with the other bannerstone I found a couple of years ago. Both of these ground slate bannerstones were found in Massachusetts.
     Lastly, a photo of the best of what very little I did manage to find in this hot, dry summer. A large but broken stemmed point with strong basal grinding, and a little triangle that clearly shows ancient rework/resharpening before being discarded. Both are quartz, typical southeastern Massachusetts arrowhead finds.
     Fall is my favorite season and also a good time to look for arrowheads.


pwax said...

Looking in lake bottoms is a great idea. I wonder if the Assabet has exposed gravel?
That half banner stone is an impressive find. I have nothing like that from Concord, but I do have several small rocks I interpret as spear-thrower counterweights. I am not sure they are rare. It was interesting to read about the "ice man" they found in British Columbia carrying a steel blade and atlatl equipment - a long time after the bow and arrow were available.

Kierran Broatch said...

Awesome find, especially considering the current conditions. It's like a dust bowl out there. Hoping for some much needed rain from Hermine.