Saturday, December 31, 2022

Holiday Season Arrowhead Hunting

I had the pleasure of a visiting son who shares my enthusiasm for arrowhead hunting. Knowing some places where we might succeed, having been shown them by Chris Pittman, I went out hunting with my son. Each time, he found something but my finds were humbler:
His are on the left, mine on the right. I believe his are Stemmed Squibnocket points. The larger one shades off into what they call "Lamoka" and is, I think, quite similar to the broken stemmed point I found, on the right. 

The two concave-base items on the right are barely arrowheads. I am not sure about the bottom one, the top one is pretty clearly a reworked flake. Kinda charming:

A "skewed" arrowhead.
The base is carefully worked:
Just a little flake. 

Thursday, December 29, 2022

A crude gouge from Rhode Island

Not sure why I bent over and picked this up:

It looked like it had some modifications and hope springs eternal that I might someday find a celt. 

So I turned it over, hoping to see the sharp edge of a celt. Not entirely disappointed to find the curved edge of a gouge instead:

It is not in good shape but this is a rare kind of artifact and probably worth keeping.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

"Clovis First" dies again

OSU archaeologists, on Idaho dig, find oldest known projectile points in the Americas - KTVZ 

It is sad that so much focus is applied to Clovis but to few other prehistoric cultural expressions. I note that a certain type of stemmed point was nearly universal in the US, but goes un-named and never achieves the level of interest of Clovis. But the Clovis "narrative" has a combination of beautiful lithic technology and a compelling bit of nonsense about man sweeping across the continent, eliminating the megafauna along the way. With a firm belief in the dating of Clovis and a simplistic answer to the tough question of America's prehistory, it is a great story. As long as someone is still telling it, it will remain with us.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Early seafarers crossed the Mediterranean.

[Re: peopling of the Americas]

Ancient Humans May Have Sailed The Mediterranean 450,000 Years Ago : ScienceAlert

The assumption that all of our early pre-human ancestors were too dumb to walk and chew gum, seems pretty typical of a field dominated by the European male. 

Friday, December 23, 2022

Red Rhyolite/Jasper blade from a Falmouth beach

Back home:

After searching beaches most of my life, particularly in the last few years since finding arrowheads in Concord, it comes as a shock to actually find something recognizably flaked. It comes as a special kind of shock when rather than stumbling on an artifact, you go looking for it in a particular place.

I'll have more to say about where I found this and about coastal dune formation in Buzzard's Bay. When the dunes block a pond - as is common around here - the sense is that this used to be a river mouth before the sea level returned. So if you are looking for 5-7K years old artifacts, old river banks are one possibility. But I need to think more about how this rock got where it was on the beach, with this (minimal) level of wear.


The conclusion is that there must have been a pre-woodland site somewhere near where I found this.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Quartz point from Raynham, MA

First in a long time, since retiring and looking for new places to hunt. I do not really count the ones from places that Chris P. showed me (see here). I found this location all on my own by looking at aerial photos and following the strategy which Chris taught me: it is about farms next to water.

Finding this with nothing more than planning and a little foot work was deeply satisfying. It is maybe the seventh or eight place I drove to on spec. There: all I found was broken quartz, as I may have mentioned. Here: I spent an hour exploring a small 1/8 acre bit of dirt, found two broken axe bits made of quartz, only a couple quartz flakes, and this little beauty which, itself, is little more than a quartz flake. It seems somehow different in its significance to find a location by looking at maps versus already living somewhere with arrowheads (Concord) or stumbling on one during a random outing (Devil's Foot Island in Woods Hole). 

Here we are, in Raynham on the banks of the Forge River:
And here is a closeup of my find:

Monday, December 19, 2022

Quantitative measurement of the "field clearing hypothesis"

I never pulled it off but have always believed it would not be hard to prove a field clearing pile had (relatively) random sized rocks - a uniform probability distribution for the different rock sizes. I stumbled over my inability to measure single rocks. When I first thought about it, I also realized that an excessive number of small flat rocks could be a signal for field clearing. Just now, I heard another one: that the collection of piles making up a field clearing pile "site" is itself a mess: piles of different shapes, piles of different sizes, piles on top of each other, piles with large, medium, or small rocks. It is not hard to see when a site is from field clearing.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Quartz tools in glacial sands - what do they mean?

[Not rock pile related] 

I was driving around the "Head of the Bay" in Bourne, at the top of Buzzard's Bay. It occurred to me that where they dug the Cape Cod Canal, from the north to the south side of the cape, there was a natural series of lakes and waterways that did some of the job. 

This route followed by today's canal was probably a travel corridor in pre-history. In fact, as I was driving around on Bournedale Rd there was a sign saying it was an "Ancient Way" and that I should drive carefully. [Not sure if reckless driving is a threat to the archaeological record or to the mood.] 

Since they found lots of arrowheads at the southern end of this corridor, near the Aptucxet Trading Post in Bourne, I figured a good place to hunt plowed fields would be up at the Head of the Bay. Well, there were a few places visible from the aerial photos but they were either all grown over, or fenced in as part of very private farms. But as I drove back and forth checking several different places, I passed a cranberry bog several times (the one with three conspicuous windmills, that you see from Rt 495) and, eventually, thought I could spend some time looking around the edges of the bog - where they had been bulldozing not too long ago. I mean, if an ancient site is going to show up anywhere near here, it is most likely to show up in a cross section that really goes down into the glacial sands.  

After looking around the edges of the bog, I was wandering around random piles of dirt and saw this:

Just what I was hoping for! I pulled it out but it turned out to be a broken piece of something larger. I thought this was part of an axe. In the picture, the tip is pointing down and the break is facing up:
Here it is from in back, with the tip facing up:
It is a nice piece of quartz and it would have been a nice stone tool. What they call a "heartbreaker" on YouTube.

But wait! Maybe the break is in the lower left of the previous picture and the lower right of this picture:

That is a bit more like an arrowhead.

So maybe, if you are willing to spend an hour walking around newly bulldozed sand in a cranberry bog, you might find - at least - a broken quartz stone tool. It could be any age. But just because the sand is being mixed up by the bulldozer doesn't mean the find is not more or less in situ. Meaning it really is what it is: a stone tool in the glacial sand. 

Did it start out on the surface or was it some depth in the sand? Well, I am not an expert but there are a couple clues. One: no weathering. Two: bits of orange (iron?) stain that have migrated into the superficial cracks on the surface of the quartz. 

The long and the short of it is that this is not a completely crazy arrowhead hunting strategy. I have been eyeing some new bulldozing going on at the cranberry bogs along the Coonemessett River in Falmouth. Arrowheads are cool (and certainly what I am hoping to find) but a little bird is telling me that there could be a deeper story.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Aerial Archeology - California Hight Desert

Along CA 168 near "Gilbert Pass" southwest of Fish Lake Valley at the north end of Deep Springs Valley.

What the heck is that circle?

The road map:

Monday, December 12, 2022

Friday, December 09, 2022