Projectile points

In 1969, a collection of projectile points from Virginia was given to the Anthropology Lab by Clifford Evans of the Smithsonian.  The collection includes 117 points catalogued according to the 1955 artifact typology devised by C.G. Holland, who analyzed the lithic materials from Evans’ multi-sited project.  Holland originally created a Type A through O typology, which he later updated in a broader 1970 survey of the archaeology of southwest Virginia.  Here are a few Archaic and Woodland Period points selected from this collection.  

Virginia 1r

Top row: TU1969.3.1, Type A, Small Triangular (Clarksville Small Triangular), Middle row: TU1969.3.2, Type B, Medium Triangular (Madison Point), Bottom row: TU1969.3.3, Type C, Large Triangular (Levanna Point).

plate 17

Plate 17, An Archeological Survey of Southwest Virginia, C.G. Holland. Note the first three rows are Clarksville, Madison and Levanna Points respectively.

The transition from the Archaic Period to Woodland Period varies regionally.  In Virginia, the Archaic Period dates from approximately 8000 BCE  to 1200 BCE and the Woodland Period begins around 1200 BCE and ends with the onset of European contact.  The triangular points from this area appear during the Woodland Period with the larger points being older and points becoming smaller with the progression time.  The Levanna Points (bottom row) date to the Middle Woodland with a tentative start date of 700 CE.  They were later supplanted by the Madison Point (middle row) around 1350 CE.  The smallest, Clarksville Points, are from the very Late Woodland into the Historic Period. 

Top and middle rows: TU69.3.7, Type G, Notched Base (Bifurcate Based), Bottom row: TU69.3.9, Type I, Notched Stemmed (Halifaxed Sidenotched).

Top and middle rows: TU1969.3.7, Type G, Notched Base (Bifurcate Based), Bottom row: TU1969.3.9, Type I, Notched Stemmed (Halifaxed Sidenotched).

The  points shown above are possibly earlier, with the Halifaxed Sidenotched points dating to approximately 3500 BCE.  The Bifurcate Based points are given this general classification as a more precise date is not known, sometimes due to their incomplete appearance.

In his earlier article in 1955, Holland notes that “stratigraphic evidence of change was meager” and that he often had to rely upon “thin deposits and surface collections”.  However, by 1970, knowledge of Virginia prehistory was expanding and through his extensive survey, the work of other colleagues, as well as access to the collections of local collectors, Holland was able to incorporate his prior typology with their more updated and preferred names.  And despite the limitations he faced in the 1950s, Holland’s early report did include an in-depth flake analysis which examined the seemingly antithetical relationship between the appearance of white quartz and chert in the region.  White and clear quartz and quartzite were often locally abundant in Virginia.  Inhabitants often favored white quartz, in particular, in lithic production where it was plentiful.  However chert was favored where white quartz was not found.  As can be seen in the photos, the colorful and often crystalline qualities of these small artifacts make them a visual treasure while their archaeological and cultural origins provide a fascinating resource students and scholars.

Sources:

Holland, C.G. 1955 An Analysis of Projectile Points and Large Blades, Appendix 2 in A Ceramic Study of Virginia Archaeology by Clifford Evans.  The Smithsonian Institution of Washington, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin, 160, pp. 165-191.

Holland, C.G. 1970 An Archeological Survey of Southwest Virginia, Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology, Number 12.

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