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Projectile point quality based on animals hunted?

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  • Projectile point quality based on animals hunted?

    I have noticed that the quality of points seems to be related to the size and type of animals hunted. The bigger/ tougher animal, the better quality, sharper, point.
    I see very crude, obviously dull stone points that come from the East coast areas made in time periods where the climate was mild and lots of plant food and small game was available. I see very few crude or dull flint points from any Illinois times.
    As a traditional Bowhunter; I know the value and effectiveness of a sharp point. It’s difficult for me to understand how one could kill anything with a dull stone point. A new, sharp, expertly knapped flint head will cut as good or better than the finest steel.
    All this leads me to believe that, in areas where people had plenty of food from smaller game, fish, and plants; they did not produce fine quality, sharp points as often as did regions that depended on larger game like bison.

    what do you think? Other reasons for quality differences?

  • #2
    It might be a few things, but I believe it rests on the expertise of the knapper. When I first started, I made some chunky pieces that would be considered field grade points. As I am getting more experienced, my pieces are getting thinner and sharper. It might have to do with stone quality too. Plus the difference between knives, spear points and atlatl points...
    "The education of a man is never completed until he dies." Robert E. Lee

    Comment


    • Charles Jones
      Charles Jones commented
      Editing a comment
      I would say that need drives a society to produce a superior artifact. The expertise of the maker will follow the need.

  • #3
    I think and I know I've read that at least here in FL when the sea level rose paleo-archaic people became more concentrated. Conflicts arose. During some of this transitional period of relative "crowding" caused the need and production of a larger number of points well designed to kill fellow humans. Of course this is the same point type one would use on animals such as deer.
    Professor Shellman

    Comment


    • Charles Jones
      Charles Jones commented
      Editing a comment
      Same as my previous comment. People step up with an answer to a need.

  • #4
    Originally posted by Charles Jones View Post
    All this leads me to believe that, in areas where people had plenty of food from smaller game, fish, and plants; they did not produce fine quality, sharp points as often as did regions that depended on larger game like bison.
    Columbia River gem points are some of the finest made points from amazing materials, and digs back in the day showed at many sites the diet was fish and small animals.

    I think it’s a fairly complex combo of issues.

    The first has to do with raw materials. Central Texas and Missouri have readily available, large deposits of high quality material and collectors there find a decent percentage of large, high quality points. New England and some of the Atlantic states have a lot of lower quality materials, and collectors aren’t blessed with many finely knapped 5 inch points.

    Some of the others are a matter of preference or fashion. 150 years ago your grandmother & grandfather would have spent a huge percentage of their income on a nice set of plates or maybe silverware. Modern generations are more likely to get something cheap for plates but spend more in technology because it is what their culture views as prestigious. Some Southeastern Mound groups made some great points, but the bulk of them are pretty bland. Their pottery on the other hand is world class.

    Comment


    • Charles Jones
      Charles Jones commented
      Editing a comment
      I’ve had the same thought about Mississippian culture points. Some seem crude and dull. Other forms of knives and tools seem very well made out of quality materials. Maybe because they were farmers with stable villages. The important things were ceremony and war.

  • #5
    I presented basically the same question a while back on a different site. On Long Island we have mostly quartz points some crude and chunky and others beautifully made. When I found this point I wondered if it was made by an exceptionally skilled knapper or if was more about the quality of the material or if it was to be used for some special purpose such as hunting big game or hostile neighbors. Either way I'm sure their best points were saved for such things. The consensus was that it was mostly about the workability of the material especially when they were working with quartz.

    Comment


    • Charles Jones
      Charles Jones commented
      Editing a comment
      I suppose some of the crude points can be explained by the makers being “poor” of good napping materials, and not being wealthy enough to trade for better. I still can’t understand how a dull chunk of rock that barely looks like a projectile point can be effective taking game, or as a knife for that matter.

  • #6
    A large percentage of what we find that are called "points" are not projectile points but are knives. And as such they do not "need" to be finely crafted or as delicately chipped as dart points or arrow points. And knives, depending on what was their intended use could be more or less crude or fine in appearance. And there no doubt were good craftsman and poor craftsman and some who thought"what the heck this is good enough". And knives as they were used needed resharpening and what once was a pretty good looking tool just got wore out. And as stated by others, the quality of the lithic makes a difference in how easily it can be worked. And some of the finest points/blades, etc. were especially made and used as grave offerings to accompany the dead to the "Happy Hunting Grounds". I have seen such artifacts and they can be beautiful.

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    • Charles Jones
      Charles Jones commented
      Editing a comment
      I found that flint knives I have actually used in hunting and butchering game animals required a well made, finely sharpened edge to be useful and effective. I have also used flakes knocked off a core to do butchering and have even made a bow with hastily made knives and scrapers, but all were made to be scary sharp.

  • #7
    I completely disagree with the premise. In Paleo times, the small bands of hunters did not live here in New England year round, but were present here primarily due to following the caribou herds. The fluted point Hunters here were primarily caribou hunters, as far as what the principal game herds were concerned. Most of the lithics they used were exotic to the region. New York cherts dominated. As well as northern New England lithics, like Munsungun Chert. Jasper fluted points turn up. These may be Pa jasper, but there was a significant jasper source in Limerock, RI. It was sourced, at least by Archaic times, but still not known if the small Paleo bands sourced that jasper. The huge camp at Sugarloaf, Ma., which Gramly speculates was the largest known fluted point encampment in the country, used primarily Onondaga Chert from NY, but also rhyolites from Eastern Ma.

    Now, once permanent settlement in the region took place, long distance travel to New York cherts would no longer be part of the annual rounds, and it is in Archaic times, that we see the switch to regional and local lithics. While it is true that exotic flints decline in use, local materials like quartz were perfectly servicable. I have found many finely made quartz points, and it is every bit as sharp, and as strong, as any of its cryptocrystaline relatives in the chert and jasper spectrum. The same could be said of the many rhyolites found throughout southern New England, especially eastern Ma. Sure, quartz and rhyolite are not as easy to work as the finest flint or jasper. But, like quartz, rhyolite makes fine points. Hornfels was a very high quality volcanic lithic. So fine, that the Jack's Reef people, of Mid Woodland times, and who seemed to insist on fine lithics, made it their favorite regional lithic, after jasper, which they sourced in both Pa and RI. Hornfels flakes very nicely, and some of my finest points are made from hornfels. Might not be the prettiest lithic, but it flakes easier then most of the rhyolites.

    There are some materials that do make one wonder "how did they survive?" Principal among them would be both the varieties of New England argillite(argillaceous slate) and Lockatong Argillite(argillaceous shale) from Pa and NJ. The latter was imported here mostly in Woodland times(especially by the Fox Creek people). The thing about the argillite is how quickly and readily they weather with the passage of even a little time. But, freshly flaked, New England argillite produced points that were sharp enough, strong enough, and suitable for their needs. If that were not the case, they would not have used it so much.

    As far as relation to game size, well, our regional Paleo game hunters concentrated on caribou, not mammoths or bison. And later cultures concentrated on deer, but certainly bears were also slain with local and regional lithics. Our lithics performed just fine with game that size.

    Certainly, regional areas focused on regional game. And made use of regional and local lithics to do so. They survived 12,000+ years using these lithics. With a lithic like argillite, the appearance of such "points" today has less to do with extremely poor quality, and more to do with tendency to weather more readily then flint and Jasper. When fresh, they were more then serviceable lithics.


    I have found, this is just an aside, that most collectors come to really appreciate their local and regional lithics. So, in part, I am here defending the quality of quartz, rhyolite, and hornfels, because these are my local/regional lithics, and if a point is well made with any of those lithics, I prefer them even to some exotic flints. With argillite, it can indeed make one wonder how anyone could survive dependent on such a material.
    Rhode Island

    Comment


    • CMD
      CMD commented
      Editing a comment
      My experience with our lithics doesn't match your observations. About all I can say. There was not an animal, large or small, that native groups in my region were not capable of taking down. And Late Paleo hunters, using lance style "Plano" forms, made very often from regional rhyolites, did not seem to be handicapped by those lithics at all, and they too hunted large game. With rhyolite lances, with quartzite lances. Not saying that anybody would not prefer the finest flint, but there is absolutely no evidence for, nor reason to believe, that local and regional lithics prevented natives here from hunting any game they chose to hunt.

    • CMD
      CMD commented
      Editing a comment
      Show me any evidence at all that regional natives in my region were unable to hunt big game in Archaic or Woodland times without chert implements. Trade networks did exist in Post-Paleo times, especially in Woodland times, so both NY cherts and Pa jasper was used here. In the case of the Jack's Reef people, who made such finely made points, which were our first true arrowheads, the preference may have been cultural. Just as the preference of local Fox Creek people for Lockatong Argillite may have been cultural, since far better local and regional,lithics were available for them to source, yet they still imported that inferior lithic from NJ/Pa.

    • Charles Jones
      Charles Jones commented
      Editing a comment
      Never said, hunters in your area were unable to hunt with their available lithcs. I do know, from experience, that dull points don’t kill nearly as easily as sharp points. I do feel that in areas where they made crude, dull points as the norm; they probably weren’t relying on them for the majority of big animal kills. They used other methods, such as trapping, fishing, etc. to get enough to eat. Or, they used more bone points, copper points, and later, iron.

      I could not imagine hunting even deer with a dull stone point. I believe it would cut success rates down by almost 1/2 over the use of well made, sharp points. I’ve killed deer with flint and obsidian. Does a very effective job. I’ve also heard a couple bad stories about someone who tied a dull arrowhead on and shot a deer. They never recovered the animal and probably didn’t kill it.

      I still feel that hunting big, tough game would be the number one reason for a group to continue making quality, sharp points, and can see the quality deteriorating when there are no longer large animals close by
      or don’t really need to hunt large game to have plenty to eat.
      Last edited by Charles Jones; 07-28-2019, 12:36 PM.

  • #8
    If I followed the premise, I would envision circumstances like "Gee, I would love it if we could take down a moose sometime, but our rock types can't handle it, what a bummer for us". No way did such circumstances exist here in New England. Once settlement was permanent in New England, the bands and tribes that called it home had everything they needed to hunt whatever they chose to hunt.

    Edit: just to clarify, because I think I should, hunting mammoths/mastadons was not unknown with Northeastern fluted point hunters. Here is a very short article by Gramly describing the Bowser Rd. mastodon site in New York. Gramly has now published a much longer monograph on this site:

    http://asaa-persimmonpress.com/numbe...-mastodon.html

    Last edited by CMD; 07-28-2019, 11:50 AM.
    Rhode Island

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    • #9
      Ive always entertained the idea that when you come down to crude points snd fine ones it may be a matter of practice...not in the making, but in the field. I hunt with a bow, and i sure dont shoot elk with the same points i practice with. Im fairly certain they practiced from a very young age and finely made agate or obsidian wont take that abuse. My 2 cents...

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      • #10
        There's a big difference between a first stage point freshly made and what most of us find after thousands of years . I find basalt points that won't cut butter and the same type that was lost dropped and buried as sharp as a razor . From historic back to paleo times results are the same .

        Comment


        • clambellies
          clambellies commented
          Editing a comment
          I agree. Also, perhaps a lot of the dull, crude points C J is talking about were never really projectile points, but were cutting, drilling or scoring tools. Perhaps if one of those dull "points" were studied, one would find that they are dull and crude due to use wear.

      • #11
        I have some woodland and Mississippian points that are as finely made as anything from any period. Like others have said, a lot of the cruder made ones were used as tools or had other purposes rather than killing animals.

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        • #12
          Now, y’all know I just joined site, and though have head full of info on lotsa & lotsa subjects (am professional researcher/writer/speaker on some of them), y’all surely know arrowheads & their typology are certainly not among them. However, have good bit of general, long-term, book-learning about some ancient cultures and their stone tools, including PPTs, of which smallest and most recent, the “arrowhead”, is a sub-type.

          First projectile points man made were large, heavy, attached to spear, & used to hunt mammoth and other big game. Time passed, man developed, food source changed, as did PPTs’ utilization. Maximizing a new way of projectile usage enabled delivery at greater speed towards intended target, though man’s physical effort was less and his distance from prey greater. Best usage of the atlatl necessitated smaller, lighter spears, and smaller, lighter projectiles, known as “darts”. More time passed, man cont’d to develop, food source changed, and again PPTs’ utilization changed. Maximizing this newer way of using projectiles enabled more accurate delivery at speeds and distances even greater than atlatl. The bow’s maximum usage necessitated even smaller, lighter spears, “arrows”, and even smaller, lighter projectiles, “arrowheads”. PPTs became more delicate, so much so, sometimes known as “bird points”. Their fineness and delicacy initiated this name, which was not indicative of their targets. Indeed, the power of these tiniest of all PPTs when derived from a bow, would cause an entire arrow to pass completely through the body of a bird. A practiced solo hunter could bring down big prey quicker and easier than a whole group of his ancestors hunting mammoth with large, heavy projectiles attached to large, heavy spears.

          Bet y’all didn’t think had even these 2 cents to contribute......

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