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Modern Re-Chipping of Lithic Artifacts

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  • Modern Re-Chipping of Lithic Artifacts

    Re-chipping and re-basing are a huge problem in the artifact collecting hobby. 50-75 years ago there was very little value in "Arrowheads" so old time collectors would pretty em up. Look for extreme patina change and look for added notches. A jewelers loupe is a must and a UV light will pick up re-chipping on many materials.

    Examples of altered pieces. Note patina changes:

    Click image for larger version

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    Last edited by painshill; 01-27-2016, 03:05 PM.

  • #2
    Detecting modern re-chipping with a UV light source....
    Benefits of viewing artifacts with UV light
    John F. Berner / EIC
    Originally published in the Central States Archaeological Journal, Vol.52, No.3, pg.126

    May I treat this subject as an introductory matter? The reason is there have been some inaccuracies written about the use of these beneficial tools. Ultraviolet light, UV or "blacklight" as it is generally called is not new to the collector fraternity. However, it has more recently been introduced to artifact collectors. For more than 50 years, Museum curators, art dealers (especially those who specialize in fine art painting and ceramics) have used these tools extensively.

    Basically, there are two types of UV lights; hard wired appliances which require an AC source of power, and more recently DC, battery operated. I have used both types extensively and find them to be convenient. The major difference is the size of the bulbs which are available up to 24" in length with AC power cords which produce more light than typical DC battery types which are normally limited to 8 inch to 12 inch in length.

    I have learned much from the treatise on black light and its application entitled "The black light book", updated 4th edition by author Mark Chervenka. This book is a standard recognized by those who specialize in antique and similar collectibles. Mark is the editor of "Antique and Collectors Reproduction news". In his book, he discusses the merits of long wave and short wave UV light. He is quick to state that using short wave light should be avoided because it will give false readings and dangerous.

    Short wave is potentially dangerous as it can cause skin and eye problems from exposure. Persons who promote the use of both should be advised of such hazards. I assume this false information came from the application by professional gemologists who use both to determine the authenticity of precious stones such as emeralds and diamonds.

    Long wave UV light can assist in determining a number of possible artifact problems that otherwise might be undetected by the human eye. First of all, it can be very effective in showing restoration which has become increasingly unnoticeable by today's expert restorationists. Keep in mind that all UV examinations are best conducted in total or nearly total darkness because the illumination of the black light is minimal at best. And whenever possible, the subject of your examination should be displayed upon dark black cloth which has no reflective qualities.

    The use of "black light" illumination is also very effective in revealing the differences between ancient surfaces, especially on flint and chert items where modern damage or rechipping might occur.

    Depending upon the type of toolstone, the modern surfaces will either fluoresce as dark or light. And in some instances, the new or modern knapped areas may fluoresce different colors from patinated areas of thousands of years of chemical and physical changes. One toolstone in particular which gives instant readings is old and new Knife River flint, sometimes called "Coffee Agate" by Westerners. This highly attractive material is found in North Dakota and elsewhere and is highly translucent. Another easily discernable material is the popular Hornstones of the midwestern states. This material will show darkly where a fresh flake has been removed from the ancient surface. The white flint of Missouri and Illinois called Burlington chert shows a similar effect as new areas also show darker than the surrounding areas which have been anciently aged. This ancient age sometimes is removed by accidental damage, other times for the purpose of rebasing or repointing slightly damaged artifacts.

    Please understand that no black light examination will reveal whether an artifact in question is ancient or reproduction!

    Flint is determined by archaeologists as silica rock which is translucent, and chert is that silica material which is opaque. Most chert like materials including Jaspers will present an obvious difference between old areas and new areas. However the fine chalcedonies, agates and semi-precious gem materials will seldom give up the same type of answers regarding alterations with the use of Ultraviolet light sources.

    Not trying to sing an old song but it is a good time to let our readers know that the use of the "black light" has been a primary tool of many authenticators whose job is to advise collector owners whether not an artifact in question has been tampered with, restored, glued or obviously reworked by modern man. Restoration is usually not the major problem and in some instances may be overlooked or missed by the purveyor of the artifact.

    I like to think of minor tampering as the originally harmless attempt of farmer finders to correct ancient or cultivation mistakes on artifacts. My mentor of artifacts in the 1940's did not see any harm in correcting the non-symmetrical area of his finds. After all, he was a full blooded Cherokee and considered the changes his right!

    Modern rechipping, resharpening or rebasing of ancient flints is something else! It is fraud and deception of the highest form. It is no different than the counterfeiting of money. Yet, there are those who condone the action of the deceitful.

    One midwestern dealer had the audacity to brag that he has enjoyed more than a million dollars in profits from fraudulent work such as rechipped flint and ground stone reproductions. It is fact that several skilled flint chippers who can skillfully rework ancient points from base to tip and back were engaged. The new work is artificially aged and the item is ready for market!

    This is where a "black light" can shine brightly as it may reveal this insidious attempt of work for all to see and you to know! Thank you for listening.

    Used by Permission of the publisher
    To learn more about or to join the Central States Archaeological Society, click here:
    Last edited by painshill; 01-27-2016, 03:14 PM.
    I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.


    • #3
      Perfect Arrowhead Phenomena
      Pg.9, Vol.XXXI No.2,1997 "Prehistoric American"

      Perfect means flawless. Phenomena means an unusual, unaccountable, remarkable fact or occurrence. The appearance of thousands of perfect arrowheads in the last 10 years; must certainly be a phenomenon. With 35 years of mainstream collecting, even I was amazed. Bob Overstreet, author of the latest "Arrowhead Identification Price Guide" describes the perfect artifact and I quote: "Grade 10. Perfect in every way, including thinness, flaking, symmetry and form. The best example you would ever expect to see in any given type". He goes on to say: "this grade is extremely rare, and therefore hardly ever seen, etc.".

      This essay was prompted by a question posed to me by Dr.J. Neal Brown, a highly regarded authority on Southern artifacts and a good friend who asked: "How many Clovis points of any significance have you seen in your 18 years in Georgia?" I remembered four. Then he related to his home state of Mississippi. He could not recall more than a dozen. Then we covered other states such as Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and the Carolinas. All of a sudden, hundreds of perfect points of all types are appearing on the market; Hardins, Clovis, Dovetails, Lost Lakes, Daltons, etc. Some collectors, new to the artifact field since 1990 can boast hundreds of fine perfect points. Where do you suppose these fine points were hiding up until then? The subject of how many fine points appeared in the great Edward Payne collection of the late '20s and '30's were G10's? Review illustrated many 6, 7 and 8's and a few 9's. No 10's! Were the perfect points ignored during these years? I think not.

      What prompted the "Perfect Arrowhead Phenomena? Several possibilities. Twenty years ago, several major dealers began buying up slightly damaged major pieces. At the same time there was an upsurge in the practice of flint knapping. More than one old damaged piece was rechipped by experienced knappers and then aged to cover the work. In 1975 I noticed a large Dovetail of flint ridge with a broken base. 30 days later I saw the same piece which was now a perfect Ohio "Fracture Base". Also many pieces with impact tip fractures are now without blemish.

      But the real issue is the number of finely made reproductions which have entered the market. These are the G110's marketed to the young execs and the movers and shakers who want to build a perfect investment portfolio. I guess you know, real pieces are not perfect. Few of today's new collectors ever picked up a piece of worked flint in a freshly plowed field. Many G10's don't have a history that exceeds the past 20 years. Artifacts made by ancient man in North America were made for a specific purpose, primarily a tool for survival. He probably was not trying to impress his friend. Look deeper for authenticity and less for perfection. I think you'll enjoy the point.

      “Used by Permission of the Author” and originally published in American Indian Artifacts; Genuine or Reproduction by Col. John F. Berner. Copyright © 2000 by American Antiquities, Inc.
      Last edited by painshill; 01-27-2016, 03:15 PM.
      I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.


      • #4
        More Re-Chipped Examples

        Look for patination changes or the shade of the stains on these fakes.

        Last edited by painshill; 01-27-2016, 04:01 PM.