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Projectile Points
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Archaeologists have long recognized that Native Americans made projectile points in different sizes and shapes, and that their appearance changed over time.  To sort out the variety of projectile point types, archaeologists name them and assign them to particular cultures or periods of time.  For example, the Clovis point is named for an ancient site found near Clovis, New Mexico in the 1920s.  Most of the projectile point types found in Maryland were first defined by a handful of archaeologists working in the eastern U.S. during the middle part of the 20th century.  Among the leaders were W. Fred Kinsey (in Pennsylvania); William A. Ritchie (New York); Robert L. Stephenson (Maryland); Bettye J. Broyles (West Virginia); and Joffre L. Coe (North Carolina).

Many projectile point types include a wide range of variation in form.  These variations could be the result of differences in how the point was to be used, in the skills and preferences of the point maker, or in the raw materials utilized.  The point could also change in size and shape during its use-life, as it was periodically re-sharpened.  At first glance, all the resulting variations may seem too dissimilar to group together.  But closer examination will reveal traits that link them -- for example, the presence of ground edges on the base, or the placement of notches used for hafting the point.  In fact, the lower portion of the point – the haft element – tends to be the most useful for identifying the point type, as it is generally less altered than the blade sometimes is.  But in the end, many individual points will have traits that could put them in several different types, with no clear-cut preferred answer.  (After all, the Indian who made the point wasn’t thinking about it in the same way an archaeologist does!).  In those cases, the best approach is simply to describe the point, such as “shallow side notched,” “serrated bifurcated base,” or “narrow straight stemmed.”

There are various ways to group the different point types found in Maryland.  On this website you can search for a specific type by its name, by the time period when it was commonly used, or by the generalized shape of the point (for example, the points that are triangular in form).  The shape categories used here are: bifurcate base, contracting stem, corner notch, lanceolate, pentagonal, side notch, stemmed, and triangular.  Some point types have characteristics or variations that could place them in more than one shape category.

Bifurcate Base: a point with a pronounced notch on its base.  Types include Kanawha Stemmed, LeCroy, MacCorkle, St. Albans, Stanly. Illustration of a bifurcate base stem.
Contracting Stem: a point with stem sides that taper to a narrow or rounded base.  Types include Lehigh/Koens-Crispin, Morrow Mountain, Piscataway, Poplar Island, Rossville. Illustration of a point with contracting stem.
Corner Notch: a point with notches at the lower corners. Types include Brewerton Corner Notched, Jack’s Reef Corner Notched, Kirk Corner Notched, Palmer. Illustration of a corner-notched point.
Lanceolate: a point with notches or stem that are weak-to-non-existent. Types include Clovis, Guilford, Hardaway-Dalton, Middle Paleo, Selby Bay/Fox Creek. Illustration of a lanceolate type point.
Pentagonal: a point with five sides.  Type is Jack’s Reef Pentagonal. Illustration of a pentagonal point.
Side Notch: a point with notches on its lower sides.  Types include Brewerton Eared Notched, Brewerton Side Notched, Halifax, Hardaway Side Notched, Lamoka, Meadowood, Normanskill, Otter Creek, Selby Bay/Fox Creek. Illustration of a side-notched point.
Stemmed: a point with stem sides that are parallel or widen toward the base.  Types include Adena, Bare Island, Calvert, Clagett, Fishtail Types, Kirk Serrated, Kirk Stemmed, Lamoka, Perkiomen, Savannah River, Selby Bay/Fox Creek, Susquehanna Broadspear, Vernon. Illustration of a stemmed point.
Triangular: a point shaped like a triangle.  Types include Brewerton Eared Triangle, Levanna, Madison, Potomac. Illustration of a triangular point.

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