Contact Dr. Donald Blakeslee for more information



Kansas Artifacts

More About Archaeology 




What Archaeology IS..

Archaeology is the study of past societies using material remains.  The material remains are items left behind by human beings – their garbage, things they lost and objects that were too big for them to move.  People also leave behind different kinds of traces of their presence, traces that archaeologists call features.  These include storage pits, fireplaces, mounds, house pits, and the like.


There are many kinds of archaeology.  Biblical archaeology studies remains from the Holy Land during the periods of the Old and New Testaments.  Classical archaeology studies the remains of the civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome.  Historical archaeologists study societies that left written records, while prehistoric archaeologists study the remains of societies that did not have writing that we can read.  In Kansas, the first written records date to AD 1541, so most of the material on this web page is prehistoric archaeology.Kursus Facial


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If you Own a Site


Don't be afraid to report it. Neither the state nor the universities nor any museum have the right to confiscate your collection nor to force an excavation project on you. They do not have that power. Some unscrupulous collectors purposefully mislead landowners about this; they want to collect year after year without ever sharing information.

If you report a site, personnel at the Kansas State Historical Society will help you with the process, and they won't make the location public. You won't have a flock of strangers bothering you because you reported a site. Records of archaeological site locations are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act; because sites are scarce and non-renewable resources, they are protected.

You can start by emailing
Or you can write to
Public Archeologist
Kansas State Historical Society
6425 SW Sixth Avenue
Topeka, KS 66615-1099

There are several benefits to reporting sites on your property. Having your sites recorded may cause some destructive projects to be routed away from your land. All federally licensed and funded projects are required to have a survey to determine whether a variety of resources, including archaeological sites, are in the project area. Known sites have to be tested and significant - Perumahan Purwokerto - Lentera Post - Ruang Niaga - Drw Skincare sites have to be excavated, all at a cost to the project.

Important sites can be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. This is a voluntary procedure on the part of the landowner. It does not involve relinquishment of title nor does it require public access to the site, and you can continue to use the land as you have previously. Having a National Register site does mean that most projects will be routed away from the site if at all possible.

There are provisions under Kansas law for giving an easement for archaeological purposes to the state or other non-profit organization such as a university. There can be tax benefits for such a donation.

If you find human skeletal remains or burial goods, you are required by state law (or federal law if you are on federal or tribal land) to report them. An accidental find of this nature is not regarded as criminal activity; in fact it happens fairly frequently. You will not be subject to a fine if you report it, although there is a fine if you don’t. The proper procedure is to call the local law enforcement agency, which is usually the police or sheriff’s department. Usually they will then call in an archaeologist or forensic anthropologist to determine what should be done. The remains may be reburied in place if that is a safe and reasonable solution, but it is more likely that they will be excavated for later reburial or repatriation.

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If You Have a Project . . . .

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Rules for Collectors: Dos and Don'ts

Rule # 1: Do ask permission

Always ask permission from the landowner/tenant

            Always, Always, ALWAYS!

If you collect without asking permission, you are trespassing and you are stealing; simple as that.

Rule # 2: Don't Buy and Sell

            If you collect, do it yourself, following the guidelines laid out here. If you do the collecting, every item you find will have a story and a memory associated with it. If you buy, all you get is a thing, and the value of your collection will go down, not up. A well-documented collection in which the origin of every item is known has enormous potential for providing information about the past; one with artifacts from different regions and sites mixed together, combined with the fakes that are all over the market, is pretty much worthless.

            And fakes are a real problem. Lots of people flake their own artifacts and then sell them. They may do so honestly, but once an item is in someone else's hands all bets are off. People who want to make a point look old know how to do it, and even an expert cannot tell a well-made replica from a fake. Furthermore, the more desirable an artifact is to collectors, the greater the chances of it being a fake.

            An inevitable effect of buying and selling artifacts is that it leads to the wholesale looting of sites. This is happening all over the world. In one region of New Mexico, sites have to be protected with chain link fences topped with barbed wire to keep the looters out. There is a national organization called the Archaeological Conservancy whose job it is to buy and protect important sites from looters. If you enjoy your hobby of collecting things from the past, don't add to the destruction of the past by buying and selling artifacts.

Rule # 3: Do Keep Records

            The single factor that is most important in letting collected artifacts retain their information value is the presence of good records about their origin. If you keep your collection organized according to where the items came from, you eventually will be able to see patterns even without training. Different kinds of points will come from different sites; one site will have lots of scrapers, another site only a few; certain kinds of stone will show up on only some sites; different kinds of stone may turn up only at certain spots within a site. You will be looking at the products of different groups of people from different eras and at different activity areas within a site.

            To record site information really well, you need to do three simple things:

            make a record of where the sites are

            keep a notebook

            label the artifacts by which site they came from.

Do Record site and artifact locations

            The record of where the sites are can be as simple as using a county road map or aerial photos (available from the county NCRS office). You can find and print off both maps and aerial photos from the Terraserver web site ( Using a combination of both a map and an aerial photo is great; the map shows where the site is, while you can use the aerial to see exactly where in a field you are with respect to the trees and other features.


            You can also record site locations using the legal description, if you are familiar with this system. A precise legal description might be the NE 1/4 of the SE 1/4 of the NW 1/4 of Section 2, Township 12 South, Range 2 West. You can figure out legal descriptions most readily from topographic maps, which are available from the Kansas Geological Survey, 1930 Constant Ave., Lawrence, KS 66047-3726. Topographic maps of whole counties are available as are more detailed quadrangle maps and are handy for use in the field. Even putting a site location on your map without figuring out the legal description is far better than nothing. The image is as good as the written record.


            An even better way of recording locations is to use a GPS unit. These are widely available and allow you to record locations quite precisely. It is easiest to use the UTM locations, which are meters east and north of a known location. A GPS unit allows you to record locations within a site and so gradually to build up a picture of the site over many return visits. You can use a piece of graph paper to do this, recording the edges of a field while walking the perimeter and then collecting and recording the locations of artifacts within the site. Some collectors enjoy trying to put together broken artifacts by finding all of the pieces over repeat visits. Knowing the exact spot where you found an item last year is a great place to start.


Do Keep a notebook  

            Keep a notebook with you in the field. You can use it to record anything you want, and you will find it both useful and enjoyable later. Consider the following entry from a notebook kept by the late Dick Stauffer:


16 Apr 1960    Heard peculiar snort-stomp sounds.  I’m staring at antlers – a buck.  He’s pawing,  hoofing the ground – some 75 yards away.  I go about my business; he in turn does the same.                                                                           


            If you record what you find on each site visit, you can sort things out at home even if a bag breaks and artifacts from different sites get mixed together. 


            Notebooks are also helpful when you meet someone who gives you a lead on another site.


            If you are using a GPS unit, you can record the exact location of all of your finds and keep them with the site record ready for your next visit. 


            If you use a small loose-leaf notebook, you can reorganize notes when you get home so that all of the information on each site is in a single place. If you do this, be sure to date the pages to help you remember each visit.  And, regardless of what kind of notebook you take with you, you will find a strong rubber band handy to keep the pages from turning in the Kansas wind.


Do Number the artifacts

            As you find sites, you can assign each one a number so that they do not become mixed with items from other sites. This need not be fancy; you can just start with site 1 and go from there. Whatever system you devise, be sure to write the site numbers on your maps and aerial photos.


            You will want to use permanent ink of some sort and to keep the site numbers fairly small. A good policy is to look at the specimen and decide which is its good side for photography and to put the number on another side. Don't use tags with glue on the back; many eventually drop off.  For dark and coarse-grained items, you will want to use a bit of white paint or white-out to give you a smooth surface on which your site number will be visible.


Rule # 4: Do Report your sites

            Some collectors are afraid that if they report their sites that professional archaeologists or other collectors will beat then to the good artifacts. Some also fear that their artifacts will be confiscated. These fears are groundless. Professional archaeologists excavate only a few sites in Kansas per year, and this keeps them very busy. And the site locations you report are secret; other collectors will not learn the locations from the state historical society.



Rule # 5: Don't Dig without guidance

            Excavation destroys sites. Careful excavation requires thorough training, and even so, professional archaeologists leave parts of sites intact whenever they can because they know that the future will bring new techniques that will generate kinds of information they can only dream about today. 


            Good excavation is slow and painstaking work that requires good technique and excellent record keeping. If you want to try your hand at excavating, attend the annual  KATP.                                                              



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Common Misconceptions

Generations of collectors come and go without having much contact with the scientific literature that has accumulated over the years. They do tend to have contact with other collectors, and as a result, some misconceptions or myths about artifacts have built up and are widespread. We try to clear up some of them here.


That's one big arrowhead!

            Stone arrowheads tend to be quite small because of the materials available to Native Americans. A well-designed arrow requires a balance between the weight of the point and the strength of the shaft. Stone points are thicker than metal points and weigh considerably more, and the wood available for shafts was fairly weak. Even the metal points used in the historic period tend to be less than 2 ½  inches long and an inch wide. A good way to decide whether your point is an arrowhead or a spear head is to look at the width of the base, between the notches if it is notched or at the junction of the blade and haft if it is stemmed. This is an indication of the diameter of the shaft to which it was attached. Arrow shafts were less than ½ inch in diameter.


Bird Points

            Many people believe that small arrowheads were designed for shooting birds. This idea derives in part from the misconception that most spear points were actually arrowheads. See That's one big arrowhead!. A good argument against small points being designed especially for birds comes from the village sites of the Great Bend Mosaic. These sites contain thousands of so-called bird points (M01) and hardly any larger points (most of which are clearly old points that the Great Bend people had picked up). Yet the sites are filled with literally tons of bison bone – animals that had to have been hunted with those tiny points.


Blunts or big bird points

            In some time periods, the natives of Kansas reworked their spear points into what some collectors call blunts or bunts (M02). These are always made on spear points, not arrow points, and they are tools, not weapons. They always have a steep rounded end flaked from one edge and were used as scrapers. Note the similarity between the working edges on these two specimens (M03).



Ogham is a form of writing that was used in Ireland and to a lesser extent in Wales and Scotland for writing on stone monuments in the fifth and sixth centuries AD.  The symbols consist of straight lines that either extended from or crossed the corner of a stone or across a horizontal line if written on parchment.  Most known examples of the use of Ogham on stone are boundary markers, and all of them look like this.



            A man named Barry Fell wrote a series of books that claimed that there are Ogham inscriptions in the Americas (and Africa), but no Ogham expert agrees with him, and his examples look nothing like Ogham monuments (image needed). Nor are there any professional linguists who agree with his supposed translations.  A link to a reasonable (and amusing) summary of the various arguments can be found at The following is a link to a website that deals with Celtic inscriptions on stone. 



            Some collectors have begun to call a certain form of knife a Sekan, which is short for Southeast Kansas stiletto. There are two problems here. First, these knives are not restricted to southeast Kansas but instead are found over a much wider area. In Kansas, they were made by the ancestors of the Wichita Indians who had their villages in central Kansas. They hunted widely in eastern Kansas, leaving these distinctive tools behind, but they also ranged at least as far north as Waconda Lake on the Solomon River and southwest into Texas. In Nebraska, knives of the same type are found in Pawnee villages and camps. One was even reported from Pecos Pueblo in New Mexico.

            The second problem is that these tools were not used as stilettos, which are stabbing weapons. When they were brand new, they were ovate in shape without the distinctive beveling and concave blade shape that led to the name (M06). Because they were mounted on wooden handles, they were resharpened with the blade held away from the person doing the work. A right handed person would hold the handle in his or her left hand and the flaking tool in their right, removing flakes from the bottom side of the left edge of the blade. Repeated resharpening of this kind (called unifacial resharpening) eventually produces a beveled edge with the steep side down.  To resharpen the opposite edge, the person simply turned the blade over and repeated the process (G02). 


            The process of resharpening also changed the outline of the blade. Originally it would have been convex, but repeated use and resharpening affects the middle of the blade more than the tip or the base, and eventually it became straight and then concave. When it got really narrow, the knife was likely to break, and it was time to throw it away or to turn the remnant into a pipe drill (CS27).


Only men made stone tools

            Boy is this one silly. Prehistoric Native American societies were dependent on stone for both men's and women's tools. While men did most of the hunting and are likely to have made and maintained the points, women did a lot of the butchering and hide working and are likely to have made and maintained their own tools. One cache of stone items found in MacPherson County contained a few cutting and hide scraping tools that almost certainly belonged to a woman along with a large supply of large stone flakes from which she could make other tools in the future (image needed).  While we cannot project back in time which gender had which tasks with any certainty, among the historic Pawnees, women owned the axes and stone mauls, and men did the hideworking of elk and deer and would have owned bone beamers.


Images in stone

            Many people see images in pieces of stone that they find. But the Native Americans who lived in Kansas hardly ever sculpted pieces of loose stone into images. They did, however, carve images onto rock walls (M08). To tell whether a piece of stone you have found might have been carved, try cutting a similar piece of stone with a sharp piece of flint or pecking (a line into a surface with a hard stone. That will show you what the image would look like if it had been made by human hands.


There are lots of good guides to point styles

            Actually, there are a lot of misleading guides out there, which is one of the reasons for this web page. There are books published by collectors who buy and sell artifacts, and these are uniformly filled with misinformation. One illustrates supposed Besant points (found only in the northwestern plains) from Tennessee and Texas that don't even look like Besant points. They tend to give ages of points in the thousands of years, whereas most styles did not last nearly that long. 


            There is a set of old bulletins of the Oklahoma Anthropological Society that are better in some ways, but they were written in the 1950s and 1960s before radiocarbon dates were widely available. Hence the ages were based on guesswork and (unfortunately) on collections from some sites now understood to be of mixed ages.


            The best guides currently on the market are by Noel Justice, a collector and flintknapper who understands how the points were made. His region of expertise, however, lies well to the east of Kansas, and his most complete book includes only a few styles that range as far west as Kansas. 


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Careers in Archaeology


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Things to Read


Hoard, Robert J., and William E.  Banks

2006    Kansas Archaeology.  Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.


O'Brien, Patricia J.

1984    Archeology in Kansas. Public Education Series            No. 9. Museum of Natural History, University of             Kansas. This is a concise book written for the general    reader.


Wedel, Waldo R.

1959    An Introduction to Kansas Archeology. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 174. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. This was the first       substantial book on Kansas archaeology, based            primarily on Wedel's own excavations combined with careful historic research.


1986    Central Plains Prehistory. University of          Nebraska Press, Lincoln. Written near the end of Wedel's long and productive career, this is a summary of the archaeological sequence on one river basin.



KSHS publications

KU publications


Blakeslee, Donald J.

1999    Waconda Lake: Prehistoric Swidden-Foragers in          the Central Plains.  Central Plains Archaeology, 7(1). Available from NAPA (link needed)         This is a report intended for a professional audience.  It resolves some issues and raises new questions about the Middle Ceramic period.


Current Archaeology in Kansas is an annual publication of the Professional Archaeologists of Kansas (link needed).


Kansas Anthropologist is published annually by the Kansas Anthropological Association. Membership costs $22 for an individual and includes a subscription to the journal.  (link needed)


Central Plains Archaeology is an annual publication of the Nebraska Association of Professional Archaeologists.  It carries articles pertinent to Nebraska and surrounding states.  Membership currently costs $15.  (link needed)


Plains Anthropologist is a journal for professionals. A subscription currently costs $45, $30X for students. (link needed)


Things to do

KAA digs (link)

KAA meetings/own chapter (link)

AASCK (info)

your local museum



other links



KU collections




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This is a nickname for a category of stones. ‘Agate’ refers to stones that have some translucency and (most often) for ones that have bands of different colors (SS38). Some of the prettiest points made by modern flintknappers are made from brightly colored agates. Many varieties of chert are also banded, but they lack the translucent quality of agate.

alternately beveled
If you have a chipped stone tool on which beveling is visible on one edge (left or right), turn it over and see whether there is beveling on the other face that shows up on the same side (G01). If so, the item is alternately beveled. Harahey knives are diamond-shaped and alternately beveled so that each face has two beveled edges located kitty corner from one another, no matter which end and which face are up. Repeated unifacial resharpening of a tool edge creates alternate beveling.

Here's where you can amaze your friends. A right handed person who resharpens a tool will produce a pattern of alternate beveling in which the bevel will be visible on the left hand side of the far (distal) end of the tool. About 90% of alternately beveled tools have this form. So, you can look at a tool and (if it is alternately beveled) you can say whether it was used by a right- or left-handed person (G02).

A level of classification for archaeological units that is no longer commonly used. A set of similar sites would be grouped into a focus and a set of focuses in an aspect, such as the Great Bend Aspect.

The set of items found in a site is called the site assemblage. All of the objects from a single feature are called a subassemblage.

A device for throwing a light spear or dart with increased range. It consists of a handle, shaft and hook. The spear is held with forefinger and thumb, while the other three fingers hold the handle. The butt of the dart is concave and it fits against the hook at the far end of the atlatl shaft (G03). The atlatl increases the length of the arm and enhances the flicking motion of the wrist. Stone weights called boatstones and bannerstones were attached to some atlatls.

A fancy way of saying that a point has basal ears (G04).

A projection from the base of the blade of a projectile point. Barbs can project laterally, flare or point down (G05).

basal grinding
Purposeful blunting of the base of some types of projectile points, especially early ones. Basal grinding may be confined to the point base or it may extend along the lateral edges of a lanceolate or stemmed point or into side notches. It is best detected by feeling the edges with your fingers to compare the basal edges to the blade edges.

basal notch
Refers to a point with a single notch at the center of the base. Some arrow points of the Middle Ceramic period have basal notches (G06). When a stemmed point has a basal notch, however, the point is usually described as either stemmed indented base or bifurcated stem.

basal thinning
Purposeful thinning of the base of a point by the removal of a line of fairly narrow flakes from one or both faces (G09). To be called basal thinning, the line of flake scars must extend far enough into the point to have been useful in hafting; a line of short flake scars can result from just the shaping of the base (G10). The flake scars from basal thinning are more numerous, narrower and shorter than flute scars.

The base of a point is the proximal edge, although many people call the lateral edges near the base the basal edges.

A base-notched point is one that has two notches extending up either vertically or diagonally from the base (G07).

Before the Christian Era of before the common era. Some people attempt to be politically correct by replacing BC (before Christ) with BCE. The numbers in calendar years remain the same.

Appearing on both faces or flat sides of a two sided artifact. The term is applied both to purposeful flaking and to evidence of wear.

bifacially beveled
An edge of an artifact that becomes markedly steeper near the edge on both faces (G11). Some projectile points were purposefully made with bifacial beveling to create an especially strong blade edge.

Split into two parts. This term is usually restricted to the description of stemmed points that have a central basal notch (G12) as opposed to a stem that has a concave base, in which case stemmed indented base (G08) is more appropriate.

BP stands for radiocarbon years Before Present, with “present” defined as AD 1950, the approximate date of the invention of radiocarbon dating. BP is used because radiocarbon years are only an estimate of the age of an item based on how much radioactive carbon it still contains. The amount of 14C present in living things has varied over time, making radiocarbon years different from calendar years.

BP dates do not convert to BC/AD dates (also called calendar dates) simply by subtracting the BP date from AD 1950, but many people have taken that shortcut rather than using an up-to-date conversion table. So beware of AD/BC dates in books and reports unless the author specifies how they were calculated. A simple conversion table intended only to show the nature of the differences is on this web page (link)

A fossil mollusc colony found in some Kansas cherts. Bryozoan fossils often resemble fragmentary nets (SS39).

bulb of percussion
When a flake is removed from a core or nodule by striking it with some sort of hammer, there will be a thick, convex spot on the inner surface of the flake just below the striking platform. This is the bulb of percussion (G13).

bulbar scar
On a flake scar, the bulb of percussion will leave a negative impression – an indentation just below the striking platform. This is evidence that the flake was removed by a blow of some sort but not necessarily that the blow was delivered by a human being. The presence of a bulbar scar, however, does serve to separate out flake scars produced by percussion from those produced by natural flaws in the stone, frost cracking, and so on.

A term that refers to the shape of either the haft element (G15) or the basal ears (G16) of a projectile point. It means rounded.

A group of artifacts that were stored together in a compact group. Some caches were simply for storage; others were religious offerings.

cache pit
A pit dug in the ground for the storage of food and other items. When used for food, eventually insects, rodents or fungus would find their way into the pit and it had to be abandoned. Since empty pits were a hazard in societies without electric lights, the old pits were usually filled with trash, solving two problems at once (G17).

caliche (kah-LEE-chay)
A calcium carbonate deposit that forms in some semi-arid soils. Caliche can form thick beds, such as the capstone of the Llano Estacado in Texas, little pebble-like bodies in soils, or a rough grayish deposit on the surface of artifacts (SS40).

A general term for the family of animals that includes dogs, wolves and coyotes. Very often it is impossible to determine which species is present from a few bones or teeth, so this term is a handy copout (G69).

chalcedony (kal-SED-o-nee)
This is the name applied to varieties of chippable stone that are translucent but lack the bands of color typical of agates. Chalcedonies that occur in Kansas sites brown Knife River chalcedony (SS30) and pinkish Flattop chalcedony (SS28).

The proper name for what most people call flint. Cherts form in limestones after the limestone is deposited and are composed primarily of silica. Chert is a general term that includes flints, jaspers and chalcedonies, but most people do not use it that way. The Flint Hills are named for the cherts that occur there.

There can be enormous variation in the appearance and quality of cherts from a single geologic formation and even from a single source. Often, the texture and color vary within a single nodule. To make things even more difficult, cherts from different geologic formations can resemble one another. As a result, correct identification of chert types is often difficult, and the smaller the artifact, the more difficult the identification becomes.

Refers to the pattern of flake scars seen on (especially) some PaleoIndian period points in which the flakes are at right angles to the long axis of the point and the flake scars that come in from opposite edges are lined up with one another fairly well (G18).

Christian era (or for some, “common era”), a politically correct term intended to replace AD.

This refers to the evidence in a site that reflects a single usage of the site. Sites can be single component or multi-component, and in multi-component sites, the components can be stacked above one another (vertical stratification) or at least partially separated horizontally (horizontal stratification) or thoroughly mixed together (secondary context). An individual component may be formed in a single day or over a long period of years.

A natural formation that develops inside soils and rocks. Concretions come in a wide variety of unusual shapes, and some were collected by Native Americans (SS42).

A stone formed by sand and pebbles that have become cemented together (image needed). In rare cases, the cementing is so complete that the stone can be flaked like chert.

Refers to the shape of a projectile point which is more or less lanceolate but with a constriction fairly near the base (G19). This differs from an expanding stem point by the gradualness of the change from the convex distal portion of the blade to the concave proximal portion; that is, a constricted point lacks a well-defined shoulder area (G20).

The relation an artifact has with all of the other items that surround it. The majority of information contained in an archaeological site lies in the contexts of the various items in it. The function of a tool may be revealed by the objects with which it is found.

When a cultural deposit has not been disturbed since the items in it were deposited, it is said to be in primary context, while a deposit that has been disturbed by natural forces such as erosion or by human actions such as plowing or looting is said to be in secondary context.

contracting stem
A stem of a point or tool that contracts as it extends away from the blade or bit (G21).

corner notched
A point on which the notches point diagonally up toward the tip and have removed the corners of the preform (G22). Corner notched points grade into expanded stem points with increasing notch width and into base-notched and side-notched points depending on the exact placement of the notches and one's estimate of where the corners of the preform lay.

corner removed
Corner removed is used to describe points which have a small wide portion of the basal corners removed producing a wide, very short stem (G22a).

The outer layer of a nodule. The cortex on chert cobbles from bedrock sources is limestone (G23), while the cortex on stream cobbles is a thin layer of hard rock that may have a pebbly structure (G24). If the outer layer is a solid brown color, you are probably looking at the patina or rind that develops on upland chert gravels (G25).

The name of a geologic period during which bedrock formations were deposited that are exposed in western Kansas.

crinoid stem
Fossil fragment of a marine animal. The stems of crinoids are a stack of interlocking disks that usually have broken into their respective parts. Crinoid stem impressions are typical of the Peoria variant of Warsaw chert (SS44).

This term refers to a kind of wear on the edge of a chipped stone tool that results from applying a lot of force on a hard material. The result is a series of short flakes that end in step fractures (G26).

decortication flake
A flake on which there is cortex present on the dorsal surface (G27). Decortication flakes are usually produced early in the sequence required to make a chipped stone tool, and many decortication flakes in a site suggest that it lies near a quarry or other source of the raw stone.

Name for a group of sponges that contain large silica spicules. Demospongia fossils occur in some Permian cherts (SS52).

A mineral inclusion in a chert that takes the appearance of a black mossy growth. Dendrites are common in Hartville uplift chert but also occur in Smoky Hill jasper (G74), making these two stone sources difficult to differentiate on occasion.

diagnostic artifact
An artifact that is distinctive of a particular time period or archaeological unit. The presence of diagnostic artifacts in a collection from a site allow the archaeologist to say which and how many time periods are represented in it. Artifacts of Kansas is our attempt to document the many kinds of diagnostic artifacts in this state.

Diorite is a dark gray to greenish gray igneous rock that was used to make ground stone celts (SS05) and other tools. Diorite is appropriate for making ground stone but not chipped stone tools. Nevertheless, one occasionally sees diorite artifacts that were roughed out by chipping prior to pecking and grinding.

A word that describes the end of a point or tool that lies farthest from a person's hand when held for normal use or to the end of a bone that lies farthest from the spine of an animal (G54).

Refers to the outer surface of a flake or a tool made from a flake; the inner face is called the ventral surface (G66). A decortication flake has cortex on its dorsal surface. Usually, the flaking on end scrapers is restricted to the dorsal surface.

This term refers to projections from both sides of the basal edge of a point, as opposed to barbs, which project from the base of the blade. Ears vary in how sharp they are and whether they project down, flare or project laterally (G29).

edge grinding
Purposeful dulling of the edge of an artifact, usually on the haft element. Also called basal grinding. Edge grinding prevented the stone tool from cutting through the binding that holds it onto a handle, shaft or foreshaft. Edge grinding is best detected with your fingertips, comparing the dullness of the edges of the haft to those of the working edge of the artifact.

end snap
When a flintknapper is making a biface by percussion flaking, and common error occurs when thinning the base without providing adequate support for the pointed end of the biface. The shock from the hammer blow is concentrated by the narrowing of the biface, causing the distal end to come off (G30).

expanding stem
The stem of a point that expands toward the proximal end (G31). Expanding stems can differ in length, width and the shapes of the lateral edges.

One of the flat sides of a two-sided tool such as a knife or point. A tool that has flakes removed from only one face is called unifacial; one with flakes removed from both faces is bifacial.

This term is usually applied to a particular form of blunting found on the bases, sides of stems and shoulders of some styles of points. Faceting is created when burin blows are used to create a flat edge on one or more of these edges (G32) or when an original flat surface from the nodule is allowed to remain at the base (G33).

An item or set of items in a site that was/were a functional unit of some sort. A fireplace is a feature; so is a house or a tool kit or a burial.

Properly, flint is a high-quality chert that occurs in a bed of chalk. Some people say it has to be black because the flint used in English flintlocks was black (CS21). Since we find French gunflints in Kansas, made from a honey-colored stone (CS22), such restriction on the color of the stone is not appropriate.

The process of manufacturing chipped stone artifacts by percussion and/or pressure flaking.

A large flake scar that extends up from the base of a point that was used to thin the base. Clovis points sometimes had more than one flute on each face (image needed), while Folsom points have large single flutes (G35) on each face (image). Some Dalton points are also fluted (G36).

A term for a set of similar sites in a classification system that is no longer in use. The Little River focus and the Lower Walnut focus are such units within the Great Bend Aspect.

A detachable distal end on a spear, dart or arrow shaft. The stone (or bone, antler, etc.) point is attached firmly to the foreshaft and the foreshaft fits in a socket on the end of the main shaft. This allowed for rapid reloading of thrusting spears when hunting large dangerous animals and for ease of recovery of dart and arrow shafts (which normally were harder to make than chipped stone points).

Frison effect
Named for the fine archaeologist from Wyoming, George Frison, it is the gradual alteration from the original form of an artifact via use wear, breakage and resharpening. A heavily used and resharpened artifact can look very different from its original form (G71).

Fusilinids are single-celled animals whose shells look like grains of wheat (SS45a) or miniature footballs (SS45b). They are abundant in some Pennsylvanian and Permian cherts.

An ore of lead sulphide, galena can occur as silvery cubic crystals, although these can be obscured by a layer of whitish oxide (SS50). Galena was collected and traded in prehistoric Kansas.

glacial till
The sands and gravels carried by glaciers are called glacial till or drift. In Kansas glacial deposits are restricted to the northeastern corner of the state but are also present in adjacent parts of Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa. The most commonly used varieties of stone from these tills are granite, Sioux quartzite and Kansas pipestone.

Granite is a coarse-grained igneous rock available in Kansas in the glacial tills in the northeastern part of the state. It is comprised of crystals of quartz, feldspar and mica. Depending on the variety of feldspar present, it can have either a pink or a white tone (SS49).

groove and snap technique
This is a technique for making blanks for tools and ornaments from pieces of bone. A graver or other sharp stone tool is used to cut two ring shaped grooves around the circumference of a bone, and the ends are then snapped off (G37). If an awl is desired, long grooves in a zig-zag pattern are incised into the bone before the ends are snapped off. These are then pried apart and ground to a point (G38).

Also called a haft element. The portion of a point or tool that has been shaped in order to fit onto a handle of some sort (G39).

haft wear
A polish or striations produced when a stone tool rubs against its handle. Haft wear can be seen occasionally on tools that received fairly heavy use (G68).

heat treatment
Some varieties of chippable stone can be improved by prolonged exposure to high temperatures which fuse some of the tiny flaws in the stone. Heat treatment can be detected by changes in color (especially in yellowish and brownish stones which turn to pinks, oranges and reds) (image needed). Flake scars from flakes removed after heat treatment may have glassy surfaces.

hinge fracture
A flake or flake scar that ends abruptly in a recurved edge (G41). Hinge fractures are usually the result of errors made during flintknapping.

In general terms, the time frame for which historic documents are available. When applied to a Native American site it implies that there are documents that refer to that site. It is also used for all Euro-American and African-American sites.

A short time frame in which one or more artifact types were widely traded or shared.

impact fracture
When a projectile point strikes bone or other hard and resistant material, a flake is driven down the length of the point from the tip (G42). Occasionally, the same impact causes the haft to drive a flake upward from the base.

in situ
Latin for “in place.” An artifact is said to be in situ when it has been exposed but not removed from its location in the site. It is important to map, photograph and otherwise record items in situ so that there is no question about their context.

This term is applied to opaque cherts that have intense colors in shades of red, brown or yellow. Smoky Hill jasper (SS15a) was an important source of chippable stone. It outcrops in northwestern Kansas and southwestern Nebraska.

Any tool used for cutting (CS33). Chipped stone knives have one or more fairly straight sharp edges. Resharpening a stone knife may result in a beveled edge. There are a wide variety of chipped stone knives in Kansas sites.

lag gravels
These are deposits of gravel found on hilltops and the ends of ridges that were produced by erosion of the soils that originally contained the stones. In some areas, lag gravels contain cherts and other chippable stones, and for much of Kansas prehistory lag gravels were a major source for the stone from which tools were made. Cherts from lag gravels can be identified by a caramel-colored patination rind on their exterior (SS57), and in the oldest gravels, this color often penetrates deeply into the interior of the stone.

Used to describe the overall shape of long points that contract toward the proximal end without recurving (G43); points that recurve are called constricted base (G19).

A bone of the foot of animals. Deer and antelope metapodials were often used as raw material for the manufacture of awls (G44).

Mississippian period
Originally a term that referred to varieties of pottery, such as Upper Mississippian and Middle Mississippian ceramics. Later the term came to be used for the time period that begins at around AD 1000 and is simply called Mississippian. The Middle and Late Ceramic periods in Kansas are the time equivalents of the Mississippian period in the East. Middle Mississippian also refers to the cultural tradition that developed the great center of Cahokia near St. Louis. In Kansas, the Steed-Kisker phase is the only cultural unit that might be termed Middle Mississippian.

Mississippian chert
As it applies to stone sources, this is the name of a geologic period, deposits of which outcrop in extreme southeastern Kansas and in Missouri and Iowa. Mississippian limestones contain some excellent cherts, and they are the sources of the very glossy white and pink cherts found in sites in eastern Kansas (SS58).

A set of similar phases that share many traits and are roughly contemporaneous. A more precise definition for some of the units that would otherwise be called variants.

The portion of a notched point that lies between the notches (G45). The width of the neck is an indication of the diameter of the shaft to which the point was attached.

A form of wear on the used edge of a tool or flake that consists of fairly widely spaced small flakes removed from one or both faces (G46). Nibbling is produced by using a tool against a relatively hard and resistant material.

A naturally occurring piece of chert or similar chippable stone (G47). Once flakes have been removed from a nodule, we call it a core.

Refers to a limestone or chert that is rich in small round particles called oolites. These bodies consist (before chert formation) of particles that have become coated with lime and rolled by water action, making them spherical. Nehawka chert is often quite oolitic (SS48).

A term used to describe the overall shape of an artifact that is roughly oval in shape but which may have one or both ends pointed (G75).

A chemical alteration of the surface of a nodule or artifact. Chaldedonies tend to develop a white filmy patina quite quickly (G48), while upland chert gravels develop a thick opaque caramel colored patina that turns red when heat treated (G25). Artifacts that have laid flat in the ground may develop a patina on one face more than the other.

A method of shaping stone for ground stone tools that involves striking repeatedly with a stone hammer, powdering a small portion of the surface with each blow (G49).

This is a food made from powdered buffalo jerky. Pemmican was easily stored and transported. Often the meat was mixed with dried berries before it was powdered, and it was either added to soups or mixed with bone grease before being eaten.

Pennsylvanian chert
This is the name of a geologic period. Bedrock of Pennsylvanian age outcrops east of the Flint Hills. Several formations contain cherts that were used locally, but most of them are of rather low quality. The majority come in brownish tones which turn to pink and red when heated (SS54).

A term used to describe the overall shape of a point or other tool that has a five distinct sides – a base and two lateral edges that exhibit a fairly sharp angle separating their proximal and distal portions (G49a).

percussion flaking
The removal of flakes by striking with a hammer of some sort. The hammer can be a stone (gs19a) or a piece of antler or bone (b25). Percussion flaking can be used to produce a finished tool, such as a Clovis point (G50) or the final stages of flaking can be accomplished with pressure flaking as in Folsom points (image needed).

Permian chert
Bedrock of Permian age outcrops in the Flint Hills. The Florence formation, among others, has abundant chert. Since the cherts from different formations can be visually similar and outcrop in the same exposures, calling them all Permian is a safe strategy.

Currently the basic unit in the classification of archaeological sites – a set of sites from the same time period and the same region that share many traits.

A kind of fracture that occurs in cherts and similar stones when they are heated quickly. Water in the stone turns to steam and blows of a portion of the surface. Potlid scars are roughly circular and basin shaped (G52). Occasionally, one finds the potlid flakes produced by this process (G53).

In the time period before written documents become available for an area. In Kansas, this is before AD 1541.

pressure flaking
A way of shaping a chipped stone artifact using a piece of bone or antler to apply inward pressure followed by a rapid twist to remove a fairly small and thin flake (G79).

primary context
The situation that exists when a site or part of a site has not been disturbed since it was created. Primary contexts produce the greatest amounts of useful information.

This term is used two different ways. Sometimes it is used for the time frame immediately prior to the historic period and at other times it is applied to an individual site and means that 1) the site falls into the historic period (after AD 1541) but that 2) there is no historic documentation for the site.

The point of origin of the raw material from which an artifact was made.

The precise location of an artifact before it is excavated from a site.

Used to describe the end of a tool that lies closest to the user. The base of a point is the proximal end, while the distal end is the pointy part. Proximal is also used to describe the end of a bone that lies closest to the spine (G54).

A kind of stone that is made up of cemented sand grains or quartz crystals. The cement is good enough that the material breaks through the individual grains when a flake is removed; otherwise the material is called sandstone.

Used to describe the overall shape of a point which starts out with convex edges near the distal end but gradually changes to concave edges near the proximal end or base of blade. On stemmed points, a recurved blade edge (G76) may result from resharpening.

Sometimes, a tool retains material that accumulated during use on its surface. Pottery may also retain residues in voids in the vessel walls. Blood, lipids (which are constituents of fats), and even starch grains have been identified in recent years. Residues are usually visible only if the material was charred (CS53).

The final series of flakes (usually pressure flakes) removed from an artifact to give an edge its final form are called retouch (G55).

ribbon flaking
A pattern of flaking that consists of the removal of long narrow flakes that are diagonal with respect to the long axis of the point and are parallel to one another. Flakes removed from both edges are parallel to one another and can give the impression of the removal of a single long flake that extends from one edge to the other. Typical of the late PaleoIndian Allen point (G56), it is also called oblique transverse flaking.

Undulations on the ventral surface of a flake that are a byproduct of percussion flaking (G73). They look like the waves created by throwing a pebble into a pond.

A form of wear one the edge of a tool. Rounding can be produced by cutting relatively soft materials such as leather, but an extreme form of rounding is produced by using a chipped stone tool to cut pipestones such as limestones, Kansas pipestone and catlinite (G57).

secondary context
A situation in which the items left in a site have been moved around by either natural or human actions, destroying the original relationships among the artifacts.

This is a crystalline form of gypsum that is sometimes jokingly called Kansas diamonds. It is found occasionally in archaeological sites, but we do not know why prehistoric people collected it.

This term is used to describe the edge of a point that have been purposefully flaked so as to leave a series of teeth projecting out from the edge (G58). When somewhat broader teeth are left on the edge(s) of a cutting tool, the edge is often called denticulate (G58b).

The area on a stemmed point where the stem joins the blade – where the width suddenly narrows over a relatively short distance (G78).

side notched
A point on which the haft element is formed by a pair of notches that cut into its sides at roughly right angles to the axis of the point. Side-notched points vary in the width and depth of the notches and in how far up from the base they are placed (G59).

silicified sediment
A kind of chippable stone that formed when the individual grains of a fine-grained sediment became cemented together tightly. The term is usually restricted to varieties of stone that are finer-grained than quartzites, which are made up of cemented sand-size granules. There is a silicified sediment found in gravels of the Ogallala formation (image needed).

A place where evidence of past human activities can be found.

The haft element of a point formed by rapid narrowing below the blade at the point called the shoulder. Stems come in a wide variety of lengths and shapes (G61).

The presence of vertical or horizontal separation between deposits of varying ages in a site.

striking platform
The spot where a piece of stone is struck to remove a flake. When the striking platform remains on the flake, its form gives clues as to the object from which the flake was removed (G63).

Generally, any projection from the body of an artifact. Some people call basal ears tangs. Here it is restricted to a rectangular to rounded haft element on scrapers, axes and adzes (G64).

A unit of archaeological classification that recognizes continuity through time in a set of phases.

A category in a classification system for artifacts. Named types should have a known age and distribution.

The bone of a human forearm or an animal's lower foreleg. Deer and canid ulnas were sometimes used to manufacture awls (G65).

A tool formed by flaking only one face of an edge. Unifacial tools were used during all times periods in Kansas, but they are especially plentiful in the PaleoIndian and Late Ceramic periods.
A unit of archaeological classification that is bigger than a phase. It is used differently depending on the archaeologist, so some variants consist of a set of contemporaneous phases, some a set of sequential phases, and one consists of two sets of two phases each, with the sets following one another in time.

The inner surface of a flake – the one on which the bulb of percussion can be seen (G66).

A poorly defined term that usually refers to shoulders on points that are both narrow and insloping (G67). Some people use it to describe all very narrow shoulders regardless of orientation.

Synonymous with barb; a projection from the proximal end of the blade of a point.

A term first applied to a general style of pottery, then to a cultural tradition and a time period. In Kansas, we use Early Ceramic for the time period that yields Woodland pottery. Also, in the Eastern Woodlands, the Woodland period begins at 1,000 BC, while in Kansas there is little evidence for pottery until about a millennium later.

In the Eastern Woodlands and father north on the Plains than Kansas, the Early Ceramic period can be subdivided into two subperiods that are called Middle Woodland and Late Woodland. Over much of Kansas, the changes in ceramics that mark the difference between the two subperiods is not as clear as in these other regions, but over the eastern third of the state (with scattered occurrences farther west) there are sites and complexes that clearly belong in the Middle Woodland because they contain pottery decorated in Middle Woodland styles. What is not yet clear is whether there are non-Hopewellian Middle Woodland ceramics farther west.

Useful Links

Links Links to(PAK, AASCK, KSHS, KU, etc.)


North American Archaeology Organizations

Regional Archaeology Publications

Sponsors of Archaeological Research in Kansas

Web Links

  • About.Com: Guide to Kansas Archaeology
  • ArchNet, Guide to all things Archaeological, Everywhere
  • The entire E.B. Renaud Collection, including field notes, is now-online courtesy of the Penrose Library Special Collections/Archives Department, University of Denver, Colorado. Renaud directed the first systematic High Plains archaeological surveys beginning in the early 1930s. His report series provides the names and addresses of prominent collectors who assisted his team in their investigations, and helps establish a time depth for artifact collecting as a High Plains hobby.
  • e-tiquity, An electronic publication series of the Society for American Archaeology, edited by Dr. John Hoopes of the University of Kansas­Lawrence
  • The Dempsey Divide Project is a long-term study of the archeology, paleoclimate, and paleogeography of the Dempsey Divide, the upland area between the Washita and North Fork of the Red rivers in far western Oklahoma. Website features include a project synoposis, a PDF library of publications related to the project area, an inventory of modern flora and fauna, plus rainfall data collected since 1893.

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Archaeologists use the term point to refer to artifacts suspected of having been used on the ends of projectiles, whether they were spears, darts (a light spear thrown with an atl-atl) or an arrow. Because the forms of points changed through time, archaeologists use them as guides to the age of sites. This has led to a large number of named types.

You can access our photographs of various point types by clicking on the point types buttons below. It lists various point types by time period and alphabetically within each time period. When you click on any name, you will be taken to a description of the point type and an illustration of it.

Note that it is sometimes difficult to identify a particular point with a named point type. In part this results from the Frison effect. But it is also the case that very few point types were named on the basis of finds in Kansas. We use names for types that were first defined in Texas or Illinois, or Michigan, and whether all of these names are appropriate for Kansas collections is not clear. Two competing tendencies make typing points difficult. One is that essentially identical types to have two or more names that were originally applied in two different places, such as Dustin (Michigan) and Lamoka (New York). In our web page, we have chosen to use the names developed closest to Kansa.

The other tendency is for people to extend the use of a name for a type identified elsewhere to a far different region and to points that are only similar rather than identical to the original definition.. While some types are quite widespread in their distribution, this tendency distorts the original point type definitions, both in terms of the forms of the points and their apparent age.

Which leads us to another problem. The time periods when many named point types were used are not precisely known. This is the result of several factors. One is that a great many point types were named before radiocarbon dating became widespread, so that the original age estimates were guesses. Another is that to define the age of a point type precisely, one needs a series of well-dated unmixed components. Only a few point types, such as Clovis, have this advantage. Many types, especially those from the various Archaic time periods, have not been well dated. If you come across an age estimate for a point type that has it lasting for a thousand or more years, be suspicious. The well-dated types were in existence for far shorter times.

Points Types of Kansas

Point Guide Agate Basin Sedalia Gary Kramer Motley Trimble Walnut Valley Waubesa Chesser Elam Fairland Gibson Lowe Marshall Snyders Steuben Cupp Marcos Other Woodland Harrell Huffaker Reed Washita Other Ceramic Large Points Late Ceramic Huffaker late ceramic Washita Other Late Ceramic natice steel oints Lance Points


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Chipped stone artifacts


Any artifact produced primarily by any combination of percussion and pressure flaking, i.e., by flintknapping. Some chipped stone tools may be finished by grinding as in the case of projectile points with basal grinding or chipped stone celts on which the bit has been ground and polished (CS01).



A woodworking tool that is mounted at right angles to the handle. For some people the term also implies that the bit of the tool is curved (CS02), but there are stone adze heads from various parts of the world that have straight edges.


arrow point

Points intended for use on arrows are small and lightweight. Arrow points are usually less than two inches in length (CS56). If you have a specimen that is side- or corner-notched, a good way to determine whether you have an arrow point as opposed to a dart point is to check the width between the notches (CS51). Arrow shafts were rarely larger than an ordinary pencil, and that had to fit between the notches.




Y'all know what an axe is – a woodworking tool with the blade mounted parallel to the handle. In archaeology, we usually find only the stone axe heads, and we call the heads axes. To be an axe, a chipped stone tool must be notched (CS03); otherwise it is called a celt.                   



A piece of stone flaked on both faces is called a biface. Most points are bifaces, but in technical jargon, the term is used most frequently for a stage in the manufacture of a bifacial tool. An early stage biface (CS04) is one that has been roughed out by the removal of a series of large flakes. These are sometimes called quarry blanks. Further removal of flakes results in thinning and shaping of the biface, at which stage it is simply called a bifacial blank or late stage biface (CS05). When it has been shaped to the point that only a single kind of tool can be made from it, it is called a preform (CS63).  Occasionally, it is possible to determine what kind of point was going to be made from a preform (CS28).


In some time periods, people made bifaces to use as relatively portable pieces of stone from which other tools could be made.  This was true in the early PaleoIndian period and in the White Rock phase (CS49) and Great Bend mosaic.


This word has a variety of meanings in archaeology. First it can refer to a flake that has roughly parallel edges and is at least twice as long as it is wide (CS06).  Blade technology was important in the PaleoIndian period (need image), during the Hopewellian episode of the Early Ceramic (CS6a), in the White Rock phase (CS68), and in Great Bend (CS69).


Second, blade refers to the pointy end of an arrow, dart or spear point or to the portion of a knife that lies away from the haft element (CS07).


Finally, blade sometimes refers to a large bifacially flaked artifact (CS08). This term is also used when such artifacts are found in a cache, and the term cache blade is preferable in such cases because it makes the meaning clear.



A partly worked piece of stone, not yet finished to the point that it could be called a preform for a particular type of artifact.



A specialized tool used for cutting grooves in materials such as bone, antler and ivory. A burin has a narrow chisel edge formed by flaking a narrow edge of the stone parallel to the edge (CS09).


cache blade

A large thin biface that may or may not have the form of a finished point made especially for deposit in a cache. Some of those that are notched clearly could not have been used as tools because the notches are so low on the artifact (CS08).



An unnotched chipped stone axe head (CS10). Bits are usually convex, and the body tapers toward the poll. It the poll is thick and blunt, the tool is called a short axe (CS69).


channel flake

The fairly large thin flake that is removed in the process of fluting a point. Channel flakes from Folsom points were sometimes used as cutting tools (CS11).




This fairly rare type of chipped stone tool has a narrow working edge and a blunt poll and was apparently used like a modern chisel to shape items of wood (CS66).



A chopper is a heavy, bifacially worked tool with a sinuous working edge (CS34).  Choppers were used to cut through the joints of large animals such as elk and bison.


circular scraper

This tool type has a steep scraping edge that extends nearly all the way around its circumference.  They appear to be most common during the Middle Woodland (CS38).


concave scraper

This kind of tool has a steep, unifacially worked edge that is concave in shape.  Apparently, they were used to shave down pieces of wood (CS41).



The stone from which flakes have been removed in order to make tools from the flakes is called a core. Cores come in a variety of shapes; the special cores from which blades were removed is called a polyhedral core (CS12).


dart point

This is a size category among projectile points – too big for an arrow point and too small (especially in width) for a thrusting spear. Dart points first appear in the Early Archaic period and last through the Early Ceramic.



Refers to a cutting tool whose working edge(s) have fairly broad teeth have been purposefully chipped to create a saw edge (CS13). A similar edge on a point is described as serrated.



A piece of chipped stone intended to be used as the bit of a drill. Drills have a triangular or diamond-shaped cross section, as a thin narrow bit of chert will break when twisted (CS14).  Some drills were fashioned from broken points (CS43).


end scraper

A scraping tool usually made from a flake or blade with a steep convex working edge at the distal end of the flake (CS15).  Occasionally, end scrapers were made from broken spear points (CS16) and from bifaces (CS17). Most Middle and Late Ceramic period end scrapers were used on the hides of large animals and so have rounded wear (CS18), but end scrapers from earlier periods show crushing from use on hard materials (CS19).  End scrapers changed in size, shape and patterns of use through time, but well-defined types have yet to be defined.  Nevertheless, it is fairly easy to distinguish between Middle Woodland (CS47), Middle Ceramic (CS70), and Great Bend (CS71) end scrapers.

Fishbelly knife

This is an informal term used for a variety of knife that has one fairly straight and one convex edge (CS44).  Fishbelly knives show up most frequently in Middle Ceramic sites, but they may have also been made in the Late Woodland.



A tool with a relatively narrow working point, usually unifacially worked, used for engraving lines on some sort of hard substance (CS20).



The piece of flint used in a flintlock to produce the spark that fired the gun. Gun flints look like square scrapers. English gun flints were made from a black stone (CS21), while French ones were normally honey-colored (CS22). Native Americans made their own gun flints from local materials (CS23).


Marion blade knife

This tool occurs in the Great Bend mosaic.  Made on a blade, it usually has one unifacially flaked cutting edge (CS32).


Munkers Creek knife

This very distinctive tool is confined to Kansas, mostly to the northern and central Flint Hills.  Munkers Creek knives are straight to slightly curved bifacially worked tools that accumulate a high gloss from cutting grasses (CS45).  They were first identified in the Munkers Creek phase of the Middle Archaic period, but they may last later than the phase itself.


pecking stone

A fairly heavy bifacial tool with one or more heavily crushed edges from use in re-roughening grinding stones.  Frequently found in Great Bend mosaic assemblages (CS24).



An awl of chipped stone (CS25). Perforators are common in the Bluff Creek complex and in the Late Ceramic period, in conjunction with intense buffalo hunting.



This is an informal name from a common artifact type in eastern Kansas.  These are narrow, thick, bipointed tools that are usually crudely flaked (CS58).  They are too thick to have been worked down into something else, but until use-wear studies are done, we do not know their functions.


pipe drill

A large chipped stone drill used to drill out the stem of stone pipe bowls. Used pipe drills have heavily rounded edges (CS27), which helps to distinguish them from equally large drills found in some Early Ceramic and Archaic sites.


pipestone wear

When a chipped stone tool is used to cut or scrape the various kinds of stone used to make smoking pipes, it develops a very distinctive wear pattern in which the faces near the working edge become heavily abraded.  The edge is rounded, and the flake scars near the edge are erased (CS35).



An abbreviation for projectile point/knife. During the Archaic and Early Ceramic periods, many points were made with the intent of using them both as spear point and as knife. This term recognizes that reality without the need to use 21 letters.



A bifacial blank on which the thinning is complete and the rough outline of the finished product can be discerned (CS28). To complete the point, the knapper would chip out the notches or stem and trim up the blade edges and form the tip.

projectile point

A general term for the point intended to go on an arrow, dart or spear.


quarry blank

A large biface that has seen only preliminary reduction, with large flake scars and sinuous edges (CS29). Reduction of a nodule to this point could be done quickly, and the process removed most of the excess stone that would be lost during the tool-manufacturing process. Creation of quarry blanks to carry away was efficient behavior.



short axe

This tool type is like a celt in that it is not notched, but it has a flat poll like some axes from the Middle Archaic period (CS30).


spud celt

This form of celt has a well-defined tang or haft element.  Ground stone spud celts appear to have been status markers in the Southeast.  A few chipped spud celts are found in Kansas (CS37).


tanged axe

This is a large axe with a well-defined squarish tang.  Its age has not yet been determined (CS31).



Any chipped stone tool that is worked only on one face, as opposed to a bifacially worked tool.  Unifacial cutting tools are especially common in the Great Bend mosaic (CS40).



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Ground Stone Artifacts

Any stone artifact shaped entirely or in part by grinding.  Such artifacts may also have been shaped in part by pecking (as in the case of ground stone celts and mauls), or by cutting or drilling (as in the case of tobacco pipes).

The category also includes pebbles and cobbles that have not been altered in shape but were nonetheless used by people, such as boiling stones.



Prehistoric people used sandstone, coarse limestone and clinker for abrading tools.  Some are just irregular pieces with one or more edges smoothed from wear (GS01).  Others have grooves, and the shape of the groove gives an indication of the kind of material the abraders were applied to.  Rounded U-shaped grooves come from abrading spear or arrow shafts; V-shaped grooves come from grinding the edges of stone tools (GS01a).  Grooves that are not straight and that do not cross the whole width of the abrader were used for sharpening such things as bone awls.



Occasionally, a large stone was used as an anvil for working other material.  One flintknapping technique called bipolar flaking calls for putting the core on an anvil stone before flaking it with a hammerstone.  Such use left marks on the anvil (GS03).



Y'all know what an axe is – a woodworking tool with the blade mounted parallel to the handle. In archaeology, we usually find only the stone axe heads, so axe is just shorthand for axe head. To be an axe, a ground stone tool must be grooved (GS05); otherwise it is called a celt.



Elaborate atlatl weights with a drilled central perforation and lateral wings are called bannerstones (GS06).



Stone beads in a variety of shapes and made from a variety of relatively soft stones are fairly rare finds in Kansas.



A stone atlatl weight that resembles a canoe in overall form (image needed). One side is flat or slightly hollowed, while the other is rounded. Some boatstones have a narrow groove around the convex side.


boiling stones

Stone boiling was a technique for preparing soups and stews in the absence of ceramic or metal vessels. Hard stones such as quartzite pebbles were heated in a fire and then transferred to a water-and food-filled container that might be a basket or a hole in the ground lined with skin. When the stones cooled, they were removed and replaced. This process often cracked the stones (GS10).



An ungrooved stone axe head (GS11).   The ground stone axe heads of Kansas are usually made from cobbles from the glacial drift of the northeastern part of the state.



Occasionally, you can find a crystal on an archaeological site.  Crystals of calcite (GS13b) and quartz (GS13a) are the most common. 



A stone slab with one or more fairly deep rounded depressions.  Most cupstones in Kansas have depressions the size of walnut hulls and were probably used for cracking them (GS12).



Earspools are large disk-shaped ornaments meant to be work in a perforation in the lobe of the ear, like giant earrings.  Stone earspools show up in Middle Ceramic age sites in eastern Oklahoma, and a few have been found in Nebraska.  Eventually, some may come to light in Kansas.



Short for fire cracked rock. People exposed rocks to fire for a variety of reasons. They lined hearths with rocks so that they would radiate heat after the flames went down.  They created rock-filled hearths and roasting pits to slow-cook various foods. Even-textured stones that are exposed to heat often crack, creating fracture planes at various angles (GS15). Those that contain iron oxides may also change color. In many parts of North America, FCR is one of the most common archaeological finds.


Flintknapper’s stone

In order to flake a thin edge of a piece of stone, a flintknapper will purposefully blunt it, creating a thicker edge on which to apply a hammer or pressure flaking tool.  The easiest way to do this is to have a piece of stone at hand on which to abrade the edge.  If the stone is relatively soft, the accumulated wear will appear as a set of roughly parallel V-shaped grooves (GS16).



A pendant that has two centrally located perforations (image needed).


grinding slab

Some archaeologists reserve this term for a relatively flat slab of rock that has been used as a grinding stone without much prior shaping (GS18), reserving the term metate for those that have been extensively thinned and shaped prior to use.



A quartzite or a chert nodule used in the initial stages of flintknapping or to begin the notching process on large spearpoints (GS19).  Hammerstones come in a variety of sizes and shapes (GS37).


hide graining stone

One way to finish working a piece of hide is to rub it with a coarse-grained piece of stone.  Such stones can have the dimensions of manos, but the details of their shape will differ. Rubbing a piece of stretched hide will generate a done-shaped surface on the stone, a form that is totally inconsistent with use as a mano (GS36).


loess puppy

This is a nickname for calcareous concretions that form in loess soils. They range widely in size, and since they form in root molds and insect burrows, they come in a variety of shapes (GS21).



A grinding stone intended to be held in one hand (GS22) or with two hands (GS23) and used against a grinding slab or metate to grind food or other materials.  Manos come in a variety of shapes (GS35).



A large stone hammer head, usually circular in cross section and grooved around the center. Ends are usually fairly flat (GS25), but a form that has cylindrically convex ends is present in Great Bend sites (GS24).



A grinding slab, used with a handstone or mano for the grinding of food or other materials (image needed).



A stone with a large cup-shaped depression in the top, used as a receptacle for pounding certain foods.  Mortars are found in parts of the plains where acorns were used for food; they are rare in Kansas (image).


nutting stone

A term for cupstone that assumes a known function.



Pieces of stone shaped and drilled for pendants are rare finds in Kansas (image).



The most common stones used in paints are hematite (a red oxide of iron) and limonite (a yellow iron oxide).  Limestone was plentiful and may have been used as a source of pigment, but it does not stand out as an obvious artifact, and chemical erosion in the soil makes it hard to determine whether a soft piece of limestone or chalk was actually used.  Black paint most often was made from charcoal.



In Kansas, stone pipes show up in Early Ceramic and later sites.  They are not at all common until after AD 1000, however.  By Late Ceramic times they are plentiful, as are tools used to make them.  Various forms of pipes are diagnostic of different archaeological periods and complexes, just the way point types are (GS29).  Some miniature pipes – too small to perforate – are found on occasion (GS34).  Elbow pipes (GS38) and biscuit pipes (need image) are two common forms in the Middle Ceramic period. 


shaft smoothers

This tool type was used to smooth arrow shafts.  Two canoe-shaped pieces of sandstone, each with a U-shaped groove down its center, were held together in one hand so that the arrow shaft could slide down the hole made by the grooves.  The arrow maker slid the abraders up and down the shaft while rotating the shaft with his other hand (GS32).  Abraders for spear shafts have a large groove and do not appear to have been used in pairs (GS32a).



A whetstone is a fine-grained abrading stone used to sharpen metal tools.  The hardness of a steel tool means that the stone will be abraded through the grains of which it is composed, producing a very smooth surface (GS33).



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Pottery found in Prehistoric sites in Kansas is quite varied. There are many technical terms used to describe it, and we have included some of them in the glossary. A beginner’s guide to the terminology can be found in all about pottery. Here we simply provide illustrations of the variations in pottery that can be found in Kansas.

Pottery becomes common in Kansas only about 2000 years ago (2D01), and it continued in use into the 18th century (2D02). Pots vary in size from some that are so small they must have been toys or ritual items (2D03) to small vessels that may have held substances other than food (2D04) to vessels large enough to have held food for an entire family (2D05).

Some of the variation in the pottery involves surface texture. Some pots were purposefully roughened, by rolling cord marks onto the surface (2D06) or by paddling the pot with a cord wrapped paddle (2D07) or a grooved one (2D08). Other pots were carefully smoothed (2D09), and some others show a variety of textures (2D10).

Some stylistic variations are quite localized, such as the treatment on this Wichita vessel (2D11). Some are diagnostic of a particular time period, such as this rim that dates from about AD 1 to 250 (2D12). Some styles are widespread, such as this one from southern Kansas (2D13); very similar vessel rims can be found all the way to South Dakota. Some motifs are not only widespread but also last for a considerable period of time, like this one (2D14) that appears prior to AD 1000 and lasts for hundreds of years.

A great deal of variation is concentrated on the vessel rims. Some are given a great deal of careful decoration (2D15). Other vessels lack rims entirely (2D16). Decoration may be limited to handles (2D17) or the lip (2D18) or may extend over the whole vessel (2D19).

Still other variation in pottery reflects trade, such as these sherds from vessels made along the Rio Grande in New Mexico (2D20). Other variation reflects use. This vessel was used over a fire, as shown by the soot on its surface (2D21), while this one was used to hold red paint (2D22).

Still more variation cannot be explained. We do not know why this vessel (2D23) looks so much different from this one (2D24). Both came from the same site.


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Other clay artifacts

Items other than pots that were made with fired clay include beads (cl01), human figurines (cl02), and ceramic heads (cl03). Sometimes fired lumps of pottery clay are found (cl04) and more rarely unfired but tempered potters’ clay (cl05).

Daub, which is clay used to seal the roofs and walls of houses, can be baked if the house burns. Impressions of the other wall and roof construction materials are often baked into the daub, such as grass (cl06), bark (cl07) or wattle (cl08). Wattle consists of wooden rods that were intertwined to create a surface on which the daub could be spread to create and airtight wall.

Occasionally, one finds accidental impressions on clay, such as this mat impression (cl09). Mud dauber nests, like human-made daub, can be baked when a house burns (cl10).

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arrow point

In the Late Ceramic period, conical arrow points of antler appear in both the Great Bend Mosaic and in Dismal River (B1). Much earlier, in Kansas City Hopewell, there are longer conical items of antler with hollowed bases, but they are usually somewhat curved, which is not a good design for a projectile point (image needed).



A pointed bone tool used to punch holes in leather (B3). In complete specimens, one can distinguish between leatherworking awls and basketry awls by the presence of very sharp tips on the awls intended for use on leather.  Bone awls were made from splinters of the bones of large animals (B39), from catfish spines (need image), from deer and antelope metapodials (G44), and from the edges of ribs (B35).


basketry awl

A bluntly tipped awl of bone or antler used by a basketry maker to separate elements during construction. Basketry awls do not need the sort of needle-sharp tips found on leatherworking awls (B4). 



Beads for necklaces, ear drops, and for stringing in the hair were made from bird and rodent bones (B33) and from a variety of shells (B36).



A tool for removing hair from the hides of large animals in order to make leather. Beamers are usually made from leg bones of deer and elk (B5). The animal hide is soaked in water and then laid over a log or leather strap and is then rubbed with the tool. This action pulls the loosened hairs from the hide. Continued use polishes the bone and eventually wears a hole in it.



A tool of bone or antler used as a soft hammer in flintknapping (B6).


bird bone beads

Bird bones are hollow with thin walls and they polish easily. Beads were made by the groove and snap technique followed by grinding of the rough ends (B7).


bison hyoid tool

The hyoid is a bone found in the throat.  Highly polished bison hyoid bones found in Great Bend mosaic sites were clearly used, but their function has never been determined (B24).

bow guard

A bracelet thought to have been used to protect the wrist of a bowman's hand from accidental abrasion by the bowstring. Bow guards are thin strips of antler that were steamed and bent to shape. Most of the specimens found in southern Kansas sites are narrow, with a single perforation at each end for tying to the wrist (B8). Bow guards from more northerly sites are sometimes considerably wider, with two or more holes at each end.


beaver incisor chisel

Incisors of beavers are found in some sites far more frequently than other beaver bones, suggesting that they were brought home to use as tools (B28).


comminuted bone

This refers to bone that has been smashed into little pieces (B32).  It is the byproduct of the manufacture of a foodstuff called bone grease, which was made by smashing up and then boiling the bones of large mammals to extract marrow and collagen.  When the water was allowed to cool, the bone grease congealed to the consistency of peanut butter.  It was mixed with other foods such as pemmican.


cut mark

Sometimes, the bones of a butchered animal will retain cutmarks from the tool used to remove the meat from the bone (B38).


deer mandible sickle

The jaw or mandible of an animal like a deer splits readily in the center. Halves of mandibles were lashed to wooden handles to form sickles, with the sharp teeth acting as the sickle blade. Such tools quickly became polished from use, and sometimes one can even see where some of the lashings wrapped around the bone (image needed).


digging stick

Sometimes a long slender bone such as a bison rib was used to poke holes in the ground (B10). Among the historic village tribes, such tools were used by men who planted tobacco in gardens separate from the food gardens maintained by the women.


digging stick tip

These implements were hafted on digging sticks used in relatively hard ground. They are made from bison leg bones that are perforated at one end and split and shaped like a shovel at the other. They usually develop a high polish from use in soil (image needed). They first appear in the Middle Ceramic period.


disk bead

A shell bead in the form of a small disk (B13). Some were made from fresh water mussel shell, but many are of marine shell.  Disk beads are most often associated with burials, and their presence on a site should lead you to report them to the Kansas State Historical Society.


elk antler hammer

The large antlers of elk are quite heavy at the base.  When a short section of the base is cut square, the brow tine provides a convenient handle to form a large hammer for flintknapping (B25).


fish gorge

This tool is essentially a straight fishhook.  Attached to the line at its center, the gorge would tend to turn sideways in the mouth of the fish, allowing it to be caught (B30).



A tool made from a large mammal metapodial that has the distal end formed into a shovel-shaped bit that sometimes is serrated.  These tools were used to remove flesh from the inside of large animal hides (image needed).



A pendant of  shell that has two centrally located perforations (image needed).


grassing needle

A curved, bluntly tipped  strip of bone with a perforation in the proximal third of its length. These tools were used in the construction of grass houses by the people who left us the Great Bend Mosaic (B16).



Other than the squash knife, cutting tools made from bone are rare.  This specimen (B27) is made from a bison scapula.  Note the purposeful serrations on the cutting edge.


mussel shell hoe

The heavy shell of  certain species of mussel are modified by punching out a central perforation, which is used to mount the shell on a wooden handle (B17). Such hoes are found in some sites of the Middle Ceramic period only. The occasional thin shell with a central perforation may have been used for some other purpose.


mussel shell scraper

A mussel shell, one edge of which has been worn so that the outline no longer matches the contours of the growth rings (B18). These tools were apparently used for “shelling” corn – removing dried corn kernels from the cob.


paint dish

Dishes used for holding paint can be identified by the stains left on them.  Some were made from turtle shells (B31) and some from mussel shell (B40).



Any ornament other than a bead or gorget that is perforated or notched for hanging on a cord is called a pendant. Pendants can be made from bone (B19), shell (B23), antler or ground stone.


pressure flaking tool

Tools for pressure flaking were made from bone or antler.  They are indentifiable by the scars left on the tool by the sharp stone (B20).



Bison rib rasps are rhythm instruments that became common late in prehistory.  They were made by cutting parallel grooves across bison ribs and were played by rubbing a stick across the grooves while the rib was held tightly across the mouth of a pottery jar, which acted as an echo chamber (B26).


scapula hoe

A hoe blade made from the scapula or shoulder blade of a large animal, usually a bison (B21a) but occasionally an elk. Scapula hoes come into use at the beginning of the Middle Ceramic period and last until the historic period.  Scapula hoes develop a high polish from use, and eventually they break, usually down the center where the bone is thinnest (B21b).


shaft wrench

The purpose of a shaft wrench is to straighten a crooked piece of wood to make an arrow or spear shaft.  To do that efficiently, a piece of bone or antler was perforated so that pressure could be applied directly to the crooked spot (B29).  Shaft wrenches often exhibit tally marks.


squash knife

A tool used by Native Americans to cut cooked squash into long strips that were then dried for storage. Used with a pushing motion, the squash knives in Kansas sites were usually made from broken scapula hoes and have a diagonal beveled cutting edge (B22).


tapered shell pendant

This is a type found in sites of the Early and Middle Ceramic periods. It is a narrow triangle of mussel shell perforated at the wide end for suspension (image needed). Some specimens broke across the perforation and were redrilled for continued use.


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Other Materials


Occasionally, archaeologists find objects made from material other than stone, bone, shell and clay.  Some are listed here in alphabetical order.


Time Frames in Kansas Prehistory

            The time periods listed here are intended to be purely chronological in nature rather than units that reflect cultural changes. However, we use the traditional names for various periods, names that have come to have cultural meanings for many.  PaleoIndian and Archaic are such terms. They are in such widespread use that it would be futile to try to change them now, but people familiar with the cultural implications should realize that in eastern Kansas there is a long temporal overlap between the PaleoIndian and Archaic ways of life (both are described below). 


            We have chosen to follow the time periods proposed in the Kansas state plan for archaeology, with small modifications. First, we have subdivided the Archaic period into three units.  We have also subdivided the Early Ceramic into Middle Woodland and Late Woodland periods.  Finally, we redefine some time periods slightly where recent evidence suggests that the dividing points should be moved.


PaleoIndian:    11,000 - 6,850 BC           11,350- 8,000 BP

            Although a few pre-Clovis sites have been proposed in this region, there is as yet no strong evidence in Kansas for human occupation before Clovis at 11,000 B.C. The earliest inhabitants appear to have lived in small mobile bands and to have hunted large herd animals. This way of life lasted until around 6,850 BC in the western part of the state, but in the east a different (Archaic) pattern emerges after 9,500 BC. The period comes to a close with the gradual onset of a period of warmer and drier climate called the Altithermal.


Archaic                       6,850-15 BC      8,000 BP-2,000 BP


Early Archaic 6,850-4,900 BC                      8,000-6,000 BP

            This time period coincides roughly with the climatic episode known as the Altithermal. This was a period of elevated temperatures worldwide and of reduced precipitation over at least part of the plains. At the Muscotah marsh in northeastern Kansas, there is no tree pollen present at the peak of the Altithermal. 

            Only a few Altithermal sites are known to be present in Kansas, a result of reduced populations and widespread erosion that destroyed many sites and buried others deeply. Two recent studies of collections in western Kansas failed to document any point types of this time period. In the northeastern part of the state, however, there are sites attributed to the Logan Creek complex which dates to this time period. The Stigenwald site in southeastern Kansas also is Altithermal in age. It and many Logan Creek sites occur buried in colluvial fans at the edges of stream valleys.

Middle Archaic                      4,900-2,490 BC            6,000-4,000 BP

            The beginning of the Middle Archaic coincides roughly with the end of the Altithermal episode and with the reappearance of sites across much of Kansas. East of Kansas, people were beginning to rely heavily on plant seeds for subsistence, and this eventually resulted in domestication of many such species. In eastern Kansas, sites contain numerous axes and adzes that may have been used to kills trees to open up areas for planting seeds, but there is no direct evidence yet for domestica-tion in this time period.


Late Archaic              2,490-15 BC      4,000-2,000 BP

            The Late Archaic is marked by increasingly sedentary ways of life and hints of long-distance exchange. The earliest pottery vessels show up in the northeastern part of the state.  This period includes the time frame from 3,000-2,000 BP that is included in the Early Woodland period east of Kansas.  Here, however, there are only scant traces of the pottery that marks this time period in the East.


Early Ceramic                        15 BC-AD 1000            2,000-1,000 BP

            As the name implies, the Early Ceramic period marks the widespread appearance of ceramic vessels across much of Kansas. Subsistence appears to have been primarily by hunting, gathering and fishing, although a few seed crops may have been used to provide storable food.  Settlements include base camps and short-term camps. 


Middle Woodland       15 BC-AD 550              2,000-1,500 BP

            The Middle Woodland period is marked by the Hopewellian Interaction sphere in the eastern Woodlands – with an abundance of exotic materials used for ceremonial purposes.  In Kansas, Hopewellian traits are limited to ceramic designs, a few special-purpose bladelets, and a small number of exotic items.  The period of intensive interactions did not last for the whole of the Middle Woodland period, so not all Middle Woodland sites have Hopewellian objects in them.  What is more, there were Middle Woodland populations that remained at a remove from the interaction, and this may have included some pottery-making groups in Kansas.


Middle Ceramic vessels tend to have thick walls and plentiful temper.  The cord marking on exterior vessel surfaces was produced by rolling a cord-wrapped stick across the vessel, usually in a vertical or diagonal direction.  A few vessels have cord marking on the interior, always applied horizontally because of the conical shape of the vessels.  Not all Middle Woodland vessels in Kansas were cord marked; smooth-surfaced vessels are also present.


Late Woodland                       AD 550-1005    1,500-1,000 BP

            The Late Woodland period is marked by a shift in ceramic manufacturing to the paddle and anvil technique that produces a denser paste usually with sparser temper and a different form of cord roughening on vessel surfaces. Toward the end of this period, the evidence for horticulture increases, at least in the eastern half of the state, and the end of the period is marked by a major shift toward growing crops.  Arrow points begin to occur during this time frame, and by the end of it, they have completely replaced spear and dart points.


Middle Ceramic                     AD 1005-1350            1000-590 BP

            In this time period, there was a substantial change in how people lived that involved a much greater investment in growing crops combined with year-round farmsteads.  The settlement pattern is dispersed, and farmsteads lay at some distance from one another, except in the Bluff Creek phase.    The Soloman River Phase is another example of this time period.


Late Ceramic             AD 1350-1725                    590-130 BP

            This period begins with the abandonment of the region by most of the populations that had lived here previously, followed by movements of people from the east and south. These populations lived in substantial villages and population clusters and obtained a good deal of their meat during long-distance bison hunts.  An example of this time period is the Great Bend Aspect.



Historic                                               AD1541-present

There is a substantial time lag between the first contact with Europeans and substantial changes in Native American lifeways.  In 1719, trade contacts with French Louisiana were established that led to changes in material culture, and prior to this, raiding for slaves had become commonplace. We do not know when the first Old World epidemic diseases struck Kansas, but judging from evidence elsewhere in the Plains, it was probably in the 17th century.


            New tribes entered Kansas in this period, including the Kansa and Osage from the east and the Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Sioux from the north. Other eastern tribes were moved to reservations in the eastern part of the state, but eventually most of them were forced to move to Oklahoma. 


            European infiltration began with itinerant traders and then with the establishment of forts, trading posts, towns, farms, railroads and cattle and wagon trails. 



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Radiocarbon Dating more to be added

BP Date Conversion


            BP stands for radiocarbon years Before Present, with “present” defined as AD 1950, the approximate date of the invention of radiocarbon dating. BP is used because radiocarbon years are only an estimate of the age of an item based on how much radioactive carbon it still contains. 14C or radiocarbon is lost  at a very predictable rate after an organism dies, but the amount present in living things has varied over time, making radiocarbon years differ from calendar years.


            To fix this problem radiocarbon dates are calibrated against the ages of samples of known age, usually tree rings (tf01). The following chart is offered as a rough guide to the differences between BP (radiocarbon) and AD/BC (calendar) dates. It is only a rough guide, because many of the variations in the amount of radiocarbon lasted for less than 100 years. 


Radiocarbon Years    Calendar Years

        0 BP                                AD 1950

    500 BP                                AD 1326

  1000 BP                                AD 1022

  1500 BP                                AD   617

  2000 BP                                AD       3

  2500 BP                                    652 BC

  3000 BP                                  1261 BC

  3500 BP                                  1819 BC

  4000 BP                                  2550 BC

  4500 BP                                  3120 BC

  5000 BP                                  3780 BC

  5500 BP                                  4344 BC

  6000 BP                                  4897 BC       

  6500 BP                                  5476 BC

  7000 BP                                  5890 BC

  7500 BP                                  6395 BC

  8000 BP                                  7033 BC

  8500 BP                                  7571 BC

  9000 BP                                  8247 BC

  9500 BP                                  8787 BC

10000 BP                                  9450 BC

10500 BP                                10641 BC

11000 BP                                10991 BC

11500 BP                                11380 BC

From Reimer et al. 2004 Radiocarbon 46:1029-1058.


You can get more advanced information about radiocarbon dating by pressing this button (3E).


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Archaeological complexes in Kansas We plan to add to this web page summary descriptions of the various archaeological complexes that have been defined for Kansas.  Each will come with a map, discussion of the time frame, illustrations of diagnostic artifacts, and suggested readings.


PaleoIndian                                                      Middle Ceramic

            Clovis                                                               Steed-Kisker

            Folsom                                                 Nebraska

            Dalton                                                              Smoky Hill

            Plainview                                                          Solomon River

            Agate Basin                                                      Upper Republican

            Hell Gap                                                           High Plains Upper Republican

            Alberta                                                 Pomona (no phases)

            Cody                                                                Bluff Creek

            Allen/Frederick                                     Uncas

Early Archaic                                                                Odessa?

            Logan Creek                                        Late Ceramic/Protohistoric

            Stigenwalt                                                         Odessa

Middle Archaic                                                 White Rock

            Munkers Creek                                                Pratt

            Black Vermillion                                               Great Bend

            Chelsea                                                            Dismal River    

Late Archaic                                                     Historic Native American

            Nebo Hill                                                         Pawnee village

            El Dorado                                                        Scott County pueblo

            Colvin                                                              Quivira

Terminal Archaic                                                          Kansa

            Walnut                                                 Osage

Early Ceramic                                                               Medicine Lodge treaty?

            Early Woodland: 14BN26                                Cheyenne battle site?

                        Bowlin phase                                        Arapahoe??      Kiowa??          Comanche??

            Middle Woodland                                            Indian mission sites

                        Kansas City Hopewell              Reservation sites

                        Schultz                         Historic Euro- and Afro-American



            Late Woodland                                               

                        Grasshopper Falls                                


                        Deer Creek                             




                        Bemis Creek                                       


                        South Platte                                         



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About the Kinds of Stone

This section of the Kansas Artifacts web page describes the various kinds of stone used for making artifacts.  General geological terms used here are defined in the glossary.


On naming stone sources:


            In Kansas, the preference of professional archaeologists is to name a lithic type (kind of stone) for the geologic source from which it derives. This can be either very general or quite specific. If a precise source is not known, one can use the geologic era in which the bedrock formed. Thus all of the cherts from the Flint Hills are Permian in age, while those that outcrop further east are Pennsylvanian.


            When a type of stone can be attributed more specifically, the names of geologic formations or members within a formation are used. Thus the highly distinctive Smoky Hill jasper derives from the Smoky Hill member of the Niobrara formation of Cretaceous age. 

Map of Stone sources in Kansas (ss01)


Argentine chert

This dark-colored, highly fossiliferous chert outcrops in eastern Kansas.  It is usually of fairly low quality, but local peoples made use of it for chipped stone tools.  The background color can be gray or brown; the fossil inclusions are usually white (SS54).


Cheyenne quartzite

This is a chippable quartzite that occurs as concretions within a few outcrops of the Cheyenne sandstone in southern Kansas (image needed).


Dakota quartzite

The Dakota sandstone contains occasional well-cemented concretions, most of which are not suitable for chipped stone tools. There is one deposit on the Little Arkansas River that was used in spite of its coarse texture.  There are some sources south and west of Kansas that are fine-grained (image needed).


Dakota sandstone

A compact sandstone that outcrops in the Smoky Hill region in Kansas and elsewhere in the Great Plains.  It was used frequently as an abrading tool.  Colors range from red to brown to yellow (SS03).


Day Creek chalcedony

This is a lesser source that outcrops in the high hills near Ashland, Kansas. It also outcrops in adjacent portions of Oklahoma. Some Day Creek chalcedony is similar in appearance to Alibates chert, and it derives from an isolated outcrop of the same geologic formation. It differs from Alibates in that much of it is translucent, and while not every piece of Day Creek can be differentiated from Alibates, the presence of translucent pieces and sections of larger pieces shouts Day Creek (SS04).



A dark-colored gray to greenish rock that is found as cobbles in the glacial drift of northeastern Kansas that was used to make ground stone celts (SS05) and other ground stone tools.


Flint Hills green

This is a nickname for a greenish tinted variant of one of the Permian aged cherts of the Flint Hills.  This variety is fairly common in early sites, up to and including the Early Ceramic (SS51)


Florence A chert

The Florence limestone which outcrops in the Flint Hills produces a variety of cherts. The southernmost identifiable variant is Florence A. The raw stone has a somewhat yellowish cast with coarse banding in the outer portions of nodules and pale gray in the interiors. After heat treatment, the yellowish portions turn pink. Fusilinid fossils, shaped like miniature footballs, help to distinguish it, as do fine wavy bands that look like fingerprints. Kay County chert is a nickname for this stone (SS06)


Florence B chert

This variety of Florence chert is found in the southern Flint Hills.  It is most commonly seen in sites east of Wichita. The mass of the chert is dense and fairly dark, from gray to brown.  Some is distinguished by scattered white algal bodies in the chert (SS07).


Florence C chert

This is the most common variant of Florence chert. It comes in a variety of shades of gray and typically has white includsions that are fossil fragments including bryozoans and sponge spicules (SS08)


Florence D chert

This is the most northerly of the distinctive varieties of Florence chert, outcropping north of the Kansas River. Florence D is marked by dark blue banding in the outer portions of the nodules (SS09). End scrapers made from this material have a wide distribution.



This is a red iron oxide that occurs as concretions in a variety of geologic deposits in Kansas (SS10).  A hard, pure, silvery-colored variety is called specular hematite (SS11).  A common soft variety is known as red ocher (SS11a).


Kansas pipestone

A fine-grained reddish stone very similar to catlinite that can be found as cobbles and pebbles in the glacial drift of northeastern Kansas and adjacent states (SS12). It differs from catlinite in containing more quartz and hence in being harder to work. Kansas pipestone was being used to manufacture stone pipes in this region long before catlinite began to show up.


Kay County chert

A nickname for Florence A chert, named for the chert quarries in Kay County, Oklahoma (SS06).



This is a yellow oxide of iron that occurs widely in Kansas (SS46). Some limonite concretions have a hard outer shell and a soft interior. Native Americans sometimes made red paint from limonite by heating it in a fire, which changes the color.


Ogallala Formation

This geologic formation consists of sands and gravels eroded eastward from the Rocky Mountains.  It is a surface deposit over much of the western half of Kansas, and it produced the lag gravels that are present on hilltops as far east as Wichita.  Chippable stone in the Ogallala formation includes silicified sediments, trachite and petrified palm wood


Ogallala palm wood

This is usually a white stone with small dark specks scattered through it (SS59), although a few dark specimens occur (SS56).  It is very light in weight, which is perhaps its most distinguishable feature.  Occasional artifacts of this material are found throughout western Kansas.


Ogallala silicified sediment

The most common chippable stone in the Ogallala formation in Kansas is a silicified sediment that ranges in color from buff to reddish (SS13) to gray. A flake of this material, when held up to a light source, will be seen to contain some “sparkles.”  The gray variety (SS13a) bears a very strong resemblance to what is called Potter chert in Texas (SS37).


Sioux quartzite

A pinkish medium grained quartzite that can be found as cobbles and boulders in the glacial drift of northeastern Kansas and adjacent states (SS14). Used to make manos, mauls and other ground stone artifacts.  The bedrock sources are in southwestern Minnesota and adjacent parts of South Dakota and Iowa.


Smoky Hill jasper

This type of stone is found in outcrops of the Smoky Hill member of the Niobrara chalk formation in northwestern Kansas and southwestern Nebraska. It varies considerably in flaking quality, ranging from fairly soft and chalky in some nodules and outcrops to dense, glossy and hard in others. Commonly, it occurs in relatively thin lenses and this gave prehistoric flintknappers a head start in making bifacial tools. The most common colors range from yellow to caramel brown, but green, black, red and white varieties occur (SS15). The jasper is often banded, and color changes between adjacent bands are abrupt.  Sometimes there is a seam of translucent material between opaque bands.  Heat treatment of the yellow to brown varieties yields reddish tones.  Frequently there are little white inclusions in the stone, and more rarely mossy black dendrites (G74).



A coarse black stone found in lag gravels from the Ogallala formation and used to make chipped stone artifacts.  It is opaque, grainy and black in color. Trachite cobbles develop a thin pale gray patina (SS16).  Trachite is common in the vicinity of Council Bluff Reservoir.


Westerville chert

This Pennsylvanian age chert varies from coarse to fairly fine in texture.  It is usually yellowish-brown in color, and fossil inclusions are sparse. (image needed)


Winterset chert

This is a chert of Pennsylvanian age that outcrops in eastern Kansas and western Missouri. It occurs in various shafes of gray but can be pale brown in some locations. The most distinguishing feature of this chert consists of veins of calcite that give it the geologic nickname of “zebra chert” (image needed).


Westerville chert

This Pennsylvanian age chert from eastern Kansas is usually of low to moderate flaking quality and can be very coarse. It is usually yellowish-brown in color but turns various shades of red with heat treatment. Fossil inclusions are usually sparse, while calcite-filled veins and voids are more common (image needed).


Wreford A chert

One of a variety of cherts from the Wreford formation that outcrops in the Flint Hills. Wreford A is restricted to the southern Flint Hills. It ranges in color from tan through buff to grayish buff (image needed). It has a medium to fine grain.


Wreford B chert

This chert is medium to fine grained and blue-gray to gray in color. Found throughout the Flint Hills, it often contains mottling that is slightly darker than the surrounding stone and usually contains many small white fossil fragments (image needed).


Wreford C chert

This chert from the Wreford formation of the Flint Hills ranges in color from yellow through tan and brown to grayish. It is medium grained in texture with few fossil inclusions (image needed).

Exotic stones found in Kansas sites

Archaeologists use the term exotic for materials that have been carried a long distance to a site. 

map 2


Alibates chert

A high quality chippable stone that outcrops along the Canadian River in the panhandle of Texas. Alibates has a distinctive mottling best described as like bacon rind. It comes in a variety of colors, with white and reddish tones dominating (SS23). Some people call Alibates an agate because of the banding; more properly it is a chert that formed in dolomite.


Bijou Hills quartzite

This is a coarse grennish quartzite that outcrops in northeastern Nebraska and southern South Dakota.  It was commonly used for cutting tools (SS55).


Burlington chert

This Mississippian-age stone outcrops in the general region where  Iowa, Illinois and Missouri meet.  It can be of very high quality, and is most often white (image needed). 



A fine-grained reddish stone that is quarried in southwestern Minnesota. Native Americans used catlinite to make tobacco pipes and a few other artifacts.  It is difficult to distinguish from Kansas pipestone without mineralogical analysis, but some varieties of catlinite are paler in color than Kansas pipestone and may have small bleached spots within the stone (image needed).  It also tends to have a soapier feel than Kansas pipestone.



This is a material that looks something like scoria, which is a volcanic rock filled with little holes like a sponge (image needed).  Clinker is not volcanic in origin, however.  Instead it forms when coal seams catch fire, baking surrounding materials to such high temperatures that gasses are produced, creating a foam.  Erosion eventually resulted in pieces of this material getting into the Missouri River, and the foamy structure made it light enough to float downstream.  Native peoples collected pieces to use as abrading tools.


Crescent Quarry chert

This variation of Burlington chert outcropped near St. Louis. It is very rare in Kansas. It is marked by sudden changed in color and texture within a single piece, making for artifacts with striking appearance (image needed).


Dakota quartzite

In addition to the coarse quartzite concretions found in Kansas, the Dakota formation in Texas, New Mexico and Colorado contains finer-grained well cemented quartzites appropriate for flintknapping  (image needed).


Edwards Plateau chert

This stone, from central Texas, is of extremely high quality. Color varies from nearly white to black and brown; the majority is gray (SS27).


Flattop chalcedony

This stone from northeastern Colorado is translucent and has a pinkish cast (SS28). It is of excellent quality for chipping. Similar and related stone found in adjacent portions of South Dakota and Nebraska is called White River Group chalcedony.


Hartville Uplift chert

This chert from eastern Wyoming is of excellent quality.  Brown in color, it usually has black mottling and dendrites (image needed).


Knife River Flint

Actually a chalcedony that is usually brownish in color similar to root beer, with some more opaque whitish mottling and a tendency to develop a white patina (SS30). Heated pieces of this stone have a somewhat bluish cast. The quarry source for this material is in North Dakota, but cobbles of it are also found in glacial drift in South Dakota.


Nehawka chert

This name is given to a set of Pennsylvanian age cherts that outcrop in southeastern Nebraska and adjacent parts of Iowa (SS31). They are named for the town of Nehawka, near which are bedrock quarries of this material. Nehawka chert is occurs in tones of gray and is often ooilitic (SS48).



This is natural glass produced during the eruption of a continental volcano. Obsidian is easily flaked and produces a very sharp edge (SS32). Obsidians from different sources can be “fingerprinted” by analyzing their trace element composition. Most of the obsidian found in Kansas comes either from the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico or from sources in Wyoming and Idaho.


Peoria variant of Warsaw chert

This is a variety of a Mississippian-age chert that was quarried near the little town of Peoria in northeastern Oklahoma. It is of particular interest in Kansas archaeology because it does not seem to have been used prior to the protohistoric period, when people from some Great Bend villages began using it in large quantities. It is light gray to white in color (SS33), often with a few rust-colored streaks and sometimes contains crinoid stems or the impressions from crinoid stems.


Spanish Diggings quartzite

This material is called Spanish Diggings for the name applied (mistakenly) to the prehistoric quarries from which it derives.  It has excellent flaking qualities and varies in color from beige to burgundy (image needed).


Tecovas jasper

Also called Quitaque chert, this material outcrops along the northeastern edge of the Llano Estacado in the panhandle of Texas. In general appearance, it is similar to Alibates chert, but it frequently contains combinations of deep red and bright yellow (image needed) that are not as common together in Alibates, and it sometimes has small former voids that have been filled with a blue-white material (image needed).



A blue-green to blue mineral composed of hydrated  copper aliminum phosphate (image needed).  The turquoise that occurs in Kansas sites probably derives from sources in New Mexico where it was mined in prehistoric times.




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Projectile Point Attributes


            Describing and classifying North American projectile points requires mastery of the appropriate terminology and the ability to recognize critical attributes. This guide is intended for the use of students at Wichita State University who are beginning their careers in archaeology. It provides a guide to both the terminology and the attributes that are used to distinguish between various point types.


            First, however, a word on point types versus point styles. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that prehistoric flintknappers had one or more particular forms in mind when one views a large set of points from a single component site. What is open to question is whether a particular form of point was simply a response to a set of technological requirements, such as the kind of wood into which the point was inserted and the purpose to which the weapon would be put --  thrusting spear v. throwing spear – (in which case the proper terminology is point type) or whether the makers were using the form to distinguish themselves from neighboring groups (in which case the appropriate terminology is point style). 


            It is my view, based on long experience and a bit of logic, that the various forms encountered on the Great Plains are almost always types rather than styles. For instance, I was able to show that in one particular set of sites, each arrowmaker was producing four different types of side notched arrow points (Blakeslee 1999:XX). Similarly, in spite of having different names applied to them in different regions (Cahokia, Washita, Plains side notched), the same point type can be found from Texas (Mexico, actually) to Canada and from the Rocky Mountains to the east side of the Mississippi River. Clearly, they were not used to distinguish among the various groups who lived in the region.


            Another reason to view the forms as types rather than styles lies in what the finished products looked like once they were attached to the weapon hafts. The glue and binding would obscure the whole lower portion of the point, obscuring most of the attributes that distinguish one form from another. This view of the variation in form may also help to explain why several forms appear first in the Early Archaic of the southeastern United States and then gradually move north and west. This is the time frame in which various species of trees responded to the end of the last glaciation by expanding their range to the north and west from the  Wisconsin period refugium on what is now the continental shelf off of Florida and Georgia. Spread by natural processes such as the activities of birds and squirrels, various species of trees expanded their range at different rates and to different extents, and the first appearance and subsequent expansions of some haft element traits may be tracking the various species of trees whose wood was used for spears.


            Finally, another warning has to do with various projectile point type guides. The older ones are completely hopeless with regard to the ages of the various types, and those intended for buyers of points often feature egregious errors. The best guides available are those by Judge, an experienced flintknapper and a careful scholar.

Size                             Extreme (>15 cm), large (75-150mm), medium(37-75mm), small

                                    Dividing points are arbitrary, and another strategy would to be to use

effective half width or weight to define categories. The intent is to divide specimens into cache blades (usually extreme in size), spear, dart and arrow points. Length cannot be measured readily on badly broken specimens, but in cases where only the blade is broken, point size sometimes can be estimated from 1) examination of the haft element, especially effective haft width, and 2) by comparison with the hafts of complete specimens.


Overall shape             lanceolate, ovate, triangular, constricted, pentagonal. This attribute is  judged regardless of the placement of notches on the point. For instance, small side notched arrow points may be triangular, ovate or lanceolate in outline.



Blade attributes

The blade portion of the point extends from the point back to the haft portion, which is defined by the presence of a stem, notches, constriction or lateral grinding. If there is no definable haft element, as with unnotched ovate and triangular points, the following blade attributes pertain to all of the point except the very base.


Blade edge shape       concave, straight, convex, recurved, angular, asymmetrical

Blade edges should be recorded as concave or convex when they depart markedly from a straight line. Point tips are usually convex, even on points that have otherwise straight edges. Given that breakage and reworking are common, the intent of the flintknapper is best judged from a set of points, not from an individual specimen. Likewise, asymmetrical blades are often the result of reworking.


Flaking pattern          percussion only, collateral, diagonal ribbon, narrow.

Percussion flake scars tend to be larger than pressure flaking scars, with deeper bulbs of percussion.. Collateral flaking is transverse to the long axis, with flake scars from each edge running parallel to one another so that they meet in the center of the blade. Diagonal ribbon flaking, seen for instance on Allen points, consists of evenly spaced fairly long flake scars that run at a marked angle from the edges, sometimes producing the appearance of single scars that run all the way across the blade.








Edge modifications    serrated, alternately beveled, bifacially beveled, broken and repaired. Serration is a sawtooth edge and can vary from fine (small closely spaced teeths) to coarse. Alternate beveling consists of the production of one steep edge on each face of the blade (or stem) placed such that the beveled area appears on the same side of the blade no matter which face is up. Alternate beveling of the blade is the product of resharpening/repair while the point is  attached to the foreshaft. Bifacial beveling is the result of purposeful initial shaping. In it, narrow beveled zones are present on both faces of both edges, producing a strong edge. Broken and repaired points often have an irregular blade outline, and even when they do not, the repair can be recognized from an abrupt change in flaking pattern. 



Barb size                     large, medium, small, broken

Projections from the base of the blade are called barbs. They can be quite small or very long, as in Calf Creek points. It is important to examine the base of the blade closely to determine whether barbs may have broken off.

barb orientation         lateral, diagonal, down

Barb tip shape            rounded, pointed, square





Shoulder attributes   

Size                             weak, narrow, medium, wide


Orientation                sloping, horizontal, barbed


Blunting                     faceted, ground

Shoulders are faceted (rarely) by driving burin spalls lengthwise across the shoulder from the end of the barb. Grinding of the shoulder edge is fairly is best determined by feeling edges (of shoulder, sides of haft element, notches, base) and comparing the sharpness to that of the blade.


Haft element attributes

haft element type           constricted, stemmed, corner notched, side notched, base notched

These are analytical categories, not necessarily the same as the models in the heads of prehistoric flintknappers. Stemmed points grade into corner notched which grade into side notched, and in some sites you will find the same basic type of point that includes both stemmed and corner notched or corner and side notched variations. Corner removed is used to describe points which have a small wide portion of the basal corners removed producing a wide, very short stem. A constricted haft element is shown in the figure that illustrates point outlines. Stemmed points come in a wide variety of shapes, as will be illustrated below.


haft element shape        bulbous, expanding stem, straight stem, contracting stem, bifurcated stem


lateral edge shape         straight, concave, convex

Shape of the stem edges is independent of the shape of the stem, so an expanding stem may have straight, concave or convex lateral edges.



lateral edge flaking        normal, alternately beveled, bifacially beveled

lateral haft grinding        sides of point, sides of stem, inside notches

lateral haft faceting        Y/N     This rare technique involves removing burin spalls from both edges of the stem.


Notch attributes

main notch type            side, corner, base, single base

There is actually considerable variation within these categories of notches, depending on their shape (see below) or precise placement. Much of the variation is captured by notch shape (below) and some of it by effective haft width and haft length.


notch shape                  wide or narrow;  deep or shallow;.squared or rounded; upcurving; E-shaped.

auxiliary notches           above main notches, below main notches, on ears, center of base


Base attributes

ears                              downward pointing, bulbous, flared, horizontal

                                    Ears vary in shape and size from large and bulbous to small and pointed




basal corners                If not part of an ear, the corners of the base should be described by shape:

                                    rounded, squared, pointed, etc.

base shape                   convex, straight, concave, V-shaped

basal thinning                multiple flutes, single flutes, unifacial fluting, thinning flakes

Flutes are large flakes struck from near the center of the base. Points made from an already thin blank may have fluting on only one face. Thinning flakes are shorter and considerably narrower than flutes. They may also appear on only one face, as in Goshen points.

base blunting                 absent, grinding, faceted, cortex

Faceting consists of burin spalls driven off the basal edge from one or both corners. Be sure to distinguish a faceted base from a broken base.  Sometimes a blunt base is achieved by leaving the cortex from the core on the basal end of the point. It is always worthwhile to examine the basal edge carefully.


Point metrics

            Total length                               Total length of the point

            blade length                              Total length of the blade from base to tip, including ears when present.

            haft length                                 Total length of the haft from the point of effective haft width to the center of the base (discounting any basal notch).

            base to maximum width The distance along the long axis from the center of the base to the point of maximum width.

            depth of basal concavity            Measured from ends of ears to maximum depth. Not measured on basal notches.


            maximum blade width               Maximum width of the blade

            base width                                Width across the base from one corner to the other

            effective haft width                    Minimum width measurable on the haft element for notched,  expanding stem, and constricted points. Maximum stem width on contracting stems and maximum width of haft element on lanceolate points, however that is judged (such as by extent of lateral grinding).

            thickness                                  Maximum thickness of the point

            haft thickness                            Maximum thickness of the center half of the haft element.




            length/haft length                       Breakage and reworking can alter this ratio dramatically, so  it is essential to record any evidence of breakage and repair.

            width/thickness             Maximum width/maximum thickness






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Kansas Rock Art

Rock art is a general term for any engraved or painted images on cliffs or standing stones or on the walls of caves. For the most part, it is not possible to interpret them other than in a general fashion.



An image formed by inscribing or pecking the form on a rock wall. Most of the surviving rock art in Kansas consists of petroglyphs (RA01) because pictographs weather away more quickly.



A piece of rock art formed by drawing or painting (image needed) rather than by cutting or pecking the image into the rock.



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Artifact List




Chipped stone

Ground stone






cache blades


























flintknappers stk



hide working stk





nutting stones




shaft smoothers





digging stick

digging stk tip


fish gorge

fish hook

fish hook prefm



hide wk tools


grassing needle

knife handle

matting needle



p phalanges



shaft wrench


squash knives


antler bracelets

antler bodkins

antler cyl

antler flakers

antler points

antler rakes

ant scraper haft

ant sh wrench



sh beads

sh corn scrapers

sh gorgets

sh hoes

exotic shells

sh pendants

sh spoons

Link to Lesson Plans for Archaeology

Describing Pottery Manufacture
Pottery is useful to archaeologists because it is plentiful and highly variable. It is plentiful because it breaks into small pieces that retain many of the characteristics of the complete pot. And because there are so many variables in its manufacture, the pottery of each time and place is usually quite distinctive, making pottery highly diagnostic.

Pottery is made from mixtures of clay, water and temper. Prehistoric peoples collected clay from a variety of sources – stream deposits, outcrops on hillsides and subsoil clays. These sources differ in the kinds of clay they contain, trace elements in the clay, and inclusions such as silt, sand and organic materials. These attributes affect the final appearance of the pottery, including its color and texture.

Temper is added to the clay to prevent excessive shrinkage during drying and firing. Clay does shrink during thee processes, and too much shrinkage means the pot will crack. Adding any material that will not absorb water and then shrink during drying alleviates this problem. In addition, some clays can be pre-shrunk by adding a temper that yields calcium ions that neutralize ions on the surfaces of the clay particles, allowing them to come into closer proximity. Limestone, shell and calcite are all good sources of calcium ions.

One also has to be concerned about temper particles that might swell up when fired, weakening the pot. Shell is a good example. At a certain temperature, the mineral that makes up shell is transformed into a second mineral and swells during the process. Prehistoric potters countered this problem by firing some kinds of temper separately before adding it to the clay. This is certainly true of the shell, and at least some of the time limestone, calcite and bone temper were heated as well.

How much temper was used varies through time. The thick-walled vessels of the Early Ceramic period tend to contain more temper particles per unit of clay than later, thinner-walled vessels, but there is considerable variation within both the thick and thin varieties. Some of this may reflect the requirements of particular kinds of clay, but one can see variation in the amount of temper particles from spot to spot on the edges of a single sherd. Apparently, prehistoric potters did not always mix temper and clay so thoroughly that the paste was uniform in terms of the amojnt of temper in it.

What kind of temper a pottery used was dependent on 1) the kind of clay that was available, 2) what was available in the potter's environment, and 3) cultural traditions. An example of the latter is the use of grass fibers to temper the clay of the earliest variety of pottery found in Kansas. The potters of the Nebo Hill phase of 1500 BC used shredded big bluestem as a temper. The grass burned when the pots were fired, leaving a light, porous vessel (aop01).

One of the most easily acquired kinds of temper is sand (aop02). Sand grains from different sources vary considerably in size, shape, how rounded their edges are, in the minerals adhering to their surfaces, and in the number and kind of non-quartz grains included. These variations help to make sand tempers in different kinds of pottery unique. Sand was used in all pottery-making time periods except the Late Archaic.

Another readily available tempering material is grog (c38), which is made up of crushed fired pottery. Among people who made and used pottery, broken vessels were always around, and all the potter had to do was to smash up fragments of a broken vessel to provide temper for the next batch of pots. In the Early Ceramic period, potters of the Cuesta phase made grog-tempered pottery, and in the Middle Ceramic grog-tempered vessels are found commonly in the Smoky Hill and Solomon River Phases and in the Pomona Variant.

Crushed granite temper (c81) is rarer, but not necessarily because it takes a lot of work to create the temper. In Kansas, granite is readily available only in the northeastern corner of the state. The cobbles of granite found there are sometimes crumbly, and repeated use in a fire makes them even more crumbly. Crushed granite temper is found in quantity in pottery of the Valley Variant of the Early Ceramic period and in the Nebraska phase of the Middle Ceramic period. Not surprisingly, sites of both are found in the northeastern part of the state.

Mica temper (c82) is uncommon in Kansas except for pottery of the Dismal River Aspect, the remains of Plains Apaches of the Late Ceramic period. The Apaches apparently learned to use mica temper from the pueblo potters of the northern Rio Grande. Such pottery appears in Kansas only in the latter part of the 17th century, and its use here ended when the horticultural Apache bands were driven south and west by the Comanches in the first half of the 18th century. It is restricted tot he western half of the state; the easternmost recorded Dismal River sites are in the vicinity of Great Bend.

Limestone temper (c83) is far more widespread. Its use begins in the Early Ceramic period, where it is extremely common in the Greenwood phase of the Flint Hills. Limestone temper occurs more occasionally in Middle Ceramic sites. In the Bluff Creek phase, potters sometimes used a highly fossiliferous limestone for temper, producing an easily recognized temper (aop03). When limestone temper has been leached from sherds by acidic groundwater, it leaves behind angular to rounded voids (c87).

Calcite temper (c84) is fairly limited in time and space. It is found in the pottery of the Keith Variant of the Early Ceramic period in northern and western Kansas. The burned calcite crystals in the pottery are gray in color.

Bone temper is seldom the dominant type in archaeological sites. The single exception is the so-called Birdwood culture of southwestern Nebraska which consists of Pawnee hunting camps. Apparently the potters used the most readily available tempering material --bison bone – which may already have been crushed and heated during the manufacture of bone grease. [Note: The identification of the Birdwood culture with Pawnee hunting camps was first made by Steve Holen in an unpublished paper.]

Bone temper (c86) shows up more sporadically in various Early and Middle Ceramic period complexes, including the Bluff Creek and Smoky Hill phases and the Pomona variant.
Burned and crushed shell temper (c85) shows up in a variety of times and places. Like the comminuted bone in hunting camps, it may have been available as the result of the manufacture of lye or merely from the collection and roasting of mussels for food. Shell temper is common in some archaeological units in Kansas during the Middle Ceramic Period, including the Steed-Kisker, Nebraska and Uncas phases. In the Late Ceramic period, it is common in the Lower Walnut phase of the Great Bend Mosaic and in Oneota sites. Shell temper that has been leached from sherds by acidic ground water leaves flat cells in the paste that are easily identified (c87).

Once the clay and temper have been mixed together, it is time to shape the pot. Ancient potters used a variety of techniques to do this. The very earliest pots in Kansas, those of the Nebo Hill phase, appear to have been made by pinching. In later time periods, pinching was restricted to miniature pots (c60). The fact that this is so makes it clear that one hypothesis about why miniature pots were made – that they were practice pots made by novice potters – is unlikely. Making a tiny pot by one technique does not provide practice for making a large pot by a different technique.

The technique used most commonly in the first half of the Early Ceramic period (i.e., in the Middle Woodland) is a combination of lump modeling, slab construction and pulling. Lump modeling starts with a ball of clay into which a cavity is punched, creating a thick-walled cup. The conical bases of most Middle Woodland pots appear to have been formed by this method. To enlarge the pot and thin the walls, the clay is drawn upwards with the fingers in a pulling motion. This makes the pot taller and thinner, but leaves the thick base seen on pots of this time period. To make an even larger vessel, and many of these pots are quite large, the potter can even off the lip of the vessel and add a new slab of clay to it. This process may explain the occasional coil break seen in the sherds (c14).

Pulling up the walls of a conical pot leaves walls that are irregular in thickness. Middle Woodland potters fixed this problem by rolling a cord-wrapped rod across the exterior of the vessel, either directly upward (c19) or at a diagonal (c20) , leaving telltale cord marking. The same was not possible on the vessel interior, where the curvature of the vessel prevented the stick from lying against the vessel wall. Therefore, the interiors had to be smoothed using a horizontal motion. If the cord-wrapped stick was used to do this, it left horizontal cord-marking that is occasionally mistaken for a fabric impression (c32), as in Greenwood phase pottery. Another technique involved some sort of toothed tool that left horizontal grooves (c32a). If a smooth interior was desired, the marks left by the smoothing out of the walls could be erased with a wet piece of suede.

This technique of creating a pot leaves one with relatively thick walls and with a paste that has not been compacted. This can be seen best in thin section slides but can also be detected with the naked eye (and hand) after long experience.

The next technique to appear in Kansas is the paddle and anvil technique. This process also starts with a ball of clay into which a hole is punched. The thinning of the walls is accomplished by holding some sort of an anvil on the inside and paddling the exterior lightly with a flat tool. Each tap thins the wall slightly, making the pot a little bit bigger. By moving both paddle and anvil between strokes, an experienced potter can make a large pot with fairly thin walls. Thinning the very base of the vessel is still difficult, and this tends to be the thickest part of pots made by this method.

The vessel walls made by this method tend to be quite compact and dense. The paddling thins and stretches any voids present in the paste and also bends the paste around large particles of temper. These details can be seen in thin sections quite readily and less easily with the naked eye. Sometimes, anvil impressions can be seen on the interior of vessel sections.

In order to keep the paddle from sticking to the damp clay, it was either wrapped with cord or a fragment of netting or was grooved. Each method leaves a clear signal on the surface of the pot. A cord-wrapped paddle leaves a cord-roughened surface. On the upper portion of a pot, where the paddle is held in a consistent position, cord-roughening can be difficult to distinguish from cord marking. On the more highly convex body of the vessel, however, cord-roughening can be seen as relatively short patches of parallel cord impressions (c21b) versus long, nearly parallel patches (c21a).

A paddle wrapped with netting leaves a surface that can be identified by the dimples created by the knots (c53). Sherds with these marks are never common in Kansas sites, and use of a piece of netting seems to have been more of a convenience than a technique imbued with cultural meaning.

Pottery formed with grooved paddles shows up first in the White Rock phase at the end of the Middle Ceramic period and is present in the Great Bend mosaic of the Late Ceramic. Called simple stamped (c78), this pottery has rectangular raised grooves on its surface.

The interiors of pots made by the paddle and anvil technique were sometimes smoothed, wiped or thinned. Sometimes wipe marks can be seen on the upper portions of the interiors, apparently left by a handful of grass (aop5). Scraping to thin the walls sometimes dragged temper particles, leaving distinctive tracks (aop6). Although none have been identified in Kansas, mussel shells make excellent pottery scrapers, and one has been identified in a potter's tool kit in Nebraska (aop7). Pots can also be smoothed with the ground edge of a pot sherd, but ground sherds with the kind of convex edge needed for this job are rare in Kansas.

The paddle and anvil technique becomes the dominant method of pottery manufacture in the latter half of the Early Ceramic period and maintains its dominance through the Middle and Late Ceramic periods. Lump modeling and pulling drops out entirely, and pinching is used only for miniature vessels. Coiling is frequently used to add rims to vessel bodies during the Middle Ceramic period, evidenced by coil breaks at the vessel necks. A few other vessels also exhibit coil breaks (c16), as do some vessels from the Late Ceramic period.

Describing Pots and potsherds

In Kansas, there are only a few basic vessel forms (aop08). Jars are the most common form in all of the ceramic periods, and they vary in shape through time. Bowls are small vessels that lack a rim; they may have vertical or insloping upper walls. They appear in the Middle Ceramic and continue in use ino the Late Ceramic. Water bottles have relatively tall insloping rims and small diameter mouths. They occur only in Late Ceramic assemblages.

Complete vessels are found only rarely, and broken vessels complete enough for reconstruction are critical to our understanding of vessel size and form. What we usually have for analysis are sherds – small fragments of broken pottery which have to be analyzed to determine which part of a vessel they come from. Starting at the very top of the vessel, the basic divisions of a vessel are lip, rim, neck, shoulder, lower body and base (aop09).

Each of these parts of a vessel can vary considerably, making potsherds highly diagnostic, even in their fragmentary state. Lips can be smoothed, cord roughened or decorated, and they vary in shape from flat to rounded to beveled (c07) or extruded.

The rim has many important characteristics, including form, cross section, shape and orientation. The basic rim forms found in Kansas are direct, collared, channeled collar, S-rim, and rolled lip (aop10). Within these basic forms, there are many variations, such as rim height, cross section (aop11), orientation (aop12) and the like. Of the basic forms, true S-rims are rare in Kansas, but recurved collared rims are often called S-rims. Rolled lip vessels are also rare, being restricted to the Steed-Kisker phase and its immediate neighbors in the northeastern corner of the state.

Necks and shoulders are also highly variable. Necks can be either gently or sharply curved or even angular, while shoulders vary in width, curvature and orientation. It is often impossible to distinguish shoulder sherds from lower body sherds except when the shoulders are decorated and smoothed while the lower body is not. Cord-roughening on lower bodies tends to occur in a cris-cross pattern, while it is more parallel on the shoulder.

Describing decoration
Decoration on prehistoric vessels from Kansas tends to occur in well-defined decorative zones, which vary from period to period and from one cultural tradition to another (aop13). Decoration on the rim interior shows up in the White Rock phase at the end of the Middle Ceramic period, and more rarely in Bluff Creek and complexes of the Late Ceramic period. Decoration on the inner lip edge is rare, but the lip top is the most commonly decorated zone after the Middle Woodland. Decoration of the outer lip edge, rim top, and rim face varies considerably. Rim face decoration on direct rims is common in some Early Ceramic complexes in eastern Kansas, but it becomes rare in the Middle and Late Ceramic periods. In contrast, collar faces and collar bases are frequently decorated in the Middle Ceramic, but with considerable variation in frequency from locality to locality. Shoulder decoration exhibits several patterns. In the Middle Ceramic period, it occurs in relatively high frequencies in the northeastern part of the state, but it is also very common in the White Rock phase in the north-central part of the state.
Decoration was applied with a variety of techniques. They include
cord-impressing filleting punctating
cord-wrapped stick impressing glazing rocker stamping
dentate stamping incising thumbnail impressing
engraving inching tool impressing
filleting punch and boss trailing

Decorative motifs also vary widely. Collar motifs vary in type and frequency from locality to locality across the Central Plains (aop14). Some motifs, on the other hand, last for considerable periods of time, showing up both in the Late Woodland and in the Middle Ceramic. Others show up sporadically, such as cross hatching on collared rims that appears in the Middle Woodland and again in the Middle Ceramic (xx), but not in the intervening Late Woodland. Some motifs are restricted to a single time period, such as the pendant feather motif (xx) of the Valley phase and the hawk or thunderbird motifs of the White Rock phase (xx).

Texturing of exterior vessel surfaces also varies. Although most texturing can be interpreted as the byproducts of manufacturing techniques, the choice to leave cord marks or simple stamping on a vessel surface was purposeful. Surface texturing includes cord marking, cord roughening, net roughening, cob roughening and simple stamping .Although such texturing is not considered to be decoration, in isolated cases it appears to be (aop15).

Vessel interiors were usually smoothed, probably so that food would not stick to them. Nevertheless, some sherds exhibit interior surfaces that do have some texturing, either grooving or so-called fabric impressions. Both kinds of interior texturing are limited to a minority of vessels of Early Ceramic age.

The most common residue seen on vessel exteriors is soot (aop16). Burned food is also common on both exterior and interior surfaces. Rarely, one sees residue on a vessel interior other than burned food (aop17).


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