Points Types of Kansas improved September 2010
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.
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).
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).
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.
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).
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A general term for the point intended to go on an arrow, dart or spear.
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.
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).
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).
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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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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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 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).
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.
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).
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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.
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).
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).
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).
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.
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).
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.
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).
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).
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
Occasionally, archaeologists find objects made from material other than stone, bone, shell and clay. Some are listed here in alphabetical order.Return to the top of the page
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updated December 8, 2010
updated December 8, 2010