Georgia Spear Points in an English Museum

Georgia Prehistoric Projectile Points in England

Georgia Prehistoric Projectile Points in England

I was simply delighted the first time I noticed these four projectile points from Georgia on display in the Weapons section of the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford in England. They are incorrectly identified, of course, since not one of the four are “arrowheads.” This is a common mistake even in America, though, since only the smallest triangular points identified by Whatley (2002) as Late Woodland Triangulars and Mississippian Triangulars are thought to have actually been shot from bows and to have been actually used as arrow “heads.” Furthermore, the bow and arrow are thought to have come into use amongst North American Indians around 1500 years ago, though this date may get pushed back a little further at some point based on future archaeological discoveries.

The four points at the Pitt Rivers are actually all spear points from Southeastern North America’s Prehistoric Period, and would have been hafted to spears, or to shafts for re-loading into the ends of spears, or used as knives. All of them would have been projected simply with the arm or with the atlatl, the North American version of the spear-thrower, a tool once in use all over the world. I would identify them, from left to right on the top row, as 1) an Hernando, 2) a Lost Lake, and 3) another Hernando point. All three of these appear to be made of Coastal Plain chert, which is naturally occurring below Georgia’s Fall Line, running across the center of the state from Columbus to Macon to Augusta. Hernando points are from the Middle Woodland sub-period, and date from about 2500 to 2000 years ago (Whatley 2002:51). Lost Lake points are from the Early Archaic sub-period, and date from around 9250 to 9000 years ago (Whatley 2002:73). The quartz spear point on the bottom row appears to be a Yadkin. This type straddles the Early to Middle Woodland sub-periods, and dates from about 2500 to 1500 years ago (Whatley 2002:127).

There are actually other Georgia spear points held in the collections of the Pitt Rivers, as well as points from adjacent Southern states. Although the four discussed here are the only ones currently on display, perhaps I will have time to analyze and discuss the other Georgia specimen in the future.

Work Cited:

Whatley, John S.
2002 “An Overview of Georgia Projectile Points and Selected Cutting Tools.” Early Georgia 30 (1).

Categories: Archaeology, Museums | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Georgia Spear Points in an English Museum

  1. S. Dwight Kirkland

    Hi Stephen,

    I agree with your “typing” of the four projectile points. It’s good to see the Lost Lake point since those are pretty rare. One thing you might want to add to your blog is whether your dates are uncorrected radiocarbon years or calendar dates. While the early points are not likely to be off by much, the Lost Lake’s date approximates -10,300 ycal. More and more I am seeing the use of corrected calendar dates in common use. I think this is so because when the public hears how old something is they naturally think in calendar years. If you like I can send you a form that I use at artifact IDs that has the uncorrected radiocarbon years and the calculated calendar years. Just let me know if you want it.

    Have you considered approaching the museum curator about properly labeling and interpreting the points for the public. I think that would be appropriate.



  2. Thanks, Dwight! Please do send me one of those. The dates I used were BP dates, meaning they are probably uncorrected RCYBP. I have thought about contacting the Pitt Rivers about this, and will probably do so soon. I also want to take a gander at the other Georgia points in curation there. Some of those were evidently sent to England by CC Jones!


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