by Melissa Lee – Archaeological Technician
The Bare Island projectile point is a type of point that is common throughout most of the Northeastern United States from Connecticut to Northern Virginia. The point was originally named by W. Fred Kinsey in 1959 based on points found on Bare Island in Pennsylvania. This point is also among the “most abundant points found in the Coastal Plain region of the Patuxent and Potomac rivers” (MAC Lab 2012). Another prominent site that this point has been identified at is the Accokeek Creek site in Maryland. This site features 269 examples of the point type. At this site, the point was given an alternate name, which was Holmes. There is some debate as to whether these two points could be considered different types based on the concavity of the base, though they are generally recorded as being the same type due to the similarities. This point has a wide date range that expands from 5000 BCE – 1000 BC (MAC Lab 2012). Although a more concise date range is often estimated to be from 2500 BCE – 1600 BCE. The Bare Island point is generally, however, considered to be a Late Archaic point (VDHR Collections). The origin of the Bare Island point is debated, as some believe that it is in conjunction with other points in the Lamoka Cluster, whereas others believe it is a re-sharpened Duncan’s Island point (Fogelman 1988).
The Bare Island projectile point is most commonly made of quartzite, specifically gray, red, or brown quartzite, although other materials may have been used (Stephenson 1963). Other materials may have included rhyolite, quartz, and siltstone (Fogelman 1988). Bare Island points are medium to large in size, ranging from 45-83 mm in length, 16-30 mm in width, and 8-15 mm in thickness. The point features a symmetrical blade with a sharp tip. The symmetrical blade tapers into small rounded shoulders that lead into a small straight-edged stem. The stem is always smaller and narrower than the rest of the point and features parallel sides and a straight base, although occasionally, the base can be slightly convex or concave. Some evidence of grinding can be present on the base of the point (MAC Lab 2012).
This projectile point type was generally created by the process of percussion, in which the stone that would become the point was chipped away at by hitting it with another object to create the point (MAC Lab 2012). The percussion flaking could have been achieved by hitting the stone to be shaped into the point with another stone, bone, wood, or antler (Merriam-Webster 2019). The chipping on these points was generally done in a randomized pattern. These points could have been used on a variety of tools, including spears and arrows (MAC Lab 2012).
MAC Lab. 2012. Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland. Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (MAAC Lab). Originally Published 2002. Electronic. https://apps.jefpat.maryland.gov/diagnostic/ProjectilePoints/FindingAidsandImagePages/FindingAids/LateArchaic/bareisland.html accessed August 15, 2019.
VDHR Collections. 2018. Native American Comparative Collections. Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Electronic. https://www.dhr.virginia.gov/points/bare-island/ accessed August 15, 2019.
Fogelman, Gary L. 1988. Projectile Point Typology for Pennsylvania and the Northeast. Fogelman Publishing Company.
Stephenson, Robert L., and Alice L. L. Ferguson. 1963. The Accokeek Creek Site: A Middle Atlantic Seaboard Culture Sequence. University of Michigan.
Merriam Webster. 2019. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Merriam-Webster Incorporated. Electronic. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/percussion%20flaking accessed August 20, 2019.