Bare Island Projectile Point

by Melissa LeeArchaeological 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).

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MAC Lab. 2012. Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland. Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (MAAC Lab). Originally Published 2002. Electronic. accessed August 15, 2019.

VDHR Collections. 2018. Native American Comparative Collections. Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Electronic. 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. accessed August 20, 2019.

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CART Biweekly

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Machined Bottle Glass You Say?

by Amanda Benge – CART Archaeological Technician

Prior to 1860, American glassmakers employed one of two mouth-blown methods.  In the first of these, known as free-blown manufacturing, skilled glassblowers used a blowpipe to manipulate and create an air pocket in a glob of molten glass. The blowpipe is a long narrow, hollow metal tube that glassworkers would physically blow into to form bottles. A glob of molten glass, known as a gather, is placed on the end of the blowpipe. The gather is then rolled on a metal or marble slab called the marver, giving the gather its general shape and air is blown into the blowpipe making a pocket. This partially formed glass glob is referred to as a parison. The parison is then rolled in a wooden block that has been cutout on one side, giving it a spherical shape. As this is happening, the glassblower is continuously blowing more air into the parison increasing the air pocket inside. It is reheated in the furnace and the glass makers continue to shape the parison depending on intended use either by hand or with specialized tools (Lindsey 2019).

The second way a mouth-blown bottle is formed is known as mold-blown manufacturing. The gather is processed in the same way as the free-blown method, but after the parison has been rolled on the marver it is then gently placed into a mold. The glassblower blows into the blowpipe until they are unable to inflate the parison any further or they feel a resistance while blowing. This indicates the parison has assumed the shape of the mold completely and can be removed. Both of these methods required several highly skilled craftsmen working together seamlessly in order to complete only one glass bottle at a time (Lindsey 2019).

In the late-nineteenth century, improvements in the making and sealing of glass vessels increased demand for commercial glass containers. Like many other industries of the time, the commercialization of glass containers was aided by the development of glass blowing machinery (Miller and Sullivan 1984). These early bottle blowing machines were only semi- automatic, requiring glass blowers to manually heat, measure, and place the gather in the primary bottle forming mold, called the parison mold. These molds included a fully formed finish or lip and a partially shaped body. The parison mold would be removed and the semi-formed glass bottle would be placed in a second mold and blown into the desired shape. The transition into fully automated machine blown glass bottles was slow and did not fully take hold until the early-twentieth century.

The process that is used by early automated and semi-automated glass machines is known as the blow and blow. This is a machine-made bottle forming process where the parison is blown in both the parison mold and the secondary mold, called the blow mold . Blow molds are used to give the parison its final form and is blown in a similar fashion as the free-blown, only the machine is doing all of the blowing instead of a person. The first fully automatic machine to utilize this process was the Owens Automatic Bottle Machine, patented in 1904. It achieved full automation by suctioning the gather into the mold and with the use of a neck ring, top part of parison and blow molds used to transition the glass between molds. The neck ring eliminated the need for people to aid the machine. This is the most common automated production process used for bottles, particularly those with narrow necks (Lindsey 2019) (Miller and Sullivan 1984).

Glass bottles that were produced by semi and fully automated machines in the blow and blow  process  mentioned above, have recognizable characteristics that can be used during identification (Jones and Sullivan 1989). The first feature are mold seams that run vertically along the bottle’s body from base to rim with a lack of horizontal tooling marks near the upper neck. Additionally, there are two finish related mold seams. One runs horizontally right below the finished rim along the upper neck and the other extends through the upper lip portion of the rim (Lindsey 2019).

Wandering “ghost” seam on machine a made bottle.

Aside from seam marks, automated machine-made glass bottles and some semi-automatic machines can have what is called a “ghost”  seam that runs, but mostly wanders almost parallel to the actual seam. These are faint hairline seams that are sporadically visible on the glass vessels made by then popular blow and blow machine, like Owens Automatic Bottle Machines  (Miller and Sullivan 1984, Lindsey 2019) and semi-automatic machines that were later adapted into off brand automatic machines. Bottles made by Owens Automatic Bottle machine also have what is known as a suction scar on the very bottom of the bottle. When the gather is drawn into parison mold, a knife cuts it away from the surrounding molten glass leaving a mark or scar on the glass. This scar is usually a round indention in the glass with a feathering pattern around the edge of the ring. Similar scarring is found on bottles made by other brands of machines that used the blow and blow method, but without the signature feathering (Lindsey 2019). This is where the two types of machines differ, semi-automatic made bottles do not have any kind of signature scaring along the base. These bottles do have seam marks, but the overall thickness of the glass is highly variable since the gather was measured and fed into the machine by semi-skilled glassmakers. Despite these slight differences, it is nearly impossible to differentiate bottles made by semi-automatic and automatic machine-made bottles (Lindsey 2019).

Machined Bottle Scar


Jones, Olive and Catherine Sullivan. 1989. The Parks Canada Glass Glossary for the Description of Containers, Tableware, Flat Glass and Closures. National Historic Parks and Sites Canadian Parks Service Environment Canada, Canada. Originally Published 1985.  accessed October 1, 2019

Lindsey, Bill. 2015. Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Website. Bureau of Land Management & the Society for Historical Archaeology. Electronic. accessed August 15, 2019

Miller, George L. and Catherine Sullivan. 1984. Machine-Made Glass Containers and the End of Production for Mouth-Blown Bottles. Historical Archaeology. 18: 2 (83-96). accessed October 1, 2019

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CART Biweekly

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Cataloging Glass Beads

Beads recovered from archaeological excavations in Fairfax County.

by Brittany BlanchardCART Archaeological Technician

While walking through the Objects of Wonder exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, there is a display entitled Glass Time Machines that consists of several beads recovered through archaeological excavation from Fairfax County. Reflecting on Archaeological Laboratory Volunteer Emiko Takeuchi’s discovery of a tiny glass “seed” bead in our blog post “Digging Through the Little Things”, one might not realize that a lot occurs between the moment of finding a bead and when it is displayed in an exhibit or stored for future research. Emiko mentions in her blog that the bead she discovered while picking was so small that it was necessary to use a microscope to identify what the object was. A microscope can be crucial for identifying and verifying miniscule objects, as well as studying the objects morphology, or shape and form. At CART, we examine every aspect of a bead during our cataloging process. This allows the bead to be thoroughly documented so that its information can be easily accessed by staff and researchers.

To start the cataloging process, a cataloger must first verify that the object is indeed a bead. According to A Short Dictionary of Bead Terms and Types, a bead is “An object designed to be strung (usually with a perforation, but also with a loop or, rarely, a groove) and worn as personal adornment” (Francis 1979). After identifying and verifying that the object is a bead, it is important to determine the material of the bead. Beads have been made from material such as metal, bone, ceramic, shell, and so forth but typically glass beads are found in historic contexts. Glass is the most common bead material type identified in collections recovered from Fairfax County Parks. Because glass beads are more common here compared to beads made of different material, CART archaeologists follow a standardized set of guidelines to further categorize glass beads.

Bead variations recovered from an archaeological site in Fairfax County

In American Artifacts of Personal Adornment, 1680-1820: A Guide to Identification and Interpretation, Carolyn White emphasizes that “Glass beads were made using multiple different processes, and each generated a bead with particular physical characteristics” (White 2005). These physical characteristics are studied closely, and comparative analysis is used to classify bead types based on their manufacturing techniques and then by color, shape, size, and any unique attributes. Historic glass beads were manufactured using one of two traditional methods which create either a drawn bead or a wound bead. The manufacture of drawn beads results often in a tubular bead shape, although it may be rounded. If a bead is drawn, the bead will have straight glass fibers and will often have air bubbles visible in the glass. Drawn beads were created by affixing molten glass to the end of an iron blowing rod and blowing a bubble into the molten glass. Another rod would then be attached to the opposite side of the molten glass and two individuals would walk the rods in opposite directions to draw the glass into a long tube. When the glass cooled, it would be broken into smaller segments and shaped into beads. Alternatively, the method used to manufacture wound beads typically results in a round or oval shape with circular glass fibers and will often have rounded air bubbles visible in the glass. Each of these beads are made individually which allows for a wide variation in design. Wound beads were formed by wrapping molten glass around a wire which results in tell-tale coils that were formed during each turn of the glass. When viewed under a microscope, the coiling inside of the glass is often visible in wound beads recovered from archaeological contexts. After the glass has cooled, the bead is removed from the wire and the ends are shaped. You can watch a video shared by the Corning Museum of Glass detailing several techniques for glass bead making here!

After determining whether the bead was drawn or wound during manufacture, the overall shape and then the end shape of the bead are described. Glass beads encompass a variety of shapes such as round, oval, tube, flat, and discus to name a few. Their shapes are compared to a list of catalog images and sorted by similarity. The bead ends may have been rounded, ground flat, or left rough and unfinished. Rounded ends are generally the result of heat treating the bead during manufacture while ground ends occur by cutting or grinding the ends of the bead. This method sometimes leaves marks visible on the bead surface unless the edges are heat treated.

In addition to describing the beads overall shape, any special markings or decorative elements are documented in the most descriptive way possible. A bead might be described as “Red on black” or “Blue stripes on white” or “Red outer layer, black inner layer.” The color of the glass is determined by shining a light through the bead to see its true color which is then compared to standardized colors in the Munsell Bead Color Book so that the exact color may be cataloged. While shining a light through the bead, its opacity is also observed. The level of opacity is assessed by observing how much light shines through the bead. Opacity is categorized as either transparent, translucent, or opaque. Finally, bead dimensions are measured with calipers on a millimeter scale and it is noted whether the bead is whole or broken. All this information will later be entered into our artifact database which allows us to search for data on specific artifacts or characteristics.


Francis, P. 1979 A Short Dictionary of Bead Terms and Types. The World of Beads Monograph Series: 4. Lapis Route Books, Lake Placid, New York.

Munsell. 2012. Munsell Bead Color Book. Revised ed. Vol 2012. Munsell Color, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

White, C. L. 2005 American Artifacts of Personal Adornment, 1680-1820: A Guide to Identification and Interpretation. AltaMira Press, Lanham, Maryland.

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CART Biweekly Update

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Virginia Native American Festival


Join us at the Virginia Native American Festival at Riverbend Park next Saturday September 7.

“The festival includes American Indian tribes from Virginia, including the Rappahannock dancers and drummers. Enjoy hands-on activities and live demonstrations that include American Indian storytelling, shooting bow and arrows, throwing spears and making stone tools. Help build a dugout canoe, and visit a marketplace of American Indian crafts, pottery and jewelry. $8 online, $10 at the gate.”  Click on image or follow the links for more information and to register.

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