A Picture Says A Thousand Words?

by Jonathan BrisendineField Archaeologist

The phrase “a picture says a thousand words” is not always true when it comes to lithics. One of our jobs as archaeologists is to inform the public of the wonderful cultural heritage that sits buried beneath our feet. When it comes to Native American artifacts the first thing that comes to mind are stone tools. These stone tools took a highly skilled and practiced hand to make many years ago. As shown with the quartz scraper below, it is difficult to display how truly intricate these tools are with a photograph.

Photograph of Scraper from Old Colchester Park and Preserve Fairfax County, VA

One of the ways to show the desired details is to draw the artifact. A drawing can better illustrate how material was skillfully removed from the stone to create the final tool. The drawing is done by taking careful measurements of every scar within the tool and taken from numerous vantage points. Each scar represents a tiny piece of material that was removed in order to make the final product. As you can see, the quartz scraper is more complicated than first meets the eye or camera in this case.

Drawing for scraper compared to the photo.

Drawing also by Jonathan Brisendine

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About cartarchaeology

We are the County Archaeological Research Team, part of the Archaeology and Collections Branch, Resource Management Division, Fairfax County Park Authority. We are tasked with understanding and managing the cultural resources on Park land throughout Fairfax County.
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